Part One – Before the Acts period and During
HISTORICAL ASPECT CONCERNING THE HOPE OF ISRAEL FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Most of the bible describes Gods interaction with the people of Israel. From Genesis 25 on the story is focused mainly on the nation of Israel. The other nations (Gentiles) are mentioned only when they are in contact with Israel. Israel was liberated from the oppression of the Egyptians as described in Exodus, and given laws at Mount Sinai which they were to obey. For their obedience they were promised a future glorious land and a future godly King who was to be the Lord Himself. For disobedience and unbelief, they would experience hardship, exile and ruin. Overall, they failed, they were disobedient and thus suffered the consequences. But they continued to hope for that glorious future in the Kingdom, even to this day.
In the beginning of the New Testament we find that the Israelites were continuing to hope for the same things: the glorious land and the Messiah to rule over them. We see that the story is very similar in character to the writings of the Old Testament in terms of the same people (Israel) in the same land, with the same hopes, laws and status over Gentiles. Jesus Christ came as came as the Savior of the world and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14).
The New Testament includes many of apostle Paul’s letters. He penned 13 letters in about a twenty-year time span. Nine were written to churches in different regions with different cultures, at different times, experiencing different problems. Four were written to individuals.
We should realize the commission of Jesus Christ and His twelve disciples were separate and distinct from the commission given to apostle Paul. This may seem doubtful at first thought, but it becomes clear when an overview is taken of the entire New Testament in its proper chronological order. And yet most well-known teachers and preachers force-fit the two commissions into one and the whole thing becomes jumbled confusion. Paul’s description of the place and effect of the law was different than that of the other scriptural writers. Close examination of the writings of the New Testament will reveal that the gospel of Jesus and the 12 apostles were intended for the circumcision whereas the teaching of Paul was for the uncircumcision (the gentiles). It became more and more evident through the Acts account that the Jews (circumcised) rejected Jesus Christ as the Savior and the coming Messiah. This rejection led God to set them aside for a period of time and raise up Saul (Paul) to offer salvation in Jesus Christ to non-Jews, the gentiles.
JESUS PROCLAIMS THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Mark 1:14 (KJV) Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
Jesus came into the land, announcing the gospel (evangel) of the kingdom of God. We have only to read on in these four accounts of our Lord’s ministry to see what answer the nation of Israel, in her calloused condition of heart, gave to His glorious message. If any people were in need of rest and hope at that time (and even yet), it was God’s chosen nation Israel. They were toiling, they were burdened, but didn’t know it. Instead of opening their hearts to the One Who alone could have taken their load and given them rest, they spurned His offer until He had to denounce the leaders of Israel as a generation of vipers (Mat. 12;34, Mat. 23;33). And most of the general population heard the message of Jesus but did not understand.
Matthew 15:24 (KJV) But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 4:23 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.
John 1:11 (KJV) He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Time after time, the people of Israel would hear and not believe the Holy One sent by God even though He did many wonderful works and performed many miracles.
They did not accept that this was the son of God, the Holy One. They had Him crucified. The two main missions of Jesus was to announce the kingdom of God and to die for the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Jesus did not proclaim the gospel message to other nations, only to the nation of Israel (Mat. 15:24).
Matthew 15:24 (KJV) But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
This fact needs to be kept in mind. Notice what Paul said in Romans:
Rom 15:8 (KJV) 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:
This tells us that the ministry of Jesus was for the House of Israel only (the circumcision) , not those outside the nation, i.e. the uncircumcision — gentiles (nations).
THE APOSTLES PREACH THE SAME GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Just as Jesus was rejected, so were the 12 Apostles. The book of Acts records that Israel was given opportunities to repent after Christ was resurrected and ascended to heaven. The Apostles preached of the resurrection and salvation through Jesus Christ. Not only was this message largely rejected, but many despised it.
The church that was formed on the day of Pentecost was composed of the people of Israel. There were no gentiles in that throng. On that day 3000 souls were added (Acts 2:41). Many of the dispersion from other lands had come to Jerusalem during that period (Acts 2:9-11). The church grew and flourished.
Shortly thereafter Peter and John healed the lame man and about 5000 more believed. And because of the two Apostles preached of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead, the leaders of the nation were angered and threatened them, forbidding them to preach of Jesus Christ.
But the Apostles continue to preach the resurrected Christ. “And by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people…” (Act 5:12). “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” (Act 5:14). However persecution intensified.
Throughout most of the Acts period the 12 Apostles preached the Gospel of the kingdom of God. The twelve were sent to the Circumcision. The message was rejected by the majority of the Israelites including the leaders and Pharisees. They went within the land consistent with the character of the commission under which they acted. This kingdom message is specifically designated “the gospel of the Circumcision” (Gal. 2:7), because it primarily concerns the preparation of Israel, as a nation, for possessing the kingdom. Their rejection resulted in the postponement of the kingdom (the Millennium) until a future time.
Romans 11:25 (KJV) For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
The gospel for the circumcision waned weaker and weaker throughout the Acts period. The time had come for the Apostle Paul to preach a gospel designed for the gentiles since the Israelites had rejected the kingdom offer.
In the early chapters of Acts, we find the message of the Kingdom of God proclaimed to Israel. It is proclaimed in the power of the holy spirit, accompanied by gifts, which are a prelude to the powerful deeds that will occur in the Millennium (Heb. 6:5). We don’t get far in that book before we discover that- Israel’s heart has not softened toward God and His Son.
Just like the immediate effect of the preaching of Christ and the miracles He performed was encouraging but soon the rulers and the bulk of the nation reject the message, so too with the apostles after Christ’s resurrection. Peter and John are taken before the council and commanded not to speak in His name. The opposition grows. Stephen is dragged before them and is stoned to death, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus. Herod kills John’s brother James and imprisons Peter, who is released by divine intervention.
Time after time the preached gospel of the kingdom of God was rejected by the people of the nation of Israel and their leaders. The result would be that the kingdom would be set aside for a future time.
KINGDOM OF GOD REJECTED AND SET ASIDE
God sent His Son to become Israel’s Messiah (Christ) and establish the Kingdom of God, yet they rejected Him and had Him crucified. The kingdom is again offered to Israel in the book of Acts. Jerusalem seals its refusal of Messiah by the stoning of Stephen, the beheading of James and the imprisonment of Peter and John.
The apostles were given the job of indicating that the people of Israel had rejected Jesus Christ who was to be their promised King, but that they could repent and be forgiven. During this time, Israel was being given another opportunity to accept Jesus as their Christ, the Son of God. However, the majority of the nation still rejected Him.
Luke 19:14 (KJV) But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
When God sent the apostle Peter to preach the gospel to a non-Israelite, a proselyte, this commenced a period which saw Gentiles being able to inherit the promises and blessings formerly given only to Israelites. This was done in order to make Jews envious of the fact that non-Israelites were being promised things which were previously exclusive to Israel. In this way it was hoped that Israel would be provoked into repentance.
Romans 11:11 (KJV) I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Again, however, the majority of Jews rejected the message. This situation continued right up until the last half of the final chapter of Acts.
THE RADICAL CHANGE IN PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL
The time had come for a radical change in God’s dealing with His chosen nation, the house of Israel. Now He becomes directly involved with the other nations (gentiles).The continued rejection of the gospel preached by Jesus and the twelve Apostles eventually led Christ from Heaven to call Saul (Paul) to proclaim a gospel which was unique.
Does it not strike you as a bit unusual for Paul to the called to preach “the gospel” if the twelve were already preaching it.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER CONCERNING PAUL’S CALLING AND APOSTLESHIP
Why did God call Paul (Saul) to preach the gospel if the 12 Apostles were already preaching it?
Was the gospel proclaimed by the 12 the same as the one proclaimed by Paul?
Is there one baptism or two? Paul said one, others said two.
Did Paul and James disagree on the role of works for a Christian (compare James 2:17-18, 20 with Eph 2:8 )? Yes, Paul and James disagreed!
The names of the 12 Apostles are mentioned as foundations in the holy city in Revelation, so why isn’t Paul included (Rev. 21:14)?
WHY DID PAUL CALL IT HIS GOSPEL?
Paul’s message incorporates faith and grace and negates the emphasis on works and reward.
Yes, the epistles of Paul give us more enlightenment than the gospel taught by the 12 Apostles. If Paul’s gospel is identical to that proclaimed by Peter, James, and John, is it not rather presumptuous on the part of Paul to come along after them, and call it his gospel? We find as we read Paul’s gospel account, there is more to the gospel than that taught by the 12 Apostles.
Some people think I demean Jesus Christ by putting emphasis on Paul’s epistles in this web site. They say “that what Jesus said is the most important. His authority is greater than Paul’s.” I realize that those who speak that way want to give Jesus the highest, most honourable place, but I wish to accomplish the same thing. Yes Jesus did say many things which are true and universal and apply always, such as exhibiting love to others. Recall that Jesus was only sent to teach His own people, not the nations (Mat. 15:24). And please realize that Jesus Himself, the exalted One, severed, separated Paul from his people and his brethren for a special service among the nations, and appeared to him repeatedly from Heaven to instruct him about the things that were not revealed before. We learn of the “secret administration of the grace of God,” which was revealed to Paul for us, and which had been hid from the eons in God, and therefore could not be found anywhere before the appropriate time (Eph. 3:1-9)? In the Scripture we can ascertain that there is one gospel for the one nation — Israel and another for all nations.
Gal 2:7 (KJV) But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.
There is a gospel of the circumcision and a gospel of the un-circumcision. Notice that the word “of” is used in describing the relationship, and does not say “to”. If the gospels were identical they would be described as the “gospel to” and not the “gospel of”. Thus the use of the preposition “of” is defined as “belonging to, relating to, or connected with.” This grammatical distinction can be found at:
This indicates that the gospels were NOT identical. Not at all. There is the gospel for the circumcision (nation of Israel) and an expanded for the un-circumcision (gentiles/nations). Why?
The gospel that Christ and the 12 Apostles proclaimed concerned the establishment of the Kingdom of God, and was primarily focused on the people of Israel and proselytes (converts to Judaism). The gospel that Paul preached and wrote about concerned the message of God’s grace to all mankind.
Here are a few scriptures among others that tell us of the unique calling and commission of Paul:
Acts 9:15 (KJV) But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
Acts 13:2 (KJV) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Also note that the Apostles were called in the land of Israel. Saul (Paul) was called outside the land. The Apostles were taught by Christ when He was on the earth, Paul by the risen Christ from Heaven.
The call of Saul marks a significant advancement in God’s plan and administration described in the book of Acts. His separation to be the apostle of the nations is a truth not well known by many, nor recognized and fully appreciated as it should be.
Therefore, the purpose of these pages is to pursue recognition of the truth that Paul is the chosen instrument of God, called, separated and commissioned as the Apostle, herald and teacher of the nations in knowledge, grace and truth.
The message of God through Paul is so essential for us that additional articles follow. The gospel that God commissioned Paul to proclaim brings to us glorious revelations of God’s truth that was not known prior to Paul’s calling. Paul’s epistles apply to us today.
Next we will examine scriptures that differentiate the gospel preached by Paul and how it differed from that of Christ and the other twelve Apostles.
Next Link – Part 2