Part 9 of How the Gospels Transitioned through ACTS
Part 9 --- Final recap and summary)
by Rudi Steenhuis
Final recap and Summary of Comparisons of The Transitional Gospels
In the previous study we discussed how Paul, during the first half of his ministry, —that is, his missionary ministry represented in ACTS, —preached two gospels. The general trend that Paul would follow is;
He would preach the gospel of God to those Jews and Gentiles (friends of the Jews) who came together, typically, but not exclusively, in the Jewish synagogues. The gospel of God in summary was,
- believe in Jesus' resurrection and 2nd coming, repent, be water baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, obey the law, prove your faith with works, and endure to the end.
- that Jesus died for their sins and that they could trust in nothing else but the all-sufficient cross-work of Christ (death, burial, resurrection) for salvation.
It is important that we understand that this was a very unique time, as a transition was taking place. By Gods design, we have a short period of time where two programs were intersecting. It was a mix of Jews and Gentiles, law and grace, prophecy and mystery, and of course, the phasing out of one gospel message into another.
As a summary of all the preceding lessons, let's now summarize the key points to provide a big picture of the transition of the gospel of God and the gospel of Christ. This should remind you of what we have covered before and bring all the pieces together to form the overall transition picture.
Comparison Key #1: What defines the gospels?
The Kingdom gospel became the gospel of God due to one significant reason, the resurrection of Christ and the hope therefore that the Kingdom program was not lost, but still in effect. Everything stayed the same with these two gospels, except that the good news could now be added to it and proclaimed. In other words, the Kingdom gospel and the gospel of God are the same, barring the resurrection of Christ, however, both these are very different to the gospel of Christ (aka: the gospel of Grace) which are the same message for two different people groups. In the gospel of Christ, the focus was not so much the resurrection of Christ that provided hope for salvation in the coming Kingdom, but rather on the cross of Christ that provided hope for salvation through the grace of God in Christ alone.
--- Kingdom Gospel >>> Gospel of God <<< ||| >>> Gospel of Christ >>> Gospel of Grace ---
Comparison Key #2: Was the gospel preached to the Jews first?
During the Kingdom gospel, Jesus, on multiple occasions, mentioned that He had come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, (Matt.15:24). By saying this, He was excluding the Gentiles from His ministry. This was because of the plan of God to save the Jews first so that they, according to prophecy, could be the light to the Gentiles, (Isa.60:3).
The gospel of God was no different. Because this gospel was based on the Kingdom gospel, the audience was still the same. In the first few chapters of Acts, Peter and the other apostles were still going to the Jews only. The difference however was that the gospel messaged had changed to include the resurrection and possible soon return of Jesus Christ. The conditions to be ready for His return was to repent and be water baptized in His name for the remission of sins, so that the gift of the Holy Spirit could come upon them, (Act.2:38).
On the other side of the coin we have the gospel of Christ. It is clear that we do not see this restriction of Jew first and then the Greek in reference to this gospel. What we clearly see in Paul's writings concerning the gospel of Christ, are statements about 'all nations', and 'all men', showing that the gospel of Christ is not bound to a particular nation or order of presentation.
Romans 1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
1 Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. ... 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Comparison Key #3: Was the gospel found in the scriptures?
The gospel of God is the Kingdom gospel with the addition of one HUGE event; the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This gospel, preached by Peter in Acts 2, reignited the hope that the King could come and bring a restoration to Israel through His Kingdom. This narrative had been prophesied centuries before and many aspects of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection can be found in the scriptures as proof of His identity and purpose.
Both the gospel of God and the gospel of Christ can be found in the prophetic scriptures. It would not have been hard for the 12 apostles and Paul to prove to their listeners that Jesus was the Christ. Much was predicted of Jesus life, death, resurrection, and purpose. Consider just one passage in Isa.53:1-12. The scriptures below indicate that Paul proved his gospel by using the scriptures,
Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
Acts 18:27-28 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
But what about the unsearchable riches? There is a part of the gospel of Christ that is different to the gospel of God. The gospel of Christ has a mystery involved in it. Yes, Jesus’ life and purpose could be found in the scriptures, but nowhere do we find in the prophetic scriptures that the Jews and Greeks, by means of their salvation through the gospel of Christ, would become part of the Body of Christ, saved outside the means of Israel and apart from the law. This was something entirely new and unheard of! Paul himself writes to the Corinthians that they are a brand-new creature in Christ, and that all things have become new, (2Cor.5:17).
Ephesians 3:6-9 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Comparison Key #4: Was righteous works required to merit salvation?
The transition period of Acts has a clear progression when it comes to righteous works for justification. The period of the Kingdom Gospel was for the Jews only and required the works of the law as part of salvation. The gospel of God continued with the works requirement (Acts 10:34), but eased up on the law component as more Gentiles were being saved under the gospel of Christ. The council meeting in Jerusalem recognized that Gentiles were not familiar with all the laws and practices of the Jews and settled on them practicing only some very specific laws, not for salvation, but simply for keeping peace and coexistence of the two faiths, Acts 15:28; Colossians 2:16.
The gospel of the grace of God was sent to those who were 'far hence' (as Paul puts it in Acts 22:21). It makes sense that no works were required here as these were the Gentiles who had no opportunity to 'bless the Jews', nor were they even familiar with their religion to merit practicing the sabbath and other customs and laws without any context. As we can see from this deduction, and unlike the participants of the Kingdom gospel and the gospel of God, who's salvation is tied into works that they can merit, the gospel of grace requires no works and is utterly based on unmerited grace. God chooses to save us because of the work of His Son imputed to us by His choice.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
2 Timothy 1:9 He has saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time began.
Titus 3:5 He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Comparison Key #5: Was salvation in the future or present?
A simple fact that does not need much proof is that in the gospel of the Kingdom, and the gospel of God, the hope of salvation lay out in the future. This of course is very different to the gospel of Christ (or the Grace gospel), where salvation is not a hope out in the future based on one's works and the conditional requirement to endure to the end, but rather an immediate, factual, and unconditional sealing of one's salvation by the Holy Spirit because of the cross work of Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
Ephesians 1:13-14 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Where our salvation today is instant and immediate, saved positionally in the spirit, the other gospels promise a hope of resurrection in the future and which is conditionally dependent on faithfulness to the law, to works and to endurance to the end.
Comparison Key #6: Did you have to call upon the name of the Lord or Confess the Lord?
In the Old Testament and the four Gospels, it was required by Jews to call upon the name of the Lord, or confess His name. The purpose of this was to proclaim Him as one's Messiah, to identify Him as your Lord and King. This requirement, to call upon the name of the Lord, or to confess Him as your Saviour, was a necessary requirement of salvation during the law dispensation and in the Kingdom gospel and the gospel of God.
Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.
Although Jesus has fulfilled many prophecies and did countless miracles to prove His identity as the promised Messiah and Son of God, he never openly claimed it and it was up to a person’s faith in their scriptures to believe in Jesus. This faith was made manifest by confessing His name before others, in addition to obeying the law and doing good works.
Luke 12:8 "Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. 9 But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
John 11:27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
Acts 8:37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
For us today, in the dispensation of grace, confessing the name of the Lord is not a requirement for salvation. The gospel of grace, (our gospel) does not have conditions that we need to fulfil. Salvation today does not lie in conditions to fulfil but rather in trusting in Christ after we have heard and responded to the gospel.
Notice the account of the Philippian jailer's salvation experience. After hearing the gospel of Christ, the jailer asked; "Sirs, what shall I do to be saved." In Acts 16:31, Paul answered;
"Believe on (trust in) the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…".
Here are a few other scripture passages to confirm this;
Rom.11:5-6 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
Eph.2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Comparison Key #7: Was the meaning of Christ's death known?
During Jesus early ministry, His followers did not know that the purpose of His first advent was to sacrifice Himself. According to their prophetic scriptures, Jews believed that when their Messiah would come, He would come as a King and a conqueror.
We can clearly see that the Kingdom gospel did not focus on the death of Christ. As a matter of fact, even the Gospel of God, which revealed the meaning and importance of the resurrection of Christ, did not focus on His death. Even at this point in time, it was an embarrassing point. Peter, during his Pentecostal preaching in Acts 2 and 3, told the Jews that they killed their Messiah and its this grievous act that they needed to repent from, Acts 2:36-38; Acts 3:12-16.
So, while the Kingdom gospel and the Gospel of God did not even hint on the value and purpose of Jesus death, our gospel today, the Gospel of Christ (or the Gospel of the Grace of God), utterly values the purpose and meaning of Christ's death. The death, burial and resurrection, is at the heart of our gospel today, and is this very information that, when we receive and believe it, saves us to the uttermost.
1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Comparison Key #8: Was there a need for accompanying signs?
The earthly ministry of Jesus was validated by a myriad of signs (or miracles) that He performed. These signs, according to prophecy, were to validate His ministry and prove to the Jews that He was their Messiah. To confirm this, John ends his gospel with a remarkable statement; John 21:24-25.
The reason for men of God to do signs and miracles was to prove their claims as apostles and prophets. The Jews, since the exodus with Moses, were accustomed to signs. As a matter of fact, God made a covenant with Israel to perform signs and wonders for their sake, Exodus 34:10.
With the above understanding, we can now understand that signs were also connected to the Kingdom gospel and the gospel of God. To validate their message, the messenger had to prove that the news they were sharing was ordained by God.
So, we have to now ask the question, "What happened to ALL THESE SIGNS today?" If signs were so commonplace in the gospels and Acts, why do we not see signs to prove the gospel message today? The simple answer is that the dispensation of grace operates differently. We are a body of faith today and are to walk by faith and not by sight (visible proofs, 2 Corinthians 5:7).
Signs do not play a major role in the Body of Christ. It is not required for believing the gospel message and God does not move in miracles and wonders to validate the message today. This is the nature of the grace dispensation and gospel. It is is interesting to note that when the Kingdom period reactivates under the Jewish program, when the Tribulation starts after the rapture of the Body of Christ, signs and miracles will again be the order of the day.
This list is not exhaustive. There will be many other comparisons that can be made to distinguish the Kingdom gospel and the gospel of God from the gospel of Christ and our gospel, the gospel of the grace of God. My hope is that with the 8 comparisons above, it will make it clear that we firstly must rightly divide the Word of truth, but also acknowledge that there is a clear pattern of transition and that the contents and requirements of the gospels certainly did change during the course of Acts.
May this study also provide you peace of mind that our gospel of grace, today, is a display of the utter grace of God through Jesus Christ, and that we can have 100% peace of mind and surety that if we hear (receive) and believe the grace gospel, we are sealed eternally into the family of God and will enjoy his love and grace for all of eternity.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Praise be to God.
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