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  • Writer's pictureElijah Blalock

Does the Bible really say that?

One of the most bizarre conversations I was ever a part of happened in a living room in Oregon one summer in my early college years. There, an older gentleman without any prompting decided to explain to my friends and me that the Lord's Prayer was meant for Jews and not for Christians, and that we should not pray it. I didn't want to cause any trouble arguing with a man older than my grandfather, so I listened without saying much. Besides, I was so astounded by what he was saying I really didn't know what to say. It was outlandish.

I haven't thought much about that conversation besides that it was unforgettably weird, but recently I saw this image on Facebook. Paul's gospel doesn't exist in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John? Paul preached a different gospel than the one we read Jesus preaching in the four gospels? I could hardly believe that this was shared in sincerity!

Then, in a stark reminder that Facebook is bad for mental health, it happened again! I see this image claiming that Christ's body doesn't even begin with Christ! It began with Paul, evidently. More importantly, it's a separate group of people from Israel. And all of these assertions are allegedly backed up by proof texts listed in the images.

After some searching, I found that the images came from the same Facebook page. It didn't take long for me to recognize the beliefs of the page. This Facebook page holds to the same theology that man on the couch did. It's a very radical version of dispensational theology. There are many kinds of dispensational theology, but at its most basic level, dispensationalism holds that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the church. That means that when they read the Bible, they see two sets of promises given to each group that must be fulfilled. Many popular end-times preachers are dispensationalists. In their view, because God promised Israel an earthly land, kingdom, and temple, God must give them those things, meaning that those promises must be fulfilled in the end times. I happen to reject the idea that there are two distinct peoples of God, so I am not a dispensationalist. However, my point here isn't to argue against dispensationalism because I would imagine that most dispensationalists would be appalled at the images above. The views of that Facebook group are radical and in serious error, as I think most dispensationalists would agree.

I am writing this as a reminder that you can't trust everything you see on the internet, even if it quotes a Bible verse. Peter warned about those who twisted the letters of Paul, saying, "The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Pet. 3:16b) Let's look at the verses quoted and see if they prove what these images claim. For the sake of the argument, I'll even quote them from the KJB.

"Paul's Gospel of Christ according to the revelation of the mystery doesn't exist in Matthew, Mark, Luke, [or] John because it was a secret hid in God until Jesus Christ revealed it to Paul."

Romans 16:25 "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,"

I suppose that the argument here is that Paul claims this is his gospel. However, just because Paul says that this is "my gospel," doesn't mean that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John couldn't also say the same thing. Couldn't all believers reading this post also say of Romans, "This is my gospel"? Just because Paul says that the gospel is his doesn't mean that it is not also the same gospel as the other Apostles, so I'm not sure what the author of this post thinks he has proven. If the claim is that Paul's gospel is somehow distinct from the "preaching of Jesus Christ," I'll let you decide. If Paul's gospel and Jesus' preaching are not the same thing, does this seem to be a good state of affairs? Does that sound like what the New Testament is getting at? Whose preaching would you rather side with: Paul's or Jesus'? The very thought is abominable!

However, let's zoom out and read just one more verse. Verse 26 says, "But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:" The only Scriptures Paul had were the Old Testament prophets! The very next verse says that the gospel, according to God's command, is made known to all nations by the Old Testament prophets. According to Paul, his gospel is found in the Old Testament. That being the case, are we really supposed to believe that his gospel is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?

Ephesians 3:1-10 "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 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. 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; 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: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,"

Again, I am not sure what the author thinks this text proves. Perhaps, he is suggesting that when Paul describes the mystery of Christ which was not known until now, that must mean not until he saw Christ on the Damascus road. But just read the verses for yourself: Paul says, "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." The gospel was not merely revealed to Paul but to all the apostles! It's right there in the verses quoted! Or are we supposed to believe that Paul's gospel is unique because he was sent to the Gentiles? Of course not! Peter preached to the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 and then defended his fellowship with such Gentiles in Acts 11. Or consider that Paul convened with the other apostles in Jerusalem to discuss the incorporation of the Gentiles in Acts 15! Paul's ministry was unique in that he was sent as a missionary to the Gentiles, but his gospel was certainly not unique. The book of Acts makes it clear that all the apostles welcomed the Gentiles into the church.

Galatians 1:11-12 11 "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."

Paul is merely asserting here that the gospel he has been preaching was given to him directly by Christ and not by other men. This in no way suggests that it was somehow a different gospel. If we say that the gospel is different, then we'd have to say that Jesus taught Paul one gospel, but then taught the other apostles a different gospel. Again, just because Paul received the gospel in a unique way does not mean that he received a unique gospel.

"Israel began with Abraham... The body of Christ began with Paul"

Genesis 12:1-3 "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

So far, so good. The nation of Israel traces its lineage back to Abraham. The problems come with the next verse.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."

At this point, you will not be shocked to learn that I have no idea what the author thinks this verse proves. There is no mention of the body of Christ anywhere in these verses! All I can guess is that the author of the picture is hung up on the word "first," and must take that to mean that Paul was the first person to whom Jesus showed his longsuffering. However, "first" can mean many things. It can mean first in chronological order, or it can mean something like "chief" or "foremost." Which sounds more compelling to you? That Jesus showed longsuffering to no one else before Paul, or that Jesus showed his longsuffering in a uniquely powerful way in Paul?

If the answer was not obvious already, the Greek Paul wrote in makes it plain. When Paul says, "... sinners; of whom I am chief," the word "chief" is the Greek word Protos, which means "first." Later, when Paul says, "... that in me first..." the word "first" is (you guessed it) Protos. The word is translated as "chief" in verse 15 and "first" in verse 16. Now, this is not a bad translation as long as we remember that both the Greek and the English words for first can mean first in order or something like chief or foremost. The meaning here is obvious: Paul was not the first person to be shown Christ's longsuffering but rather was the chief recipient of it, just as he was the chief of all sinners. Paul was not the first member of Christ's body. He did not receive a different gospel or a different kind of longsuffering from everybody else. The verses say nothing of the sort. The book of Acts and the rest of Paul's letters make it very clear that Paul joined the same church that Christ himself founded with his disciples.

At this point, you may be wondering, "Why does this matter? Why not let sleeping dogs lie?" It matters because people continue to deceive others by twisting the Scriptures. These men pretend to have some secret knowledge of what the Bible really says. They quote passages out of context to make it seem like they have discovered some new truth. The only way for us to discern truth from error is to go to the Bible itself and study it. Don't just take someone quoting Scripture at face value, especially when they argue for new doctrines. Go to the text and look for yourself.

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