This is a sensitive post for me. This could indict me as a heretic because, frankly, I am very concerned by the absence of Pauline theology in today's preaching. Without Paul, Christians cannot simply be Christians. I invite criticism. Please refrain from ousting me as a heretic for now. No one wants that thrust upon them. However, please consider the following. What does salvation look like without Paul? Also consider 1st and 2nd Peter without Paul. So much of 1st Peter is Paul regurgitated. 2nd Peter affirms Paul as Scripture. That all said, read on with Berean eyes and a compassionate heart.
by Arthur J. Licursi
This study is based upon what sprang to mind as I later pondered what I heard of a message from Casey Groeneveld. I also borrowed his title for it.
This study is based upon the supposition that the Apostle Paul and his writings could be removed from the Bible.
In this study we will consider what Biblical hope the Gentile has toward gaining an eternal saving relationship with God, …while leaving aside the writings of the Apostle Paul and “the dispensation of the grace of God” that came to the body of Christ through him.
I expect that this study will serve to show us the absolute crucial importance of God’s Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, with his calling and his unique gospel message for the Gentiles. Romans 11:13 For I (Paul) speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles…
Paul here tells us the Gentile situation that existed before Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God (Act 20:24)” was revealed and proclaimed by Paul
Ephes. 2:11-12 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
The first mentioning of the man who would later become the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, appears in Act 7:58.
Acts 7:58 And cast him (Stephen) out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
Paul was there, at the stoning of Stephen, tending the clothes of those who executed Stephen.
As a Jew, Saul of Tarsus later took his Greek name, Paul.
Viewing the Bible without the important information and unique gospel that comes to the body of Christ only through the Apostle Paul, will serve to clarify and heighten the importance of Paul’s “mystery gospel,” given to him by Jesus Christ for the Gentiles.
We will lay aside the account of Paul in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s fourteen Epistles. A survey of the Scriptures in this way will make it plain to see that…beginning with the time of the call of Abraham, the Gentiles have been and are “without hope and without God.”
Let’s Now REMOVE PAUL from the Bible
We will remove the rest of the book of Acts from Acts 7:58 (Stephen’s stoning) onward. The rest of Acts primarily is the account of Paul’s life and travels. This includes Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, the appearance of Christ to Paul, Paul’s many sufferings, Paul’s conflict with the law-keeping religion of the Messianic believing Jews in Jerusalem, and his powerful ministry toward the Gentiles. As he journeyed throughout the known world he preached his unique gospel of the pure grace of God, which was apart from the law and racial distinction. He received this gospel from the ascended Christ (Gal 1:12). Then also we will remove his fourteen epistles, Romans–Hebrews.
Let’s then see what we have remaining of the Scriptures that would possibly give hope for an eternal saving relationship of the Gentiles with God.
Now let’s begin our Bible survey.
As we review Bible history we will note that after about 2,000 years from Adam’s creation, man had become so wicked that God set all mankind aside, except for one man and his family, Abraham. God told that man, Abraham, that his seed or lineage would become a great nation through whom God would bless the whole world of mankind.
Genesis 12:2 And I will make of thee (Abraham) a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
Genesis 18:18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations (heathen, Gentiles) of the earth shall be blessed in him.
God was to bless mankind with the call of Abraham and his seed. From the time of God calling of Abraham the rest of mankind was set aside from relationship with God. Mankind, other than Abraham’s seed, was to be called Gentiles, in distinction with Abraham and his seed. Later, Abraham’s seed was to be called Israel, named for Abraham’s grandson Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel. Israel’s twelve sons are named among the 12 tribes of Israel. Israel as a nation was intended to ultimately become God’s channel of blessing to the entire world, including the Gentiles.
From the call of Abraham onward, until salvation came to the Gentiles through Paul’s gospel, the Gentiles were “Gentiles in the flesh…having no hope, and without God in the world (Eph 2:11-12)”.
In the history of the Bible we have a 400-year period of silence from God. God, the prophets and writer of Scripture were silent from the time between late in the Old Testament, when God’s presence left the Jewish Temple, and the coming of Jesus of Nazareth – the Son of God.
Then the Messiah, Jesus, came to Israel, the children of Abraham. Jesus came in conjunction with the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and his seed, concerning a kingdom on earth. We must realize the coming of Jesus of Nazareth was first to and for Israel. Matthew 15:24 …I (Jesus) am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Jesus was on a mission from the Father. Jesus of Nazareth made it clear as to who He came with this good news that He is the King of the Kingdom that was to come to earth for Abraham’s seed – Israel, was now at hand. So, in the so-called four Gospels, we have the account of Jesus of Nazareth who came to Israel only (not to the Gentiles). Jesus proclaimed “the kingdom,” that had been long promised to Israel as Abraham’s seed, was now “at hand.” Matthew 4:17 … Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
We see no hope yet for the Gentiles toward gaining an eternal saving relationship with God.
Is John 3:16 the Hope of the Gentiles?
A key to proper Bible study and interpretation is that we must note to whom the words recorded are spoken and about whom these words concern. As students of the Bible we can learn and gain from ALL God-breathed Scripture, but not necessarily all that is written is about us or to us as Gentiles.
We’ve noted that the coming of Jesus was first to and for Israel only. Matthew 15:24 …I (Jesus) am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Jesus also instructed His disciples to do the same – to exclude the Gentiles.
Matt 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them… Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
We must view even the Christian’s most quoted John 3:16 as a verse within the Gospel account of what Jesus spoke to the Jews ONLY, when He came and announced that the Messianic Kingdom of heaven for the Jews was now at hand. The Messianic Kingdom was to come to the earth as had been promised to Abraham, as to be everlasting inheritance on earth. Nearly every word of Jesus in regard to His purpose was spoken to the Jews, and exclusive of the Gentiles, with only a few exceptions. (E.g. Samaritan women at the well, Pilate, etc.)
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Most Christians will say, “See, John 3:16 says whosoever believeth. That means everyone and anyone who believes can be saved”. But this simply is not true to the context of the Bible or the time in which Jesus was speaking. The first rule of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) is to determine to whom the speaking party is speaking – Jesus was only speaking to the Jews. So long as there is a distinction between Jew and Gentile then “whosoever” does not apply to everyone. It is only for the “whosoever” of Israel.
(The only all-inclusive “whosoever” was to come later through Paul’s gospel is for both Jew and Gentile who make up the one body of Christ. This is the only Bible gospel that is without distinction by race.
Galatians 3:27-28 For as many of you as have been baptized (placed) into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. )
So far, we see “no hope” for the Gentiles who had been set aside with the call of Abraham.
We may think that hope for the Gentiles would have come by Pentecost – But it was not to be. Read here what Peter said on the day of Pentecost – note who he was addressing. It was Israel.
Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Then, in Acts 6, we see Israel’s religious law-keepers stoning of Stephen to death. Stephen was one of the “little flock (Luke 12:32),” the Messianic believers in Jesus.
Acts 6:12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him (Stephen), and caught him, and brought him to the council,
Acts 7:51 Ye (Jews) stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Acts 7:54-59 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
Stephen saw Jesus standing (not sitting) as though He was ready to return and bring the kingdom if the Nation would repent and receive Him. Yet, they rejected Jesus again.
This account is Israel’s 3rd rejection of the Triune God, now by rejecting the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the triune Godhead.
Well then, so far, we still have “no hope” for the Gentiles – they remain set aside, having no relationship with God.
Some Important Bible History
Let’s reconsider the previous account of the stoning of Stephen along with some more facts concerning Gentiles on a historical basis, as they may relate to Israel.
In the time of Old Testament Israel a Gentile could become a Jew, a proselyte, by…
- taking the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
- circumcision, and
- keeping the law.
In order to keep the law a Gentile needed the Priesthood and the Temple worship with its sacrifices that God had prescribed through Moses.
Let’s now see what has happened to Israel’s Temple and the Priesthood of God.
Before the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, all the Scripture writings of God were written in Hebrew. After that time, due to the conquering of Palestine by Alexander the Great, it was made a law that Greek would be the only language to be used. Thus, the New Testament writings are in Greek.
- Before the time when Jesus came, Israel had already rejected God by killing the prophets of the Old Testament.
- Now they rejected the Son of God by crucifying Him.
- Then they rejected the Holy Spirit by stoning Stephen.
With this rejection of God; Israel as a nation, then made a final rejection of God in Acts 28:28. This occurred sometime between AD68-70. It is no accident that Herod’s Temple for the Jews in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD, along with the Jewish Priesthood.
Judaism then, essentially, had become a dead religion. Israel then lacked the accoutrements that were critical to their structured relationship with and worship of God.
Therefore, no Gentile could proselyte in order to become a Jew in that way after that time.
Let’s now proceed with our survey of The Bible Without Paul, still looking for a way of salvation for the Gentiles.
Something of Note - from Paul:
Let’s consider this installment as a parenthesis in our study.
I realize our premise is that Paul’ writings are set aside in our Bible without Paul. But here it would be good to understand the sequence of the events in the Bible that lead to Paul coming on the scene.
Paul was briefly introduced with the earlier referenced Acts 6 account of the stoning of Stephen, “a man full of the Holy Spirit,” as the third rejection of God, God now sets Israel aside.
God then set aside the Jews with the Stoning of Stephen, as He had set aside the Gentiles at the time of the call of Abraham. So then both the Jews and Gentile were set aside. This is what Paul refers to when he says “there are none righteous, no not one (Rom 3:10).”
This all is in preparation for God to do an entirely new thing with a new gospel through a new messenger who would reveal the depths of the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation, suffering, dying, resurrection and ascension.
With the setting aside of both Gentile and Jew, God was now to do something that had been “hid in God” (Eph 3:9) and eternally “purposed in Christ Jesus” (Eph 3:11), while it was “kept secret since the world began” (Rom 16:25). This SECRET PLAN OF God was not made known to any of the Bibles prophets, patriarchs or writers, until it was first revealed to the Apostle Paul.
This new relationship and gospel for man was to be built upon “grace by faith, without works.” It began in Chapter 9 of Acts with the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. There we see the ascended Christ come down from heaven to appear to Saul of Tarsus, saving him and gave Him this brand new gospel message for the Gentiles and some believing Jews (Gal 3:28), who both had been previously set aside.
They both now stand without distinction – no more as Jew or as Gentile – all are one in “the body of Christ”.
The Israel as a nation, remains set aside. Paul tells us what has happened to the nation Israel. He reveals when God will restore Israel to the Kingdom on earth, which had been long promised to Abraham and his seed.
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
But, since we have taken Paul out of the Bible, we must skip these understandings that come only from Paul. So, we will continue on to see if there still is a hope for the Gentiles, apart from Paul’s new pure grace gospel.
So, if we skip Paul, things at this point, with the stoning of Stephen, still appear hopeless for the Gentiles toward gaining an eternal saving relationship with God.
But, let’s now go on in the Bible to find hope for the Gentiles.
Remember now, we have a Bible without Paul, so we must skip all Paul’s writings and references to Paul. So, the next writings we will note in the canon of Scripture are James’ epistle, Peter’s Epistles, and John’s Epistles.
These books are also written to… “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” not the Gentiles. These disciples were under Jesus’ admonition to “go not in the way of the Gentiles, but rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Most Bible Scholars agree that these books are addressed to the Israel as the Diaspora, the scattered of Israel – called the Jews, and also called the 12 tribes of Israel. Here is an example.
James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
Well then, still, we see no hope here for the Gentiles.
Now, as we continue our search for “hope for the Gentiles,” we come to the very last book of the Bible the Book of Revelation.
AT LAST, WE NOW FIND SOME HOPE FOR THE GENTILES in Rev 6 and 7.
BUT WAIT, look at what it takes for Gentiles to be saved.
This Scripture is describing the Tribulation period, where “a third part” of all mankind will die (Rev 9:18). All” means even a third part of believing Israel will die. Only a remnant will be saved to live on, into the Millennium.
In Rev 7:4 we see 144,000 Jewish evangelists. Rev. 7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. We note that there are people “of all nations” who will be saved through the message of these Messianic Jewish evangelists. That means Gentiles will be saved to the gospel that these Jewish Messianic evangelists preach.
Note below, those who are standing before God are “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” – including Gentiles. Rev. 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
The grace gospel dispensation had passed, the rapture had occurred already, so the only message they could be saved by was the Jewish gospel of the Messianic Kingdom to come to earth, with its laws. It is the power of salvation for all the nations at that time. In this way Israel finally is a blessing to all nations as God had promised Abraham. All they need to do was believe and hold to their testimony. Many believed and died for their testimony, but …they did make it to the Lord’s presence in heaven.
Rev. 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
Rev. 7:14 ... These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For Gentiles to be saved with no Pauline Scripture message of grace, they will have to become converted to Judaism, hold to their testimony and likely be slain to have a saved relationship with God. Anyone who takes the mark of the beast will not be slaughtered, but those who do NOT take the mark of the beast will be killed.
Rev. 13:16-17 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Therefore, Gentiles, as men of all nations who are alive at that time will have a way to be saved apart from Paul’s “dispensation of the grace of God.” 1) They must become converted to Messianic Judaism 2) keep the commandments 3) They must not take the mark of the beast 4) Keep their testimony. Many will die.
Rev. 14:12-13 Here is the patience (endurance) of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. 13And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
Now we have seen what it will require for a Gentile to be saved when we look at The Bible Without Paul.
With Judaism as a dead religion since it was set aside nobody is saved by Judaism, And, without the grace gospel that came by Paul, Gentiles would have to
- endure the Tribulation, at least for a time
- believe the Messianic Kingdom gospel message of the 144,000 Jewish evangelist
- keep the commandments
- and likely be martyred
Then a Gentiles would become as a Jew, saved in the Messianic Kingdom on earth!
Wouldn’t it be a more wonderful way for us Gentiles to simply receive Paul’s gospel message of God’s love now, given in the person of the crucified and resurrected Christ, as the foundation of salvation that was laid by the Apostle Paul.
1 Cor. 3:10-11 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I (Paul) have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Let’s take heed to Paul’s unique gospel of “Christ” seeing Him “according to the revelation of “the mystery” that had been “kept secret since the world began (Rom 16:25b)?”
Romans 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery (musterion, the secret gospel that only God can reveal), which was kept secret since the world began.
Apart from Paul’s writings, we miss out on the riches that belong to “the Church, which is His body,” which is neither “Jew nor Gentile” (Gal 3:28). Only Paul reveals the church (ekklesia, “the assembly) that he calls “the church, which is his body” - “the body of Christ.” Paul prays (Eph 1:15-18) that we might know the riches of Christ that are in the Saints, by virtue of “the mystery” revealed first to the Apostle Paul – “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27b)”
Let’s note the doctrines and truths that are unique to Paul’s gospel.
The “Dispensation of the Grace of God”
Ephes. 3:1-4 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward: 3How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
“The Mystery” or The Secret Plan of God that has been hid since the world began
Ephes. 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Col. 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Salvation by grace through faith, apart from works
Ephes. 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Reconciliation of man with God
Col. 1:21-22 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
The Baptism BY the Holy Spirit for the body of Christ (Not in the Holy Spirit)
1 Cor. 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized (placed) into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
“The Church, which is the Body of Christ”
Ephes. 1:22-23 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
The Rapture of the Church
1 Thes. 4:15-17 ... by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The Present Location of Paradise
2 Cor. 12:4 How that he (Paul) was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.