The Great Commission

Introduction

Most of Christendom has been taught that Jesus’ words in Matthew 28.18-20 to His eleven apostles constitute the Church’s “Great Commission.” This passage usually is presented as Jesus’ last words to His apostles and as the Church’s marching orders. The passage reads,

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.18-20).

Careful reading of this passage and the parallel passages in the other gospels raises many questions for the interpreter. Unfortunately, synthetic exegesis of the issues raised by these passages is rare. And, perhaps because the passage has become so familiar, critical examination of its meaning has almost ceased. The purpose of this study is to examine the passage above in concert with the parallel texts under a disciplined hermeneutic and within the historical context to determine what Jesus meant by His command in this passage. This analysis will challenge traditional teaching.

Parallel Passages

Matthew’s passage is most familiar to Christians because it is regularly called upon as a primary passage for Christian evangelism. Equally important, however, are the parallel passages of the other gospels if we are to understand Jesus’ last words on earth to His eleven apostles. Below are the parallel passages of what Jesus taught His apostles before he ascended.

Mark recorded,

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16.15-18).

Luke recorded,

45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24.45-49).

Luke continued his history in Acts,

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised,“Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1.4-8).

And finally, John recorded,

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20.21-23).

The Passages Examined

The passages above provide the content and context of Jesus’ instructions to His eleven apostles. When these passages are examined together, what were the Lord’s instructions to His apostles? The chart below group His teaching into the main categories.

The Commands, Gospel, and Forgiveness of Sins

TeachingScripture
Make disciples; teach the nations (τὰ ἔθνη) to obey Jesus’ commands.Matthew 28.19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
Preach the gospel, i.e., the gospel of the kingdom, to the world, starting in Jerusalem and then spreading outward.Mark 16.15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Acts 1.8 “and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins to the nations (τὰ ἔθνη)Luke 24.47 “that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Apostles given authority to forgive or retain sins.John 20.23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

Baptism

TeachingScripture
Baptize with water by authority of (in name of) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.Matthew 28.19 “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Both faith and water baptism required for salvation.Mark 16.16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”

Sign Gifts of Believing in Christ

TeachingScripture
Believers would have sign gifts and power: be able to cast out demons, speak new languages, safely handle snakes, be immune to poison, be able to heal the sick.Mark 16.17 “And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The Holy Spirit

TeachingScripture
Jesus commanded His apostles to remain in Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. They would receive power with this baptism.Luke 24.49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Acts 1.4-8 He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which”, He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. John 20.22-23 He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.

Anyone familiar with Christian teaching on the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, baptism, miraculous gifts, and the Holy Spirit, will recognize the wide variance of the meaning of these doctrines in Christendom. Denominations and churches have been created depending on how they interpret these passages. With respect to the so-called “Great Commission,” the chief focus of most commentaries, sermons, and evangelistic efforts is upon the command to preach the gospel and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Largely ignored are problems created by these passages. Is there a way to clear up this confusion and understand the teachings of Jesus and what the Church should be and do today? Happily, yes.

An Examination of the Situation

The Commands, Gospel, and Forgiveness of Sins

To understand the last teachings of Jesus while on earth, it is necessary to review what He taught during the three years of His ministry. Jesus’ ministry officially began with John the Baptizer. John served in the rôle of a herald for the prophesied Messiah-King and introduced the ministry and message of Jesus. The key theme of John’s message was “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3.2; cf. Matthew 9.35; 10.7; Mark 1.4; Luke 3.3. Jesus took up and continued to preach the same message (Matthew 4.17). The apostles understood correctly that the kingdom 1 that John the Baptizer, Jesus, and they themselves had preached was that kingdom the prophets had foretold for hundreds of years. In the course of His teachings Jesus had promised His apostles that they would reign over the twelve tribes of Israel with him in this kingdom (Matthew 19.28). Clearly, this kingdom idea had become firmly planted in their minds. It was an earthly, political kingdom. This is apparent from the fact that the last question they asked Jesus before He ascended regarded the timetable for the kingdom’s establishment (Acts 1.6-7). The ministry and teachings of Jesus that the apostles understood all related to the prophesied kingdom in which Israel would be preeminent among the nations of the world with Jesus ruling the world from Jerusalem as the Messiah-King and with themselves serving as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel. They believed that the long foretold prophetic declarations and promises of the prophets were about to be fulfilled.

Some maintain the apostles misunderstood Jesus. They argue Jesus meant a spiritual kingdom, not a physical, literal kingdom of Israel. They see the Church as that spiritual kingdom. Such a view has no biblical support if we respect Jesus’ words. Jesus had every opportunity to correct such a misapprehension prior to His leaving them. Luke wrote in Acts 1.6:

“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'”

How did Jesus respond? Did He say, “Men, you have misunderstood me. You have a confused understanding about Israel and the kingdom. I have not been talking about a literal kingdom regarding national Israel. I’ve been talking about a kingdom of the heart, a spiritual kingdom.” No. Jesus taught that the Scriptures would be fulfilled literally. Foundational to His ministry was His teaching that the Scriptures could not be broken and that they would be fulfilled as anyone would read them normally (Matthew 5.17-18; 24.35; Mark 14.49). Furthermore, do those who object to a physical, literal kingdom on earth also reject the Lord’s words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it in heaven” (Matthew 6.10)? This is as clear a statement as can be made that God would establish His kingdom on earth.

Rather than correcting a possible misinterpretation, Luke recorded Jesus’ response:

“He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; (Acts 1.7)

Those who maintain Jesus taught a spiritual, non-literal kingdom reach this conclusion by finding an allegorical or symbolic meaning to the text. Such textual mishandling has lead to unnecessary complications, misinterpretations, and theological errors in the Church. These have resulted in great confusion among Christians.

How did the apostles respond to Jesus? Were they obedient to Jesus’ instructions concerning the proclamation of the kingdom following His ascension? Indeed they were. In Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost he continued to call for the repentance of the nation saying,

“Repent and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2.38).

Peter continued this message in his second sermon in which he told the people of Israel,

19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. (Acts 3.19-21).

To what did Peter refer? He was reminding the Jews of what John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the Twelve themselves had been saying for the past three years. The nation must repent. In Peter’s second sermon, he offered the kingdom to the nation. The phrases Peter used, “times of refreshing” and “the period of restoration of all things” referred to the prophesied kingdom. Peter’s appeal was the first time that the kingdom was offered to the nation. Prior to this time, John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the Twelve had preached that the kingdom was “at hand” (ἐγγίζω, Matthew 4.17; 10.7; Mark 1.15). Now, however, Peter told the nation that the kingdom was more than “at hand.” It would be realized if they repented.

We do well to remember Jesus’ words to Israel when He considered their attitude towards Him and their refusal to repent,

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23.37-39)

Jesus predicted His rejection with this statement and set the terms for His return. While the Jews of Jesus’ generation crucified him, the Lord predicted that a future generation of Jews would repent (John 10.16). He prophesied a this future generation would not fail as their ancestors had. They will repent and utter the words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Therefore, according to Jesus’ teaching, He cannot return until Israel speaks these words!

Peter continued his sermon:

22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3.22-26).

Peter’s message was clear: repent and be blessed by the coming of the King–or die. It is crucial to note Peter’s audience. To whom did he speak? Gentiles or Jews? Jews! Who were the sons of the prophets? Jews! Whose seed was God talking about with the phrase “in your seed” that Peter quoted from Genesis? Jews! Who will be blessed through this “seed”? Gentiles! That was the kingdom program. First the Jew, then the Gentile. Paul summarized the prophetic program in his statement:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1.16).”

Paul’s statement was historical. The gospel went first to the Jew then to the Gentile. Paul’s statement has nothing to do with evangelistic priority in our present era. We do not evangelize Jews first and then go to Gentiles. That day has passed. While Paul’s practice throughout Acts was to go first to Jews, after Acts 28, this practice ended. No distinctions exist between Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ (Ephesians 2.13-16; Galatians 3.27-29). This is in contrast with Jesus’ teachings and Peter’s ministry.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry the Jew had priority. When Jesus gave orders to go forth and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand He ordered His apostles not to go to the Gentiles but only to Israel (Matthew 10.5-6). In His instruction of how to deal with a sinning brother Jesus taught His disciples that if the brother refused to listen then they should consider him a Gentile (Matthew 18.12-17). Does this sound like Paul’s doctrine of “no distinction?” When the Canaanite woman requested Jesus to heal her daughter from demon possession, how did He respond to her? He told her that it was “not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to dogs” (Mark 7.25-29). Who were the “children?” Jews. Who were the “dogs?” Gentiles. We know from the story that this woman would not be denied. Her determined faith caused Jesus to relent and grant her plea. Despite Jewish priority, Jesus made an exception. But it is clear from the Scriptures that Jews had priority in the prophetic kingdom of God. Indeed, they were the kingdom of God. Peter, obedient to his Master and to the Scriptures continued this priority.

Thus, we read Peter’s statement to the Jews that they received the gospel first:

25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3.25-26).

Compare this with Paul’s statement to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch about the priority of the Jews,

“And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we are turning to the Gentiles”” (Acts 13.46).2

Here we may address the purpose of the book of Acts. Most believe Luke wrote Acts to record the birth and growth of the Church. The Church’s birth and growth is recorded and this is certainly part of Acts’ purpose. However, the Luke’s chief purpose was to explain what happened to God’s plan for Israel. Acts explains the fall of the nation of Israel and the prophetic program. Israel begins in great hope as the narration commences. Yes, they had committed a great crime in crucifying their Messiah. But Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus, as He had promised had sent the Holy Spirit. The prophecy of Joel had begun to be fulfilled (Acts 2.16-21). The stage was set to fulfill the promises that the prophets proclaimed. Peter, as head of the apostles, offered the nation a choice. If they repented, the kingdom would come. But they refused. Tragically, Acts closes in despair. Acts records the Jews rejection of the gospel and ends with Paul’s witness of the Jews at Rome rejecting the gospel. Luke recorded Paul’s declaration:

“Let it be known to you therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen” (Acts 28.28).

God’s salvation had been sent first to the Jews. They refused it. Paul proclaimed that the Gentiles would accept it. And they have. The vast majority, probably 99% of the Body of Christ is composed of Gentiles. Paul’s pronouncement ended Jewish priority and formally recognized God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel.

The number 40 is used frequently in the Scriptures as a number for testing. For example, Moses spent 40 years in Midian before he was commissioned by God to bring His people out of Egypt (Exodus 3, cf. Acts 7.25-35). Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land (Numbers 14.33). Jesus spent 40 days in the desert and was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4.1-2). There are many other examples. Forty years passed from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. John the Baptizer and Jesus’ ministry began around 30 A.D. In 70 A.D., General Vespasian and his son Titus marched into Judea and destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem. Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote that over a million Jews were killed by Rome’s legions. A few escaped but most of the survivors went into slavery. The glory of Israel–Jerusalem and the Temple–was destroyed. Jesus had foretold this destruction to His apostles (Matthew 24.1-2; Mark 13.1-2; Luke 21.5-6). How many years passed from John the Baptizer to Vespasian? Forty. This was the period of testing for the nation. Tragically, they failed the test.

But God is sovereign and does not forget His promises.  He will give a make-up exam for Israel. Another day awaits the nation of Israel. Paul wrote in Romans 9-11 about this hope for national Israel. A future generation of Jews will repent and pass the test. They will recognize and accept Jesus as the Messiah (Zechariah 12.10 cf. Matthew 23.39). Paul wrote when this happens the entire nation will be saved (Romans 11.26). Jesus will return, reign as the King of Israel in His capacity as David’s “Greater Son”, and fulfill all the covenanted promises. This will be the “times of refreshing” Peter offered the nation (Acts 3.19)

Some teach God exercised final judgment in 70 A.D. on national Israel for its rejection of the Messiah and that Israel has no national future in the plan of God. Such teaching that the Church has replaced Israel and that the covenant promises God made to the nation have been given to the Church denies God’s sovereignty. It elevates man’s will over the divine will. This erroneous theology began early in church history (2nd century) and has poisoned orthodox theology for almost two millennia. While Israel failed God, God has not failed Israel. He is sovereign and He will keep His promises. Paul wrote the Romans,

28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11.28-29).

The promises God made to Israel, i.e. “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” have not been spiritually assumed by the Church. God will, according to His own timetable, fulfill His word literally to national Israel as He promised.

In the Matthew passage above we observed that Jesus had instructed His apostles about “teaching them (i.e. the nations) to observe all that I commanded you.” What did this include? For one thing, Jesus taught obedience to the Law of Moses. Throughout His ministry Jesus operated under the Mosaic Law and commanded His disciples to obey it. Thus, if the teachings of the “Great Commission” are for the Church, we should be teaching the nations to obey the Law of Moses (cf. Matthew 5.17-19; Matthew 23.1-3). Do Christian churches do this today? No, and rightly so. But why not if Jesus commanded it? We will examine why not presently.

The most famous extended teaching session Jesus gave is known as the Sermon on the Mount. In His sermon, Jesus taught that to be His disciple one must not lay up earthly treasures but give up one’s riches, give to anyone who asked, and not worry about where the next meal is coming from (cf. Matthew 5.40-42, 6.25-26, 10.8-10, 19.21; Luke 12.33). In Acts 2, we find believers in Jerusalem obeying Jesus’ commands. They sold their possessions and held them in common. This was consistent with Jesus’ teaching regarding citizens of the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 19.21; Mark 10.21; Luke 12.33, 18.22). Jesus’ disciples had left everything to follow him (cf. Matthew 19.27; Mark 10.28; Luke 5.11, 28). Did Paul tell believers to leave everything, sell their possessions, and hold them in common? Never. Why not? God had revealed to Paul a new and different order–the Church, i.e., the Body of Christ. This program was distinct from the kingdom program that Jesus had proclaimed. Do those who teach that we operate under the “Great Commission” tell believers to give up their possessions which was commanded by Jesus as part of the kingdom program? In no, then why not? For the simple reason that we are not under the orders of the so-called “Great Commission” of Matthew 28. We are under different orders.

Another issue concerns the gospel itself. Under the “Great Commission” the apostles were commanded to preach the gospel. But what gospel? The Scriptures teach more than one gospel–the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4.23), the “gospel of the circumcision” (Galatians 2.7), the “gospel of the uncircumcision” (Galatians 2.7), and the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24). What gospel did John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the apostles preach? Did they preach that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4)? Hardly. That gospel remained undisclosed until God revealed it to Paul (Romans 16.25). The “good news” preached prior to Paul was the gospel of the coming kingdom. For further explanation see the study on The Gospel.

The Twelve had no comprehension of the death and resurrection of Christ much less that it was a gospel, i.e., good news. Jesus had told His apostles what was going to happen but God hid it from them. Luke recorded,

31 Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33 and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” 34 But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said (Luke 18.31-34).

Could anything be clearer? They understood “none of these things.” The apostles had no clue about the reality or meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This statement confirms that the apostles were not preaching “the gospel of the grace of God” or the “preaching of the cross” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1.18). The message of the Twelve concerned the Messiah’s kingdom, reign, and throne–not His death on the cross and victorious resurrection. Only after the Lord had saved Paul and commissioned him to be the “apostle of the Gentiles” was the gospel of grace initiated. Only through Paul was the true significance of Christ’s death and resurrection revealed. These revelations were new. They began with Paul, not with Peter or the Twelve, for they understand none of these things.

We know from John’s gospel that Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to His apostles and that they were given the authority to forgive sins. What are we to make of this? The Roman Catholic church cites this passage as the primary support for their authority via apostolic succession to absolve sin. Rome maintains that Jesus’ words mean exactly what they say and object when Protestants modify, qualify, or weaken their meaning. And well they should. They are right.

Jesus had told His apostles,

“Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18.18).

Furthermore, to Peter He had given the personal word:

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16.19).

Rome’s argument is that the above passages teach that our Lord gave spiritual authority to the Church represented by the twelve apostles, specifically personified in the apostle Peter. They argue the Church of today is the continuation of what the Lord instituted and that divine authority resides in the Church with the apostolic body represented by the College of Bishops and with Peter’s successor, the Pope, as the head of the Church on earth. Is this a strong argument? It is quite strong. It is steel compared to most of the arguments Protestants have historically leveled against it. Can such an argument be rebutted without violating the plain meaning of the Scriptures? Yes.

A successful refutation of Rome’s claims requires a return to fundamentals. What message had Jesus and His apostles preached? They preached, “repent, for the kingdom is near.” To whom had Jesus spoken? He had addressed Israel, not Gentiles. What was the kingdom? It was that entity the prophets had prophesied for hundreds of years. In it, Israel would be the top nation among the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 28.1, 13) and the Messiah would rule the world (Zechariah 14.9). This arrangement would bring forth a golden era of peace, prosperity, and righteousness. Were the apostles faithful in proclaiming this message? They were. The early chapters of Acts record they were. They did exactly what Jesus had told them to do.

There is historical linkage between Jesus’ statements to His apostles and to Peter in the gospels and what occurred at Pentecost. What was Pentecost? The answer to this question is critical in answering Rome’s argument and in a right understanding of the Scriptures. Traditionally, Christendom has taught that the Church began on Pentecost. But in reality, even though this is declared, most people operate under the belief that the Church began in the Gospels. Most people are taught that Christ came to found the Church. If we accept this idea, Rome’s claims are logical and scriptural. Why? Because Jesus’ words to His apostles about binding and loosing sin and Peter’s keys of the kingdom are linked to Pentecost. The problem with this approach is it is impossible unless we admit that there are contradictions between what Peter and the apostles taught and what Paul taught.

Pentecost was a Jewish feast day. It had no significance for Gentiles. Jesus had promised He would send the Holy Spirit. This occurred on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit’s advent was accompanied by the sign speaking in foreign languages. Peter explained that this event was a sign that confirmed Joel’s prophesy regarding the coming of the kingdomNothing in Peter’s message applied to the Church 3. His message concerned only the nation of Israel and the promised kingdom. Peter went on to tell his Jewish audience that they had crucified the Messiah but that He had arisen from the dead.4 What was their response?

“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do'” (Acts 2.37)?

Who is “they”? Who is “brethren” and “we”? Jews or Gentiles? Jews! How did Peter respond to their question?

38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2.38-39).

Peter told them to “repent” and “be baptized.” He had been preaching this message for three years. If they obeyed they would be saved and receive the Holy Spirit. He then went on and reaffirmed that all these things had been promised by God through the prophets to Israel. Peter’s message to them was to believe in Jesus’ name, that He was the promised Messiah, for forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The answer to Rome is that what Jesus told Peter and what He taught His apostles about “binding” and “loosing”, the “keys of the kingdom,” and “forgiveness of sins” concerned the prophesied Kingdom program–not the Church program. The Church, according to Paul (Ephesians .1-7) was still a “secret” (μυστήριον). God had not revealed it to the Twelve. God delayed revealing it until Israel’s refusal to repent and rejection of the gospel became clear. Israel’s rejection of the apostle’s message became clear with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7). God then commissioned Paul (Acts 9) as the “apostle to the Gentiles” and revealed to him the “secret” of the Church, the body of Christ.

Pentecost was part of Israel’s prophetic kingdom program, not the Church or “secret” program. At the present time, God has set aside the kingdom program due to Israel’s rejection of Peter’s message to repent. The program we are under now is the Church or “secret” program. When it is completed God will remove the Church and reinitiate His prophetic kingdom program. After this occurs, these Jews, unlike their forefathers in the first century, will repent and God will establish His kingdom. Jesus had prophesied this fact, and declared that the Jews would not see him again until they said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23.36-39; Luke 13.34-35). Rome’s claims about Peter are correct but they are for the kingdom program for Israel, not the Church’s program. Rome’s mistake is simple but profound. They have tried to place the kingdom program into the Church or “secret” program and it will not fit. Their teachings of apostolic succession, forgiveness of sin, and the role of Peter as head of the Church have not biblical support and have no place in God’s current program of the Church (the body of Christ).

Baptism

Water baptism has become such an iconic subject in Christendom that it is almost impossible to discuss. The only hope for an examination of the subject is to allow the Scriptures to mean what they actually say in context. Water baptism was a critical component of the “gospel of the kingdom” which had begun with the advent of John the Baptizer (John 1.31). Baptism was a familiar component in Israel’s Levitical system. The priests regularly washed when they performed the daily service in the tabernacle and the Temple, a practice they had been doing for hundreds of years (cf. Hebrews 6.2; 9.10). The reader is encouraged to read Leviticus to see how much washing the priests had to do in their work of the daily sacrifices. Jesus continued to teach water baptism in agreement with John’s ministry. This practice of water baptism had not changed after Jesus’ ascension since the apostles baptized for the remission of sins just as John had done (Mark 1.4; cf. Acts 2.38, 22.16). Furthermore, there is no more clear statement than Mark 16.16 that Jesus taught water baptism as essential for salvation. Mark recorded these words of Jesus,

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has not believed shall be condemned” (Mark 16.16).

This verse is consistent with the earlier words of Mark when he wrote,

“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1.4).

Most Protestants find Mark 16.16 almost impossible to reconcile with other Scriptures that teach that faith in Christ alone is necessary for salvation. Yet this command was part of the “Great Commission” Jesus gave to His apostles. Because of the difficulty this verse creates, Protestants resort to forcing the passage to a meaning that violates its plain sense. But if one can alter the clear sense of the Scriptures to support a particular view, where does it end? For a hermeneutic to be trustworthy it must have a consistent rigor and discipline.

What did Paul teach about baptism? Did he command Christians to baptize or to be baptized? Not once. Paul said,

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void (1 Corinthians 1.14-17).

God had sent John the Baptizer to baptize and Jesus sent the twelve apostles to baptize. But Paul made it clear that Jesus had not sent him to baptize. Paul does not command us to baptize either. Why? Why indeed if we are under the “Great Commission” that Jesus gave to His apostles? The answer again is that we are under a different commission.

Is there a baptism for the Body of Christ? Paul taught that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4.5). If there is one baptism, what is it–physical or spiritual? If words mean anything, the baptism that Paul declared was spiritual. The baptism for the Church is not with water but with the Holy Spirit. For a fuller treatment on baptism, see the discussion on Baptism.

Sign Gifts of Believing in Christ

Introduction

Sign gifts occur relatively rarely in the Scriptures. When they do occur they involve Jews and their purpose is to demonstrate a truth to Jews rather than Gentiles. The Bible covers a little over 2,000 years from the time of Abraham until the closure of the canon of Scripture. Throughout this time miraculous signs were irregular occurrences in the life of Israel. Most occurred when the nation faced exceptional challenges. 5 The majority of the miracles in Israel’s history centered around Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and His apostles. During Jesus’ ministry, Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus’ glory in His transfiguration on the mountain. Interestingly, Moses and Elijah, individuals whose lives had been characterized by miracles, appeared with the Lord (cf. Matthew 17.3-4; Mark 9.4-5; Luke 9.30-33). These two prophetic representatives had performed several signs during times of national crisis. Jesus had performed even greater and more numerous signs. Clearly, national Israel had faced no greater crisis than the arrival of their Messiah. Another reason for the appearance of these two prophets seems to regard the future of the nation. They may minister again to Israel as the “two witnesses” (Revelation 11.3) during the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30.7), i.e. the Tribulation. The Scriptures clearly teach that Elijah must come before the “great and terrible day of the Lord” (Malachi 4.5). Jews still invite Elijah to join them to celebrate the seder meal at Passover. Jesus taught that John the Baptizer would have fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy concerning Elijah if the Jews would had accepted him as Messiah (Matthew 11.9-14; 17.10-13; Mark 9.11-13; (cf. Luke 1.13-17). Since they did not accept him, Elijah must reappear. Paul stated that signs were for Jews when he wrote the Corinthians,

22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1.22-24).

Despite the relative infrequency of signs, the Jewish race begin with them (cf. birth of Isaac, Genesis 15.4; 18.9-15; 21.1-8, the sign of circumcision confirming the Abraham covenant, Genesis 17.10-14; Romans 4.11). Throughout Israel’s history, God led the nation and confirmed His presence by signs.

While God used signs to confirm His presence to Israel, Paul taught that the Church’s focus should not be upon signs but upon “Christ crucified.” Tragically, some Christians have been seduced into thinking that a normal Christian life is one accompanied by “miracles” and “signs.” But the Scriptures teach that the Church is to live by faith rather than by signs. God has declared, “my grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12.9). Victorious Christian living is not achieved by signs or power. Victorious Christian living is achieved in the same way it begins–by faith. Paul explained the process of our sanctification in Romans 6-8. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection accomplished a threefold salvation: our justification, sanctification, and glorification–that is, to be saved from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. When Christ died on the cross that we were “baptized into His death” (Romans 6.3),6 “buried with Him through baptism into death” (Romans 6.4), “our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6.6), for “he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6.7). Therefore, Paul wrote, “consider (or reckon, λογίζομαι) yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6.11). How does one do this? By faith! We are to believe, i.e., consider or count it as true, that our “old self” or “Adamic nature” died on the cross with Christ and that we have a new life in Christ.

Paul taught that we “have been freed from sin and enslaved to God” (Romans 6.22) and that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8.2). How? Through “Christ crucified!” We have been identified, i.e., baptized and buried “in Christ.” Paul taught that our “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3.20) and that God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1.3). When we apprehend and stand upon these “identification truths” we can experience victory in Christ. This is the Scriptural answer to a victorious Christian life. Victory is achieved through living by faith, not by pursuing signs, powers, or other manifestations of God. Sign seeking is not for the Church today; it only serves to distract, weaken, and confuse the body of Christ. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus told the Eleven that believers in Him would have “signs”, i.e., powers or miraculous attestations. These powers included the ability to cast out demons, speak unlearned languages (tongues), handle deadly serpents, drink poison without ill effect, and heal sickness. Are these powers prevalent in the Christian church today? Before addressing this question, let us recall what the Scriptures state, that “these signs will accompany those who have believed” (Mark 16.17). For Jesus’ statement to be true, the powers He spoke about to His disciples in the closing chapter of Mark should be common among believers in the Church. They are not. Notice there was but one qualification for these signs: faith in Christ (v. 17). Signs were not dependent on the amount of faith, personal holiness, maturity, etc. If one believed in Christ he would have these powers. If Christians are not experiencing these powers then we face the following possibilities: 1) Jesus was wrong 2) the Scriptures are erroneous, 3) most Christians (99.9% +) who have expressed faith in Christ are not Christians, or 4) another explanation exists to explain the fact that Christians do not have the powers spoken of by Jesus.

If the first and second possibilities are true then this discussion is pointless because Christianity itself is false. The third possibility is equally untenable. All of us know Christians who do not have the powers Jesus promised. You may be one of them. Therefore, we must seek another explanation.

The record from Acts indicates that the apostles and others who believed in Christ performed signs and miracles following Jesus’ ascension. At Pentecost they all spoke in tongues (Acts 2.4), Peter healed the cripple man who was on his way to the Temple (Acts 3.1-8 cf. 4.8-16, 29-31), the apostles performed many healing acts and signs (Acts 5.12-16), and Stephen performed many signs (Acts 6.8) as did Philip (Acts 8.6-7, 13).

These miracles were consistent with and a continuation of the miraculous gifts the apostles had exercised while ministering with Jesus. Matthew recorded information about the miraculous abilities Jesus gave to His disciples:

These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give (Matthew 10.5-8).

These sign gifts continued into Paul’s ministry. They confirmed and validated his apostleship to the Jews that his ministry to the Gentiles was valid and was operating in tandem with Peter and the other apostles’ ministry to the Jews (Galatians 2.7).

Critical to our examination of the ministry of sign gifts is an understanding of the chronology of Paul’s letters. The dating of New Testament writing is a highly challenging and difficult task.7 Despite this, the chronology below is generally accepted. During the historical period covered by the book of Acts Paul wrote six letters: Galatians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and Romans. After the historical period of Acts, Paul wrote four more letters known as the Prison Epistles: Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians and three more letters known as the Pastoral Epistles: Titus, 1st and 2nd Timothy. The following charts outline this timetable:

Paul’s Letters Written During the Acts Period (~37-60 A.D.)
Galatians
1st Thessalonians
2nd Thessalonians
1st Corinthians
2nd Corinthians
Romans
Paul’s Letters Written After the Acts Period (~61-68 A.D.)
EphesiansPrison Epistles
Colossians
Philemon
Philippians
TitusPastoral Epistles
1st Timothy
2nd Timothy

During the chronology covered by Acts, sign gifts operated in the Church. Thus, we read about tongues and prophecy (Acts 19.6), the gift of prophecy (Acts 21.10-14), and the gift of healing (Acts 19.11-12, 28.8-9). In Paul’s letters, we also read about these sign gifts in Galatians 3.5, 1 Thessalonians 5.20, 1 Corinthians 12-14, 2 Corinthians 12.12, and Rom. 12.6. But God revealed to Paul that the sign gifts would cease (1 Corinthians 13.8). Thus, Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

“Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13.8).

The last seven letters of Paul give us additional insight into the operation of sign gifts in that not once are they mentioned. The evidence is strong that they had passed off the scene. For example, Paul revealed he was unable to heal his friend Epaphroditus. At some point it would seem, he lost the ability to heal which he had possessed a few years earlier (Acts 28.8-9). He wrote,

25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; 26 because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow (Philippians 2.25-27).

Although Paul was unable to heal Epaphroditus through the gift of healing, God healed him. This circumstance corresponds to our situation today. God heals but no longer provides the gift of healing to those who believe in him. This is dramatically different from what Jesus had proclaimed in His earthly ministry to His disciples.

The Pastoral Epistles also reveal that other sign gifts (tongues, prophecy, healing, etc.) had ceased also since none of them are mention. In 1 Timothy 1.18, 4.14, and 2 Timothy 1.6 Paul recalled prophecies concerning Timothy but these had made years earlier when the gift of prophecy was operational.

Paul told Timothy,

“No longer drink water exclusively; but use a little wine for the sake of you stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5.23).

Notice that Paul did not tell Timothy to go to a healer in the Church or send him a prayer cloth or anointing oil (Acts 19.11-12; James 5.14-15). The point may be made also with regard to Paul’s co-worker Trophimus. Paul wrote,

“Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus” (2 Timothy 4.20).

Thus, the Scriptural evidence indicates that the sign gifts (knowledge, tongues, prophecy, healing, etc.) had ceased after Acts 28.

As we noted above, sign gifts were given without qualification. Nothing in the Scriptures indicate that God gave these gifts because men prayed for them, had great faith, or were unusually spiritual. Rather, God sovereignly gave these gifts in accordance with His will (1 Corinthians 12.4-11). Sign gifts flourished among the Corinthians. However, these believers were not strong Christians. In fact, the Corinthian church was the most carnal and troubled of all the churches to which Paul ministered. Paul chastised these believers for their carnality.

Why did sign gifts cease? Paul provided the answer in 1 Corinthians 13. In his wonderful commentary on the superiority of love, Paul declared that love “never fails, (v. 8) but that prophecy, i.e., the gift of prophecy would fail, as would tongues and the gift of knowledge. Paul reckoned these latter abilities to be “childish” (v. 11). The Greek word translated “childish” is νήπιος. This word means “the things which pertain to an infant.” Paul’s point was that babies play with baby toys. This is fine for a time as it is a part of growing up. But when one becomes an adult, playing with a rattle is no longer appropriate. In verse 10, Paul stated that “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” There has been a vast amount of commentary on this verse, especially on what Paul meant by “the perfect.” The Greek word Paul used is τέλειος, which has the sense of that which is “complete”, “reached it’s intended purpose or goal” or “what has been fulfilled”8. We are helped in interpreting the sense by Paul’s contrasting this with “partial” (ἐκ μέρους).

In the next few verses Paul begins a discussion on the sign gifts and their end. The sign gifts form the “part” piece of the equation. In verse 10 he wrote that when the “full” comes the “part” would cease. What is the “full” or “perfect” or “complete”? The coming of the “full” or “perfect” cannot refer to Jesus as a “person” because Paul used the neuter definite article τὸ rather than the masculine article ὁ. It cannot refer to “heaven” (οὐρανός since it too is a masculine noun. Nor can it refer to the Lord’s coming (παρουσία) since this noun is feminine. Therefore, it must refer to some other event. Paul wrote that “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known” (v. 12). The word translated “dimly” is the Greek word αἴνιγμα. This word means “riddle” or “dark saying” or “puzzle.” From it we get our word “enigma.” So Paul was saying that at that present moment things were a puzzle, i.e., they were in the “part” phase. But when the “perfect” came it would be as clear as being face to face, i.e., no dim mirror. Paul also used two different Greek words for “know” in verse 12. When he wrote, “I know in part” he used the word γινώσκω but continued with “then, (i.e. when the “perfect”, or “complete” comes) I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” The word translated “know fully” is the Greek ἐπιγνώσομαι which means to have “full or complete knowledge” of something. So “part” equates to γινώσκω and “full” equates to ἐπιγινώσκω. Below is the 1 Corinthians 13 passage under consideration:

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Below is a chart that diagrams the structure of Paul’s argument.

1 Corinthians 13Partial=Sign Gifts (Knowledge, Tongues, Prophecy)Perfect=Part Abolished and Full Knowledge
Main Argument
v. 8Love never fails (it will always remain)Gifts of prophecy, tongues, knowledge will fail (they will not remain)
v. 9-10we know in part
ἐκ μέρους γὰρ γινώσκομεν
we prophesy in part
ἐκ μέρους προφητεύομεν
when the perfect comes
ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον
partial will be abolished
ἐκ μέρους καταργηθήσεται
Two Illustrations: Child and Mirror
v. 11child–does childlike things
νήπιος
man–abolish childish things
κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου
v. 12anow we see in a mirror dimly
βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι’ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι
but then face to face
τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον
Main Argument Recapitulated
v. 12now I know in part
ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρου
but then I will know fully
τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς
καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην

God commissioned Paul as “apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11.13) in response to the Jews rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Acts recorded a transitional time from the “prophetic” program God established when He called Abraham to the creation of the Church, the “body of Christ.” When God called Abraham He initiated a program of “Jew first.” He revealed His prophetic plan by which Israel was His agent for truth. Due to Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah and their refusal to repent, God put into motion a new plan under the commission of Paul. With the initiation of this “secret” program known as the Church or the Body of Christ, Jews and Gentiles became equal “in Christ.” This change was revolutionary. It was the greatest program change that God had made in 2,000 years–since His call of Abraham. The section below, “What is Missing in the Great Commission” provides information about the revelations God gave Paul. Most of what we have in Christianity and church practice comes to us from the teachings of Paul. Paul’s teachings were dramatically different from what John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the Twelve had taught. The move away from the Mosaic Law to grace was a massive shift in God’s dealings with man. Paul the Jew, a “Pharisee of the Pharisees”, made a huge transition to his prior way of thinking. The movement from Israel as God’s preeminent vehicle of blessing to the Church was another gigantic shift as was the removal of Jewish and Gentile distinctions. Following Paul’s conversion, God began to reveal His new program. During this period, God’s revelation was “partial.” By the end of Paul’s epistles, however, the revelation was “complete” (Colossians 1.25). It was, “perfect”, i.e., it had reached its goal, which is what the Greek word τέλειον denotes. The revelations God gave to Paul were new which He had kept secret (Ephesians 2.11-22, 3.3-10; Colossians 1.26-27). Another reason sign gifts ceased is that, as we noted above, signs were primarily for Jews (1 Corinthians 1.22). Jesus performed hundreds of “signs” for the Jewish nation. The apostles continued these signs throughout Acts. God had also provided blessings and signs to Gentiles with the purpose of provoking the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11.13-14). But Acts ends with one clear message: Israel refused to repent and accept Jesus as Messiah-King. Because of this choice, God has set them aside temporarily. Paul explains this circumstance in Romans 9-11. Israel has been set aside until God finishes His new “secret” entity, the Church. When God completes the Body of Christ He will return for it and receive it. This doctrine is known as the Rapture and forms a part of the great Christian doctrine of the resurrection. After God has removed the Body of Christ from the earth, He will restart the prophetic program and timetable. In this program, national Israel will again take center stage. It will culminate in God’s fulfilling his covenant promises He made to the patriarchs of Israel. With God’s setting Israel aside, the reason for sign gifts ceased. Furthermore, since we have no Scriptural evidence that they operated after Acts 28 we can conclude that they are not for the Church today. The rule for the Church today is faith and grace (2 Corinthians 12.7-10) not signs.Tongues were a sign to warn of impending judgment on unbelieving Israel. This truth is first revealed In Deuteronomy 28.49-50 when Moses had warned Israel:

49 “The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth,as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.

This verse laid the basis for subsequent warnings to and judgments on the nation. Prophesying the impending Assyrian invasion, Isaiah told his people,

11 The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow (Isaiah 28.11-12).

As Isaiah had predicted, the northern kingdom fell in judgment to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Again, as a warning trumpet of judgment, God raised up Jeremiah who proclaimed to his disobedient people,

“Behold I am bring a nation against you from afar O house of Israel, declared the LORD. It is an enduring nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say” (Jeremiah 5.15).

These words foretold the judgment from Babylon. The Babylonians captured the Jews and took them as captives to Babylon as early as 605 B.C. before Jerusalem itself fell in 586 B.C.

By far, the greatest crisis ever to confront Israel was the arrival of Jesus, the promised Messiah-King. John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the Twelve had preached repentance for three years and declared that the kingdom of God was “at hand.” The Jews refused the gospel of the King and His kingdom to the point of crucifying their Messiah. The feast of Pentecost came after Jesus’ resurrection and the Holy Spirit descended as Jesus had foretold. When he did, the people began to speak in foreign languages (Acts 2.1-12). Why was the Holy Spirit manifested in this manner? The people did not understand what had happened. Some even thought that the men were drunk. Peter, however, explained the significance of the event. Luke recorded in Acts 2.14-21:

14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

17 And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankindAnd your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and womenI will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will grant wonders in the sky above And signs on the earth belowBlood, and fire, and vapor of smoke20 The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come21 And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Peter understood that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit with tongues was a warning to disobedient Israel just as had happened through Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. The last days were at hand and signaled a moment of crisis for the nation. The fact that Peter quoted Joel (“blood and fire,” “sun will be turned to darkness and the moon into blood”) is a clear indication that he expected that judgment was near (cf. Acts 3.23). As it had been in the past, the speaking of tongues was a warning sign of impending judgment for national Israel.

Paul also understood that tongues signified judgment. He firmly rooted the sign of tongues to the Law of Moses as a sign of impending judgment upon Jews. Quoting Isaiah 28.11, Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of stranger I will speak to this people and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14.21).

In the next verse, Paul declared,

“So then tongues are for a sign not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe” (1 Corinthians 14.22).

From the context, it is clear that Paul was writing about unbelieving Jews, not Gentiles. Every time tongues occur in the book of Acts, Jews are present (cf. Acts 2.4-8; 10.44-47; 19.4-6). We also find that these verses teach that the apostles and only the apostles had the ability to impart the Holy Spirit. Today, the office of apostle no longer exists since no one meets the qualifications (cf. Acts 1.21-22; 1 Corinthians 9.1-2). Paul also gave specific instructions regarding the management of tongues (1 Corinthians 14.27-36) for the carnal and disorganized Corinthian church. They included the following:

  1. Everything was to be done for the church’s edification
  2. Only two or at the most three who had the gift of tongues were to speak
  3. Each was to speak in turn
  4. Each speech was to be interpreted
  5. If there was no one to interpret there should be silence
  6. Women were forbidden to speak

This study is meant to be practical as well as informative. Believers involved with “sign gifts”, i.e., healing, tongues, etc. are outside of the will of God since the Scriptures teach that these gifts passed away by the time of the completion of Paul’s epistles if not before. Those who try to exercise these gifts today operate in the flesh, not according to the Holy Spirit. Continuance with or seeking them is a rejection of God’s revelation and disobedience to His will. God’s grace and the revelation of the “secret” is the will of God for the believer in Christ today. We are under the same operational orders as Paul who requested relief in a matter (Paul prayed three times for deliverance). God responded that His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12.9).

The Bible teaches that sign gifts are for Israel, not the Church. They were valid during the prophetic program and they will be valid again when God restarts His program for Israel. When is that? Where is the Bible’s testimony for future signs? In the book of Revelation. God has removed the Church from the earth to start the last week (Daniel’s 70th week) of Israel’s prophesied history. The focus of Revelation is Israel, not the Church. The Scriptural nomenclature for the “Tribulation” is the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30.7). From the evidence we have examined above it seems certain that these gifts had ceased well within Paul’s lifetime. However, the absolute end date is 70 A.D. which was when God’s judged Israel through the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus. Both the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 A.D.

The Holy Spirit

Jesus’ told His apostles to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit and that when the Holy Spirit came they would be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24.49; Acts 1.8). This “baptism” of the Spirit occurred at Pentecost. As we have noted, Pentecost was a Jewish feast. Everyone there was a Jew. Luke recorded that when the Holy Spirit descended, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2.4). There are two things to note in particular. One is the word “all” and the other is the word “filled.” Who is “all?” The “all” were the 120 believers that had gathered with Peter and the other apostles (Acts 1.15). So the baptism of the Holy Spirit involved 120 persons. Were some better, i.e. more spiritually minded, more holy, more prayerful than others? Undoubtedly yes. But it did not matter. All were baptized.

Luke wrote that these 120 were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” What does that mean? Essentially, it has the idea of control. They were controlled by the Holy Spirit. This was part of the “power” that Jesus had spoken to His apostles about. Luke wrote,

45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, (Acts 2.45-46).

Does this happen today? Is wealth held commonly in a church? Does everyone get along? Hardly. But these believers in Acts did. They had the power of miracles but even more remarkable, they had the power to get along–even to share their wealth with one another.

How had these believers received the Holy Spirit? Had they been told to live a holy life to receive this filling? Had they been told to devote themselves to prayer to receive the Holy Spirit? No. What had Jesus told His apostles? Jesus had instructed them to go to Jerusalem and wait for what God the Father had promised (Acts. 1.4-5). What was this promise? God promised Israel through the prophets that the Holy Spirit would one day come and take control of His people. This promise had been made in the sovereign will of God. That day occurred at Pentecost (Acts 2.16-21). According to the Scriptures, Israel was to be a nation of priests (Exodus 19.6). The promise began to be fulfilled at Pentecost but did not come to fruition because of Israel’s failure to repent. One day, the nation will repent and turn to Christ. When that occurs the Scriptures will be fulfilled and the entire nation will become a nation of priests as God promised.

Who was the agent of baptism at Pentecost? Jesus was the one who baptized at Pentecost (Matthew 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33 cf. Acts 1.4-5; 11.15-16). Believers were baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit.

Paul also taught the baptism of the Holy Spirit but it is different from the baptism Jesus performed. In this baptism, the Holy Spirit himself assumes the role of the baptizing agent. He baptizes us into Christ. Paul wrote,

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12.13).

In the baptism of the Holy Spirit which Paul taught, the Holy Spirit, rather than Christ, is the one who baptized us into Christ. Luke wrote that at Pentecost, Christ baptized the believers who were present with the Holy Spirit. But Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit baptized us into Christ. Each person of the Godhead operates under specific rules of ministry. We should not expect Christ to baptize into Christ nor for the Holy Spirit to send the Holy Spirit. These two baptisms of the Holy Spirit were different.

The baptism at Pentecost related to Israel and the kingdom to make a nation of priests. Nothing is implied, much less stated, that the baptism at Pentecost had anything to do with forming the body of Christ. No Gentiles were present. Only Jews were involved in that baptism. Following Paul’s conversion, however, Gentiles began to be included. The new plan no longer operated under the requirement of Jew first with Gentiles being blessed through the Jew. The body of Christ removed these distinctions. All who are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ are equal. We know from what Paul wrote that no prophet (cf. the case at Pentecost with Joel) know about or predicted the formation of the body of Christ. The body of Christ was a new and “secret” entity. Thus, these two baptisms are separate and distinct.

Another difference is that the baptism at Pentecost was experiential. It was accompanied by miraculous signs for it involved Jews. The baptism into the body of Christ is non-experiential and no signs accompany it.

What is Missing in the Great Commission?

We have examined what Jesus taught His apostles in the commonly termed “Great Commission.” What is missing in this commission if it is for the Church? A great deal is missing from it from what we now have in Christianity. What are they?

1. Grace

Grace is not mentioned. The Mosaic Law was in effect under the “Great Commission.” The “stewardship of God’s grace” (Ephesians 3.2) was given to Paul. Noteworthy is the fact that in the gospels the word “grace” (χάρις) occurs 13 times. In Paul’s letters (one-half the size of the gospels) the word occurs 144 times. In Acts, it occurs 4 times before Paul and 12 times after. We know of grace from Paul–not from the “Great Commission” or Peter and the apostles.

2. The Cross as Good News

Peter did not offer his audience Christ’s shed blood for the remission of sins. He charged the Jews with the crime of the blood of Christ and the cross and demanded repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. We do not learn of the significance of Christ’s blood, death, and the cross as payment for sin until Paul. For Paul, the cross is the great victory over sin and death and the basis of our redemption. See Colossians 1.20; Romans 3.21-26.

3. Resurrection

Nothing is said about the significance of Christ’s resurrection as the basis of the proof of His victory over sin or of it’s significance to our justification. See Romans 6, 8; 1 Corinthians 15.

4. Difference in Jew and Gentile

Nothing is said about the removal of the distinction between Jew and Gentile. Indeed, the opposite is the case. In the Great Commission the Jew had priority. See Ephesians 2.13-16, 3.6.

5. The Body of Christ

Nothing is said of the Church as Christ’s body or the doctrine that we are baptized “in Christ” and become members of His Body. See Ephesians 2.6, 3.6; Colossians 1.18, 24, 27.

6. Heavenly Position

Nothing is said regarding the fact that believers “in Christ” have a heavenly position or that we have a heavenly citizenship. See Ephesians 1.3.

How do we know the above wonderful truths? We know them from the teachings of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, the apostle of the grace of God. The apostle Paul reveals all these blessings to us and his teachings are key to resolving all of these issues.

Our Glorious Commission

What has been known popularly as the “Great Commission” applied to the apostles as part of the kingdom program for Israel. The so-called “Great Commission” is not for the Church, the Body of Christ. This raises an obvious question. Did God give the Church a commission? Indeed we have. It is a glorious one.

Peter declared in his sermon on Pentecost that the last days had arrived (Acts 2.16-17). He quoted Joel for his evidence. Joel had spoken prophetically concerning the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and of judgment. We know that the Holy Spirit was given. But judgment was not. Some argue that the destruction of Jerusalem was the judgment spoken of by Joel. But this argument cannot be sustained. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was a great and terrible judgment but it wasn’t the one Joel prophesied nor the one our Lord prophesied (Matthew 24.21-22). How do we know? For one thing, no signs occurred in the heavens: the sun did not turn into darkness nor the moon into blood. The judgment Joel and our Lord prophesied is yet future. Jesus declared that it would be a judgment such as had never been witnessed nor would be again and that its time were not shortened no life would remain (Matthew 24. 21-22). The destruction of Jerusalem was a horrific judgment with a million casualties according to Josephus but it was certainly not the greatest judgment in history. There was also no threat of annihilation of the entire human race that Jesus declared would occur unless He returned (Matthew 24.21-22). Such judgment remains future.

Rather than acting in judgment, rather than declaring war, God acted in grace. He delayed His judgment, i.e. the prophesied Great Tribulation. He took His chief opponent, Saul of Tarsus, and saved him. He made His greatest enemy into His greatest servant: the apostle of grace. He took Saul, the Jew who was furiously pursuing a course of action to destroy those who were believing in Christ and made him the apostle to the Gentiles. This is grace! What a God! God revealed to him a new and “secret” (μυστήριον) program in which Jew and Gentile are equal and have been baptized “in Christ” to form a new creation called the “body of Christ” through faith in His blood. God’s revelation before Paul contained no hint of this. It was a secret until God revealed it to Paul (Ephesians 3.9; Colossians 1.26; Romans 16.25).

The Lord in His earthly ministry gave the Eleven a great commission but He gave Paul the Church’s glorious commission. It was glorious because it was given to Paul by the risen, glorified Christ. Paul wrote the Corinthians about it in 2 Corinthians 5.14-21. It is the message of God’s reconciliation. Paul wrote,

14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

God has commissioned us as “ambassadors for Christ.” God has committed to us the “ministry of reconciliation.” This is our “Great Commission.” God has commissioned us to tell the world that He has reconciled the world unto himself by means of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Under this commission we are to “recognize no one according to the flesh.” Our commission recognizes no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Under our commission we are to proclaim faith in him “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In our commission all is of God. Nothing we do can gain acceptance with God. There are no sacrifices, feast days, or baptisms. Salvation is through simple trust in Christ and the work He did for us. The grace of God is the operative theme of our commission.

Paul’s commission also superseded the commission Jesus gave to the Twelve. Paul said,

1 Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles),and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. (Galatians 2.1-9).

This is a remarkable passage. It demonstrates that the apostles recognized a major new direction in the plan of God. Had not Jesus commissioned the Eleven to go into “all the world and make disciples of all nations”? But the passage above declares that the chief apostles recognized Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles who would go to the Gentiles while they would confine their ministry to Israel. This one passage should end any idea that we are under Jesus’ “Great Commission.” That commission began to end when God called Paul to be the “apostle to the Gentiles” and the “apostle of the grace of God.”

Thus, Paul wrote the Romans that his ministry was to all nations,

25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; (Romans 16.25-26).

[The gospel] “which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1.6).

[The gospel] “which you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation, under heaven, and which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Colossians 1.23).

The Twelve preached primarily to Jews, not to Gentiles (Acts 11.19 cf. Galatians 2.9). Paul, however, preached the gospel primarily to Gentiles. He traveled throughout the Roman empire and spoke of his plans to go to Spain (Romans 15.24). The “Great Commission” that Jesus gave to His apostles will be fulfilled. But its fulfillment awaits a future day after God has removed His Church, the body of Christ. When that day arrives, “then the end shall come” (Matthew 24.4-14). Jesus’ answer to His apostles regarding their question of His return directly involves the preaching of the gospel. What gospel? The “gospel of the kingdom.” We do not preach the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel we know and preach is from Paul and is the “gospel of the grace of God.” But when the “gospel of the kingdom” is again preached to the whole world the end of the age will come.

Conclusion

This study has demonstrated that the solution to the confusion that plagues Christendom related to the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, baptism, signs, and the Holy Spirit can be reconciled through accepting the fact that the commission John, Jesus, Peter and the apostles (the Twelve) operated under was different from the commission under which Paul operated. God saved Paul after Israel rejected Peter and the apostles’ message of repentance. Instead of judgment, God in exercised wondrous grace and mercy and raised Paul to be the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Galatians 2.8; Romans 11.13) to declare the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24 cf. Ephesians 3.2). The key to understanding the apparent conflicts of meaning and interpretation of the Scriptures is to recognize that there is a difference between the prophetic kingdom program that John the Baptizer, Jesus, and Peter proclaimed for Israel and the “secret” program that Jesus revealed to Paul for the Church, “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12.13; Colossians 1.24; cf. Romans 7.4) and the “secret” (Ephesians 2.11-22, 3.3-9; Colossians 1.26-27, etc). See Paul’s Mystery.

Failure to recognize the differences between the ministry of the Twelve and Paul, between Israel and the Church, between the prophetic plan of God and His “secret” plan, and between Law and grace leads to confusion, frustration, and the conclusion that the Scriptures are contradictory. When these differences are recognized and we allow the Scriptures to speak in their plain sense the problems disappear.

The kingdom of God has both general and particular senses. In the general sense, all that God rules over is the kingdom of God and believers from all ages share in it. Jesus is declared to be “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19.16; 17.14). But the kingdom of God also has a particular sense that applies specifically to national Israel. This is the sense revealed by the Old Testament prophets and in the teaching ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Twelve. The aspects of this kingdom include the promises God made to Israel in His unconditional covenants, i.e. the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New covenants. In this sense the kingdom is the national entity God will establish in which Israel will be preeminent among the world’s nations with Jesus ruling as Messiah-King on the throne of David from Jerusalem. Israel’s prophets declared this kingdom and their message continued through John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the Twelve. The understanding of the concept of this kingdom was so ingrained in the thinking of the apostles that their last question to Jesus before He ascended (Acts 1.6) focused on it. This message continued with Peter in Acts and Peter offered the Kingdom to the Jews (Acts 3.19-26). Prior to the formal offer the kingdom had been “at hand” (ἐγγίζω or ἐγγύς in Luke 21.31; cf. Matthew 3.2, 4.17, 10.7; Mark 1.15; Luke 10.9, 11, 21.31). It is also important to note that while Jesus is called the King of the Jews He is never called the King of the Church, i.e. the Body of Christ. His title with respect to the Church is Head, not King.
The priority of the Jew explains such passages as Jesus’ interaction with the Canaanite woman. Matthew recorded the incident:

21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once(Matthew 15.21-28).

This is a troublesome passage to many because of Jesus’ brusque manner towards the woman. Let us put to rest a silly interpretation that Jesus had not yet realized His mission but that as time went on His ideas matured and He came to comprehend and broaden His ministry. Such an interpretation is so seriously flawed that anyone (much less a professional theologian) should be embarrassed to offer it. The simple interpretation is that Jesus clearly understood His ministry and the prophetic plan of God which operated under Jewish priority. He understood that the Jew was first because He understood the Scriptures. Jewish priority began with the call of Abraham and continued to Jesus’ day. The woman was a Gentile. Therefore, the priority of His ministry was not to her nor to any Gentile. But in grace, because of her great faith, He responded and granted her desire. Paul wrote of Jewish priority in Romans 1.16:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Paul’s statement was a historic statement. Jewish priority had ended because Jesus had revealed to him the “secret” of the Church in which there is no Jew nor Gentile and no priority. But before this revelation there clearly was priority to the Jew.

Earlier Jesus had told the Twelve,

“Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Matthew 10.5-7).

This teaching is consistent with Jesus’ ministry and attitude towards the Canaanite woman.
The Church was a new creation by God, a “secret” God revealed to the apostle Paul (Ephesians 2.11-22; 3.3-9; Colossians 1.26-27). God revealed to Paul that distinction between Jew and Gentile and Jewish priority which had existed in previous ages was over; Jews and Gentiles were to be equal (Galatians 3.28; Ephesians 2.12-22). The Church is called the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.12-13; Colossians 1.24). Christians (all who have believed Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) are members of the body of Christ, i.e., the Church (1 Corinthians 12.12-13). All such believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.13; Galatians 3.27; Titus 3.5-7). The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs when one believes Paul’s gospel (Galatians 3.26-27; 1 Corinthians 15.1-4). The members of Christ’s body, i.e. the Church, also are indwelt by Christ (Colossians 1.27). For further explanation see the discussion on the Church.
Peter’s message to the Jews of Christ’s crucifixion was presented as a crime (Acts 2.22-42). It was a message of accusation and condemnation and Peter demanded repentance. How different is Paul’s message! For Paul, Christ’s crucifixion is seen as a victory! It had no idea of condemnation.
A good list of biblical miracles is found here.
Water is not found in Romans 6. Those who bring water into our baptism into Christ do so without Scriptural support. Paul taught that in the body of Christ, the Church, there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4.5). The baptism Paul taught was spiritual baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not water baptism. Paul declared, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1.17). Water baptism in Christianity is without Biblical support.
A scholarly treatment of dating New Testament manuscripts and the associated problems is John A. T. Robinson’s Redating the New Testament.
William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature, 4th revised and augmented edition, 1952, University of Chicago Press, 1957, p. 819, s. v. τέλειος.

©2002 Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.

Updated September 15, 2010


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125 Responses to The Great Commission

  1. Ron says:

    Very well done, my question is would you say only the books written by Paul are for the church? And James, 1&2 Peter,and books by John are kingdom teaching? How could that be?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Paul wrote, “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3.16) so all scripture is for us. But not everything written is to us. Paul’s apostleship was distinct from the 12. James stated that he wrote to Israel (James 1.1) as did Peter (1 Pet. 1.1). See also Gal. 2.7-9. Paul wrote to Gentiles and his ministry was to Gentiles (Eph. 3.1). These things took time and Acts is a transitional book. Peter made a remarkable declaration in Acts 15.7-11. But even at the end of his life he had not fully absorbed Paul’s doctrines (2 Pet. 3.15-16).

  2. Steve Caldwell says:

    Great teaching.
    Please walk me through why Paul on his second missionary journey baptized Lydia ,the seller of purple and the Phillipians jailer, who seems to be a gentile.
    Thank you for your response.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Steve,
      Paul’s 2nd missionary journey was still fairly early in his ministry. Acts is a transitional book. Everything did not change at once. Paul had been baptized (Acts 9.18) following his salvation and apparently the Lord had not instructed him not to baptize. Paul related how he had baptized some Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1.13-17) but even at this point (c. 57 A.D.) water baptism was on its way out. By the time he wrote Ephesians (c. 62), water baptism had ceased (Ephesians 4.4-5). The “one baptism” was the baptism by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.13) in which we are made members of the body of Christ.

  3. William says:

    First, thank you so much for this article and this website. I have learned much from your scholarship. In the two scriptures most commonly referred to as the “Great Commission” Matt 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18 it is obvious and clear what the resurrected Jesus is commanding these eleven to do. Yet the book of ACTS show they go to Jerusalem and never venture far from there at all. Even when these early Jewish believers as to who Jesus is, their Messiah, come under tremendous persecution and flee Jerusalem, the Apostles remain in Jerusalem (ACTS 8:1). And of those believers who are scattered abroad, preach to Jews only (ACTS 11:19).

    This seems to be in conflict with the last verse Mark 16 where it says “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”

    From this verse it seems the eleven ventured out to the four corners of the world preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom after receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. But the account in ACTS show they did not. What is Mark referring to here in Mark 16:20?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      William,
      This is a good question. I think we have to stay with the biblical record. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, the “everywhere” seems confined to the borders of Israel. According to Jesus’ words in Acts 1.8, they were to start in Jerusalem and then spread to Judea, Samaria, and and whole world. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem in Acts 8.1 because of this order and they knew that Jerusalem needed to recognize that Jesus was the promised Messiah first. Then they could spread to other regions. However, it is clear from Acts 7 this was not going to happen. But they still hoped. Peter announced in Acts 2-3 that ALL Israel had to repent before God would establish His kingdom. This WILL happen as Paul indicated in Romans 11.26. As late as Acts 21.18-20 this hope is still in play. But it wasn’t going to happen. The OT plan was for Israel to be a light to the Gentiles. God saved Paul in Acts 9 (knowing the nation would not repent) to send him (representing the nation according to the Abrahamic covenant) to be that light. Israel will still fulfill this role in the kingdom (Zechariah 8.23) but in the meantime Gentiles are blessed through Paul until the Church, the body of Christ is complete.

    • Tyrone Johnson says:

      Hey Don great article, I had a question about Mark 16:20 as well, from my study of Mark 16:20 in seem that the Great Commission was fulfilled by the Kingdom disiciples and the Apostle Paul. The verse tell us that the disciple went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. In other words, everthing the Lord told them happen just as He said it would. In verse 18, the Lord says they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. In Acts 28:3-6 tells us how Paul was bitten by a poison snake and shook it off and didn’t die.

      • doctrine doctrine says:

        Tyrone,
        The “great commission” is the gospel of the kingdom. It is Jewish. The Lord gave it to Jews and Jews will fulfill it. When it is completed, the Lord will return (Matthew 24.14). The Twelve never had a ministry to Gentiles. God saved Paul to be the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11.13). Paul performed miracles etc. and these were signs of his apostleship. Paul’s apostleship was constantly under attack and God authenticated his ministry with these signs. but Paul was given the commission of the gospel of the grace of God. That is the Church’s “great commission” (2 Corinthians 5.16-21).

  4. Dennis Clough says:

    Wonderful researched scriptural conclusions. Thank you for all your hard work in emphasizing these truths and showing their rightful place in our thinking.

    Could we say that the fulfilling of the “great commission” was interrupted by the full development of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles? I believe that Kingdom teaching will be the norm again in the Millennium as there will be a great multitude of saved Gentiles (the sheep) entering that time period who will need instruction in Kingdom living.

    Buffering this view is Christ’s promise to the 12 Apostles that they would sit on thrones, judging (leading, teaching) the 12 tribes of Israel. These Gentile believers cannot be brought into the church, since the Church will be complete at that time. And not all of Christ’s teaching was applicable to the early church, but will be in that Kingdom time.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Dennis,
      Correct. The essential piece of the great commission was the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom. It required national repentance. When it became clear (the stoning of Stephen) that Israel would not repent, God raised up Paul to began a new, unrevealed program, the Church, the body of Christ, in which Gentiles would be God’s place of blessing (Romans 11).

  5. Frank says:

    Sir, Thank you so much for such a fine article. I have been studing the gospel of grace for some time. Your work is complete and I need look no farther. It is all right here. I’m going to copy it and give it to my pastor. We were studing the so called great commission tonight. Your work is a blessing to many.

  6. Lavinna says:

    I have enjoyed your teaching so much. I, now, understand. I have been confused for so long. It just falls into place so plainly.
    When God spoke to Abraham after Lot had left him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are–northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. (Gen. 13: 14 – 16) This is referring to the nation Israel.
    Gen. 15: 4 – God’s covenant with Abraham. God told Abraham that Eliezer would not be his heir. God tells Abraham, “Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be.” Is this verse referring to born again believers, the body of Christ?

  7. Gene says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    How would you explain Philip the Apostles (one of the 12) interaction with the Ethiopian Eunuch (presumably a Gentile), especially with regard to the question of which gospel did he preach to the Ethiopian?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Gene,
      Philip was a deacon, one of the seven, not one of the Twelve (Acts 6.3-6). The Ethiopian was as Jew who served as Candace’s CFO. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and as he returned was reading Isaiah (Acts 8.27-28). No Gentile would go to Jerusalem to worship or be reading Isaiah. Philip only knew the gospel of the kingdom and this is what he preached (Acts 8.35). Notice no mention is made of Christ dying for his sins and rising from the dead. The focus is still upon the identity of Christ, not the work of Christ. Acts 7.37 is a textual variant (occurs in the majority but not the critical text) but is probably genuine as it fits Matthew 16 and John 11 confessions of faith. Note that there was no ministry to Gentiles until after Paul’s conversion.

      • gene says:

        How do you know that the Philip who interacted with the Ethiopian Eunuch was the Deacon (Acts 6) and not the Apostle (Matthew 10:1-3)?

        Also, my understanding of your article is that the distinction between Jew and Gentile relative to which gospel was preached, was based on ‘bloodline’ not ‘belief’. Therefore, are you saying that the Ethiopian Eunuch was a Jew by blood or by conversion (e.g. Matthew 23:15) and how do you know?

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Gene,
          Luke wrote in Acts 8.1, 14 that the 12 did not leave Jerusalem so it had to be Philip the deacon. The distinction between Jew and Gentile has always been based upon bloodline–at least in 99.9% of the cases. God created the Jews as a separate race. A Jew is a descendant of Jacob except in rare cases involving Gentile proselytes. Therefore, it is most likely the Ethiopian was a Jew by race, not conversion. Why would you think the Ethiopian was a Gentile? The distinction of which gospel was preached was not based upon bloodline but upon revelation. The 12 only knew the gospel of the kingdom. They knew nothing of Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). The Lord had ordered them not to preach to Gentiles (Matthew 10.5-6). According to the kingdom program, Gentiles would be evangelized only after Israel repented and accepted the Messiah. This is why the Lord said what He did in Acts 1.8. God saved Paul after it became clear Israel would not repent and he preached the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20.24) and declared that according to his ministry no distinction existed between Jew and Gentile. After the Council of Jerusalem, only Paul’s gospel was valid (Galatians 1.6-9, 2.7-8). The gospel of the kingdom ended until God completes the body of Christ at which time it will reactivate (Matthew 24.14). Some Jews responded to Paul’s gospel but the greatest success was with Gentiles.

  8. George says:

    hi brother, great rightly dividing! i have some questions if you don’t mind me asking:
    1) Did Paul preach the GOSPEL OF GRACE to the Jew first in the synagogues and then to the Gentiles as was his custom?
    2) Seeing that Paul wrote Hebrews, when did he write it ?, was it before he went to Arabia.
    3) Are the apostles part of the body of Christ, what about Paul who got saved under the kingdom Gospel, is he part of the body of Christ I. E. the Church.
    4) [13] These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. seeing this is the apostle John how can he say to the believing Jews in the kingdom that they presently posess eternal life , knowing that in the kingdom eternal life is conditional ?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      Thank you. I’m glad you did not ask anything difficult. We know Paul preached the kingdom gospel immediately after his salvation (Acts. 9.20). I believe the Lord revealed the significance of His death and resurrection in Arabia and that after he returned he began to preach the gospel of grace. I do not know when Paul wrote Hebrews. I would say before the prison epistles but how much before I cannot say. I seriously doubt before he went to Arabia. The 12 are not part of the body of Christ. They were apostles of Israel and their destiny is to rule the 12 tribes (Matthew 19.28). Paul is part of the Church based upon his statement of 1 Timothy 1.15-16 (πρῶτος, ὑποτύπωσις). The faith described by John is faith in the identity of Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, not faith in His work, which is the focus of the gospel of grace. The “conditions” of eternal life in the gospels are difficult to pin down, i.e., water baptism, keeping the Law, forgiveness of another’s sins, etc. What was essential was faith–belief that Jesus was the Christ.

  9. Jacksom says:

    Based on Paul’s salutations in all his letters from Romans to Philemon, which is not in Hebrews, would you Paul written hebrews.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Jacksom,
      I do not think Paul wanted to declare his authorship explicitly by his usual salutation. The Lord had told him the Jews would not listen to him (Acts 22.18) and this was proven (Acts 13, 18, 28). However, he does close the letter with “grace be with you all.”

  10. Kim N. says:

    I have just read your article “The Great Commission”, a very fine article. For all my Christian life of more than 30 years, I had thought the Great Commission and the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5) are for the church. You have opened my eyes to see the difference between the prophetic program of God for Israel and the “secret” of the Body of Christ, as revealed to Paul. Thank you so much for making it so clear. You have rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Do you accept donation to your excellent website? Grace and peace to you.

    Gratefully yours,
    Kim

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Kim,
      I’m glad the article was helpful. Thank you for the donation offer. As you have freely received, so give. Grace and peace.

  11. Joe says:

    I’m only willing to render unto Cesar what’s legally his/her’s or its’. If a gift is made to your ministry is it possible to use the gift and legally offset some tax on income?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      Thank you. Please consider sending any gifts to Les Feldick Ministries or the Berean Bible Society. They do wonderful work and are tax deductible organizations.

  12. Carole says:

    Thank you so much for your articles. I am sure you have thrown a lifeline to many, and I have recommended your site to others. I have read most of the articles now…some two and three times, and each time get more understanding. I have been plagued for a lifetime with “religions” and “interpretations” and now am so satisfied with understanding what I read in the Bible. I have taken your advice and also perused the Berean website, and it is most profitable. Your articles, however, are fresh and new and to the point in each individual article. I find it easier and more enjoyable to read your articles as they make things so clear to me in short studies. As I go on in this study, I will continue to come to your site daily and also will study in the Berean site, which has so very much material!

    Grace and peace to you and yours!

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Carole,
      Thank you for your gracious words. May the Lord continue to enlighten your understanding. Grace and peace.

  13. Jack says:

    It is very refreshing to see “rightly dividing the word of truth” on your site Don! Thanks for your hard work!
    That being said however, I am at a loss to why you said something above.
    You wrote:

    Peter told them to “repent” and “be baptized.” He had been preaching this message for three years. If they obeyed they would be saved and receive the Holy Spirit. He then went on and reaffirmed that all these things had been promised by God through the prophets to Israel. Notice that Peter’s message to them was to believe Jesus had died for their sins and had been raised from the dead.

    It’s the last part of that paragraph that I’m so surprised you wrote! Peter’s message has never been that “Jesus died for their sins and had been raised from the dead.” That is Paul’s gospel!
    Peter only states to believe in NAME of Jesus Christ’s and receive the forgiveness of sins. No where does he state in ACTS 2:38 That Jesus died for their sins and had been raised from the dead!
    In the 4 gospels and early Acts all that was required for “faith” was for them to believe who Jesus was. That he was the Messiah, the Son of God. No mention of his death, burial and resurrection.
    But surely I’m preaching to the choir here!

  14. Jack says:

    All is well, I thought that to be the case. And pardon my typos :-)
    Your site is such a wonderful teaching tool!
    Thanks again for what you do!
    I also appreciated your mentioning of sending gifts to Les Feldick Ministries! Les has taught me so much that I took a trip earlier this year to visit and thank him personally!

  15. Georgw says:

    Hi brother, can you please tell me if barnabas was saved by the kingdom gospel and if so why is God using barnabas in the grace ministry of paul, i am a little confused, thanks

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Georgw,
      Barnabas was saved under the kingdom gospel (Acts 4.36). God used Barnabas because he believed Paul when others were afraid of him (Acts 9.26-27) and because after some Gentiles had been saved he was the one who went to find Paul (Acts 11.20-26). We can only infer that Paul must have told him what had occurred to him regarding his salvation and his commission to minister to Gentiles.

  16. Vanessa says:

    Hi Don, What is your take on the Doctrine of separation. I am asking you this as we have been placed in a awakard position where by a past Charasmatic friend and his wife have invited themselves to our home as he has a rapture time line he wishes to share. In addition he is also sharing this “New Revelation” with people in the Hebrew Roots church. We thought maybe we should permit him to share with us then we will share the Gospel of Paul but ………I was reminded of an article I once read about the Doctrine of Seperation and perhaps we need to apply it in this case. What are your thoughts.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vanessa,
      Look to Paul’s life for guidance. He proclaimed his gospel to unbelievers and argued for it among believers (e.g., Acts 15). Where there was sin, he called for believers to repent. If someone preached another gospel, Paul declared that he be anathema (cursed, Galatians 1.6-9). Throughout all of this was God’s love, mercy, and grace. No one loved like Paul did. He sacrificed everything to bring men and women to the Lord. Armed with the Scriptures, the love of Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit you will be on sure ground.

  17. George says:

    hi bro Don, you mentioned barnabas, a kingdom of heaven believer, helping out Paul’s grace ministry, how does this equate? There was also Apollos, another kingdom believer watering wat Paul had planted?, there is Mark the gospel writer who was profitable for Paul and the grace ministry? There was Silas from the little flock church helping out Paul? There was Luke the apostle, why didn’t he and all the rest continue to follow the apostles doctrine and limit their services to the circumcision like they agreed at the council in acts 15. Please explain to me how you reconcile these crossovers, thanks.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      Most of the questions I get concern events in the book of Acts. Acts is a transitional book. We cannot build doctrine from it. It is a historical revelation to explain to the Jews why the kingdom of God did not come. God’s program for Israel to His program of the Church did not happen overnight. We do not have a great deal of information about how these alliances were formed but the men you mentioned understood Paul’s apostleship and partnered with him to take the gospel to Gentiles.

  18. George says:

    Thanks bro Don for your answers and super prompt responses, I really do appreciate them. Here is another question, if you don’t mind. When Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus after the fallout with Paul, which gospel did barnabas and Mark preach to the Cypriots ?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      They preached Paul’s gospel of grace. That was what they had been proclaiming. The break took place after the Council of Jerusalem which settled upon Paul’s gospel. The fallout was personal, not doctrinal. Paul did not think Mark had the right stuff to accompany them since he had left them earlier (Acts 13.13).

      • George says:

        Ok then, so what we have here is after the council, some kingdom believers join Paul and preach the gospel of grace, seeing that God is gradually changing salvation programs. Obviously these kingdom Jewish believers will not be part of the body of Christ or raptured for that matter.
        However other Jewish kingdom believers, like The pillars of the way, Peter, James, and John decide to stay in the declining salvation program, decide not to follow the other Jewish kingdom believers in promoting Paul’s gospel of grace, and keep on preaching and witnessing the kingdom program until it’s end.
        I read somewhere when the dispensation of the law came into effect, it was appropriated by the same Israelites that came from Abraham who was not under the law, can’t the same be said for the little flock, that Paul gave to them a new dispensation of grace that all kingdom of heaven believers are now to appropriate and enter into the body of Christ or risk being cut off?

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          George,
          The two programs and destinies remain separate. I do not think Peter etc. continued to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom based upon Peter’s statement in Acts 15.11 and Paul’s in Galatians 1.6-9.

          • George says:

            Thanks bro Don, that makes sense. Would it be safe to assume that after that Barnabas, Apollo, Mark, Luke (all kingdom believers) knew what Peter knew in acts 15:11 they decided to help out Paul in preaching the gospel of grace.

            • doctrine doctrine says:

              George,
              It’s unclear how much they every understood about the whole grace program and Paul’s “secrets” (2 Peter 3.14-18) but it seems they did understand his gospel.

  19. Joe says:

    Is John the Baptist now in Paradise or in Heaven? He was put to death before Paul’s gospel so he couldn’t have know it. Are Kingdom believers and Grace believers mixed together in heaven now? Are all unbelievers in Torments in Hades today?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      Every believer who has died is in heaven; every unbeliever who has died is in hell. God “sees” living believers as being in heaven now (Philippians 3.20; Colossians 1.13).

      • Joe says:

        Doctrine, please provide the vs(s) which indicate Paul’s letters were the end of the writings constituting the fully completed word of God to mankind. (some say the writing of John were written later in the first century)

        thank you, Joe

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Joe,
          The primary verse that indicates Paul completed the Scriptures is Colossians 1.25. The word for “fulfill” is πληρόω and means to complete, bring to completion.

          • Joe says:

            This would suggest that Peter’s writings were put down before Paul had completed his letters. Otherwise Paul would not have had ‘the last word’.

          • So help me here Doctrine, because I’m still trying to understand why you believe as you do. Is it that you consider Paul alone responsible for the preaching of all truth to us as Gentiles? Is it that God therefore has limited our truth concerning doctrine to Paul’s grace gospel alone? He alone has completed the scriptures for us Gentiles, and what then are we to do with the rest of scripture? Obviously you study the remainder of scripture, otherwise you could not separate out the doctrine related solely to the Jew and the kingdom gospel.
            But, what if you or I either one were to find that we are Jewish and not Gentile at all. For example I was watching 20/20 last night and the story was about a baby who was stolen from the hospital at birth. No DNA back then so the wrong baby was returned to this mother and father 14 mo later. Now at age 49 the baby now a man through DNA finds that he is not these Gentile parents child, and that in fact he is Jewish. Does he now have to be saved all over again under the gospel of the kingdom? I obviously haven’t read all of your writings yet, but the possible conflict I see in my mind with your doctrine comes from your explanation of some of these issues. For example as I understand your teaching based on some of your answers here apparently unless I misunderstand you believe that gradually the kingdom gospel was given over to the grace gospel, and all of the Apostles eventually began teaching grace–is that right? So what camp was the writer of Hebrews at the time of his writing? It appears to me that he was in the new covenant camp? So when he says: Hebrews 11:40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. — what exactly does he mean? The something better is obviously his subject the new covenant, although I believe that you might say it’s the gospel of grace? And who is the us here? Is it the Jews, or the Gentile church? It appears that it is the Jew/Gentile new covenant people, because “without us they will not be made perfect”. Yet if this is the case it implies a joining of Old and new covenant people just as Paul describes in Ephesians — what sat you? No I am not Bill O’Riley posing as Jerry Parks, but I have written a couple of books.

            • doctrine doctrine says:

              Jerry,
              All Church doctrine comes from Paul. The risen Christ saved Paul and revealed to him secrets (1 Corinthians 4.1). See my article, Paul’s Mystery. The Church was a secret. The Rapture was a secret. The gospel of grace was a secret. The blinding of Israel was a secret. God had revealed none of these things to the prophets, Jesus did not disclose them in His earthly ministry, and the Twelve knew nothing of them. Saving faith under the gospel of the kingdom was to believe in the identity of Christ, that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Saving faith under the gospel of grace is to believe Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. The Twelve knew nothing of this gospel which is evident from the Council of Jerusalem. At the end of this meeting the gospel of the kingdom ended (Acts 15.11). Only Paul’s gospel was valid. Everyone since then has been saved by it and this will continue until the Rapture. After that, the gospel of the kingdom will return (Matthew 24.14) until the Lord’s 2nd Advent. All one has to do to see the difference is to read what Peter told the Jews on the day of Pentecost. He did not tell them Christ had died for their sins. For Peter, Christ’s death was a sin from which they had to repent. Peter knew nothing about the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection with respect to salvation. All He knew was that Jesus was the Christ and that He had risen from the dead. If Israel repented, Christ would return and establish His kingdom (Acts 3.19-21). That was the OT prophetic plan. Had Israel repented, the Church would not have come into existence. Is was a secret.

  20. Ralph Sandberg says:

    Thanks for the great article. Acts 8:36 does seem to indicate that water baptism is not prohibited for followers of Christ?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Ralph,
      Water baptism was practiced early and Paul himself baptized. But it was on the way out (1 Corinthians 1.14-17) and by the time Paul wrote Ephesians was over (Ephesians 4.5).

  21. Theresa says:

    At this point in time should we be praying for physical healing for a loved one or not. When Jesus was here ALL were healed. Does he want us to have faith and pray or just enjoy his amazing gift of Grace?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Theresa,
      Yes. God still heals. It is the gift of healing that has ended, not divine healing. We should pray for healing of loved ones as well as any other distresses.

  22. Joe says:

    Theresa, were ALL healed as you suggest? I’ve wondered about Acts 3 and the story about the lame man. He had been lame since birth. He had been carried to the Temple area daily. At a time following the death of the Lord Peter goes to the Temple to pray and addresses the man. Is it unreasonable to assume that Jesus had walked past this man on occasion, or at least knew of the man?

    Doctrine, what are your thoughts on this?

    Thank you

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe and Theresa,
      Jesus healed hundreds, probably thousands, of people in His earthly ministry but clearly did not heal them all. It is likely he saw some sick without healing them. The primary purpose of Jesus’ healing ministry was to confirm who He was: the Messiah. See Luke 7.19-23.

  23. Theresa says:

    My pastors wife needs divine healing of cancer. Please hold Kathy in your prayers

  24. Roger Spielmann says:

    Just a comment on the Great Commission that wasn’t mentioned in your article or in the posts which follow. Are you convinced that Jesus actually gave his followers this commission? I guess my question goes back to one’s version of inerrancy. We know it’s a historical fact that the gospel of Mark ends at 16:8 in that verses 9-20 are not found in the earliest copies of Mark’s gospel. Most conservative scholars are in agreement on this. Some scholars make the same claim about Matt. 28, in that there is one early copy of Matthew that doesn’t include it. Do you see this as problematic?

    I’ve recently come back to the studying the New Testament after earning a B.A. in Biblical Literature from Multnomah School of the Bible many years ago. I have no religious affiliation, but I love reading the Bible and, with the help of people like you and others, trying to figure it all out.

    Thank you for reading this post.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      The textual issue you raise is far from settled. A great battle still exists about the majority text and the critical text. While earliest copies do not include the verses the issue is far more complex than at first blush. There are many questions in this subject, far more than I can address in this response. Although taught textual criticism in seminary from the basis of the critical text I have become skeptical of some of its presuppositions and assumptions. But to answer your question, I am convinced of Jesus great commission and I am also convinced the last verses of Matthew and Mark are genuine.

  25. Roger Spielmann says:

    Thank you. I do find your last statement troubling, however. You write, “I am convinced of Jesus’ great commission and I am also convinced the last verses of Matthew and Mark are genuine.” It sounds as if you’re hoping that future discoveries will somehow confirm that Mark 16:9-20 and Matthew 28:18-20 actually came from the mouth of Jesus rather than, as per the consensus of conservative NT scholars, later additions made by some scribes or someone who wanted to promote a certain theological agenda.

    My guess, then, is that you’re not really “convinced” (which requires a certain critical mass of evidence), as much as “hopeful.” Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

    And thank you for your responses.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      Not at all. The vast majority of manuscripts support those readings. Like I wrote, the subject is far from settled. Whether we find more, earlier MSS. is largely irrelevant.

  26. John Duryea says:

    Thank you for a great and thorough article!
    So, has the Lord given the Church have “any” sort of commission to spread the Gospel? If so, what exactly?
    John

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      John,
      Thank you. Our “great commission” is 2 Corinthians 5.14-21.

      • John Duryea says:

        Don,
        The 2 Cor.5:14-21 scriptures indicate that we are reconciled to Christ, are his ambassadors, and have a ministry of reconciliation (though I am not sure what that actually means as it appears to be open to interpretation).
        Ambassadors are not evangelists. They have an office and serve as the personal representative of their government and they protect their citizens who are in the host country.
        I don’t see any “go into all the world” type of command here.
        Can you shed any light on what the 2 Corinthian scriptures are commanding the believers? – if there is any command at all.
        Thank you.
        John

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          John,
          Paul commanded us to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4.16, 11.1, Philippians 3.17, 2 Thessalonians 3.9). The Lord commissioned Paul. An ambassador represents his government or authority. Therefore, we represent Paul’s ministry, which primarily concerned proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul wrote God had committed to us the word of reconciliation.

  27. Elaine says:

    I am not familiar with your ministry and I don’t know if we would agree on every point but your understanding of the so called great commission is also mine. I believe the commission, if you want to call it that, of the body of Christ is II Cor 5 :17-21. Keep up the good work of telling the world that there is a difference between the message of the earthly kingdom preached by Christ and the message for the church which is His body.

  28. Randy says:

    Divine healing vs gifts of healings

    One has to stretch to conclude Holy Spirit has stopped His gifts. No man, even Paul, had control over the gifts. Only Holy Spirit has the gifts. The gifts belong to Him and He uses them according to His own will.

  29. Tony says:

    Many thanks. I am keeping this article to reread and refer to. By rightly dividing these pieces they fit the puzzle with greater ease. The tapestry of scripture is intricate up close and magnificent at a distance. I’ve been blessed by this study. It’s like holding the lamp in front of your feet.

  30. Theresa says:

    So people who speak in tongues today, even pastors are doing it through their own will just babbling?…

  31. George says:

    Hi Brother, as body of Christ members, are we obligated to send out missionaries, from our local church, like the church of Antioch did with Paul and Barnabas? Also the church that i attend strongly emphasizes that we wear our sunday best, meaning suit and tie for men, dresses for woman, also
    When doing ministry in or out of church, a tie is required, what is your convictions regarding dress code for the body of Christ and its Pastor?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      Paul wrote we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5.10). God places on hearts of believers how this is accomplished. The most important factor in worship and going to church is one’s attitude. Dress enters into that attitude and dress enters into considerations regarding convention and expectations of others. We should be sensitive to others in these areas. There is no “rule” regarding dress. We are free. But that freedom should be governed by honoring Christ.

  32. TH Tan says:

    If the Great Commission in Matt. 28 is only for the Jews, why did Jesus said in V 20 that I will be with you always until the end of the world.
    If 2Cir 5 is the GC for Gentiles does this supersede Matt. 28?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      TH Tan,
      The GC of Matthew 28 was to begin with Jews and extend to Gentiles. It was based on the assumption Israel would accept Jesus as the Messiah. The “end of the age” referred to the end of the Tribulation and throughout the 1,000 year kingdom. At the present time, the commission of 2 Corinthians 5 is the GC of the Church. It is centered upon the gospel Paul received from the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). The GC of Matthew 28 was given to the 12, to Jews, not the Church and said nothing about Christ’s death for sins and resurrection regarding salvation. One must interpet passages according to their context and audience.

  33. TH Tan says:

    Thank you for your response. Could you help me with the following:
    Had the Jews fulfilled the GC?
    If not when will they continue? Or GC is only for the 11 disciples?
    If the GC is only for the Jews, did Paul apply GC on Timothy?
    Doesn’t disciple all nations which means all ethnic groups means Gentiles included?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      T H Tan,
      The gospel the 12 were to proclaim was the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus stated it would be preached in all the world and then the end would come (Matthew 24.14). This means it will be proclaimed to all nations in the Tribulation and then Jesus will return. This gospel anticipated the repentance of Israel. The nation did not repent but it will at the end of the Tribulation. When it does, Christ will return according to His promise (Matthew 23.37-39).

  34. TH Tan says:

    Thanks.
    But who proclaim in the last days, the 12 are not around then?
    Looks like the GC had temporarily be suspended and continued at the last days?
    Another issue what does “teach all things I have commanded you” in the GC means? Isn’t this the entire bible from Gen. to Rev. ?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      T H Tan,
      God will save individuals during the Tribulation and seal 144,000 Jews for this ministry (Revelation 7). The gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed during this time. See my article, Understanding the Book of Revelation. The “teach all things” related to God’s prophetic program of the kingdom of God and the Mosaic Law. This was the focus of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

  35. Vanessa says:

    Good Morning Don. Hope you are well. The 144,000 preach the kingdom Gospel during the first half of the 7 years. Do they preach/teach only to Jews.
    2nd question if I may. Even with the 144,000 the Jews seem to fall away again by accepting the A/C . Is this correct and only the little flock are saved. I know 2/3 are killed and do these which are killed ever get to be resurrected to live on the earth or are they doomed. Thank you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vanessa,
      The 144,000 will fulfill the great commission. That commission was to all nations so they will preach to Gentiles. Why do you think the 144,000 have fallen away? See Revelation 14.

      • Vanessa says:

        No no I dont think the 144,000 fall away. My bad. Its the Jews who fall away. And its these Jews who fall away is what I question. Are they doomed.

      • It would be nice if you could tell us where it says that the 144,000 will evangelize the Gentile nations.

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Jerry,
          This is implied from Matthew 24.14. If not for this, why do you think they are sealed?

          • The 144,000 are not necessary to insure that Matt24:14 is carried out. Paul was preaching the kingdom to the Ephesians and Romans as part of the gospel. See Acts 20:25, and 28:21.

            He said to the Ephesian elders: Acts 20:25-27 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.

            Paul also told us in Galatians 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

            There is only one plan from God for the salvation of man. To the Jew first and also to the Gentile.

            There is only one age that mankind will see brought to an end with the coming of Jesus to establish His millennial kingdom, (God’s kingdom on earth) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. the body of Messiah is necessary for the preaching of the one and only gospel message which includes the coming kingdom.

            • doctrine doctrine says:

              Jerry,
              Paul only preached one gospel, the gospel of grace. He did not preach the gospel of the kingdom. When Paul mentions the kingdom of God he means God’s overall rule. The Twelve proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom until the Jerusalem Council. After that, there was but one gospel–Paul’s (Galatians 1.6-9). No Biblical support exists for your statement that there is only one plan of salvation. This is true now, but was not true before the Council of Jerusalem. If you were correct there would have been no need for a Council!. Salvation by faith alone in the death of Christ for our sins and his resurrection was unknown before Paul and was not proclaimed by the Twelve. Read what Peter told the Jews at Pentecost. Do you find any mention of him telling them Christ died for their sins? See my article, The Great Hinge.

              • Paul makes it very clear that believing God was the reason righteousness was accounted to Abraham. Of course the good news was progressive. It was not complete until the scripture was complete. Peters argument in favor of Paul’s approach to the Gentiles Salvation included the fact that not even the Disciples were capable of keeping the law. Paul taught that all men are lost due to the actions of one man Adam, and that all men must be saved by the one man Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. Paul also made it very clear who we are “in Him”. Ephesians 2 makes us one with and partakers with Israel in the kingdom Gospel. We will rule and reign with Christ as will all saved Jews. Jesus was in Paradise following His death, and He lead captivity captive when He ascended (Eph 4). Paradise is now with the God head in heaven it has been moved. The Ekklessia (the chosen of God) from the Old Testament is continued through us in the new covenant offering through the Gospel which includes our future in the coming kingdom. We are one new man in Christ Jesus. On body, one bride, one olive tree. I am Jewish by adoption, and so are you. You mentioned in one of your posts that Israel was to be a holy priesthood, so are we. Peter may have been taking the Gospel to the Jew first as instructed, but it was the gospel he preached. Listen to him: 1 Peter 1:3, 5, 9, 12, 21 1 Peter 2:9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
                I know that in order to prove your position in a pre-Trib Rapture you must make a separation between God’s people the Jew and the Christian, but to do so creates Two religions coming from the one and only true God and creator of the universe. And this in a world that needs only Jesus and one faith, and goes against all that Paul taught in Ephesians and Romans. His teaching is that one day all of the nation Israel will be saved and added back into the Chosen of God. That will come after a great purging in Israel, and I might add in the church as Peter stated: 1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? We are in that day when those who do not obey the Gospel of God will be finding out what this outcome really is.

              • doctrine doctrine says:

                Jerry,
                Please see my article, Priests in the Church? There are no priests in the Church. Peter wrote to Jews who had believed the gospel of the kingdom, not to members of the Church, the body of Christ (1 Peter 1.1). The Church is a new program God began with Paul. It is new in the same sense that God began a new program (Israel) with Abraham. Unless one understands these theological distinctions confusion is the result. As for the pre-Tribulation Rapture, it is as certain as the gospel. Paul explicitly stated the Church will not undergo the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1.10, 5.9). He commanded believers to comfort one another with this doctrine (1 Thessalonians 4.18).

              • 1Thess 1:10 and elsewhere tells us that the church will not see wrath (Orge). The Tribulation will produce the wrath of Satan Rev 12:, and the Thumos (Wrath) as well as Orge at the very end of The outpouring of wrath from the throne of God. Orge is not once poured out upon believers.
                As for the priesthood we read: Hebrews 7:11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood for on the basis of it the people received the Law, what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7:15-19, 21-22 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness for the Law made nothing perfect, and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “The Lord has sworn And will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”; so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Neither Israel’s nor our royal priesthood will actually come into being until the millennial rule. Do you think for one minute that believers in Christ from the Jews are priests today. or do you think that God honors today the Jewish Rabbi’s offering of a slaughtered chicken as a sacrifice for their sins? As I said there is but one way to salvation. One body, one new man, one Flock as Jesus put it, one olive tree, and yes one Bride. Look at Isa 54, where following Jesus crucifiction in chapter 53; we find Israel, who was in the text widowed because of the death of her husband, being told that she will once again be married to the very one who by that death reedeems her. Yes Israel is part of the bride. This is why it is not until after Tribulation in chapter 19 of Revelation that we see that the bride has made herself ready. I will read your article but it cannot change these facts.

              • doctrine doctrine says:

                Jerry,
                You mix Israel with the Church. You see Paul as an extension of the 12, not as the apostle of a whole new program, the Church. You are correct that Israel’s royal priesthood will not come into being until the Millennium. You are incorrect in stating the Church is a royal priesthood. All legitimate priesthood in the Bible is Israel. The Church is the body of Christ, not a priesthood. The Church is not the Bride. The Scriptures never state the Church is the bride. They state the Church is the body. If you will believe what the Scriptures state and not embrace what they do not say you will be on solid ground. See my article, The Bride of Christ.

              • Bobbi says:

                Jerry,
                It is clear that in the “fulness of times” Ephesians. 1:10 all in Christ will be gathered together. But the gospel of the kingdom, in my understanding , is destined for earthly promises. That “city” built by God.
                Hebrew. 11:10. And that “country”. Hebrew. 11:13-14.
                The Body of Christ has an “heavenly” calling. Ephesians. 1:3, 20, 2:6, 3:10. The difference is in the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world begun.
                Rom. 16:25-27.
                So we see a reconciling of the whole domain. One is the earth and one is the heavens.
                Both of which have their own promises and places.
                Nowhere in the entire Bible do we find the things revealed in the mysteries, until the “new man” ,
                Not born again, but created new.
                I hope this helps.

              • More questions. How do we reconcile the fact that Jesus promise to the disciples to go and prepare a place for “you” is where the heavenly promise has its beginning,. Yet it was spoken according to this site to the Jews who have been given an earthly kingdom gospel. It would seem That if the Gentile church is the reciepiant of this heavenly promise to the exclusion of the Earthly promises given to Abraham and Israel, which I believe is contrary to what Paul teaches in Eph 2; then why was this promise not made through Paul the apostle just to the Gentiles? Why was it made to the possessors of the gospel of the kingdom?
                Jesus also prayed in John 17 this way: John 17:20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;…” does this have no meaning for Gentiles? If a Gentile is saved while reading the Gospel of John does this make him a Jew or are we to believe that a Gentile cannot possibly get saved reading one of the Gospels?

              • doctrine doctrine says:

                Jerry,
                The Scriptures must be interpreted according to context. Earlier, Jesus had declared His Farther’s house was the Temple (John 2.16). Isaiah referred to this house as the people of Israel (Isaiah 22.24). The “glory” of that house were believing Jews. Jesus stated that he would prepare a place (an official position–see John 11.48) for the disciples and would return. At His return, the disciples would receive what He had prepared. They would rule the 12 tribes of Israel on earth (Matthew 19.28). None of this could refer to the Church because the Church did not yet exist: it was still a secret. Paul stated in Ephesians 2 that formerly Gentiles were excluded from the covenant promises of Israel. Paul did not write that Gentiles or the Church were now possessors of these covenant promises. He wrote that Gentiles had now been made near to God (a position previously held only by Israel) by Christ’s blood and that the barrier between Jew and Gentile had been torn down to make both, Jew and Gentile, one in Christ. This is the Church. The only covenant with which the Church participates is the New Covenant since it is wholly spiritual (2 Corinthians 3.6). In Jesus’ prayer of John 17, He had in mind Jews (John 17.8-9). Jesus’ focus in His earthly ministry was Israel (Romans 15.8). Through this ministry, Gentiles would be blessed. Today, one cannot be saved by reading the gospels since they do not contain what one must believe to be saved. The saving gospel is only found in Paul’s letters. 1 Corinthians 15.1-4 is the gospel by which all–Jew and Gentile–must be saved. This is what Peter declared in Acts 15.11.

              • First let me say that you are confusing me, because Acts 15:11 is true to what I believe that there is only one gospel, one way to be saved. Yet, in another answer to me you say:
                Regarding your contention there is only one gospel, here are two questions which require an answer: What did Peter believe to be saved? How is a person saved today?
                I believe that I have answered that question adequately from scripture, but the above verse that you bring out to prove another point should be all that is needed to prove the one way to salvation for both Jew and Gentile.

                Now concerning your point: Paul did not write that Gentiles or the Church were now possessors of these covenant promises. Consider what else Paul said beyond what you point out: Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,

                No longer would imply that what once was is no longer. So what we once were strangers and aliens to the covenants we no longer are, but we are fellow citizens with the saints. Citizens of what? — The commonwealth of Israel, who will receive all the earthly covenants and promises made to Abraham. This is certainly the mystery that was revealed to Paul.

                Mark 4:11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables,

                If we are outside of this kingdom as you state; then God intends to keep it hidden from us, but that is not the case.

                Romans 11:25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;
                Into what? — into The Olive Tree; into Christ; into the body; into the bride; into the building not made with hands; into the kingdom. We have come into all things that had alluded us in the past.

                Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,

                Secrets no more.

              • doctrine doctrine says:

                Jerry,
                Please provide a Scripture to supports your view that there is only one gospel, i.e., a Scripture that demonstrates Peter and the Twelve proclaimed one was saved by faith alone in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Paul’s gospel). Paul’s point in Ephesians 2 is the same as what he wrote in Romans 11. Neither passage states the Church has become citizens of the commonwealth of Israel. They state Gentiles, and the Church specifically, has entered into God’s favor and place of blessing and have joined Israel in that place of blessing. The olive tree is God’s place of favor. The olive tree is not Israel. The natural branches are Israel–and they have been broken off temporarily. God disinherited the Gentiles and chose Israel as His own. This is what Moses reminded the people in Deuteronomy 4.19-20. Mark 4.11 refers to the earthly kingdom of God (Matthew 6.10) and Jesus’ “mystery” was that he was now speaking in parables to hide His message due to unbelief.

  36. TH Tan says:

    According to your explanation the GC has ceased and has no effect to the Jews nor the Gentile Christians. Is this correct?
    You seem to distinctly separate the Jewish Christians and the Church, wasn’t the Antioch church a Christian church, which made up of many Jews and they were called christians. Did’n the GC still effective to them, the church?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      T H Tan,
      The great commission has ceased because the gospel of the kingdom has ceased. In its place is the gospel of the grace of God, that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. The “great commission” of the Church is 2 Corinthians 5.18-21. Under the gospel of the kingdom the faith part was to believe Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Under the gospel of grace the faith part is to believe Christ died for one’s sins and rose from the dead. The gospel of the kingdom ended at the Council of Jerusalem. Up until that point both gospels were operational. See my study, The Great Hinge.

  37. TH Tan says:

    I appreciate your passion in teaching and your strong Greek n Hebrew, but in GC I could not agree with you, Christ who is omniscience he wud not hv given such last words commandment to only for the 11 only and is not applicable to the first n subsequent Jews they evangelize n discipled. It is like what Jesus told Peter n Andrew :”Follow me, I will make you fishers of men”, it is only meant for the two of them n not for the rest of the disciples.
    One more question, I assume that you are against churches practice water baptism.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      T H Tan,
      Paul taught there is now only one baptism (Ephesians 4.5). This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Churches who practice water baptism do so without Scriptural authority. The problem with the GC of Matthew 28, is that no one can be saved by it. It is the gospel of the kingdom which ended according to Acts 15.11. Today, only one gospel exists: Paul’s gospel. Any who proclaim a different gospel are accursed (Galatians 1.6-9).

  38. Ron Fox says:

    Hi…and thanks for all Your hard work. I am working through the Mid-Acts position on the Great Commission. My question is…are the four accounts usually addressed from the Gospels about the GC talking about the same event? The location in Matthew is different than being inside in the other accounts and the account in John concerning forgiveness of sins seems different too. Is my thinking faulty in assuming the accounts should be close to being the same including the location? Each Gospel account gives a slight variation about Jesus’ baptism but it is easy to see that it is the same event and location. I don’t have the same confidence about the GC. Thanks for Your time…ron

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Ron,
      The context is the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. That is the main message of the gospels. All these things would occur with Israel’s repentance and accepting Jesus as the Messiah. What had begun in the gospels continued after Jesus’ resurrection.

  39. Joe says:

    Doctrine,

    Did the gentiles ‘inherit’ the GC or was it for Israel? It appears in Acts that the 12 pretty much stayed in and around Jerusalem though John is eventually at Patmos. Do the 144,000 apply to the GC?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      The GC was the “gospel of the kingdom.” It operated until Acts 15.11 when Paul’s gospel became the one and only gospel. The gospel of the kingdom restarts after the Church is complete (Matthew 24.14). The 12 never had a ministry to Gentiles. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11.13).

      • Interesting because the apostle Thomas traveled by sea to India in AD 52. He was later martyred and buried there after witnessing and spreading the gospel to the Indian people. The tomb of St. Thomas is in Mylapore, India. A poet, St. Ephrem, recorded in his hymns and poetry that Thomas worked miracles in the Indian city of Edessa. Thomas was involved in the GC to the Gentiles. John was at one point the head of the Church of Ephesus. You seem to overlook some important facts.

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Jerry,
          What is authoritative, Scriptures or tradition? According to the Scriptures, the Twelve had no ministry to Gentiles and no record is provided of them traveling to other lands. Paul stated their ministry was confined to Jews (Galatians 2.7-9). The writings of the apostolic fathers is highly suspect in many areas. The Didache, probably the earliest writing of the apostolic fathers is the earliest example of heresy outside of the what is reported in the Scriptures.

          • Obviously, scripture is our authority, but history is the only confirmation of just how the believer understood the teachings of the scripture. For example the fact that the early church saw Nero as the Antichrist is important to what was understood from scripture. The Didache is also a fact from history that fully supports what the church believed and taught up until the time of Darby. I understand but fully disagree with your desire to disregard history. Someone has said History is His Story.

            As to Revelation being only for Jewish believers, and the churches being Jewish churches. Who can argue with someone with such a bias. I can only quote what Jesus said:
            Revelation 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Every man would include you and I) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
            And then Revelation 22:16-19 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

            Paul most likely started every one of these churches.

            And then the sobering words penned by John: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

            No wonder man wants to separate himself as far as he can from these words. The Scriptures are authoritative.

            Yes this is scripture, and yes it is authoritative, yet, you say that an angel in Revelation during the Tribulation (the time of Jacobs Trouble) will preach another gospel to the world. And Paul says:

            Galatians 1:6-8 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
            I say let the scriptures be your authority.

            As to your contention that no one from the original 12 disciples went to the Gentiles. We need only look at Paul’s confronting Peter over his teachings and actions.
            Galatians 2:14-16, 21 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? Peter had obviously preached to the Gentiles. 1 Corinthians 1:12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

            Paul goes on in Galatians
            “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

            As I said before there is only one gospel, one way for man to be saved. And I supported that with the authoritative scripture.

            • doctrine doctrine says:

              Jerry,
              The writings of the apostolic fathers is valuable for textual criticism and church history. They show what people believed and that record is chiefly that they departed from Paul and his teachings. There is no Pauline language in Jesus’ address to the assemblies in Revelation. There is no mention of faith, Christ’s death, resurrection, grace, living life through the Holy Spirit, etc. It is all language of the prophets and Jesus’ earthly ministry. How can these possibly be Pauline churches? Regarding your contention there is only one gospel, here are two questions which require an answer: What did Peter believe to be saved? How is a person saved today?

            • Bobbi says:

              Jerry parks,
              Romans 11:25 explains that are 2 programs, and the whole chapter deals with this issue.
              Romans 9-11 explains where we are now and what has happened.
              There are 2 programs.
              Rom. 15:27 says we are partakers of their spiritual things, not the covenants. Those belong to Israel. Rom. 9:4-5.
              The revelation of the mystery doctrine was not revealed until Paul. It is a new dispensation, for an altogether different calling. Gal. 2:7 And Gal. 1:11, 12, 15-16, 1 Cor. 9:17, Eph. 3:2, Col. 1:25.
              This period is not in prophecy.
              After the fullness of the Gentiles be come in Rom. 11:25, then…
              Matt. 24:14.

  40. Bobbi says:

    Joe,
    Romans 6:11 “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    I think our “commission” is in 2 Cor. 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
    And why is 2Cor. 5:21.

    The doctrine in this dispensation is different.

    In line with what Don said about the kingdom gospel being preached again after the Body is complete, the 144000 are of Israel, of each of the twelve tribes in Revelation7:4-8 and Rev. 14:1-5.
    In addition for possible study on this, the words in Rev. 14:5 are the same used in John 1:47.

  41. Jerry shaw says:

    Thought this might be of interest. Went to a Gospel music festival in Myrtle Beach recently. Different speaker each night with great singing. Each night there was an invitation. One night there were 40 saved. The other nights there were two or three saved.
    The night the 40 “accepted” the Lord, David Jeremiah spoke and his entire sermon was Pauline. The other nights exclusively Matthew, etc. One speaker, probably one of the most famous in America insisted that you CAN NOT get saved by believing 1 Cor 15:1-4, even the devils believe that. You have to R E A L L Y, really believe. There were three responses to his sermon and he was the biggest draw. I was ill. Any thoughts?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Jerry,
      Praise God for David Jeremiah. As for the other fellow, he’s not a believer. He’s never come to Christ. If one does not believe Christ died for one’s sins and rose from the dead one is an unbeliever. Salvation is by faith alone–believing Paul’s gospel.

    • Joe says:

      Jerry, I’d really like to know who the ‘other’ was. you can use initials if that’s better…..J.O. maybe?

    • vanessa says:

      Hi Jerry,
      I have often wondered about those who go up to say the sinners prayer. In my country millions have come to Jesus through the sinners prayer going back to 1960 but if I do the maths then the whole of my country should be saved by now. Sadly we are not. Just recently they had a call for prayer where 1.7 million arrived and apparently Africa is coming to Jesus and there will be a revival. It was an ecumenical prayer meeting. If I sound negative I dont mean to. The revival will come during the 7 year tribulation and not before. The church is in a mess. The sinners prayer is a trap and here is why.
      The truth of the matter is that it is biblical to pray to Jesus to ask Him to forgive us our sins. But without true repentance, there can be no regeneration. That’s why it is not biblical to say someone is saved “because of reciting the Sinner’s Prayer.” We must put our trust, hope, and faith in Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, but to give someone assurance of salvation based on reciting a prayer, or thinking the words in our heads as someone else says them, does not produce saving faith. Millions of people who think they are saved because of the sinners prayer will not be raptured.

      • doctrine doctrine says:

        Vanessa,
        The only way of salvation today is to believe Christ has died for one’s sins and has risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Salvation is by trust only in the work of Christ. This is Paul’s gospel. Peter recognized this gospel was from that point onward the only way of salvation at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15.11). This should be the most simple truth but it seems too many “evangelists” either can’t understand it or refuse to believe God.

  42. vanessa says:

    Don, I hear you and yes you are right. Christ died on the cross for ALL our sins. Past present and future. Something that took me a long time to grasp. Still today when I sin I find myself saying “Sorry lord.” Thank you for reminding me. Often our old ways of our previous Doctrine creeps in.

  43. Danny Peels says:

    I have just recently started studying scripture by rightly dividing. And it’s been my understanding the Gospel of the Grace of God was given to the Apostle Paul first, but after reading Luke 29: 44 -48 now I need enlightened.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Danny,
      I think you mean Luke 24.44-48? If you read the passage carefully, Jesus stated he would suffer and rise from the dead and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. This is what He said in Acts 1.8. He did not tell them He had died for their sins and risen from the dead and that by believing this one was saved. Peter proclaimed just what Jesus told him. Read his message to the Jews in Acts 2. He did not tell them Christ had died for their sins and risen from the dead and that believing that they would be saved. He didn’t because he did not know it. It was still a secret. This risen Lord revealed this truth to Paul, which was Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4).

      • Danny Peels says:

        Yes that’s what I meant!! And I thank you very much for clearing things up for me.
        When I read your reply I felt like a dunce!
        I knew Paul’s gospel was a mystery but for some reason Istarted to doubt but thanks to you for getting me back in line.
        I want to thank you again for all your hard work and let you know I have learned more from you and this site, then all my 55 yrs in Baptist churches. God bless!

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Danny,
          Thank you. Isn’t it wonderful to have it all fall together! It is for folks like yourself that I write.

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