Previous chapter: Introduction
Part 1: Doctrine
When considering the meaning of passages in the Bible, it’s very easy to unintentionally read one’s preconceived theological beliefs into a passage (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). This generally occurs because one has heard people they trust tell them that certain doctrines are true, and if they assume their teachers can’t be mistaken, they’ll rarely bother to look into the context of the passages they’re told prove these doctrines. This means that when they see certain words in these passages, they’ll just assume the inclusion of these words in the text proves that the doctrines must indeed be correct, and they won’t bother to actually do any study to confirm whether this is truly the case or not. Of course, as the old saying goes, a text read out of context is just a pretext for a proof text, so this often results in people never learning the truth about what these passages really mean.
Equally unfortunately, most people will rarely bother to compare these passages to the rest of the Bible either, in order to make sure the doctrines they’ve been taught aren’t contradicting other parts of Scripture. But even when they do try to dig a little deeper, they tend to be unfamiliar with the concept of perspectives in the Bible, especially the difference between the absolute and relative perspectives (it’s important to always recognize the difference between the relative and the absolute if we don’t want to come to ridiculously confused conclusions when interpreting Scripture, although these aren’t the only perspectives, as you’ll also soon learn if you aren’t already familiar with this principle of interpretation), 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. 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.
And even when the perspective principle doesn’t come into play, words just don’t always mean the same thing anyway. Certain words (such as the word “fire,” as just one example of many) are used literally in some passages while also used figuratively in other passages, and unless you think being saved in whatever way it is you believe that Jesus saves us today is literally the exact same sort of salvation that Peter and the rest of Jesus’ disciples experienced when they were saved from drowning, that it’s the same sort of salvation the Israelites experienced when they were saved from Egyptian slavery, or that women are required to give birth in order to experience that sort of salvation, I trust you agree that the words “salvation,” “save,” and “saved” have different meanings in different parts of Scripture, and that there are various different types of salvation (although, if you don’t agree, please let me know how those are literally all the exact same sort of salvation). Additionally, the way we use words in the 21st century isn’t always the same way words were used when the Bible was translated into English (for example, the word “ass” today is used literally as a synonym for a specific part of our human anatomy, and is also used figuratively to refer to someone who is being unpleasant, while the way it was used in the King James Version of the Bible was simply referring to a donkey). So just because you see a word in one passage, don’t just automatically assume it has to be referring to the exact same thing as it does in another passage, or that you even know what it means to begin with, but instead take the time to consider whether it might actually mean something else from what you assume it’s referring to altogether.
In addition to all this, there’s one more thing we have to understand if we want to know how to properly interpret a given passage of Scripture, and this is the fact that there are entirely different sets of messages that are relevant to entirely different groups of people in the Bible (and that not all instructions are meant for everyone to follow). 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 keep you from understanding the fact that this term is simply a theological label we use for the scriptural method of determining who a specific passage of Scripture was written to and meant to be followed by. 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). And really, unless you believe everyone needs to build a literal ark out of literal gopher wood, to get naked when they preach, or needs to own a sword, it‘s pretty obvious you already understand that there are things in Scripture which just don’t apply to everyone anyway.
Of course, when talking about rightly dividing, most people assume this simply means dividing the Bible up into the two sections that are commonly called “the Old Testament” and “the New Testament.” And while there are correct ways to divide the Scriptures, this isn’t actually one of them. First of all, the terms ”Old Testament” and “New Testament” refer to covenants that God made with Israel, not to books or to collections of writings (in fact, much of what we know about Israel’s New Testament, or their New Covenant, is found in the part of the Bible that most people call “the Old Testament”). A better way to refer to these sections in the Bible are the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures, based on the languages they were originally written in.
I should also add that referring to the Hebrew Scriptures as “the Old Testament” can be considered somewhat antisemitic. Among other things, it implies that both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Mosaic law are not important or even still relevant to their intended audience members. While Israel’s Old Testament, or Old Covenant, doesn’t remain relevant forever (both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures tell us that their New Covenant is meant to eventually fully replace it), and is even now ready to vanish away (and that statement in Hebrews was written after Christ’s death and resurrection, so there’s no reason to believe it isn’t still true at this point), the New Covenant isn’t quite fully in effect for those in the house of Israel and those in the house of Judah yet, as should be pretty obvious to anyone who watches any news reports about Israel (at least as of the time this book was written). And even the Mosaic law itself won’t end until at least 1,000 years after Israel’s New Covenant begins in earnest either. Yes, at the end of the Millennium, when the heavens and earth pass away and a New Heaven and New Earth are created, the Mosaic law will have served its purpose (and Israel’s New Covenant will no longer be necessary), but at this point in time the Mosaic law is still in effect for the people it was given to.
When it comes to dividing Scripture, there are more things to keep in mind than just whether a particular book was originally written in Hebrew or Greek, however. For example, we also have to ask whether it’s applicable to those under a specific covenant or not. While heralding the good news of the impending arrival of Israel’s New Covenant, the terrestrial Jesus (meaning Jesus while He walked the earth during His three-year ministry) had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under Israel’s Old Covenant (and since Gentiles don’t have an old covenant of any sort to be replaced with by something new, because we weren’t given any covenants to begin with, it should be pretty clear that the New Covenant is only for the members of the house of Israel and the house of Judah, exactly as Jeremiah stated, rather than for Gentiles who aren’t descendants of either of those houses), and for the most part was only “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” while He walked the earth, as Paul later explained, meaning He was sent only “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” for this particular part of His ministry. And it’s important to note that this assertion was made by Jesus Himself, and in regards to His disciples’ request that He help a Gentile at that, 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 Israelites under their Old Covenant while awaiting their New Covenant, 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-and-only occasion that Scripture records Peter helping certain Gentiles get saved, in the book of Acts). Despite making a couple exceptions for very specific reasons, His earthly ministry (aside from His death and resurrection, of course) was not directed towards anyone other than Israelites, and His teachings at the time were about the kingdom of heaven coming to earth rather than about the body of Christ going to heaven (as the later teachings of the celestial Christ — meaning Jesus after His resurrection and ascension into heaven — via the apostle Paul were about instead).
If you disagree with what I’ve just told you, however, and believe that every single word Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry is indeed meant for every single person to follow, it means that you’re only allowed to evangelize to Jews living in Israel, and not to any Gentiles, or even to any Jews anywhere else in the world for that matter, since Jesus made it very clear to His disciples when He sent them to evangelize that they should not go to the Gentiles, or even to the Samaritans, but only to Israelites living in the land of Israel. And yes, Jesus did later give instructions to His remaining disciples after His death and resurrection about going into all the world and preaching to every creature, but if you’re going to apply that to yourselves it means you still have to admit that not every word Jesus spoke in the books referred to as “the four Gospels” (meaning the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are meant for everyone to follow, since the first, more restrictive, set of evangelizing instructions aren’t relevant to you. And honestly, based on everything Jesus told His disciples prior to that new instruction, it should really be clear by now that these four books are primarily connected to the Old and New Covenants and the Israelites these covenants were given to, and that there’s almost nothing in them that any Gentile is meant to follow.
Of course, if neither the Old or New Covenants are for Gentiles, it means that the epistles which were later written specifically to saved Israelites looking to enjoy their New Covenant aren’t to or about us Gentiles either, meaning the epistles written by James (who was writing specifically to members of “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” meaning Israelites of the diaspora, of which Gentiles were not included), Peter (who was writing specifically “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” again referring only to the Israelites of the diaspora, living among the Gentiles), John (who was also writing to Jewish “brethren” rather than to Gentiles), and Jude (who technically didn’t specify an audience, but seemed to be writing to people who were familiar with Israel’s history, and considering the intended audience of rest of this batch of epistles, it’s very unlikely Gentiles were included among this book’s audience either — and as far as the rest of the books not written and signed by Paul go, regardless of who wrote the book, it should really be pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to its title that Hebrews was only written to Israelites too, and even the book of Acts was primarily written so that believing Israelites could understand why the promised kingdom of heaven and their New Covenant ended up getting mostly put on hold for the time being, as should be clear to anyone paying close attention to what it says, although it is true that there are parts of it which are relevant to Gentiles too; Revelation does have parts that seem to apply to Gentiles as well, I should note, but even it’s mostly concerned with Israel), and so I trust by now that you understand there are parts of Scripture which aren’t the marching orders of the body of Christ, who are meant to avoid following the Mosaic law altogether (even if they happen to be Jewish), and as such aren’t connected with Israel’s New Covenant, which will result in those to whom it does apply keeping the Mosaic law perfectly when salvation comes to Israel and the kingdom of heaven finally comes fully into effect. As far as which parts of Scripture are meant for us, however, while the rest of the Bible is indeed still important for context, among other things, it’s only the 13 epistles written and signed by Paul that were written specifically for the body of Christ to believe and follow (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 for us to study and learn from (and it indeed is), anything other than Paul’s epistles was primarily intended for Israelites who wanted to enjoy salvation in the kingdom of heaven to follow, as I’d think should be obvious by now.
Unfortunately, the fact that Jesus said the salvation He taught about during His earthly ministry is to be experienced in the kingdom of heaven has confused generations of people, leading most to assume it’s a reference to an afterlife location called heaven, and others to believe it’s instead referring to a spiritual state within themselves, based on the way the KJV renders Jesus’ statement that “the kingdom of God is within you” (which they often interpret that way largely because they’ve misunderstood a handful of other statements by Jesus — not seeming to realize that He generally spoke in ways that kept the masses from fully understanding what He was getting at when they were around, purposely doing so to keep them from converting and experiencing the sort of salvation He spoke about because it wasn’t meant for them, which also confirms that He wasn’t talking about the same sort of salvation Paul generally wrote about, since that sort of salvation is meant for everyone — ultimately forcing them to descend into contradiction and even outright absurdity in their interpretations of large portions of Scripture). This passage really shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning the kingdom is literally “inside our bodies,” though, since Jesus said that specifically to the Pharisees, and it doesn’t appear that they were saved when He said that to them, which means it makes far more sense to interpret this as Jesus telling His audience that the kingdom had been present within the midst of the people He was speaking to — in the Person of its Messiah and future King — for as long as He remained among them in Israel. In fact, that the term “the kingdom of heaven” (which is a label used only in the book of Matthew, indicating that it’s only relevant to Israel) is really just a reference to a part of the kingdom of God being ready to come fully into effect on the earth, specifically in Israel, is made quite clear in many places throughout the Bible.
First of all, we know that Jesus’ primary message of salvation was about the coming of the kingdom and how to get to live in it when it begins fully for certain humans, and we also know that Jesus’ messages were simply confirming “the promises made unto the fathers” (which were primarily promises for the circumcision, meaning for Israelites), as Paul wrote in Romans 15:8, and since Israelites were promised they’d get to dwell in the land God gave to their fathers (meaning the land of Canaan, now known as the land of Israel), as prophesied in the book of Ezekiel (and really all throughout the Hebrew Scriptures), this tells us that the kingdom of heaven will have to be located in Israel. The fact that the kingdom of heaven will have some pretty clear geographical boundaries on the earth (and not in heaven, or even “in our hearts,” or whichever organs in our bodies some people think the kingdom exists inside) when the promises God made to Israel are finally completely fulfilled, from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan on the east, with the northern boundary at Hamath, and the southern boundary at Kadesh (we’re told that it will contain a new temple with some pretty specific dimensions at that time as well, with a part of those dimensions carved out for priests from the tribe of the Levites, who are Israelites, not Gentiles, and I trust that nobody believes we have tiny Levites living inside of us either, which would have to be the case if this applied to us and the kingdom with its temple were literally residing within our bodies), also confirms that the kingdom of heaven is going to be on earth, specifically within those borders that will make up the nation of Israel in the future, rather than somewhere else.
We can also know that Israel has to be where the kingdom of heaven will be located in the future because Jesus taught His disciples about the things pertaining to the kingdom during the 40-day period between His resurrection and His ascension up to heaven, and yet, just before He ascended to heaven, when His disciples asked Him if He’d be bringing the kingdom to Israel at that time, Jesus didn’t correct them by asking, “Did I not just spend 40 days explaining that the kingdom will be in heaven rather than on earth?”, or, “Did I not just spend 40 days explaining that you’re already living in the kingdom?”, or even, “Did I not just spend 40 days explaining that the kingdom already exists within your bodies, which means the kingdom exists within you rather than you getting to exist within the kingdom?” (whichever of those three that somebody might happen to believe is the truth about the kingdom), but rather just said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power,” which means He not only didn’t tell them that the kingdom was already fully in effect for Israel, He also didn’t correct their understanding that the kingdom was going to be located on earth — specifically in Israel — which are things they should have really already understood if He’d actually just spent more than a month explaining what the kingdom was about, and that it wasn’t going to simply be located in Israel, anyway.
That’s not all, though. Jesus explained that angels “shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” in his explanation of the parable of the wheat at the tares (after which, “the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”). Now think about this carefully. If the kingdom of heaven is an afterlife location which people go to when they die, as most Christians assume, and only those who are saved can go to heaven, as most Christians also assume, this passage would make no sense, because the angels can’t “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” if these people are not already in the kingdom at the time of the judgement (and this doesn’t happen as each individual sinner dies, as some might try to claim in order to fit these facts into their assumptions about what the kingdom is, since the parable makes it clear that everyone involved “grew up” together in the same place, meaning on earth, and also that the judgement would involve everyone who is being judged experiencing that judgement all together at this time as well, at the “end of the world” — meaning the “end of the age,” or the “conclusion of the eon,” as more literal translations clarify — so this can’t refer to each sinner being judged in heaven immediately after each of their individual deaths). If “the kingdom” was a reference to the heavenly afterlife realm most Christians believe the saved end up in after they die, they’d have to already be saved, not to mention dead, which means this parable would be telling us that some people will become sinners in heaven some time after they die, and then be cast out of heaven into hell, presuming the “furnace of fire” actually was a reference to hell (although, contrary to what most Christians assume, the mention of “fire” in this passage is actually very figurative, and isn’t talking about hell or the lake of fire at all, but I’ll get into why that is in another chapter this book). Or, if the kingdom was literally inside our bodies instead, it would mean that angels would have to pull tiny human sinners residing in the “kingdom” out of our bodies and cast them into some sort of furnace, leaving us behind. Since neither of those interpretations make any kind of sense whatsoever (not to mention since Jesus outright said in His explanation of the parable that the “field” refers to the world, not to heaven, or even to our bodies), it should be pretty clear by now that the type of salvation Jesus and His disciples taught about during His earthly ministry (and that even the type of salvation His disciples taught about after His ascension into heaven, both in person and in their writings) primarily involved certain descendants of Isaac dwelling in the land of Israel and reigning over the earth and its people as “kings and priests” (presuming they’re included in Israel’s first resurrection, or are “overcomers” and survive the Tribulation) during the thousand-year period of time that the kingdom of heaven exists in the land of Israel, thus fulfilling a prophecy from the Hebrew Scriptures (and it seems unlikely that there would be any Israelite priests on the New Earth, since there presumably won’t be any need for them to be priests with no physical temple in the New Jerusalem the way Ezekiel prophesied there will be in Israel during the Millennium, so this salvation seems to specifically be referring to the thousand years that the kingdom exists in Israel, although it’s true that, until John wrote the book of Revelation, nobody would have known how long this type of salvation would last, and it’s also true that anyone who experiences this type of salvation will get to go on to live in the New Jerusalem on the New Earth, but at that point the specific type of salvation Jesus was teaching about would technically have come to an end, since the thousand years will have run their course), as well as finally being able to keep the Mosaic law perfectly because the New Covenant will have finally come fully into effect for those in the house of Israel and in the house of Judah, after the believing Israelites who aren’t living there at the time have been returned from their exile among the nations back to the land of Israel. Bringing His people into their New Covenant (which was inaugurated by Jesus’ death, but which has largely been put on hold until His Second Coming because most of Israel rejected Him as their Messiah during His first time on the earth) in their promised land is how Jesus will “save his people from their sins,” as the angel put it in Matthew 1:21 — letting us know that Jesus will fulfill the prophecy in Psalm 130:8 which said, “And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities,” involving both forgiveness for their sins, as well as them finally being redeemed out from among the nations and Gentiles they’ll have been living among — because pretty much any reference to “His people” in Scripture is specifically a reference to faithful Israelites. And since the prophecies God gave concerning both Israel and Israelites are without repentance, we know that these promises will indeed be fulfilled for exactly the very people that they were made to (i.e., Israelites), in the exact location He said they’d take place in (i.e., the land of Israel).
The type of salvation Paul primarily taught about, on the other hand, didn’t involve following the Mosaic law (in fact, Paul taught that those he wrote to should not allow themselves to be placed under the Mosaic law at all, which would have to include not keeping said law as a part of Israel’s New Covenant), and involved those believers known as the body of Christ actually going up to heaven rather than living in the kingdom of heaven in Israel down here on earth the way those who experience the sort of salvation Jesus taught about during His earthly ministry will, but before we get into that, it’s important to learn about another form of rightly dividing. One of the most important differences between the messages in what are known as the Circumcision writings (meaning the books of the Bible not written and signed by Paul, but rather written specifically to and about the Circumcision, by other members of the Circumcision, meaning the Israelites to whom the Old and New Covenants apply) and the Uncircumcision writings (meaning the books of the Bible that were written and signed by Paul, specifically to those living among the nations who aren’t under any covenants) includes salvation. At this point, it should be pretty clear that the type of salvation Paul primarily taught about is not the exact same type of salvation Jesus was talking about while He walked the earth, since they both had different end results (some ending up in heaven and others ending up in the kingdom of heaven on earth), as well as somewhat different things that had to be believed (and done, in Israel’s case) in order to end up in their respective destinations, and the specific words (and meaning of the words) in the messages of good news connected with these salvations were not the exact same as each other either. For example, the specific message of good news that Paul preached among the nations was simply a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (or, to be more precise — since He was technically simply laid to rest in a tomb — a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day, as the Concordant Literal Version of the Bible puts it). Meanwhile, the specific message of good news that Jesus and His disciples were preaching during His earthly ministry was simply the proclamation that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (or, to be more precise, “near is the kingdom of the heavens”), and I trust you notice that there’s nothing about His death or resurrection mentioned at all in that particular message of good news, telling us the proclamation of good news preached by Jesus and His disciples in Israel at that time wasn’t the exact same proclamation of good news about Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection that Paul was later preaching among the nations.
Of course, most Christians have been taught, or at least have simply assumed, that there’s only one Gospel in the Bible, but the fact that those two separate proclamations of good news (which is what the word “Gospel” means) which I just pointed out are not the exact same message makes it obvious that there is more than one proclamation of good news in the Bible, and that they’re each about something somewhat different from each other (one being specifically about the kingdom of heaven being near, and one being specifically about Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection), which means there’s clearly more than one Gospel in the Bible. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t the Bible tell us plainly that there are multiple Gospels, perhaps even giving each of these proclamations of good news different titles? Well, aside from the fact that what I just pointed out from Scripture should be more than enough to convince us of the existence of two separate proclamations of good news (meaning two separate Gospels) without actually needing to outright say so (Christians have inferred the existence of all sorts of doctrines based on far less detail than that), it actually does so regardless — and even tells us the names of these respective proclamations of good news — in Galatians 2:7, where we’re told that they’re called the Gospel of the Circumcision (also referred to elsewhere as the Gospel of the kingdom) and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision.
I realize that most Christians reading this, even those who were in agreement with me up until I mentioned two Gospels, will automatically disagree with that statement, even after learning about the obviously different types of salvation referred to in Scripture that we’ve already looked at and Paul’s differentiating between these two proclamations of good news in Galatians, and many will even consider not reading any further in this book, because despite what we’ve already covered (and have yet to cover), they assume there’s no possible way it could be true that Paul meant there are two Gospels, since they’re just too set in their doctrinal presupposition that there can only be one Gospel to even consider the possibility that they could have been believing something incorrect all these years. This is a really strange assumption to make, however, because there’s quite literally no passage anywhere in the Bible that outright says the words “there’s only one Gospel in existence” (and no, none of the passages that might be popping up in your mind right now actually even imply there’s only one, as I’ll demonstrate shortly). This means that, based on everything we’ve already covered, the default assumption should actually be that there’s more than one Gospel, and that they really need to stop and ask themselves why they’ve made the assumption that there’s only one, and then continue to read on, because not only do I prove quite definitively that the idea of only one Gospel actually makes no sense whatsoever when one considers all the details laid out in this chapter, I also respond to pretty much every objection to the idea of two Gospels that I’ve ever heard as well. So please do read this whole chapter carefully, because it lays the necessary groundwork to fully understand the soteriological points in the next few chapters after it as well.
When reading Galatians 2:7, it’s important to know that Paul wasn’t simply saying Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the circumcised while he himself was called to preach that exact same Gospel to the uncircumcised, as most Christians assume he meant when presented with the suggestion that he was referring to two separate Gospels there, any more so than Matthew was only saying that Jesus went around preaching the Gospel to the kingdom instead of going around preaching the Gospel of the kingdom in Matthew 9:35. Yes, as Paul pointed out in the next two verses of his epistle to the Galatians, both God and the pillars of the circumcision ecclesia did send him to the Gentiles while Peter and the rest focused on the Jews, but Paul wasn’t just being repetitive or simply recapitulating what he’d already written there. Instead, he was providing new information about what he’d just told his readers by expanding upon his previous statement in order to explain who the primary audiences of each of the two separate Gospels are, 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, and this occurred at a time long after he’d already met them and even evangelized with them. 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 (which is something they’d have already known, if that was the case), and there also wouldn’t have later 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 what the Gospel that Paul preached meant for its followers), because they would have already been quite familiar with both what it was and what it meant (and if they’d already been preaching the exact same message and teaching the exact same doctrines to Israel that he’d been preaching and teaching to the nations, and if the Israelites under the Gospel of the Circumcision were a part of the body of Christ, not only would the Acts 15 dispute never have occurred in the first place, James also wouldn’t have later been bragging about how zealous for the law the believing Israelites in Jerusalem were during a subsequent visit of Paul’s, since he would have known that members of the body of Christ, including Jewish members, shouldn’t be trying to follow the Mosaic law at all — which was a large part of the reason Paul wrote Galatians in the first place — and would have already taught that to the Israelites living there as well).
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 presupposition that there’s only one Gospel. 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. However, for those who insist on believing that there really is only one Gospel, hypothetically speaking, if Paul was trying to get across to his readers that the different types of salvation are shared through different proclamations of good news with the titles of “the Gospel of the Circumcision” and “the Gospel of the Uncircumcision” (or even different proclamations of good news with the titles of “the Gospel to the Circumcision” and “the Gospel to the Uncircumcision,” if that’s how you prefer to translate verse 7), I need to ask you to explain what he would have needed to have written differently there in order to convince you that there are indeed two separate Gospels being referred to by two separate titles there, especially in light of the fact that there are obviously multiple different types of salvation referred to in different parts of the Bible, as we’ve already covered, and as anyone with a concordance can confirm.
I should add, I’ve heard it pointed out that the words “the Gospel” technically aren’t included in the original Greek text prior to the words “of the Circumcision” in this verse (which is true), and then asserted that Paul would have used those words there if he meant for it to be understood that he was referring to two separate Gospels, but based on the clear pattern of things that differ between the teachings Paul preached among the nations (including the exact words in the Gospel message he preached to them, and what those words mean) and the teachings that Peter and Jesus’ other disciples gave to Israel (including the exact words in the Gospel message they preached to them, and what those words mean, especially in the four books commonly referred to as “the Gospels” and in the book of Acts), it should become clear as you read the rest of this chapter that Paul being concise in that verse doesn’t detract at all from the fact that there are at least two Gospels in Scripture.
And so, as far as these two Gospels go, Jesus and His disciples taught the first one specifically to Israel during His three-year ministry, while 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, presuming they aren’t called by God for salvation under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, of course), and it’s this second Gospel that’s meant for those called to join the body of Christ (although it should be noted that Paul actually did teach the first Gospel at times as well, at least when preaching to specific Jews).
But how, exactly, are we saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, which, like the Gospel of the Circumcision also goes by other labels too, such 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 glorious Gospel of the blessed God which was committed to Paul’s trust, and sometimes even 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)? Before answering that, it’s important to know how one isn’t saved under it. One can’t be saved under this Gospel by confessing and repenting of (or turning from) sin (repentance is still important, but it means something different for us than it did for Israel, and so it’s not trying to stop sinning that saves someone under this Gospel), as so many Christians assume, or 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 all 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.
Unlike the “gospel” that most Christians preach (which is basically a proposition), as we’ve already learned, the good news that Paul preached to the nations is simply a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He has been 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, or even what all those words actually mean (those three little words — ”for our sins” — make all the difference, as does the word “entombed,” and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and very 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 already saved from an absolute perspective, however, by Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, whether they believe it or not, which is the point of this Gospel, since it didn’t require any conditions to be met in order for it to already be considered 100% good news to those who hear it, even though one does have to believe that this good news is true in order to be said to be saved from a relative perspective, as will be covered in more detail later). 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’re among those who will get to experience this salvation earlier than everyone else because it means you’re in the body of Christ); 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 at all we can do to save ourselves — 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, making them works — but rather we realize that only what Christ accomplished can, and indeed already did, save us, at least from an absolute perspective) or even confessing that Jesus is Lord (which is actually only relevant to Israelites when it comes to salvation), 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 the right thing or choosing to have faith in the right Person or truth), “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” (which is a completely unscriptural, not to mention meaningless, 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. All one has to do is believe that this Gospel is true (after understanding what it actually means), and one can be said to have been saved (at least from a relative perspective) and to be a member of the body of Christ.
And on that note, most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized in water. And while 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. Now, yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly (and he was careful to point out that Christ didn’t send him to baptize at all, which would be unusual if water baptism was necessary for the sort of salvation he was teaching the Gentiles about, as some Christians believe, and if he actually was trying to get them saved). That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized, and our baptism 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 Mosaic law into “the moral law” and “the ceremonial law,” claiming that 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 said 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 — in fact, as with both of God’s two covenants with Israel, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway, since Gentiles were never given that law to begin with).
And so, instead of being baptized by a religious leader in water, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (it’s a very dry sort of baptism, not involving water at all). Remember, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:4-6 that “there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Now think carefully about what he said in that passage. He told his written audience that there’s only one type of baptism for those in the body of Christ, and yet we know from the rest of Scripture that there are many different types of baptisms, not just one (some dry and some wet; while the word “baptism” can mean to wash something in water, the Greek word βάπτισμα/“baptisma” that we transliterate the word “baptism” from in English literally just means “submersion” or “immersion,” and not all of the immersions mentioned in Scripture are in water). I mean, just look at all the different types of baptism mentioned in Scripture:
- Baptism into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1-2): Paul talks about Israel’s baptism into Moses “in the cloud and in the sea.” Water was present, of course, but the people remained dry.
- Israel’s ceremonial cleansings (Numbers 19:13, Leviticus 11:25, Exodus 30:17-21, Hebrews 9:10): When John the Baptist started dunking people in water, they already knew exactly what he was doing and why. Nobody asked him, “What are you doing? Why are you getting all of these people wet?” This is because immersion (baptism) in water was something that was required under the Mosaic Law for the cleansing of the people, so they were already quite familiar with the concept.
- Levitical priesthood baptisms (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 8:6, Numbers 8:7): These were baptisms in water which were required in order to become a priest under the Mosaic law.
- John’s baptism (Matthew 3:5-6, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, John 1:31, Luke 7:29, Acts 10:37): John immersed (baptized) Israelites with water for the forgiveness of sins, so they could live in the promised kingdom when it begins on earth (specifically in Israel), and could identify their Messiah.
- The baptism of Jesus to fulfill the law (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-10): Jesus, who didn’t need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, since He never sinned Himself, was nevertheless baptized by John to “fulfil all righteousness” under the law.
- Baptism with fire (Isaiah 4:4, Malachi 3:2-3, Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16): Jesus will baptize Israel with purifying (albeit mostly figurative) “fire” when they go through the Tribulation.
- Pentecostal water baptism (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, Ezekiel 36:25): Water baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. This was the same sort of baptism as John’s baptism, but was now being done in the name of Jesus, and was quite necessary for salvation under the Gospel the disciples preached.
- Baptism with (or in) the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:3, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Acts 2:17-18, Acts 8:15-17, Acts 11:16): This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, poured out from heaven by Jesus upon the believing remnant of Israel with signs and powers following.
- Baptism into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:5, Colossians 2:12, Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3-4): The immersion of a believer into the body of Christ, which identifies them with what He experienced in His body, including His death, His entombment, and His resurrection. This baptism is performed by the Spirit — not with (or in or of) the Spirit — at the time one believes Paul’s Gospel, and is immersion into the body of Christ, not immersion in water.
There are other types of baptism I didn’t include in that list as well, but that should be enough to prove there are many different types of baptism mentioned in the Bible. So how is it that Paul can say there’s only one baptism when there are clearly so many? Well, by realizing that Paul simply meant there’s only one type of baptism for those among his written audience, meaning for members of the ecclesia called the body of Christ. He wasn’t saying that there aren’t other types of baptisms which those outside the body of Christ can participate in; just that the ”one baptism” he was referring to was the only baptism for those of us in the body of Christ.
Now, some do claim that Paul just meant we should only be baptized in water once in our lives rather than repeatedly, but he preceded the words “one baptism” with the words ”one hope” and ”one faith,” and I certainly hope nobody would think we should only have hope or faith once in our lives, as would be the case if Paul meant we should be baptized only once in our lives there, so that interpretation doesn’t really fit with the rest of the passage if we’re interpreting the whole thing consistently, which tells us he’s really just saying that there’s only one type of baptism for us — one which doesn’t involve water at all. Not everyone uses that interpretation, though, since others will instead claim that 1 Corinthians 12:13 should actually be translated as saying “for in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” but since there is now only one baptism for those in that body (and this verse still tells us that baptism into the body of Christ is what this one baptism is), if “in one Spirit” were the best translation (and the assumption that it is a better translation is based on nothing more than their dislike of the idea that water baptism might not be meant for believers in the body of Christ today, and is not a translation that most English Bible versions I’ve read agree with, I should add), and if it did refer to that baptism with (or of, or in) the Holy Spirit which applies to those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, then it can’t also include getting wet, because water baptism would then be a second baptism in addition to our one baptism in or with the Holy Spirit, so this doesn’t help defend the idea of water baptism for the body of Christ at all anyway. (Some might also try to point to the mention of “one faith” in that passage to defend the idea that there’s only one Gospel, but just as the “one baptism” reference means there’s only one baptism specifically for the body of Christ, even though there are various other baptisms for those outside the body of Christ, this simply means there’s also only one faith for the body of Christ, even though there are various other faiths for those outside the body of Christ as well.)
And speaking of the Gospel of the Circumcision, we need to look at how one is saved under it too. As we’ve already learned, the Gospel that Paul was preaching to the nations was the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day, and this definitely isn’t the Gospel that Jesus or His disciples were preaching during His earthly ministry. Instead, as we’ve also already learned, the Gospel they were proclaiming was the good news that “near is the kingdom of the heavens,” 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 immersion from the baptisms I’ve already mentioned, one that doesn’t even involve water, and which won’t actually become relevant until the kingdom of heaven fully begins on earth in the future), 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, and even though, before Christ’s death for our sins, salvation was still ultimately connected with one form or another of repentance as well as of faith (and, like ours, Israel’s salvation is even based on a manner of grace), prior to the ability to be saved under Paul’s Gospel, faith was basically always connected with specific actions, or works, since faith without works is dead when it comes to this sort of salvation (whereas, even if someone saved under Paul’s Gospel only has faith, and never performs any works at all, they’re still said to be saved), which means that works are a part of the sort of faith associated with the Gospel of the kingdom and are still required for those saved under this Gospel: 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 hearts thanks to their New Covenant, 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). As I’ve hinted at already, it’s important that we don’t confuse the end of Israel’s Old Covenant — or even the beginning of their New Covenant, which hasn’t actually come fully into effect yet — with the end of the Mosaic law, which won’t end until the conclusion of the Millennium one thousand years later, after the current heavens and earth are destroyed (again, while Israel’s New Covenant was ratified by Christ’s death, the results of that covenant went temporarily on hold when Israel as a nation rejected Jesus as their Messiah).
And I know that many Christians reading this will want to insist that these required works are all meant to be interpreted as being the fruit of one’s faith — or, as some claim, that Jesus actually commanded His audience members do all these things so that His more humble listeners would realize they couldn’t do what He told them to do and would have faith in His death for their sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, instead — but there’s absolutely zero indication in any of those passages that they aren’t meant to be interpreted literally (and that would also require us to have to make ourselves humble enough to be able to do this, if the passages applied to us as most Christians insist they do, which itself would be a very difficult work in and of itself). Besides, as we know, Jesus Himself said, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” All has not been fulfilled yet (heaven and earth haven’t passed yet — unless you’re reading this book on the New Earth, long after it was first published — and there are still many prophecies yet to be fulfilled, at least as of the time I wrote this), so those for whom the Mosaic law is relevant to, namely Israelites who aren’t in the body of Christ, still have to follow it. Nobody listening to Jesus could have possibly interpreted any of His statements as meaning that works weren’t actually still required of them anyway, since not only had salvation by grace through faith, entirely apart from works — based completely upon Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection — not ever even been taught prior to Paul doing so, at the time they were preaching to the inhabitants of Israel, not even Jesus’ disciples understood that He was going to die, which means that A) the specific message of good news (Gospel) that Paul preached among the nations about Christ’s death for our sins isn’t something that Jesus’ audience members could have possibly believed is true in order to get saved, and B) Jesus and His disciples would have then spent three years preaching basically useless messages, considering this would mean they didn’t once explain how to actually be saved, and people like Zacchaeus couldn’t have been saved at the time, despite what Jesus said in Luke 19:8–9 (which was actually in response to Zacchaeus promising to do good works in the form of making up for his previously harmful actions, not for claiming to believe in Christ’s death for our sins, which is something that wasn’t even discussed in the passage). In fact, even Jesus’ disciples couldn’t have been considered to be saved until after His death and resurrection — contrary to what Luke 10:20 seems to imply — if it were a belief which was required in order for them to be saved, since not even they believed He was going to die or be resurrected until after they saw it all finally happen. This also means that Jesus’ death wasn’t something people prior to His crucifixion were looking forward to for their salvation, because despite His death being foretold in the prophecies of both Jesus and certain other prophets, there’s no scriptural basis for believing that anybody actually was looking forward in time in faith for His death to take place to save any of them, so this common assertion has absolutely no scriptural merit either (and if people could be saved prior to Christ’s death by simply believing that He’s Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God, along with performing the requisite works of faith, of course, without having to believe that His death was for our sins, there’s no good reason that I can think of to assume it couldn’t still be possible to experience the sort of salvation Jesus and His disciples taught about that way either, especially since many of His teachings about this sort of salvation and how one experiences it are connected with the future Tribulation), which means there’s no good reason to assume these commands weren’t being mentioned as actual requirements for salvation (or, at the very least, for maintaining salvation) rather than just as evidence of one’s salvation (or rather than to convince them of their inability to do what was necessary, in order to drive them to faith in a sacrifice they didn’t even know He was going to make), at least not without reading one’s preconceived doctrinal bias that there’s only one type of salvation into Scripture (which anyone with a concordance can tell you isn’t the case), and anyone who is being honest with the text will admit that works are required for this type of salvation to be experienced (it’s interesting how many Christians insist on interpreting the parts of Scripture which seem to be meant to be interpreted literally in a figurative manner, all the while criticizing us for not interpreting the parts that make more sense to be interpreted figuratively in a literal manner, but they have no choice if they want to continue believing that their doctrinal assumptions are correct). And so, while not everybody will experience this sort of salvation because, based on what Jesus said, not everyone will get to live in the kingdom of heaven during the time it exists in Israel, one day even Gentiles other than Cornelius and members of his house will be saved in this way because of Israelites and their rise to prominence in the future.
All that being said, at its simplest, followers of this Gospel just had to believe that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God (at least prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, although, afterwards, they obviously also had to believe that God raised Him from the dead, since a permanently dead man couldn’t be their Messiah) in order to be saved in the first place (with the required works being necessary to prove they have that faith, as well as to maintain their salvation), which means to enjoy living in the kingdom of heaven when it arrives on earth. It has nothing to do with “going to heaven” in a spiritual state after one dies (or to do with the kingdom spiritually residing somewhere within one’s body while still alive, as I already covered; 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 at the end of 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 or His entombment in order to experience 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, confirming that they weren’t preaching the same Gospel at that time which Paul later preached among the nations, since Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection is what he preached as his Gospel to the nations), He also didn’t explain His death as being for our sins or as being something they had to trust in to enter the impending kingdom of heaven on earth either. 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 in the book of Acts 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 hearing the Gospel of the Circumcision in these sermons, but was rather explained as a reason for their condemnation. Similarly, Stephen didn’t preach the cross for salvation either. Rather, he simply accused those who were about to kill him of murdering Jesus on it as well (as it was with Peter’s messages in Acts, the cross was described as very bad news for Stephen’s listeners too, and not explained as 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 Paul preached isn’t the same “message of the cross” that Peter and others preached (at least not prior to Paul doing so), since in Paul’s Gospel the cross was only good news for his audience.
In addition to all that, it’s also important to remember that 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” (telling us we can also say that 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, regardless of whether 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 “that thing you’ve been anticipating is nearby” because the two messages mean something entirely different from one another since they convey entirely different pieces of information from each other: one piece of news being about an action a person took, with the other piece of news being about something the hearer or reader had been anticipating being close by). Because they’re providing us with different sorts of information from one another, it means that they are, by definition, different sets of news (and that there are at least two different sets of news in existence). And since the news which was good that Jesus and His disciples preached prior to Paul’s conversion (which was the news that “near is the kingdom of the heavens”) didn’t contain the same specific words as the news which is good that Paul later preached to the nations did (which is the news that “Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day”), nor did it convey the same specific information (since their news which is good didn’t contain anything about Christ’s death for our sins in it, which it couldn’t have because 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, and so they certainly weren’t anticipating His death or resurrection), 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/Gospel in the Bible is simply lying to themselves at this point. Although, if anyone disagrees, I’d be very curious to hear them explain how the news which is good about Christ’s death for our sins is indeed what Jesus’ disciples were preaching when they preached the Gospel of the kingdom during Jesus’ earthly ministry.
This wasn’t just the case during the time Jesus walked the earth either though. As a good example of how this was the case even after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, 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), almost certainly for the purpose of Peter being able to later help defend Paul.
Now 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 Jesus’ death was for our sins, and he definitely wasn’t taught that it was something which had to be trusted in to be saved. Instead, His death was explained to both the eunuch and Cornelius as a negative event rather than as something that saves us. And Cornelius was even told by Peter that, in every nation, he who is fearing God and acting righteously — or worketh righteousness — is acceptable to God (and it’s important to note that Cornelius was doing these works of righteousness before he’d even heard of Jesus, which is one of the reasons God sent Peter to him in the first place), 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. But if anyone disagrees, considering the fact that we have every word Peter said to Cornelius and his household prior to their salvation recorded in Acts 10, I’d be curious to hear where it is in Peter’s sermon there that they find him explaining that Christ’s death was for our sins and the basis of their salvation, as well as something that had to be trusted in for salvation (not to mention where Peter mentioned any of the other pertinent details they might claim a person has to understand and believe in order to be saved, such as the doctrine of the Trinity as just one possible example, at least if they’re someone who thinks a person can’t be saved without believing in a triune God and properly understanding what that even means, as I’ve heard some Christians insist is the case, which is why I mention it here).
So to sum it all up, while salvation under both Gospels is indeed connected with faith regarding Jesus (and salvation prior to Jesus’ time on the earth involved faith toward God as well), the required faith under each Gospel is different (as is the end result of each type of faith), since the faith one has to have under the Gospel of the Circumcision is simply in the identity of Jesus (and results in one getting to live in the kingdom of heaven on earth), while the faith one has to have under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is in the work of Jesus (and results in one getting to live in heaven itself). 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 Israel’s New Covenant and the kingdom of heaven on earth).
Now all that’s not to say that somebody can’t technically be saved under whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed, or elected by God, to follow. As rare as it might be, Gentiles can technically be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, as demonstrated by Cornelius, just as Jews can be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, as demonstrated by Paul himself; these are technically just titles for specific proclamations of good news, and have nothing to do with whether one has surgery done to one’s genitals or not (although I’d suggest it’s unlikely for most Gentiles to be saved under the Circumcision Gospel, since it is primarily for Israelites, and I also suspect that most Christians are going to be extremely surprised and upset to find out who actually does end up getting saved under this Gospel, but that’s a discussion for another time). The important thing, though, 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).
I should also say, a few Christians today might have unknowingly been saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision as well, since God always kept a remnant of believing Israelites for Himself (although, of course, Gentiles could also become included in this remnant by proselytizing into it, 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 under another Gospel (although, in general, I suspect few Christians have actually been saved under either Gospel, at least from a relative perspective, which I’ll explain more about later).
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 “near is the kingdom of the heavens” 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, they really need to explain how these very different sounding news accounts are actually saying the same thing, as well as how the disciples could have possibly been preaching Christ’s death for our sins at a time when they didn’t even understand that He was going to die, not to mention how anyone told about the kingdom being near could have ever understood it to be referring to Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection when they heard it), but somehow the vast majority of Christians have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a tragic mistake that even a few in the body of Christ have made recently as well. 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 very 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 commandments of God, which are commandments 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 one overarching Gospel in Scripture containing both the proclamation of good news made during Jesus’ earthly ministry as well as the proclamation of good News which Paul preached to the nations, 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 either when one stops to really think about it (and this is a claim you won’t actually find made anywhere in Scripture anyway, which means it’s nothing more than an assertion based on an assumption). Those who make this argument generally still believe that someone living today 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 that Christ’s death was 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 in a different way (without believing that particular part of this supposedly progressively-revealed Gospel, in other words), but that just takes us right back to the fact that we would have to partition this one, supposedly progressively-revealed, proclamation of news which is good into two different sets of news which are good preached at two different periods of time about two different things needing to be believed (and perhaps performed) in order to be saved (maybe we could call this idea “rightly dividing”), one preached prior to Paul (or, at the very least, preached prior to Christ’s death; but since we have no scriptural record of Christ’s death being for our sins as something that was taught as something that had to be believed in order to be able to be said one is saved by anyone before Paul did, especially based on Peter’s sermons in Acts, we have no good basis for assuming it was) and one that Paul first taught, taking us full circle to what I’ve been getting at all along here.
And, just as another quick aside, some people have argued that Paul wasn’t teaching how to get saved in his epistles, since he was writing to people who were already believers, and it’s quite true that his written audience was primarily made up of believers. However, this is irrelevant because he also said in the passage where he explained what his specific Gospel consists of 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 sceptics might think it does. That said, it is also true that chapter 15 of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians wasn’t specifically written to teach about Paul’s Gospel (although, whether he originally intended to or not, he ended up expanding on what his Gospel meant later in the chapter regardless), but was instead originally written to discuss bodily resurrection (since some of the members of the ecclesia in Corinth had stopped believing in their own physical resurrection, thinking the term “resurrection” was instead a “spiritual truth” rather than an actual future event), with the specific contents of Paul’s Gospel only being included in two verses in the chapter in order to make his point that resurrection has to be literal because otherwise it would mean that Christ Himself hadn’t even been roused from the dead. 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 Gospel as Paul based on verse 11, when Paul wrote, “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” 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 resurrected from among the dead, not that they both preached the same Gospel.
Now, some Christians also claim that because the churches of Judea had heard, “That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed,” that this means Paul had been preaching the same Gospel Peter and the rest of the disciples preached. And the truth is, they’re absolutely correct, because Paul did preach the Gospel of the Circumcision to Israelites at various times, including at the time when the churches of Judea heard this report. But having done so doesn’t mean he couldn’t have also preached another Gospel to the Gentiles at other times as well, so this doesn’t actually help prove that there’s only one Gospel at all the way they might think it does. It’s also important to note that he made this statement immediately after his point about the time the apostles and Jesus’ brother James became acquainted with him for fifteen days in Jerusalem, 3 years after his experience on the road to Damascus (and the most important part of the “him” they became acquainted with would certainly include what the Gospel he believed and preached at that time was — he wouldn’t have just been sitting around discussing sports with them for two weeks — especially since he preached with them at that time as well), and that he then immediately went on to write about the fact that he later had to return to meet with them in Jerusalem again as well, more than a decade after he spent that time with them, in order to explain to them what the Gospel he was now preaching among the Gentiles was. If the Gospel he was preaching to the Gentiles was the exact same Gospel he’d already believed and preached with them during his first visit with them there, he wouldn’t have had to return all that time later to explain what it was, since they would have already been quite familiar with it from that previous visit of his.
In fact, if someone believes that the Gospel which Paul was later preaching to the Uncircumcision was the exact same Gospel that he’d already preached with Peter in Jerusalem, they need to explain how he could possibly have never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting those 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 at all, but rather learned it directly from the glorified Christ (perhaps while in Arabia). 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 same Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the news which is good that he later preached to the Gentiles wasn’t the same news which is good that Peter had been preaching to Israel and the proselytes, and which Paul himself preached at the beginning of his ministry in Damascus, as well as in Jerusalem with Peter and James and the rest of the apostles three years later during his first visit with them.
But with it being so obvious that there are different types of salvation and at least two Gospels being taught in Scripture, why are some people so insistent that there’s only one Gospel and one ecclesia to begin with? Well, one of the major reasons 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, His entombment, and His resurrection, including good news/Gospels 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 understand what this poetic translation is getting at, they can easily end up very 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 in the original text (which means a literal rendering of the passage would be more along the lines of “a different gospel, which is not another”) in order to differentiate between any legitimate Gospels that weren’t his but were still perfectly okay to be taught to certain people to follow for salvation (as long as it wasn’t members of the body of Christ being taught that) and any illegitimate “gospels” that shouldn’t be taught by anyone at all, speaking of both a different (ἕτερος/“heteros”) so-called “gospel,” and another (ἄλλος/“allos”) actual Gospel. The word ἕτερος basically means “other of a differing sort” while ἄλλος means “other of the same sort,” so the wording of this passage allows for the existence of another/ἄλλος true Gospel (or even true Gospels plural) in addition to Paul’s Gospel.
Simply put, Paul wasn’t saying that people who taught there are other Gospels are under a curse, since he did so himself in the very next chapter of this epistle; he was only saying 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 to those who hadn’t. In fact, the different/ἕτερος “gospel” that Paul was warning about there was actually an adulterated mix of both Gospels, which means it was an attempt to blend the two Gospels into one (those whom Paul was condemning were trying to mix the law elements associated with the Gospel that Peter preached in with the pure grace of Paul’s Gospel, resulting in a bastardized “gospel” that can’t help anyone). Unfortunately, this means that the evangelists and teachers of the Christian religion today who are also trying to force the contents of each of these Gospels into one (by insisting that there is only one Gospel) are guilty of preaching that very same different/ἕτερος “gospel” that isn’t even another/ἄλλος (completely legitimate) Gospel at all like the Gospel that Peter preached was, bringing the curse that 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,’” 4) “the word ‘different’ is another from the word ‘different,’” 5) “the word ‘another’ is another from the word ‘another,’” and 6) “the word ‘different’ is different from the word ‘different.’” Read those, then ask yourself if those sentences all mean the same thing, or if the last five 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. (This isn’t to say that ἕτερος and ἄλλος can’t ever be used as synonyms of one another in other passages, since we already know that the same word can have different meanings in different passages, but it should be clear by this point that Paul wasn’t using ἕτερος as another word with the same meaning as ἄλλος in this passage, but that he was instead using the two words with different definitions, contrasting them with one another, in this case — and yes, I used the words “different” and “another” repeatedly in this sentence on purpose, to really drill in my point.)
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 εὐαγγέλιον or one of its variations 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), 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, progressively-revealed “Gospel” we have to believe in so we can be saved, but I doubt anyone thinks that belief in the good news about John the Baptist’s birth is necessary in order to be saved, so right off the bat we already have multiple proclamations of good news/Gospels in the Bible even before we get to the Gospels that one can believe when they get saved).
All that being said, even if somebody somehow still hasn’t recognized that there’s more than one Gospel in the Bible after everything I’ve already covered, they should at least now recognize that this passage can’t be used to refute the idea, since the wording does allow for another/ἄλλος legitimate Gospel to exist, even if they don’t believe it’s specifically saying there is one.
That the word εὐαγγέλιον can technically be referring to different positive proclamations when it’s used also helps when Christians claim there’s only one Gospel based on Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16 that “the gospel…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” When we take everything else we’ve already covered into consideration, it should be beyond obvious by now that this verse can’t possibly mean there’s only one proclamation of news which is good in the Bible, and so we have to look for an alternative interpretation of what Paul was talking about there to what they’re assuming it means. I’m not going to get into all the possible interpretations of this verse, because there are a number of them (while there are other possible interpretations as well, it could be that he was just speaking generally here, lumping both Gospels together in one statement, or he could have actually been referring strictly to the Gospel of the Circumcision there, as he seemed to be in the first few verses in this chapter, as well as in later chapters in this epistle too; since Paul was writing about both the body of Christ and the Israel of God in different parts of this letter, and I get the impression that he might have been writing different parts of it to members of their respective ecclesias there as well, and it could be that there was an obvious way in the original manuscript to determine which passages were specifically to which church that has now been lost to time, or perhaps it was just obvious to the members of each church which parts were primarily for them, if that is indeed the case), but the fact that there are a number of possible interpretations of this passage tells us that it doesn’t necessarily have to mean what most Christians assume it must. And combined with everything else we’ve already covered, anyone who insists it does is simply being dishonest with us and themselves.
And speaking of the Israel of God, the other major reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel and one ecclesia referred to in Scripture is their misunderstanding of a number of passages that they believe imply there’s now no difference between Jews (or Israelites, which the word “Jews” was often used as metonymy for) and Gentiles at all anymore, or even that Gentiles in the body of Christ are now a part of Israel itself, and have really replaced Israel altogether (which is really the most logical end result of “one Gospel” theology, based on the fact that few Israelites continued to believe in Jesus after the first century), as some Christians have misunderstood Ephesians 2:11-22 to mean (and while there are other possible interpretations of this particular passage that support the existence of two Gospels as well, my personal suspicion is that it’s primarily referring to Israelites within the body of Christ, and not to those in the Israel of God at all — remember, even within the body of Christ, the first members, such as Paul and Barnabas, were Jewish; but even if that isn’t the correct interpretation, the simple fact that there are other interpretations available which fit within a “two Gospel” framework means that this passage can’t be used to definitively argue that there can only possibly be one Gospel and one ecclesia the way some Christians have used it). For example, they see how Paul tells us that 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, as well as Preterism), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israelites. 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, and which is actually contradicted by it, as I’ll explain later, which means there’s no reason to believe they’re the same thing, 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 in the kingdom of heaven here on earth (in fact, another translation of that verse tells us 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 what heaven (or “the heavens”) actually even is. Nearly everyone who believes in God has asked what and where it is at some point in their lives, but the answers they’re normally given are generally vague guesses or unscriptural assumptions, unfortunately, or are simply statements insisting that we can’t know for sure. The truth, however, is that Scripture actually answers these questions for us, and the answer is so simple that I can actually show you heaven right now (or at least part of it). How? Well, let’s take a look at some of the passages of Scripture which tell us what heaven really is. First of all, Genesis 1:20 tells us, “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven,” and Matthew 24:30 says, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” which tells us that when we read the word heaven we can see that it’s sometimes referring to the sky, where the birds and clouds are (the atmosphere, in other words). In addition, Psalm 8:3 says, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained,” and Genesis 1:14–17 tells us, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.” And so, as we’ve already determined, heaven is “above” us, but it isn’t only a reference to the atmosphere, but to outer space as well. And since Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth,” we know that 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 confirmed they were (while also confirming that a prophecy of Zechariah is about Him and when He’ll one day return to the exact same spot He left from, which was the Mount of Olives).
That said, when Scripture talks about where we’ll be in the heavens, it would presumably 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 celestial beings 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 a quickened body (sometimes also referred to as a vivified body, depending on your Bible version, which refers to having our mortal bodies be made immortal, being given life beyond the reach of death, which means being incapable of dying, as well as never being subject to the corruption and the humiliation of mortality ever again, which is something that will only happen to certain people who experience the sort of salvation that Jesus taught about during His earthly ministry, at least at the time they’re experiencing it — specifically those who are raised from the dead at the resurrection of the just — with those who are still living at the time they begin enjoying what the KJV figuratively refers to as “everlasting life” in the kingdom of heaven not being given true immortality at that point, since those who are resurrected after Jesus returns will be like the angels and will no longer marry or reproduce, and if everyone who was given “everlasting life” was vivified/made immortal right then, there wouldn’t be anyone left to fulfill the prophecies of righteous Israelites not only growing old but also having children in the kingdom, as well as later on the New Earth), 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 (although those in the body of Christ will go there when Christ comes for His body), because one needs an immortal body that could survive and thrive out there if you were planning to stay long, considering the fact that you’d suffocate from lack of oxygen, or freeze to death, or die from radiation poisoning out there in the heavens without either an immortal body or some sort of vehicle or structure to protect you from death (this is at least partly why Paul wrote that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”; we know that flesh and blood will inherit the part of the kingdom of God which will be on earth, meaning the kingdom of heaven, because we know that not everyone in Israel will be immortal during the Millennium, so this was clearly only about the part of the kingdom that will be in heaven, not the part that will be sent from heaven). 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 heaven 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 “fallen” 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 or evil is also an unscriptural one, since the words of Habakkuk 1:13 they like to quote are actually, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil,” with “to behold” in this verse simply being an expression in the KJV that means “to give attention to” or “to look upon approvingly.” Satan’s presence in heaven, not to mention God’s omnipresence and the fact that “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” as Proverbs 15:3 tells us (with the word “evil” being translated from the same Hebrew word in both verses — the singular רָאָה/“rā’â” in Habakkuk and the plural רַע/“raʿ” in Proverbs), would make this a very problematic (not to mention contradictory) verse as well, if most Christians were correct about what that verse in Habakkuk meant.
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 really ”the kingdom from heaven/outer space”), the Israel of God will remain here on earth and maintain their earthly (Jewish) identity and citizenship throughout the Millennium, and will reign 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 the Gentiles in the body of Christ as well, since “neither Jew nor Gentile” doesn’t mean “you’re all Israelites now,” considering there would then still be Jews, even if only Jews, in the body of Christ — and this same point also applies to the reference to the Israel of God in Galatians 6:16 we just covered as well, proving that nobody in the body of Christ can be called “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’s the same passage which says there’s only “one baptism,” yet there are many different types of baptisms mentioned throughout Scripture, as we already learned, so this verse isn’t saying that there’s only one legitimate body (or only one legitimate 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 at the time we believe Paul’s Gospel).
And so, even as Paul wrote these truths, another group of men lived for whom the truth “neither Jew nor Gentile” did not apply (since it only applies to those genetic Israelites and Gentiles who are in the body of Christ), 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 during the Millennium (and those in Israel being judged at this time couldn’t still be a part of the 12 tribes if they were to join in the body of Christ and there was no longer a distinction between Jews and Gentiles as far as they’re concerned), a promise that did not apply to the apostle Paul (a 13th throne isn’t going to be added for him to sit on, nor was he a replacement for Judas). 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.
Now yes, it’s true that Abraham is indeed 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, especially since Abraham wasn’t an Israelite or under the Mosaic law anyway), 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”), but there’s still a clear difference, because those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the 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, being the part of the kingdom of God that will exist on the earth — and as the Lord’s Day, also known as the Day of the Lord, although perhaps better put as the Day of Yahweh, as well as 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 kingdom of God technically exists now, in outer space, but will also exist on earth during the period of time known as the Millennium as well as later on the New Earth, and that the kingdom of heaven is primarily about Israel, specifically during the Millennium), while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are instead 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 Covenant (or under 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 the way 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).
And yes, it’s also true — as some will point out — that while Peter didn’t teach Christ’s death as being for our sins in the book of Acts, and even taught that Jesus’ death was bad news for the Jewish people he was speaking to in the same book (rather than being the good news that it was for Paul’s Gentile audiences and that it is for us), Paul technically isn’t recorded as teaching Christ’s death as being for our sins, or as being good news, in the book of Acts either (although I should quickly point out that no sermon given by Paul, as recorded in the book of Acts, contains a full “Gospel message” explaining how one gets saved — which means his full Gospel must have been preached “off screen,” so to speak, unless you think “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is enough of an explanation of how to get saved for someone who wouldn’t have known what that even meant — whereas Peter is recorded as explaining exactly how one gets saved as far as his Gospel is concerned in some of his sermons in the book, so this just means that the writer of Acts didn’t include the contents of Paul’s Gospel in the book, likely because it’s primarily a Circumcision writing to Israelites concerned with why the kingdom of heaven didn’t come fully into effect in the nation of Israel at that time, and not simply a general history lesson about the “early church” and nothing more, the way many assume it is). And, in fact, it’s even true that Peter also mentioned the death and blood of Christ in one of his own epistles (in 1 Peter 1:18-19 and in 1 Peter 2:24) in a manner that was far more positive for his readers than the way he explained it in his sermons in Acts was (where it was discussed only as a negative as far as his listeners at the time were concerned). However, it’s also important to note that, while what Peter wrote in his first epistle technically can be considered news which happened to be good, at least as far as his written audience (which, again, consisted only of Israelites, specifically those of the diaspora, although I think it’s safe to say it would apply to all believing members of the Israel of God) was concerned, it wasn’t called “the good news” (or “the Gospel”) in Peter’s epistles the way the message that Paul proclaimed in 1 Corinthians was, and also to note that we already know what the actual message called “the good news” that Peter taught his audience could be saved by following is (and that the message he called “the good news” had nothing to do with Christ’s death for our sins or His entombment at all, as already discussed). Still, we should analyze this claim so we can demonstrate that it doesn’t actually support the assumptions some make about these verses.
The first thing to do is look at what it is that Peter’s readers were said to be ransomed from. In the first passage, the CLV translates what Peter wrote as: “…being aware that not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, were you ransomed from your vain behavior, handed down by tradition from the fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a flawless and unspotted lamb…”
This is basically saying that Peter’s Jewish readers were ransomed from their Old Covenant, meaning from having to follow the Mosaic law of their own strength, which they could never really do anyway. Instead, when their New Covenant comes fully into effect, Israelites will have the law written on their hearts, as Jeremiah prophesied, and will finally be able to keep the law perfectly through God’s power rather than their own (in)ability. The thing to keep in mind here is that, since Gentiles were never under the Old Covenant (or the Mosaic law) to begin with, we didn’t need to be (and hence weren’t) ransomed from it. Whatever the ransom that Paul referred to in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 was about, it wasn’t the same ransom that Peter was writing about here. (The reference to the “flawless and unspotted lamb” should be another dead giveaway that this is a Circumcision reference, since the lamb is connected to the Jewish perspective of Christ’s death, just as “sheep” are Circumcision imagery as well.)
So yes, while Peter eventually realized the connection between Christ’s death and Isaiah 53, there’s no indication that he ever understood the full effect that Christ’s death for our (meaning all humanity’s) sins had the way Paul did, and it seems likely he only knew the Circumcision connection to His death according to prophecy rather than the Uncircumcision connection according to the secret (or mystery, depending on your Bible translation). Because yes, Jesus did have to die in order for Israel’s New Covenant to come into effect, and also in order to be a propitiatory shelter concerned with their sins, as John wrote in 1 John 2:2, but His death accomplished so much more than that as well (and Peter and John certainly weren’t aware of any of what the cross accomplished until after Christ died and was resurrected anyway, and the parts they did eventually understand likely not being understood by them until after Paul explained it to them). As Martin Zender wrote in chapter 10 of The First Idiot in Heaven (which I highly recommend reading):
The cross of Christ reached far deeper into humanity’s need than merely giving one sad nation a new heart. Each year, the Passover lamb was not tortured; its throat was slit — that was it. Not so Christ on the cross. Jesus Christ’s six hours of torture touched an aspect of humanity’s condition that the mercifully killed Passover lamb could not reach. The Passover lamb leaves Israel intact — the cross wipes out everything and everyone in its path. The cross of Christ says:
The whole race is finished. Watch the depth of suffering; see the six hours on the Roman stake. We’re pulling humanity out by the roots here; that’s how deep this goes. Forget Abraham and David; we’re going back to Adam now. It’s that bad. When this Man rises from the grave, a new creation will have come into the lives of those believing it. Eventually, all shall come to believe it. (As Paul makes clear in 1 Timothy 4:10 — “We rely on the living God, Who is the Savior of all humans, especially of those who believe.”)
Peter never taught this; he was not a new creation. The new creation eliminates fleshly distinctions, and Peter has to be an Israelite in the kingdom — he has to be. Jesus told him he would sit on one of twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).
Yet what does Paul say? “For whoever are baptized into Christ, put on Christ, in Whom there is not Jew nor yet Greek” (Galatians 3:27).
Peter never taught this; he couldn’t. He has to be a Jew in the kingdom. Peter was not, and is not, in the body of Christ.
Paul alone discusses how one man, Adam, affects all humanity. Not coincidentally, Paul alone boasts in the cross. Only Christ on the cross — not the Lamb sacrificed for Israel — undoes the condemnation of Adam.
No other writer discusses Adam. They speak of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel. Paul alone traces our entire spiritual history to the inaugural human. Only through Paul’s message does the entire race become new. The Hebrew Scriptures demanded a new birth for Israel. Paul’s teachings are to the new birth what a well is to a tea saucer.
Now I know why Paul always seemed like Mr. Absolute to me. Why I always sensed he went deeper. Because he did go deeper. I failed to see specifically then that Paul was the only writer returning us to Adam, relating Adam’s failure to the manner of Christ’s death, and removing the old humanity by the roots.
When I was a kid, one of my chores was to pull dandelions. My dad always said: “Get ‘em by the root.”
The gospel of the Circumcision does not get humanity by the root. Rather, it remakes humanity. It takes the raw material of the present creation and fashions it anew. This is what being “born again” means. “Born again” puts God’s spirit into Israelite flesh, so that Israel can at last enact God’s commandments. Being born again merely spruces up the old humanity; it reforms it. No wonder the other writers always struck me as reformers; they were reformers. Modern so-called men of God always wanted me born again. I never embraced that. I needed more. My root was wrong. Fix me today, and I am back in a month to re-confess my sins, as the Catholic church did to me. They never extracted my sin by the root. Their fix was a Band-Aid; ten “Our Fathers” and ten “Hail Marys,” and I was back next month — back on the wheel like a gerbil. The root never left me. (Protestant churches aren’t much different. Protestants say you must confess your sins each day or you’ll be “out of fellowship” with God, and then poor, helpless God can’t bless you.)
Thus also, Israel. With Israel, flesh is still recognized. In Israel, Jew and Greek remain. As I said, these must remain, because there are twelve thrones in the kingdom, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. What about Paul’s throne? There are not thirteen thrones. I wondered about this. Poor Paul. He was the most awesome, energetic apostle of them all. Where was his throne? Now I know: Paul does not have a throne on Earth; his future is not tied to Earth. Only Paul announced the truth: “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” This was beyond radical. Peter never did quite understand. Not be a Jew? How could it be? Yet Paul, in the book of Philippians, despises his nationality and throws it away. Either this is dangerous and stupid — or else it sits at the core of the most liberating message ever to visit humanity …
Paul pronounced a curse on the message that mixed law and grace, the very message that reigns today in the modern Christian church. This mixed message confuses and disturbs, breeding fear, false guilt, and shame. Many people hearing this mixed message wonder if they are really saved. Those hoping for truth in the realm of Christianity see some light in the writings of Paul, but then they read James and despair comes. Something in Romans thrills them, such as: “There is no more condemnation in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), but then here comes Peter. Or here comes James. Or Jude. Or Hebrews. Or here come even the red letters of Christ.
What these folks fail to realize (no one has ever told them) is that the red letters of Christ, while inspired, are not the final words of Christ.
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).
What follows when people mix the two gospels, then, is the guilt and condemnation of religion; it’s a pseudo-grace in Israelite garb that attempts to couple “total grace” with a do-this-or-else mentality. How few people read the address on Scriptural envelopes; how few distinguish between what is theirs and what belongs to Israel.
They open other peoples’ mail and try to pay other peoples’ bills.
On the one hand, the Christian religion will say you are a new creation in Christ, and all your sins are justified. On the other hand (the hand they slap you with), they will say you’d better confess your sins and at least attempt to reform yourself before Christ returns and finds you slacking. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re even saved?
Identifying the source of this confusion will grant you a peace and security in Christ that you’ve probably never known …
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
That the Israel of God is a distinct group from the Gentiles in the body of Christ is also made extremely 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, which likely refers to certain Abrahamic blessings, now being available to the nations without having to go through Israel as Gentiles will have to do again in the future after the wild olive branch representing them is eventually removed from the tree — and remember, Abraham precedes the nation of Israel by multiple generations, so being a part of the tree and enjoying Abrahamic blessings doesn’t mean one has become a “spiritual Israelite,” which is a completely unscriptural term anyway) in that figurative explanation of present and future events, but rather some remained attached to the tree while the wild olive branch was grafted into the tree next to believing Israel/the Israel of God rather than replacing them (this should also be made obvious by the fact that branches don’t actually change species when grafted into a tree of a different kind), and we also know that the pruned-off natural branches will be grafted back into the tree eventually as well, at the time the wild branch is removed from the tree. 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, just as God promised). 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. This is also made clear by the fact that it’s a singular wild branch — as opposed to the plural natural branches — and that the whole wild branch will eventually be removed from the tree, which means that every Gentile member of the body of Christ would lose their salvation if that’s what being pruned from the tree was referring to.
And so, to put it simply, Christians really 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, and which brings an anathema upon its presenter. 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, since the time for the previous instructions had passed), 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 the books as well.
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 the whole Bible might not all be applicable to everyone throughout history, they can then begin to notice the clear pattern of significant differences between the teachings and exhortations of Paul to the nations and the teachings and commandments found within the Circumcision writings. 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 manage to endure to the end) while the latter is already standing in grace, and this is why we Gentiles can, in fact, be saved right now despite the fact that Israel is not yet a light to the Gentiles as they one day will need to be for Gentiles to be led to salvation, which will be at the time when the law shall go forth of Zion (which isn’t right now, since the law not only doesn’t go forth from Zion, but doesn’t even apply to Gentiles at present).
|The Israel of God — the Gospel of the Circumcision/Gospel of the kingdom||The body of Christ — the Gospel of the Uncircumcision/Paul’s Gospel|
|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)|
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, and should not be teaching anyone from the Bible. 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 all things that 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” (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.
That said, if someone still somehow insists there really is only one Gospel taught in Scripture after reading all that, I’d very much like to hear why they want Scripture to contain only one Gospel so badly. And it has to be a matter of wanting it to be true, since at this point they have to admit that all of the passages we’ve looked at can be interpreted in such a way that can support the existence of two Gospels (although, really, there’s no excuse for believing in only one Gospel after reading this whole chapter carefully). And so, my challenge to them is to tell me their answers to the various questions I’ve asked throughout this chapter, and to provide their refutations of every single one of scriptural interpretations and arguments I’ve brought up in support of the existence of two Gospels, including an explanation of how they reconcile the extensive list of scriptural contradictions that would seem to exist if there was only one Gospel (based on the comprehensive list of differences I’ve laid out in this chapter which only seem to make sense if there are indeed at least two Gospels). In addition, I want them to write down and send to me exactly what they believe this one Gospel is and what someone has to do in order to be saved under it, both prior to Christ’s death and after it (leaving no details out, and including their scriptural basis for all of it). So far nobody has been able to do all of the above after reading earlier editions of this book (a few have sent attempts at refuting a few points, but they all ignored the majority of my arguments), and until someone does, the idea of there being only one Gospel is simply an assumption that there’s literally zero excuse for making if one can’t complete the challenge I laid out in this paragraph.