It is from Paul that we understand the mystery of the saved believers in the Body of Christ, the mystery of the Church, the mystery of the Pretribulation Rapture, the mystery of Eternal Security, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the mystery of the the future restoration of the Jews in the time of Jacob’s trouble, and the list goes on and on.
Casual readers of the Bible who, starting in Matthew and ending in Revelation, see one story written for the Church, try desperately to make everything about the Church, and wind up in a mess. Paul commands Christians to look for divisions in the Bible, identify divisions in the Bible, and put the proper pieces in the proper places. These are the instructions God has for us in 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV).
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” Romans 16:25-27 (KJV)
Paul was different from the other apostles, and he preached a different gospel from the other apostles. He called it “my gospel”, and he was charged with teaching it first to the apostles and then to everyone else. Sound like heresy? Don’t panic, it’s Bible. Just a part of the Bible that no one ever told you about before.
So with that, I thought it might be edifying to a deeper look at unique life and ministry of Paul, the apostle for the Church Age.
- PAUL WAS HANDPICKED BY JESUS FOR A SPECIFIC JOB: Paul says his selection as an apostle was one who was “born out of due time” in 1 Corinthians 15:8 (KJV). When Jesus knocked him off his “high horse” in Acts 9, He changed his name and changed his purpose in life. Saul became Paul and was anointed to be the apostle to the Church Age. As such, Jesus gave Paul Church Age doctrine as opposed to Peter who was preaching Kingdom Age doctrine. “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:16-18 (KJV).
- PAUL WAS A TEACHER TO THE APOSTLES, NOT A STUDENT: It would make sense to the average Christian that when Paul met Jesus, he would go and spend time with the other apostles who had been with Jesus day and night for 3 and a half years, right? Well, it would make sense, to anyone but God, that is. When Jesus selected Paul, He took him off alone in the desert and taught him the doctrine for the Church Age, and then commissioned him to go and tell the other apostles that the dispensation has changed. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11,12 (KJV). You should pause for a moment and let that sink in, Paul was very, very different than the others. He continues in Galatians. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.” Galatians 1:15-17 (KJV). Starting to see the picture, now? The Bible shows us Paul was personally instructed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and given to know “mysteries and revelations” no other human being had any idea about.
- THE MYSTERIOUS GOSPEL OF PAUL: It is from Paul that we understand the mystery of the saved believers in the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:26,27), the mystery of the Church (Ephesians 5:30-32), the mystery of the Pretribulation Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51,52), the mystery of Eternal Security (Ephesians 1:9-14), the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10), the mystery of the the future restorations of the Jews in the time of Jacob’s trouble (Romans 11:25), and the list goes on and on. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter…none of them had any idea of these doctrines until Paul came along and taught it to them. That’s why Paul referred to what he preached as “my gospel”, because it started when Jesus revealed it to him in the Arabian desert. “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Romans 2:16 (KJV).
- THE SINGULAR AUTHORITY OF PAUL: Lastly, you will note that Paul says something very curious about his leadership of the Church. He tells believers to “follow him”, not once, not twice but three separate times. Why wouldn’t he say “follow us”, like you would think he would? After all, it’s a team effort, right? Wrong. When the Church Age started, Jesus appointed Paul as the leader and everyone was to follow him and his new doctrine…including the other apostles! “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” 1 Corinthians 4:16 (KJV), “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (KJV), and “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Philippians 3:17 (KJV). No other apostle made this statement, another shining example of the uniqueness of Paul’s commission.
The Kingdom Age, of which Peter was the designated apostle, was put on hold in Acts 7 when the Jews stoned Stephen after rejecting his preaching. The dispensation that came next is what we call the Church Age, and it will end in the Rapture of Church Age believers. When that happens, the Kingdom Age which was put on hold will be reactivated. Peter’s gospel of faith plus works (Acts 2:38) will come back to the forefront. Hebrews and James will have their doctrinal fulfillment during the time of Jacob’s trouble, and the believers of that time period will not be eternally secure. These are the people that Jesus said must “endure to the end” of the Tribulation in order to be saved.
Even Peter acknowledged that Paul was very different, had a different gospel, and that it caused a lot of people to wrestle with it to their “own destruction”. That’s how different Paul was from Peter, as Peter clearly states here:
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:15,16 (KJV)
Perhaps now you have a clearer understanding of the “divisions” Paul told us to look for in 2 Timothy, hopefully you do. There is not “one” gospel in the New Testament, but there is only one gospel for the Church Age.