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nChrist
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« Reply #75 on: April 28, 2008, 11:10:28 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter X.
THE SO-CALLED GREAT COMMISSION


A GREATER COMMISSION


After our Lord's death and resurrection He gave the apostles (excepting Judas Iscariot) a greater commission.  This has come to be called, erroneously, "the great commission," "our Lord's last commands" and "our marching orders." From this error has sprung much of the prevailing discord over water baptism, physical and political signs, etc.

This new commission was in fact no departure from the prophetic program; it was a further development of it.

In the records of our Lord's command to go and preach "the gospel," there is no indication that He meant a different gospel from that which they had been preaching.  And, remember, their gospel (good news) concerned Messiah and His kingdom.  It is specifically and repeatedly called "the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Mark 1:14, Luke 9:2,6, etc.).

To assume that our Lord now sends these apostles to proclaim "the gospel of the grace of God" is wholly unwarranted.  In fact, "the gospel of the grace of God" is not preached nor even mentioned until Paul is raised up and sent forth to declare it (See Acts 20:24, cf. Romans 3:21-28, Ephesians 3:1-3).

Let us now compare the pre- and post-resurrection commissions of our Lord, remembering that both were given to the same group of men:

1.  As the apostles had been sent to one nation alone, they were now sent to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8).  This was no departure from the former program, but a further development of it, for our Lord had dealt with Israel so that they might become a blessing to all nations.

Now it was assumed that Israel would accept her risen Messiah and that the program would go on.

2.  Under this commission the kingdom, formerly proclaimed "at hand," was actually offered for Israel's acceptance (Acts 2:36-39, 3:19-26).  Here again is a further development of the same program.

3.  Under this commission Christ's disciples were given greater miraculous powers than before (Mark 16:17,18, John 14:12, cf. early Acts).  Again a further development of the same program.

4.  Under this commission the whole Pentecostal church actually had all things common.  Read carefully, Acts 2:44,45, 4:32-37 and see how this too is a further development of the same program.

5.  Under this commission repentance and baptism were required for the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit thereupon bestowed (Mark 16:16-18, cf. Acts 2:38).  Once more, a further development of the same program.

What a mistake to call this "the great commission" and "our marching orders"!  How pathetic to see sincere believers vainly trying to carry out this commission and these orders!  Worst of all, what confusion, division and heartache this blunder has brought into the church, not to mention the effects upon the unsaved who stand by and wonder.

If this commission embodies God's program for today, how shall we answer the Seventh Day Adventist when he teaches legalism from Matthew 28:20 and Matthew 23:2,3, or the so-called "Disciples of Christ" when they teach baptismal salvation from Mark 16:16, or the Pentecostalists when they insist from Mark 16:17,18 that miraculous powers are the signs of true faith, or Rome when she quotes John 20:22,23 and insists on the right to remit sins?
 

THE GREATEST COMMISSION


"Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
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« Reply #76 on: April 28, 2008, 11:12:04 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter X.
THE SO-CALLED GREAT COMMISSION

"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, AND HATH GIVEN TO US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION;

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; AND HATH COMMITTED UNTO US THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION" (II Corinthians 5:16-19).

If the records of the so-called "great commission" did contain our Lord's "last commands" they would indeed be "our marching orders," for the latest orders of the commanding officer are the ones to be obeyed, but it is not a fact that the "great commission" embodies our Lord's "last commands." After His ascension the rejected Christ spoke again from His exile in heaven and gave another and greater commission to Paul and to us.  Again and again the apostle speaks of the dispensation of grace committed to him by the glorified Lord Himself.

In determining which of our Lord's commissions is for our obedience, we should ask ourselves two questions:

1.  Why did God raise up Paul, another apostle, some time after Matthias had been chosen, according to Scripture, to make up the number of the twelve?

2.  Why, after having been commanded to go into "all the world" (Mark 16:15) to make disciples of "all nations" (Matthew 28:19), did the twelve apostles remain at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) and why did they, through their leaders, later agree to confine their ministry to Israel, while Paul went to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9)?  Were they all out of the will of God or was a change in dispensation taking place?  The answer can only be that a change in dispensation was taking place.

At the very heart of the great revelation to Paul lies God's gracious offer of reconciliation, made to a world at enmity with His Son and Himself.  The proclamation of this glorious message is our great commission for, as we have seen above, the apostle says: "God . . . hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:19).

This offer of reconciliation by grace through faith is the heart of "the gospel of the grace of God." After the nations, and even the nation, had turned against God, He did something remarkable.  He replied to the brutal murder of Stephen by saving Saul, the leader of the persecution against the Pentecostal church and the personification of Israel's (and the world's) spirit of rebellion.  Thus "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, THAT. . . GRACE MIGHT REIGN" (Romans 5:20,21).

Saul's conversion was the first step in the ushering in of the reign of grace, for he writes by inspiration:

"And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry:

"Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I OBTAINED MERCY, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

"And THE GRACE OF OUR LORD WAS EXCEEDING ABUNDANT, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

"HOWBEIT FOR THIS CAUSE I OBTAINED MERCY, THAT IN ME FIRST [CHIEFLY] JESUS CHRIST MIGHT SHOW FORTH ALL LONGSUFFERING, FOR A PATTERN TO THEM WHICH SHOULD HEREAFTER BELIEVE ON HIM TO LIFE EVERLASTING" (I Timothy 1:12-16).

Thus, as it became necessary to set Israel aside, God demonstrated the riches of His grace by saving her leader in the rebellion and sending him forth with an offer of grace to all men everywhere. "The casting away of them [Israel]" and "the reconciling of the world" go together (Romans 11:15).

"For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY UPON ALL" (Romans 11:32).

The message of reconciliation also lies at the very root of the truth concerning the body of Christ.  Indeed, it is by the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles to God that the body is formed:

"That He might RECONCILE both unto God in ONE BODY by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Ephesians 2:16).
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« Reply #77 on: April 28, 2008, 11:13:30 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter X.
THE SO-CALLED GREAT COMMISSION

From this it follows that the message of reconciliation is a vital part of the mystery, for the formation of the body was a mystery until revealed to and through Paul.

It was God's revealed purpose to bless the world through the rise of Israel (Isaiah 60:1-3) and this purpose will yet be accomplished.  But it was God's hidden purpose to bless the world through the fall of Israel, and this is now being accomplished (Romans 11:11,12,15).

The glorious truth that God would usher in a reign of grace (Romans 5:21), casting aside all distinctions to save believing Jews and Gentiles (Romans 11:32), and to reconcile them to God in one body (Ephesians 2:16), in Christ (Ephesians 2:15), seated in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6), was never once prophesied since the world began, though it was purposed by God before the world began (Ephesians 1:4-9).

The proclamation of the glorious message of reconciliation, by which the body is formed, is our great commission.  In comparing it with the two earlier commissions to the twelve, we should note the following:

1.  Under this commission we, with Paul, are sent to all men, without distinction (II Corinthians 5:14-21).

2.  Under this commission Christ's return to judge and reign is held in abeyance, and reconciliation is offered to God's enemies everywhere (II Corinthians 5:16,19, cf. Romans 11:25, Hebrews 2:8,9).

3.  Under this commission miraculous powers have been withdrawn (Romans 8:23, II Corinthians 4:16, 5:1,2, 12:7-10, I Timothy 5:23, II Timothy 4:20).

4.  Under this commission the "sell all" and "lay not up" order has been rescinded (II Corinthians 12:14, I Timothy 5:8).  Indeed, the apostle even had to take up offerings for those at Jerusalem who had sold all and were now beginning to lack (See Acts 4:34 and cf. Acts 11:27-30, Romans 15:26, I Corinthians 16:1-3).

5.  Under this commission faith alone is required for salvation (II Corinthians 5:18-21, Romans 3:21,24-28, 4:5, Ephesians 2:8-10, etc.).

6.  Besides all this, particular attention should be given to the words:

"Wherefore HENCEFORTH KNOW WE NO MAN AFTER THE FLESH: YEA, THOUGH WE HAVE KNOWN CHRIST AFTER THE FLESH, YET NOW HENCEFORTH KNOW WE HIM NO MORE" (II Corinthians 5:16).

The word "henceforth," or from now on, is most significant here.  It cannot be denied that prior to this men had been known or recognized after the flesh.  Our Lord had originally instructed His apostles not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but to go only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," and had insisted that He Himself had been sent to none but "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6, 15:24).  Even under His second great commission, after His resurrection, our Lord had instructed the apostles to minister first to the people of the favored nation and Peter was called to account for ministering to the Gentile household of Cornelius.

As to knowing Christ after the flesh: had they not known Him after the flesh as they thronged Him (Mark 5:31), as He ate with them (Luke 15:2), as He touched them and made them whole (Luke 4:40)?  Did they not know Him after the flesh when they nailed Him to the tree (John 19:16-18)?  Did they not know Him after the flesh when Thomas was invited to feel the wounds in His hands and His side (John 20:27)?  Does not John testify that they had "seen" Him with their eyes, had "looked upon" Him and had "handled" Him (I John 1:1)?  Did they not still know Him after the flesh even after the ascension, when Peter declared to the house of Israel that God had raised Him from the dead to sit upon the throne of David (Acts 2:30,31)?

But now Paul declares by revelation: "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." Does this not indicate a change in dispensation?

We now know Christ as the One in whom all fullness dwells (Colossians 1:19), even all the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9).  We know Him as the One who has been exalted far above all (Ephesians 1:20,21, Philippians 2:9-11) and now sends forth His ambassadors to offer the riches of His grace to all who will receive.

The first two great commissions were originally given to twelve men because the promises to Israel, with her twelve tribes, were in view.  The third great commission was originally given to one man because there was one God, one lost world, one Mediator and one body in view.
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« Reply #78 on: April 28, 2008, 11:30:38 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter X.
THE SO-CALLED GREAT COMMISSION

What a high and glorious mission is ours to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God and the offer of reconciliation!  How we should hasten to carry it out!  How the love of Christ for His enemies should constrain us to plead with men to be reconciled while it is still "the accepted time" (II Corinthians 5:20,21)!
 

QUIZ


1.  What is the term "great commission" generally understood to mean?

2.  What bearing is this commission supposed to have on us today?

3.  How are the records of the "great commission" generally dealt with from the pulpit?

4.  What happens when these records are studied with a view to carrying out the "great commission"?

5.  Name three outstanding Christian leaders of the past generation who did not believe that the commission recorded in Matthew is our commission?

6.  Name three such leaders who held to different records of the "great commission" as for our obedience, and state which record each chose.

7.  What is strained and unnatural about the view that certain of these records contain our commission, while others do not?

8.  How would you prove that all the records of the "great commission" applied directly to those living then?

9.  Explain how all the records of our Lord's commission harmonize with what the apostles actually did as recorded in early Acts.

10.  To whom did our Lord command the apostles not to go in His first great commission?

11.  To whom, exclusively, did our Lord say He Himself was sent at that time?

12.  Why was this?

13.  What gospel were the twelve to preach under this first commission?

14.  Name two other details of Christ's first great commission to the twelve.

15.  When was the next great commission given to the apostles?

16.  Explain how this commission was not a departure from, but rather a further development of, the first great commission.

17.  Give Scripture to show what our great commission is.

18.  When and to whom was this commission first given?

19.  What gospel are we to proclaim under this commission?

20.  Name three points of contrast between our great commission and the so-called "great commission."

TO BE CONTINUED. . . .

(My Note:  If you've gotten this far, you already know this isn't a light and casual Bible Study with just personal opinions by the Author. Just the opposite - this is an in-depth and serious Bible Study with a great host of supporting Scriptures as the backbone of this excellent study. I hope that you're enjoying it as much as I am. Please pray before you begin each study time that the Holy Spirit will help you in understanding. If you go slowly and carefully, many areas of once-thought contradictions will dissolve before your very eyes. Please don't decide to agree or disagree before you put everything in context, finish the study, and follow along carefully with your Bible. You might still disagree with something at the end, but I know that you will agree this is one of the best Bible Studies you've ever done. It will be well worth the time and effort. ENJOY! In case you're wondering, the Author is our Dear Brother Stam who you probably recognize quickly from excellent Berean Bible Society Materials over the years.)
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« Reply #79 on: April 30, 2008, 06:50:35 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS


CHART 11-1


CHART 11-2


 
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« Reply #80 on: April 30, 2008, 08:29:40 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS

 

THE "FOUR GOSPELS"


It has often been stated that the so-called Four Gospels are actually four accounts of our Lord's earthly ministry as recorded by four different writers.  These four accounts are given to us in the Scripture, not as different gospels but as portrayals of our blessed Lord Himself in four different aspects.  Matthew portrays Him as King, Mark as Servant, Luke as Man and John as God; and each writer, while acknowledging the other aspects of Christ's person and place, keeps consistently to the particular aspect which he was inspired to portray.

Some have suggested that one biography, one composite picture, so to speak, would have been better, but one might as well try to depict a house by one composite picture.  It would seem rather odd to have the mop, the refuse can, the milk box and the connection for the hose all showing up on the front porch!  And where in the picture would there be room for all the doors and windows on all four sides?  Similarly four separate accounts of our Lord's ministry were necessary to set forth the four aspects of His person, position and work.
 

IS THERE ONLY ONE GOSPEL?



But while it is technically incorrect to call these four records four gospels, it is equally incorrect to say, as many have said, that the Scriptures present only one gospel.

First, the word gospel (Gr. evangelion) means simply good news and to say that the Bible presents only one gospel is like saying that God has sent man only one item of good news down through the ages.

Second, God uses distinctive terms to designate the various items of good news: e.g., "the gospel [good news] of the kingdom" (Matthew 9:35), "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24), "the gospel of the uncircumcision" (Galatians 2:7), etc.  Surely if God distinguishes between these gospels they cannot be exactly the same.

Next, it should be noted that God has revealed His good news to man progressively.  To Adam and Eve He proclaimed the gospel, or good news, that the woman's seed should some day crush the head of the Serpent (Genesis 3:15).  To Abraham He preached the gospel, or good news, that in him all nations should be blessed (Galatians 3:8 ).  And all down through the Old Testament Scriptures we find God proclaiming more and more good news to man.  Finally the Lord sent His apostles to proclaim "the gospel of the kingdom" (See Luke 9:1-6), but mark well: at that time they did not even know that Christ was to die.  In this connection read carefully, Luke 18:31-34:

"Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.

"For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:

"And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.

"AND THEY UNDERSTOOD NONE OF THESE THINGS: AND THIS SAYING WAS HID FROM THEM, NEITHER KNEW THEY THE THINGS WHICH WERE SPOKEN" (Luke 18:31-34).

Note carefully that after the apostles had been preaching "the gospel" for some time (perhaps two or more years) they did not have the slightest idea what the Lord was talking about when He predicted His death. [1]  Obviously, then, "the gospel" which they preached was not "the gospel" which Paul later preached or "the gospel" by which we are saved (See I Corinthians 15:1-4). "The gospel" which they preached was "the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 9:35 cf. Luke 9:2), not "the preaching of the cross" (I Corinthians 1:18 ).
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« Reply #81 on: April 30, 2008, 08:31:18 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS

This leads us to still another matter of vital importance in any consideration of God's good news to man: If a friend should come to the reader and say: "Did you hear the good news?" the reader would naturally inquire: "What good news?" We must always be sure to make this inquiry in our study of the Scriptures too when we come upon the term "the gospel," for this term alone in no way indicates what the good news might be.

This is illustrated by the passage referred to above.  Luke 9:6 says that the apostles "departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel." From this it has frequently been assumed that they went forth preaching salvation through the cross, as we do.  Yet Luke 18:31-34 makes it clear that they had no idea Christ would even die.  A glance at the context in Luke 9, however, makes it all plain, for in verse 2 we read: "And He sent them to preach THE KINGDOM OF GOD," not His death for sin.

From what has thus far been pointed out, it is evident that many gospels could be discussed in this chapter.  We will, however, limit ourselves to the five indicated on the foregoing chart, because in them we find something of the philosophy of God's dealings with men.

Before dealing separately with each of these gospels, the reader should turn to the chart and carefully note the following:

1.  The gospel of the kingdom takes us back to David, with whom the covenant of the kingdom was made.

2.  The gospel of the circumcision takes us back before David to Abraham, with whom the covenant of circumcision was made.

3.  The gospel of the uncircumcision takes us back before David and Abraham to Abram who, as an uncircumcised heathen, was justified by faith.

4.  The message of reconciliation [2] takes us back before David, Abraham and Abram to Adam, the "one man" by whom the world was alienated from God.

5.  The mystery [2] takes us back before David, before Abraham, before Abram, before Adam to God Himself and "the good pleasure of His will."
 

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM


The gospel of the kingdom, as we have seen, takes us back to David.  This good news was based on a promise made to King David:

"AND THINE HOUSE AND THY KINGDOM SHALL BE ESTABLISHED FOR EVER" (II Samuel 7:16.  See also verses 4-7, I Chronicles 17:4-15 and Psalms 89:34-37).

David's kingdom was to be established forever, of course, because Christ, the Son of David, was to occupy the throne and make it truly the seat of God's rule over the earth.  For this reason we read that it "shall never be destroyed" or "left to other people," but "shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44).

This glorious kingdom, which "the God of heaven" was -- and is -- to establish on earth is, as we have seen, the goal of God's great prophetic plan.  This plan is comprehensively outlined in Jeremiah 23:5,6:

"BEHOLD, THE DAYS COME, SAITH THE LORD, THAT I WILL RAISE UNTO DAVID A RIGHTEOUS BRANCH, AND A KING SHALL REIGN AND PROSPER, AND SHALL EXECUTE JUDGMENT AND JUSTICE IN THE EARTH.

"IN HIS DAYS JUDAH SHALL BE SAVED, AND ISRAEL SHALL DWELL SAFELY: AND THIS IS HIS NAME WHEREBY HE SHALL BE CALLED, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."

This is why, when our Lord arrives on the scene, we find Him preaching "the gospel [or good news] of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, etc.).
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« Reply #82 on: April 30, 2008, 08:32:57 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS


THE KINGDOM AT HAND


The difference between the prophecies concerning the kingdom and "the gospel of the kingdom" was that the kingdom once predicted was now proclaimed "at hand."

John the Baptist, our Lord and the twelve, of course, preached many things, but the theme, the subject of their message, during our Lord's earthly ministry, was: "THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND." There can be no question as to this, for the record is most explicit here:

Matthew 3:1,2: "In those days came JOHN THE BAPTIST, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

"And saying, Repent ye: for THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND."

Nothing else?  This is all that is said here because this was the subject of his message.  We read elsewhere (Luke 3:18 ) that "many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people," but this is given as the theme of his message.

Matthew 4:17: "From that time JESUS began to preach and to say, Repent: for THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND."

Nothing else?  Again this is all that is said here because this was the theme of His message, though, indeed, He said many other things in connection with this theme.

Matthew 10:5-7: "THESE TWELVE Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

"But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

"And as ye go, preach, saying, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND."

But were they to preach nothing else?  Once more this is all that we are told here because this was to be the theme of their message.

Thus the gospel, or good news which John the Baptist, our Lord and the twelve proclaimed before Christ's death and resurrection was not "the preaching of the cross" but the good news that the long-promised kingdom was now "at hand."
 

THE TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY
IN ISRAEL



It should be carefully noted that we do not have an actual offer of the kingdom until after the resurrection of Christ (See Acts 3:19,20), for the prophets had consistently testified of "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should FOLLOW" (I Peter 1:11). The order had always been the same in prophecy: first the shame, then the glory; first the cross, then the crown.  From Joel 2:28-32 alone it is clear that there could be no offer of the kingdom until the Spirit had been "poured out." Moreover, the circumstances confirm this for, suppose the kingdom had been offered and accepted before the cross, would Judas have occupied one of the twelve thrones in the kingdom?  Furthermore, the offer of the kingdom could be made only on the basis of the New Covenant, which was not made until the death of Christ (Matthew 26:28 ).

The Apostle John informs us that when some would have made Jesus king by force, He hid away from them (John 6:15) and that when a multitude from Jerusalem came acclaiming Him as king, He responded by riding to meet them on "a young ass" -- not a very royal figure, to say the least (John 12:13,14, cf. Zechariah 9:9).

Thus while the kingdom is proclaimed "at hand" during the period covered by the "four gospels," we find no offer of it until the early part of the book of Acts.

It was already evident when our Lord was on earth, however, that the leaders in Israel would not inherit the kingdom.  John had called upon them to "bring forth . . . fruits meet for repentance"; so had Christ and the twelve, but instead they plotted to kill Christ (Matthew 21:33-39).  Hence our Lord said to them:

"Therefore say I unto you, THE KINGDOM OF GOD SHALL BE TAKEN FROM YOU, AND GIVEN TO A NATION [3] BRINGING FORTH THE FRUITS THEREOF" (Matthew 21:43).
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« Reply #83 on: April 30, 2008, 08:34:22 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS

Who was to constitute the "nation" to which the Lord would give the kingdom?  This is answered for us in Luke 12:32:

"FEAR NOT, LITTLE FLOCK; FOR IT IS YOUR FATHER'S GOOD PLEASURE TO GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM."

And the princes in this kingdom were to be none other than the twelve apostles, [4] for in Matthew 19:28 it is written:

"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, YE ALSO SHALL SIT UPON TWELVE THRONES, JUDGING THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL."

The twelve apostles, then, and the "little flock" of Christ's followers, were to replace the chief priests and elders of that day as Israel's rulers in the kingdom. If we would gain a clear understanding of the gospel of the grace of God, it is essential that we understand these truths associated with "the gospel of the kingdom."
 

THE GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION


Such terms as "the gospel of the kingdom" and "the gospel of the grace of God" are relatively easy to understand but it is doubtful whether one believer in a thousand has any idea of the meaning of the term "the gospel [or good news] of the circumcision" (Galatians 2:7).

This gospel takes us back before David to the great Abrahamic Covenant, for the "sign" of circumcision was given to Abraham, not only to separate him and his seed from the ungodly and licentious Gentiles, and as a "seal" of the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:11), but also, and mainly, as a token of God's covenant with him (Genesis 17:11).

According to this covenant, Abraham's multiplied seed (later called "the Circumcision") was to become a blessing to all nations.  There was much more than this, but this is the particular part of the covenant which concerns us here.  It was after Abraham had offered to God his beloved son Isaac, that God promised:

"That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I WILL MULTIPLY THY SEED AS THE STARS OF THE HEAVEN, AND AS THE SAND WHICH IS UPON THE SEA SHORE; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

"AND IN THY SEED SHALL ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:17,18 ).

The "gospel of the circumcision," then, was the good news based on this covenant.  We read in Galatians 2:7 that "the gospel of the circumcision, [5] was [committed] unto Peter" and we find him preaching it in Acts 3:25,26:

"YE ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE PROPHETS, AND OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD MADE WITH OUR FATHERS, SAYING UNTO ABRAHAM, AND IN THY SEED SHALL ALL THE KINDREDS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED.

"UNTO YOU FIRST GOD, HAVING RAISED UP HIS SON JESUS, SENT HIM TO BLESS YOU, IN TURNING AWAY EVERY ONE OF YOU FROM HIS INIQUITIES."

This, in a nutshell, is "the gospel of the circumcision" and those of the Circumcision who heard should certainly have considered it good news that the blessing of all nations through them was now imminent.

But the fact that the gospel of the circumcision was committed to Peter does not mean that it was not also committed to the rest of the twelve, or that he did not at the same time preach the gospel of the kingdom, or that our Lord had not also preached the gospel of the circumcision.
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« Reply #84 on: April 30, 2008, 08:36:03 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS

The "gospel of the kingdom" and "the gospel of the circumcision" are very closely related, as are the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants.  Whereas the former concerned the nation, the latter concerned that nation's government and throne.

It is significant that the New Testament Scriptures open with the words:

"The book of the generation of JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF DAVID, THE SON OF ABRAHAM" (Matthew 1:1).

Both before and after Pentecost God's great program to bless the nations through Israel with Christ as King was recognized, but before Pentecost the emphasis had been on the kingdom while after Pentecost the emphasis was on the fact that Israel was to be the channel of blessing to the world.  Hence in the gospel records we read of "the gospel of the kingdom," while in Galatians 2:7 we read that "the gospel of the circumcision" had been committed to Peter (as distinct from Paul).  This matter will be discussed more fully at the end of this chapter.
 

THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION


Whereas the gospels of the kingdom and of the circumcision were proclaimed by our Lord on earth and the twelve apostles, the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul -- and the twelve recognized this, for in Galatians 2:7 Paul says of their leaders that "they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me."

In the gospel of the uncircumcision all is by grace and through faith.  This good news is not based on any covenant, [6] for the Apostle Paul in proclaiming it takes us back beyond David and Abraham to Abram, the ungodly heathen who received full justification by faith alone long before he was circumcised.

Proving from the case of Abraham himself that God was not obliged to justify the circumcised alone, or to send salvation to the heathen through them, he points out that God had justified the very father of the Hebrew nation by grace, through faith, entirely apart from circumcision, and that he had received circumcision years later as a sign of the righteousness which he had already received by faith:

"Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?  for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

"HOW WAS IT THEN RECKONED? WHEN HE WAS IN CIRCUMCISION, OR IN UNCIRCUMCISION?  NOT IN CIRCUMCISION, BUT IN UNCIRCUMCISION.

"AND HE RECEIVED THE SIGN OF CIRCUMCISION, A SEAL OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE FAITH WHICH HE HAD YET BEING UNCIRCUMCISED: THAT HE MIGHT BE THE FATHER OF ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE, THOUGH THEY BE NOT CIRCUMCISED; THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS MIGHT BE IMPUTED UNTO THEM ALSO" (Romans 4:9-11).

The apostle thus demonstrated that simply because God had chosen Abraham's seed as the channel through which to bless all nations, they must not presume that He could not bless them in any other way; much less that He meant to bless and save Israel alone, for God had justified their own father Abraham through faith, entirely apart from circumcision.  Why could He not now do the same?

We must not overlook the fact that whereas "the gospel of the circumcision" is exclusive, "the gospel of the uncircumcision" is inclusive, taking in all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, for Paul's whole point in Romans 4 is that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness before he was circumcised "that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised." Thus "the gospel of the uncircumcision" takes in both Jew and Gentile.  Indeed, it is most significant that in view of Israel's rejection of Christ, God should now send forth Paul to point this out and to offer salvation by faith alone to Jew and Gentile alike.

Under "the gospel of the kingdom" the twelve were explicitly commanded not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5,6).  Under "the gospel of the circumcision" these same apostles were explicitly instructed to go to Israel first (Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8 ).  In both cases the reason was that God had promised to bless the nations through Israel.
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« Reply #85 on: April 30, 2008, 08:37:23 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS

But now, with Israel refusing to become the channel of blessing, God temporarily suspends the fulfillment of the covenants, raises up another apostle, and sends him forth with the glorious "gospel of the uncircumcision," in which:

"THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE [7] BETWEEN THE JEW AND THE GREEK: FOR THE SAME LORD OVER ALL IS RICH UNTO ALL THAT CALL UPON HIM.

"FOR WHOSOEVER SHALL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED" (Romans 10:12,13).

It should be clearly noted that Paul's ministry to the Gentiles with "the gospel of the uncircumcision" superseded our Lord's earthly ministry and the Pentecostal ministry of the twelve.  This is emphatically stated in two passages in Romans and Galatians.  The first, in Romans 15, shows how Paul's ministry superseded that of Christ on earth:

"Now I say that Jesus Christ WAS a minister of the circumcision [the Hebrew nation] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:

"And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written . . ." (Romans 15:8,9).

This was in line with the prophetic program.  Christ confirmed the promises made unto the fathers.  Had Israel, at Pentecost, accepted Christ, these promises (of her future blessing) would have been fulfilled and the Gentiles would have (as they some day will) glorified God for His mercy.

But though these promises had been so conclusively confirmed, Israel rejected Christ and now Paul, by inspiration, writes to the Roman believers:

"Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort [in a sense], as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,

"THAT I SHOULD BE THE MINISTER OF JESUS CHRIST TO THE GENTILES, MINISTERING THE GOSPEL OF GOD, THAT THE OFFERING UP OF THE GENTILES MIGHT BE ACCEPTABLE, BEING SANCTIFIED BY THE HOLY GHOST" (Romans 15:15,16).

The second passage, in Galatians 2, shows how Paul's ministry superseded that of the twelve:

"And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain."

"BUT . . . WHEN THEY SAW THAT THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION WAS COMMITTED UNTO ME, AS THE GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION WAS UNTO PETER;"

"AND WHEN JAMES, CEPHAS, AND JOHN, WHO SEEMED TO BE PILLARS, PERCEIVED THE GRACE THAT WAS GIVEN UNTO ME, THEY GAVE TO ME AND BARNABAS THE RIGHT HANDS OF FELLOWSHIP; THAT WE SHOULD GO UNTO THE HEATHEN, AND THEY UNTO THE CIRCUMCISION" (Galatians 2:2,7,9).

Mark well: the twelve, who had first been sent into "all the world" to preach "the gospel" to "every creature," "beginning at Jerusalem," now recognized that the present fulfillment of this great commission had been interrupted through Israel's unbelief and, acknowledging the new commission given to Paul, their leaders shook hands with Paul and Barnabas in a solemn agreement that Paul, with Barnabas, should now go to the Gentiles, while they confined their ministry to Israel.  This is how it came that Paul could write in Romans 11:13:

"FOR I SPEAK TO YOU GENTILES, INASMUCH AS I AM THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES, I MAGNIFY MINE OFFICE."
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« Reply #86 on: April 30, 2008, 08:38:49 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS


THE GOSPEL OF RECONCILIATION


The message of reconciliation, like that of the uncircumcision, was first committed to the Apostle Paul.  The message takes us back before David, before Abraham, before Abram, to Adam, the father of the human race, the "one man" by whom "sin entered into the world," and explains why God was now to deal with Jew and Gentile on the same basis.

The Lord Jesus, while on earth, did not proclaim the message of reconciliation.  Only once, so far as the record goes, did He even use the word reconcile, and then only in reference to the reconciliation of two brothers.  Neither did the apostles at Pentecost proclaim reconciliation, much less the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile to God in one body.

Likewise, we do not find our Lord on earth or the twelve at Pentecost going back to Adam in their preaching.  They speak again and again of the promises made to David and Abraham, but never even mention the name Adam.  Our Lord did once refer to Adam, without mentioning his name, but in this case He was dealing with the matter of marriage and divorce and stated simply: "He which made them at the beginning made them male and female."

The message of reconciliation could not be preached to all the world until the casting away of Israel, for the simple reason that friends need not be reconciled, and Israel, in early Acts, was still God's favored people.  Therefore we read:

"FOR IF THE CASTING AWAY OF THEM [ISRAEL] BE THE RECONCILING OF THE WORLD, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15).

Reconciliation postulates alienation; hence it was not until God had begun to set aside Israel that He began to offer reconciliation through Paul.  Moreover, it was when Israel joined the Gentiles in rebellion against God and His Christ that man's natural alienation from God was fully demonstrated. This is why Paul, in the message of reconciliation, takes us back, not to David and Abraham, with whom the covenants had been made, but to Adam, by whom all mankind had been alienated from God.

" . . . BY ONE MAN SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD, AND DEATH BY SIN; AND SO DEATH PASSED UPON ALL MEN, FOR THAT ALL HAVE SINNED" (Romans 5:12).

Israel's fall was natural, for the children of Israel were the children of fallen Adam too. God had put a difference between Israel and the Gentiles, among other reasons, simply to show that basically, essentially, "there is no difference." [8]

This was what God was now to teach by setting Israel aside and offering reconciliation to Jew and Gentile on an equal basis.  This gracious offer is not based on covenant promises, but on the facts of man's alienation from God, his desperate need and God's infinite love and mercy.

Thank God, the message of reconciliation is not concerned exclusively with the "one man" by whom sin entered into the world.  Indeed, it is chiefly concerned with "the second Man," "the last Adam," the "one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 15:45,47, I Timothy 2:5).

"THEREFORE AS BY THE OFFENCE OF ONE [or, ONE TRESPASS] JUDGMENT CAME UPON ALL MEN TO CONDEMNATION; EVEN SO BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF ONE [or, ONE RIGHTEOUS ACT] THE FREE GIFT CAME UPON ALL MEN UNTO JUSTIFICATION OF LIFE.

"FOR AS BY ONE MAN'S DISOBEDIENCE MANY WERE MADE SINNERS, SO BY THE OBEDIENCE OF ONE SHALL MANY BE MADE RIGHTEOUS" (Romans 5:18,19).
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« Reply #87 on: April 30, 2008, 08:40:48 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS

It is by this other "one Man" and His death on Calvary, that sinners -- Jewish and Gentile alike -- may be reconciled to a holy God.  In Colossians 1:21,22 the apostle of reconciliation declares:

"And you, that were sometime ALIENATED AND ENEMIES in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He RECONCILED

"IN THE BODY OF HIS FLESH THROUGH DEATH, TO PRESENT YOU HOLY AND UNBLAMEABLE AND UNREPROVEABLE IN HIS SIGHT."

Thus, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10 and cf. Ephesians 2:11-18 ).

As we have seen, the proclamation of this glorious message is our great commission, as we are distinctly told in II Corinthians 5:18,19.  We quote the passage here with more of its context, so that the reader may understand and appreciate it more fully:

"WHEREFORE HENCEFORTH KNOW WE NO MAN AFTER THE FLESH: YEA, THOUGH WE HAVE KNOWN CHRIST AFTER THE FLESH, YET NOW HENCEFORTH KNOW WE HIM NO MORE.

"THEREFORE IF ANY MAN BE IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATURE: OLD THINGS ARE PASSED AWAY; BEHOLD, ALL THINGS ARE BECOME NEW.

"AND ALL THINGS ARE OF GOD, WHO HATH RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF BY JESUS CHRIST, AND HATH GIVEN TO US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION;

"TO WIT, THAT GOD WAS IN CHRIST, RECONCILING THE WORLD UNTO HIMSELF, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES UNTO THEM; AND HATH COMMITTED UNTO US THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION.

"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.

"FOR HE HATH MADE HIM TO BE SIN FOR US, WHO KNEW NO SIN; THAT WE MIGHT BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM" (II. Corinthians 5:16-21).

This is our great commission; may we discharge it faithfully!

We insist that it is an offer, however, not a promise of universal reconciliation.  The apostle does not beseech men to be reconciled in this life, merely, so as to escape a short period of discipline.  There is no hint in his plea that all will eventually be reconciled regardless of their response to his offer.  On the contrary, he pleads with them to be reconciled now, since "now is the accepted time"; he begs them to be reconciled before it is too late, so that they may not have received the gracious offer "in vain" (Read carefully the verses which follow: II Corinthians 6:1,2).  It is true, indeed, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall one day bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue shall eventually confess Him as Lord (Philippians 2:10,11), but this is universal subjugation, not reconciliation. This final subjugation of all beings, celestial, terrestrial and infernal, to Christ will not be the result of the present offer:

"THAT IF THOU SHALT CONFESS WITH THY MOUTH THE LORD JESUS [JESUS AS LORD], AND SHALT BELIEVE IN THINE HEART THAT GOD HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, THOU SHALT BE SAVED" (Romans 10:9).

Nor must we confuse the prediction of universal subjugation with God's purpose to "reconcile all things unto Himself . . . whether they be things IN EARTH, or things IN HEAVEN" [9] (Colossians 1:20).

Concerning our responsibility to proclaim God's offer of reconciliation to the lost, one thing is certain: If we would faithfully discharge our great commission, we must be so constrained by the love of Christ (II Corinthians 5:14) that, though men may consider us "beside ourselves" (Ver. 13), we will live for Him who died for us (Ver. 15), "beseeching" men and "praying" them, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God (Ver. 20), knowing that "NOW is the accepted time" and "NOW is the day of salvation" (6:2).
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« Reply #88 on: April 30, 2008, 08:42:13 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS


THE MYSTERY


We have already discussed "the mystery" at some length, but must consider it here in connection with the various gospels.

Just as the kingdom of Christ is the subject of the prophetic Scriptures, so the body of Christ is the subject of the great mystery revealed to and through the Apostle Paul.

The apostle defines this "mystery," made known to him by revelation (Ephesians 3:3), as follows:

"That they who are of the nations should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Jesus Christ by the glad tidings" (Ephesians 3:6, New Tr.). [10]

There are, as we have seen, many aspects of the mystery, but the great central truth is that God was to form of believing Jews and Gentiles one joint body in Christ.

It will be readily seen that this glorious truth concerning the body naturally follows the revelation concerning the gospels of the uncircumcision and of reconciliation.  Indeed the apostle himself points out that the joint body is the product of the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles to God.  Explaining how God "hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us," he goes on to say that this was done

". . . FOR TO MAKE IN HIMSELF OF TWAIN ONE NEW MAN, SO MAKING PEACE;

"AND THAT HE MIGHT RECONCILE BOTH UNTO GOD IN ONE BODY BY THE CROSS, HAVING SLAIN THE ENMITY THEREBY:

"AND CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHICH WERE AFAR OFF, AND TO THEM THAT WERE [11]  NIGH.

"FOR THROUGH HIM WE BOTH HAVE ACCESS BY ONE SPIRIT UNTO THE FATHER" (Ephesians 2:14-18 ).

We have already pointed out that until we come to the writings of Paul we do not find one single word as to this great mystery or any of its associated mysteries.  But this does not mean that it was an afterthought on God's part, for in proclaiming the mystery the apostle takes us back before David and Abraham, before Abram and Adam, to God, who planned it all.

Though the most spiritual believer at Jerusalem could not have known what God would do when Israel rejected His risen, glorified Son, God had a gracious, glorious plan in mind from the beginning.  He simply says that it was "KEPT SECRET since the world began" (Romans 16:25), that "in other ages [it] was NOT MADE KNOWN" (Ephesians 3:5), that "from the beginning of the world [it] had been HID in God" (Ephesians 3:9), that it had been "HID from ages and from generations" (Colossians 1:26), but in all this He makes it most clear that the whole plan was

"ACCORDING TO THE ETERNAL PURPOSE WHICH HE PURPOSED IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD" (Ephesians 3:11).

How we should rejoice that the (temporary) casting away of Israel, the offer of justification to Jew and Gentile alike, and the reconciliation of both Jews and Gentiles to Himself in one body, was God's wonderful plan from the beginning; the surprise of His grace, to be revealed when sin had risen to its height!  How we should worship Him

"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, BUT ACCORDING TO HIS OWN PURPOSE AND GRACE, WHICH WAS GIVEN US IN CHRIST JESUS BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN" (II Timothy 1:9).
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« Reply #89 on: April 30, 2008, 08:43:36 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter XI.
GOOD NEWS


BASIC CONNECTIONS AND DISTINCTIONS
BETWEEN THESE GOSPELS



It will be noticed on the foregoing chart that the two portions covering the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the circumcision are shaded.  This is because these two gospels are intimately linked together.

1.  Both were based on covenants and did not reveal "the exceeding riches of God's grace" as Paul's good news did.

2.  Both were related to prophecy, not to the mystery.

3.  Both were bound up with ordinances and signs.  Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:11).  Water baptism was the sign of the Davidic Covenant (Exodus 29:4, cf. Exodus 19:5,6, Isaiah 61:6, Matthew 3:1-6).

4.  These two gospels were proclaimed by John the Baptist, Christ and the twelve.

5.  Matthew 1:1 introduces Christ as "the Son of David, the Son of Abraham," and the Abrahamic Covenant, concerning the nation is, of course, intimately bound up with the Davidic Covenant, concerning the King to reign over that nation.

The remaining three messages (the outer three on the chart) are also closely linked together.

1.  These three are based on grace alone, not on covenants or promises.

2.  All three were previously kept secret, not foretold. [12]

3.  None had any relation to ordinances or signs. [13] We are circumcised and baptized in Christ (I Corinthians 6:11, Philippians 3:3, Colossians 2:9-12).

4.  All three of these messages were first committed to Paul.

5.  These gospels are inseparably linked as one progressive revelation.  This is why the Apostle Paul speaks of "my gospel" (Romans 2:16, 16:25, II Timothy 2:8 ) and uses the general term "the gospel of the grace of God," when referring to his whole Christian ministry (Acts 20:24).

It may be further noted that John the Baptist, Christ and the twelve, in their proclamations, went from the particular to the general, while Paul went from the general to the particular.  This is because the prophesied program was passing off the scene at the same time when the program of the mystery was appearing on the scene.

Thus, Christ Himself is first announced in the gospels; then His Messiahship is proclaimed in "the gospel of the kingdom" and after His crucifixion Israel's opportunity to become a blessing to the world is stressed in "the gospel of the circumcision." Or, to put it another way: Christ, the Son of David is first presented; then the Davidic Covenant of the kingdom is recalled and, after the cross, the broader Abrahamic Covenant.
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