Previous chapter: Introduction
Part 1: Doctrine
In order to truly dig deeper into Scripture and learn the doctrines that most of us were never taught by our pastors, one needs to first know how to “rightly divide the word of truth,” since without knowing how to do this it’s basically impossible to understand what sort of teachings the body of Christ is supposed to believe and follow. It’s extremely common for those within the Institutional Church to believe that certain things in Scripture which were meant only for specific people in specific times apply to everyone always, causing them to think they have to follow commandments that don’t apply to them, and to try to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results). In order to do this “rightly,” it’s important to first understand that when you read the term “the word of truth” in the Greek Scriptures (meaning the books in the Bible that are generally referred to as the New Testament) it isn’t just yet another synonym for Scripture, so this isn’t simply referring to dividing the Bible into the two sections that are traditionally called the Old Testament and the New Testament (although dividing Scripture rightly will be a valid side effect of this practice since, while every Scripture inspired by God was written for all of us, not every part of the Bible was written to or about all of us). If you look up each time the term is used in the Greek Scriptures, you’ll discover that it actually refers to the Evangel or Gospel rather than the Bible itself. When one comes to this understanding, it becomes clear that the Good News (which is what Gospel means; the Greek word euaggelion [εὐαγγέλιον], which we translate as Evangel or Gospel in English, literally means “Well Message,” “Glad Tidings,” or “Good News”) has to be properly divided, and the Apostle Paul tells us exactly what it means to rightly divide the Good News.
To put it simply, there is more than one Gospel in Scripture that the word of truth must be rightly divided into, two of which are known as the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. It’s important to note that Paul didn’t just say that Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the Circumcised while he himself was called to preach the same Gospel to the Uncircumcised in this particular verse in his epistle to the Galatians. Yes, as the next two verses point out, both God and the pillars of the circumcision ecclesia did send Paul to the Gentiles while Peter and the rest focused on the Jews, but the whole reason he went to see Peter, James, and John in the first place was because he had to explain his specific Gospel to them since it wasn’t the same one they were preaching (if it were, he wouldn’t have had to defend the Gospel that he preached among the Gentiles, and there wouldn’t have been a dispute over it that Peter would have to resolve [this is almost certainly the whole reason the book of Acts records God sending Peter to Cornelius and his family: so that he’d be able to defend Paul]). Despite how some translations might render it, not seeming to grasp the difference between the genitive and dative cases in Greek (Circumcision and Uncircumcision are both in the genitive case here, so the possessive “of” is the correct translation, and “of” doesn’t mean “to” as some seem to think it does. 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 we could very well be giving out the same food, so understanding that the word “of” means something very different from the word “to” is extremely important), these were two separate Gospels meant for two separate groups of people, as the rest of this chapter will make abundantly clear (even if anybody can technically be saved by whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed to follow — Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision just as Jews can be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; these are just titles and have nothing to do with whether one has surgery done to one’s genitals or not — as long as 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]).
Basically, the terrestrial Jesus and His disciples taught the first Gospel specifically to Israel. While heralding the Good News of the impending arrival of the New Covenant, Jesus had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under the Old Covenant and was only a minister of the circumcision while He walked the Earth; despite making a couple exceptions and helping a couple of them (where the Bible makes clear how unusual this was, just as it does on the one occasion Peter spoke with Gentiles in the book of Acts), His earthly ministry (aside from His death and resurrection, of course) was not directed towards the Gentiles, and His teachings were about the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Kingdom from the heavens) coming to Earth rather than the body of Christ going to the heavens (as the later teachings of the celestial Jesus through the apostle Paul were).
Paul, on the other hand, was singled out by the glorified Christ to teach the second Gospel to the rest of the world (which means a Christian ignoring or rejecting Paul’s special Gospel, not to mention his other unique teachings and ministry, could be said to ultimately be ignoring or rejecting Christ), and it’s this second Gospel that is meant for the body of Christ today (although it should be noted that Paul actually did teach the first one for a time as well, at the beginning of his ministry, at least when preaching to Jews). The rest of the Bible is important for context, among other things, but it’s only Paul’s epistles that were written specifically to the body of Christ (and, in fact, only Paul himself ever used the label “the body of Christ” anywhere in Scripture). As useful as the rest of the Bible is, anything other than the 13 epistles signed by Paul was primarily intended for Israelites (Hebrews, regardless of who wrote it, was meant for them too, which should come as no surprise to anyone who happens to notice the title of the book), and we can’t forget that fact when studying Scripture if we want to come to the correct conclusions.
So what is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, also known as the Gospel of the grace of God (a title that is often shortened by believers and simply called the Gospel of Grace; and while this label isn’t actually used in Scripture, it’s a shorthand that does still seem accurate enough), or sometimes just called “my Gospel” by Paul (who would have been ridiculously arrogant, and would really be the Bible’s biggest egotist, for calling it that if this wasn’t a distinct Gospel given specifically to him), and how are we saved under it? Before answering that, it’s important to know what it isn’t. The Gospel of the Uncircumcision isn’t that one can be saved by confessing and repenting of (or turning from) sin, by asking God to forgive them for their sins, by “following Jesus,” 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”), and/or by being baptized in water, as are common ways many religious leaders mistakenly share the Gospel. If one or more of those things are all one has done, they probably haven’t really been saved yet, relatively speaking (at least not under this Gospel; some people who call themselves Christians have very possibly unknowingly been saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, however — God always kept a remnant of believing Israelites for Himself [although, of course, Gentiles could also become included in this remnant, and there’s no reason to believe this is no longer the case], and we know the remnant can’t refer to those Jews who are saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and brought into the body of Christ because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, so this must refer to those Jews and proselytes who were [and the remnant of Jews and proselytes who currently are] saved by another Gospel). Rather, this Good News is simply that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead after three days. Very few Christians actually do, but if you truly believe in Christ’s death for our sins (those three little words make all the difference, and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and likely even from the one you currently believe), His entombment, and His resurrection, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking; everyone is reconciled, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death and resurrection). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel other than that faith; no confessing or repenting of/turning from sin, doing good works, “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” (which is a completely meaningless, not to mention unscriptural, expression) is needed, nor is asking God to forgive you for your sins required, and water baptism is definitely not something you have to do to be saved under this Gospel. And on that note, while most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized with water, although those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do need to be baptized in water, this isn’t actually the case for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. Yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly. That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized. 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), or a part of either of God’s covenants with Israel (and, as with their two covenants, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway; Gentiles never were to begin with). Instead of being baptized in water, we are baptized into the body of Christ, and since there’s only one baptism for us, it can only be that baptism into the body rather than baptism in water or in the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel of the Circumcision, on the other hand, was the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, meaning not only was it ready to begin on Earth but that it was indeed already in their midst in the person of its future king (which is why it’s also called the Gospel of the Kingdom), and to be saved under this Gospel (meaning, to live in that kingdom when it finally arrives on Earth) one had to repent (of sin in general, and later of killing Jesus in particular) and believe that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) and the Son of God, followed up by being baptized in water, following the commandments Jesus taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, confessing one’s sins when one slips up (then also forgiving others who sinned against them), and enduring to the end (of one’s life or of the period commonly known as the tribulation, whichever comes first). While works on their own never saved anyone, in order to maintain salvation under this Gospel they’re still quite required to be performed: works that include water baptism, confessing sins, enduring to the end, and following Jesus’ commandments (which includes following the law of Moses, since it doesn’t pass away [although parts of it have been fulfilled and other parts have possibly been temporarily paused] for those under this Gospel until the new heavens and the new Earth begin after the Millennial Kingdom ends; don’t confuse the end of the Old Covenant — or even the beginning of the New Covenant, which hasn’t actually begun in earnest yet [while the New Covenant got its start by Christ’s death, the results of that covenant haven’t fully come into effect yet since it went temporarily on hold when Israel as a whole rejected Jesus as the Messiah] — with the end of the Mosaic law, which happens at the conclusion of the Millennium one thousand years later, after the current heavens and Earth are destroyed). Still, at its simplest, followers of this Gospel just have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in order to be saved in the first place, and enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven when it arrives on Earth (which is what salvation under this Gospel entails — it has nothing to do with going up to the kingdom of heaven from Earth in a spiritual state after one dies [or to do with the Kingdom spiritually residing within oneself while still alive; while there is a spiritual element to the Kingdom, few seem to know much about the physical side of it, so I’m focusing mostly on that in this book], and everything to do with the kingdom coming to them physically on Earth from the heavens, either while they’re still alive or after they’ve been resurrected after the tribulation period). While faith is ultimately the basis of both Gospels, nowhere was Israel told by Jesus or His disciples to trust in His death for our sins, His entombment, or His resurrection for justification or salvation. You won’t find the Gospel of Grace explained anywhere in the books traditionally called the four Gospels, not even in the famous John 3:16 passage that evangelists quote so frequently. Yes, Jesus did tell His disciples about His impending death and resurrection (and His death was even prophesied beforehand), but not only did they not understand what He was telling them (which should really be all the proof one needs in order to see that they weren’t preaching His death for our sins when they were sharing their Gospel prior to His death, which means they weren’t preaching the same Gospel as Paul was since that’s what he preached as his Gospel), He also didn’t explain it as being for our sins or as something they had to trust in to enter the impending Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. And while Peter did mention that Jesus died and was resurrected in his sermons in the book of Acts, it was only brought up as an accusation against those who killed Him (the cross was Bad News for those who heard him rather than the Good News that it happens to be for the recipients of Paul’s message), and as proof that He is the Messiah and that He is still able to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth since He’s no longer dead; it wasn’t explained as the method of salvation to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision in these sermons either (just believing that Jesus died and was resurrected isn’t enough to actually be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; one has to also believe that His death was for our sins, and Peter didn’t preach that fact about His death in his Acts sermons). Similarly, Stephen didn’t preach the cross for salvation either. Rather, he simply accused those who were about to kill him of murdering Jesus as well (as it was with Peter’s messages in Acts, this was very Bad News for his listeners too; not Good News for them at all). Simply put, nobody prior to Paul had ever proclaimed the cross as anything other than Bad News, and if it’s Bad News in those messages then it isn’t Good News/the Gospel in those messages, which means it’s a whole other Gospel from the one Paul preached, since in his Gospel the cross was only Good News for his audience. As an example of someone getting saved by believing a Gospel prior to Paul, the statement of faith made by the Ethiopian eunuch (who was most likely 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) 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 (yes, he learned that Jesus died, but like those before him, he wasn’t aware that it was for our sins). So faith, under the Gospel of the Circumcision, is in the identity of Jesus, while faith, under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, is in the work of Jesus. Likewise, the cross means (and meant) something very different to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision than it does to those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (it wasn’t something anyone was looking forward to, nor was it something anyone understood prior to Paul outside of the context of the New Covenant and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth).
As should be obvious at this point, these Gospels aren’t even remotely similar to each other, so how anybody ever concludes that they’re one and the same is quite perplexing (if someone thinks the message that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is the exact same message as “Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day,” just worded differently, or that Jesus and His disciples were teaching the latter, they really need to explain how these very different sounding messages are actually saying the same thing, as well as how the disciples could have possibly been preaching Christ’s death for our sins when they didn’t even understand that He was going to die), but somehow the vast majority of people have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a mistake that even some in the body of Christ have made recently. The fact that if one were to remove the epistles of Paul from the Bible they’d completely lose the doctrines of salvation by grace through faith apart from any works and justification apart from the law, however, should really make it clear that Paul was teaching something different, and that it’s his teachings the body of Christ should be following.
Of course, anyone who believes that Paul was later preaching the exact same Gospel to the Uncircumcision that Peter was preaching (I say later because, in the messages Paul is recorded as having preached in the book of Acts, they were primarily connected with the Gospel of the Circumcision) also has to explain how Paul could possibly have never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting them during the time he went by the name Saul. And yet, based on what he told the Galatians, he didn’t hear the Gospel he proclaimed to the nations from any mortal humans, but rather learned it directly from Christ. It’s extremely difficult to believe that he somehow wasn’t aware of the most important teaching of those he was persecuting — one would be hard-pressed to answer the question of why he was persecuting them in the first place if he didn’t know what they believed — and we know that he wasn’t told it by Jesus on the road to Damascus, yet he immediately preached the Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the Good News he later preached to the Gentiles wasn’t the same Good News that Peter preached to Israel and the proselytes (and that he himself preached at the beginning of his ministry), but was rather given to him later by revelation, perhaps while in Arabia, after he’d already preached Peter’s Gospel in Damascus.
One possible reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel in Scripture is that Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, and they then go on to make a major assumption: that every Jew who believes in Christ is brought into the body of Christ (and that every first-century Jew who believed in Christ became a member of His body prior to Paul’s revealing of the body to the world). But if that were the case, this would mean they would all lose the standing above the Gentile nations that Israel was promised to be given by God one day (they don’t have it now, but they certainly will in the future, despite what some believe), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israel (this is also a result of confusing the new birth, which Paul never wrote about, with the new creature or creation, which only Paul ever wrote about). 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 (or understand the difference between the “mysteries” [or “secrets,” which is a better translation] of the dispensation of Grace and Conciliation and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all), and that being a part of said ecclesia was never meant for every believer in Christ throughout history. The body of Christ has a future job to do in the heavens (among the celestials), and our true citizenship is in those heavens rather than here on Earth. That can’t be said about Israel however, at least not the faithful Israel known as the Israel of God. Unlike the body of Christ, who will be out there working in the heavens (referring to outer space [albeit in deep space, likely beyond the reach of our current telescopes, but still in our physical universe], out among the stars and planets where most of the celestials reside [even if perhaps partially in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow invisibly living on our plane of existence]), the Israel of God will remain here on Earth and maintain their earthly (Jewish) identity and citizenship throughout the Millennial Kingdom, and will rule over the Gentile nations throughout the 1,000 years. Since only Jews who “are saved” (those known as “the Israel of God”) are among this group, if “being saved” means 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.
Another possible reason for the lack of realization of the existence of two Gospels in Scripture is 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. What most people who base their assumption on this idea aren’t aware of is that Paul used two distinct Greek words rather than one to refer to the Gospels that weren’t his being preached when he spoke of a “different” (heteros [ἕτερος]) Gospel and “another” (allos [ἄλλος]) Gospel in this letter. “Heteros” basically means “other of a different sort” while “allos” means “other of the same sort,” so one was “another/allos” (fully legitimate, just like Paul’s) Gospel being preached by Peter, and one was a “different/heteros” Gospel, that wasn’t even “another/allos” actual Gospel at all like Peter’s was, but was rather a bastardized mix of Peter’s Gospel and Paul’s Gospel that couldn’t save anyone. Likewise, Paul wasn’t saying people who taught that there were other Gospels were under a curse, since he did so himself just 24 verses later; he was only teaching that those who would preach any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they had already received as something they should follow were, but Peter and the rest of the apostles could preach their particular Gospel as something to be followed to anyone that they wanted to without fear as long as it wasn’t to members of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, the evangelists and teachers of the Christian religion today aren’t even proclaiming that one, but instead are the very people who are guilty of preaching the adulterated “different/heteros” Gospel that isn’t even “another/allos” legitimate Gospel at all like Peter’s was, bringing the curse Paul warned about upon themselves.
So, while Abraham is the father of us all (the fact that Paul often quoted the law and prophets does not mean said law and prophets as a whole apply to everyone, nor does it detract from his unique Gospel), and both groups can be said to be “in Christ” (which is one of those trans-administrational terms [such as “baptism” or “light” or “mystery” or “Gospel” or “kingdom,” to name just a few of many examples] that is used by both but can mean something slightly different to each; as A. E. Knoch put it, “Israel came first in time, and the divine vocabulary is based largely on God’s dealings with them. Even if our blessing does not now come through them, it can often be best expressed by borrowing their terms”), those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Testament (or New Covenant) during the renascence or regeneration (the period also known as the Kingdom of Heaven [or the Kingdom of the Heavens, which is a subset of the much larger Kingdom of God], the 1,000 years, the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom, something that has not happened or even really begun yet) that was promised to Israel long ago, while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are promised spiritual blessings and are destined for far greater things (at least at first) out there in the heavens, and are no more under the New Testament (or any covenants for that matter, nor would they want to be if they truly understood what that would mean for them) than they are able to be born again like Israel needs to be, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even the kingdom of priests that Israel as a whole will finally be one day (and, just as a quick warning, one should be cautious about claiming this title since appropriating the role of a priest without actually being anointed and appointed as one by God can be somewhat dangerous, although perhaps less risky under the current administration of the Conciliation, but wisdom is still called for), because the body of Christ has been circumcised of the body of the sins of the flesh rather than circumcised of the foreskin of the heart (the latter being a spiritual circumcision which, like the physical circumcision of the male genitals, is only meant for Israel). Basically, Churchianity needs 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 lead anyone to salvation. Many people don’t like the idea that not everything in the Greek Scriptures was meant for everyone to follow, but it’s literally impossible to follow everything in them when even within the books commonly referred to as the Gospels you have Jesus giving instructions in one place that contradict instructions that He Himself had previously given (on purpose, of course), so those who teach that everything in the Greek Scriptures is meant for everyone to always follow really aren’t paying attention.
The lack of understanding regarding the many differences between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace, as well as what parts of Scripture are written to Israel and what parts are written specifically to the body of Christ under the current dispensation of Grace (not to mention the lack of understanding that the Scripture written to Israel has to be rightly divided as well, as Jesus Himself demonstrated), is also a major cause of the disagreements one finds between the many denominations within Christendom, 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, does not line up with the teachings of Paul), but really all of the rest of them (although using a better translation also helps in other cases). So not only is this concept extremely important for believers to grasp, it’s 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; instead, rather than discipling all nations to be observing what Jesus commanded His disciples and baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as the Israel of God will be called to do in the future [when the dispensation of Grace ends and Israel is saved and finally begins their ministry to be a light to the nations and salvation unto the ends of the earth as they were long ago prophesied to one day be], we have a greater “commission” and “one baptism” in spirit into the body of Christ, and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began [including the Mystery of the Gospel, which is a secret almost nobody knows anymore] just as Paul was), which is why it’s imperative to truly understand this important topic.