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Gospel Confusion

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Some common sayings among believers are:

“There is only one gospel, and everyone is saved the exact same way.”

“Jesus’ 12 disciples and Paul preached the same thing.”

“Paul comes along later and merely picks up where Peter left off taking the same gospel to the Gentiles.”

Those sayings may sound spiritual, but are they true? Let’s review some scriptures to answer that question.

1. To whom did Jesus and His 12 disciples minister?

2. What gospel did they preach?

3. To whom did Paul minister?

4. What gospel did he preach?

First, let’s determine who Jesus and His disciples ministered to during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

1. To whom did Jesus and His disciples minister to?

“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 10:5-7 KJV

Here Jesus commands His disciples NOT to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans. They are to go ONLY to Israel, the Jews preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

In keeping with that command Jesus said the following in Matthew chapter 15:

“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” – Matthew 15:21-22 KJV

A Gentile woman comes to Jesus seeking healing for her daughter.

“But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.” – Matthew 15:23 KJV

Jesus did not answer her plea and the disciples asked Jesus to send her away as she annoyed them.

“But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matthew 15:24 KJV

Jesus finally answered her stating that He was sent only to Israel, not Gentiles.

“Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” – Matthew 15:25 KJV

She comes close to Jesus, worships Him, and again pleads for His help.

“But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” – Matthew 15:26 KJV

Jesus replied to her stating that it’s not fitting to cast the children’s bread (Israel’s bread) to dogs. Jesus likens Gentiles to dogs.

“And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” – Matthew 15:27 KJV

The woman had a tremendous response.

“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” – Matthew 15:28 KJV

It’s clear from these verses that Jesus’ ministry was to Israel, the Jews.

Paul validates that in the following verse:

“Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” – Romans 15:8 KJV

Therefore, Jesus and His 12 disciples ministered to Israel.

2. What gospel did Jesus and His disciples preach?

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” – Matthew 4:23 KJV

“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” – Matthew 9:35 KJV

“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” – Matthew 10:5-8 KJV

Jesus and His disciples preached the gospel of the kingdom to Israel, the Jews.

3. To whom did Paul minister?

Jesus sent Paul to minister to the Gentiles.

Paul wrote:

“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:” – Romans 11:13 KJV

“Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” – 2 Timothy 1:11 KJV

Paul is the only person in the Bible that had a ministry to Gentiles.

4. What gospel did Paul preach?

Did Paul also preach the “gospel of the kingdom” or a different gospel?

Let’s begin our answer with a question. Did Paul know the “gospel of the kingdom” that Peter and the 12 disciples preached?

“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.” – Acts 9:1-2 KJV

Clearly Paul knew precisely what the disciples preached as he persecuted them for preaching Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God and His resurrection. He knew the teachings and beliefs of Jesus’ followers long before his trip to Damascus. Paul was very familiar with the gospel of the kingdom.

But Paul clearly states that he received his gospel by divine revelation from Jesus!

“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – Galatians 1:11-12 KJV”

Paul clearly states that his gospel came from Jesus by divine revelation! Paul did not receive his gospel from Peter, James, or John, or any other disciple.

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,” – Ephesians 3:3 KJV

Again, Paul received his gospel by divine revelation from Jesus Christ! He did not receive it from Jesus’ disciples.

If Paul preached the same gospel as Jesus’ disciples, there would have been no need for a divine revelation given to Paul by Jesus.

Therefore, the gospel that Jesus gave to Paul must be different in some aspect from what Jesus disciples preached.

This fact is clearly seen in the following passages from Galatians chapter two where Paul recounts his visit to Jerusalem meet with Jesus’ disciples.

 “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” – Galatians 2:1-2 KJV

Fourteen years after Paul’s conversion he went to Jerusalem by revelation from Jesus Christ. The purpose of the trip was to inform Peter, James, and John about the gospel he, Paul, preached among the Gentiles. Had they all been preaching the same gospel, Paul’s trip would have been completely unnecessary. Clearly Paul’s gospel was different. Paul wanted to inform Jesus’ disciples about the gospel of grace Jesus had revealed to him and his ministry to the Gentiles.

So, if Jesus’ 12 disciples and Paul all preached the same gospel, there was no need for any special revelation from Jesus Christ to Paul nor for Paul’s trip to Jerusalem nor for the council meeting of Acts 15:1-35.

“But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:” – Galatians 2:6 KJV

After meeting with Jesus’ disciples at Jerusalem, Paul declares that they added nothing to him pertaining to his gospel, the gospel of grace.

“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;” – Galatians 2:7 KJV

Paul added information to the disciples about the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles) that Jesus committed to him.

On the contrary, Paul added to the disciples the gospel of grace he received from Jesus. The disciples quickly learned that the gospel of grace was committed to Paul for the uncircumcision, the Gentiles. And the kingdom gospel was committed to Peter by Jesus during His earthly ministry.

Notice that the KJV uses the phrase “gospel of the uncircumcision” and “gospel of the circumcision.”

The use of the preposition “of” quantifies a gospel as pertaining to or belonging to the noun in the phrase. In this case, a gospel belonging to the uncircumcision, the Gentiles, and a gospel belonging to the circumcision, the Jews.

One of the primary reasons for “gospel confusion” is the use of the modern translations like the NASB.

Let’s compare Galatians 2:7 in the NASB with the King James Bible.

NASB95:

“But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised” – Galatians 2:7 NASB95

The NASB changed the word “of” to the word “to”. The phrases “gospel to the uncircumcision” and “gospel to the circumcision” take on a different meaning. Instead of the different gospels as with the use of “of” in the KJV, the NASB implies one gospel preached to two distinct audiences, Gentiles and Jews.

But notice in the footnotes that the NASB states the literal translation from the Greek text is “of the uncircumcision,” not “to the uncircumcision.” The literal translation matches the KJV!

Jesus Christ gave both gospels; one to His disciples for the Jews, and a different gospel to Paul for the Gentiles. Shallow Christian who don’t study the Bible assume those gospels were the same and only the two audiences, Jews and Gentiles, were different. Such is not the case.

However, the literal text clearly denotes two gospels.

1. the gospel of the uncircumcision – the gospel of grace given to Paul for the Gentiles.

2. the gospel of the circumcision – the gospel of believe and be baptized  given to Jesus’ disciples for the Jews (Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:14-18).

What exactly is the difference between these two gospels?

1. the gospel of the uncircumcision – the gospel of grace given by Jesus to Paul

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 KJV

The Gospel of Grace – Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sin, was buried, and rose from the grave. Put your faith and trust in Him for salvation. This is the gospel Paul preached on his missionary journeys.

2. the gospel of the circumcision – the gospel Peter preached at Pentecost in Acts chapter two.

“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” – Acts 2:36-38 KJV

Clearly Peter is preaching to the house of Israel, the Jews. He proclaims that God (the Father) made Jesus both Lord (master, possessor, owner, sovereign, prince, chief) and Christ, the Messiah of Israel. Peter then adds repentance and baptism as prerequisites for receiving the Holy Spirit. Repentance and baptism concern the remission of sin in Peter’s gospel but are not required in Paul’s gospel of grace.

Peters’ gospel is not about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter accuses the Jews there at Pentecost of crucifying their Messiah. Peter proclaims Jesus as both Lord and Messiah of Israel. Peters’ gospel also requires water baptism. No such requirement in Paul’s gospel. These are quite distinct contrasts.

Even though the focus of both gospels is Jesus Christ, the gospel for the Gentiles presents Jesus as our Savior delivering us from the penalty of sin. Whereas the gospel for the Jews presents Jesus as the Lord and Messiah of Israel who will restore the Kingdom to Israel.

Once you understand this, it makes perfect sense, as the Jews were promised a Messiah and a Kingdom. No such promise was given to the Gentiles.

Now those passages in Galatians make perfect sense.

“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision (gospel of grace) was committed unto me (Paul), as the gospel of the circumcision (believe and be baptized) was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me (Paul) toward the Gentiles:)” – Galatians 2:7-8 KJV

Two gospels, two apostleships!

Paul – gospel of the uncircumcision – the gospel of grace – apostle to the Gentiles.

Peter – gospel of the circumcision – believe and be baptized – apostle to Israel.

Two distinct audiences!

“And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” – Galatians 2:9 KJV

Paul, Barnabas, and Silas – go to the heathen – Gentiles.

Peter, James, and John – go to the circumcision – Israel.

Keep these two gospels separate and your understanding of the New Testament will be greatly enhanced.

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Dr. Paul Felter

Dr. Paul Felter

Author and Bible teacher for over 40 years. Living the good life in Houston, Texas. Rightly Dividing the word of God as commanded by our apostle Paul in 2nd Timothy 2:15 - "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." If you are not rightly dividing the 'word then you are robbing yourself of God's blessings and favor.

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