by Paul Benson
Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul – an apostle of Christ
If there ever was a man who had a revelation of the majesty and glory of God, and the richness of his grace, it was the Apostle Paul! His writings are quite full of profound expressions such as ‘his unspeakable gift’ or ‘ the unsearchable riches of Christ’.
And Paul fully recognized our need for the grace of God. He devoted his life to the quest of *dispensing the wonderful grace of God upon those who would repent and open their hearts to the truth of Christ’s gospel. I see at least fifteen times Paul pronounced a blessing of grace upon the Flock of God in his letters; four times in which he used the exact phrase quoted above.
*This is the true and proper expression of the ‘dispensation of grace’ versus the bogus claim of dispensation(s) being a period of time. The true meaning of the word ‘dispensation’ has to do with stewardship or administration of an estate or household! Who wrested this new meaning out of the word dispensation? There never was a notion of the word dispensation being a segment of time or history before Darby’s flawed Dispensational theology infested the Christian Church!
As believers in Christ, we need a personal vision that mirrors the Apostle Paul’s. One of just how marvelous (and vital to our well-being) the gift of God’s grace truly is. And we need to understand how important it is to broadcast the Gospel in a manner that doesn’t mislead or outright deceive people about partaking of that saving grace. But so very much of today’s preaching and teaching fails miserably in that regard!
The ‘Have It Your Way’ Gospel
The fourth point I promised to expound on in this series is: (4.) how that theology has helped corrupt the true Gospel message into the repentance-less ‘anything goes’ gospel we hear being preached today.
For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. Psalms 33:4
God works through truth, and Satan works through perversion of the truth. Let’s never lose sight of that reality.
One of the most disconcerting facts about modern Christianity is that the average Christian does not get their doctrinal beliefs from any personal study of the Bible, but only from what they hear preached or taught. And few take the time to scrutinize what they hear in light of the Word of God.
For the majority of today’s believers what Bible knowledge they do have consists mainly of ‘proof texts’ they have been taught to memorize as confirmation of whatever doctrine (right or wrong) they are being taught. The Mormon has his set of ‘proof texts’ from the Bible, and the Jehovah Witness has his. The Calvinist, the Cessationist, and the Dispensationalist all likewise have their own set of Bible verses to ‘prove’ their theory. But a critical examination of those verses usually shows them to be pulled out of their contextual setting or assigned an altered interpretation.
And one thing ALL wayward theologies have in common is how they either explain away or totally ignore the parts of the Scriptures that are contrary to their teachings!
In disregarding the teachings of Christ and his original Apostles, and focusing only upon the teachings of Paul (and in addition willfully ignoring the aspects of Paul’s teachings that clearly refute Dispensational theology), the hyper-dispensationalists have done great disservice to the message of the Gospel. As this vein of false theology has progressed and matured it has strayed farther and farther from the true teachings of the Bible; and has helped foster a message of grace that is absolutely counterfeit!
There is a false gospel today being preached that says we are saved by belief in Christ alone; and that there is no need for repentance, baptism, sanctified living, or anything else that could be labeled as self-righteous ‘works’. That if we have to actually ‘do something’ in response to the call to salvation then it is not God’s grace that saves us, but our own efforts. But this is a completely twisted understanding of salvation by grace! (And, by the way, wouldn’t making the choice to embrace the truth of the Gospel be considered ‘doing something’?)
Yes, we must realize only the blood of Christ and his death upon that Cross could pay the penalty for our sins. We could never atone for our own sins! We desperately need that propitiatory sacrifice of our Savior to pay for our sins!
But there is more to salvation than belief alone. Even the devils believe! Are they saved? No! And there is a big difference between the penalty for sin being paid, and aligning oneself with God’s requirements to receive that Gift.
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 1Thesssalonians 2:12
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it… Isaiah 30:21
We are called of God; and that call must be responded to! But our own ideas about what that response entails, as well as all our fussing and fighting over what is ‘works’ and what is not, are irrelevant if not in accord with the truth of the Scriptures.
The doctrines of man can fill us with many mistaken ideas about partaking of the grace of God! Let me illustrate with an excerpt from a recent comment I received that is typical of those who have been led astray by this hyper-grace mentality Dispensational preaching helps foster.
Comment from John C.: There are many gospels. Why would Paul say that it was “my gospel” to the uncircumcision? Why did he go to Jerusalem and tell the Apostles what he was preaching to the uncircumcised if it was “our gospel”? Exactly where is repentance and baptism in Paul’s theology?
I have already addressed in this series that the notion of different gospels preached to different groups is not correct. So I will not do so now.
But please notice John’s words: ‘Exactly where is repentance and baptism in Paul’s theology?’ The hyper-grace preaching he has been listening to has him brain-washed into the idea there is nothing more to salvation than believing in Jesus; and there is to be no repentance or baptism preached in association with the Gospel message. And he has also been convinced that the Apostle Paul did not preach repentance nor participate in baptizing believers. But that is provably false!
This is a classic example of how stubbornly holding on to a theology of man can blind you to truth that is plainly expressed in the Scriptures. The wisdom of man gets exalted above the Word of God. The Word of God gets set aside; and therefor man’s comprehension of God’s ways gets corrupted!
But all we have to do is go to the Scriptures and ask: Were repentance preaching and the act of Baptism a part of Paul’s ministry, or were they not? Let’s look for these two aspects of genuine Gospel ministry in the life of Paul:
And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:18-21
What was the message Paul thought was so profitable, and taught both publicly and from house to house? Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ! Paul absolutely preached repentance and often *warned of the danger of sin! And if you take the dispensational/hyper-grace blinders off your eyes, and actually READ the Bible for yourself, you can see the strong emphasis on repentance throughout his writings.
*Paul’s letters are chock full of the warning of persisting in sin. A warning conspicuously missing from the ‘only believe’ counterfeit gospel that teaches you are forgiven for all sin, past present and future no matter how you live – just as long as you believe in Jesus.
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:31
What was the warning Paul gave his disciples night and day with tears? ‘I warn you guys that you cannot lose your salvation?’ Or perhaps: ‘I warn you that your sins (past, present and future) are forgiven whether you turn from them or not?’ Or maybe it was: ‘I warn you that you are saved by only believing, and that no action is required of you to partake of God’s grace?’ No, that is not what I read in my Bible! The true Gospel is a balance of promise and warning. If you are listening to a gospel that does not strongly exhort you as to the danger and consequence of sinful behavior you are listening to a false gospel! Period!
Notice also (v. 21 above) that Paul preached the same Gospel to Jew and Gentile! Not a different gospel for each! And remember that the original Apostles were eventually dispersed into the various parts of the continent. Do you think all they found were Jews to preach to? How ridiculous for some to claim the original Apostles preached a different (Kingdom message to the Jews) gospel than the ‘gospel of grace’ Paul preached, when both Paul and the other Apostles preached to a mixed company of Jew and Gentile!
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. 19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Act 26:18-20
When Jesus appeared to Paul in Acts 26 we see he gave Paul a message with an end-game in mind: that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (v. 18 above). Who are the THEY Jesus spoke to him of? Paul spoke that same message with the same promise of the same inheritance both to Jew and Gentile. What message? That they should repent and turn to God, and *do works meet for repentance!
*Can there be true biblical repentance without works? Man says yes; God says no. Many people get hung up on the definition of repentance having to do with only a change of mind. But true biblical repentance is more than a mere change of mind. It is a change of mind evidenced by a change of behavior. Hence Paul’s words: that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20). Jesus also demanded the accompanying works in Revelation 2:5: ‘Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…’.
This idea that biblical repentance is just a change of mind, and not an action, is actually absurd! Should we think that someone fallen into a sin such as adultery or fornication would be restored to the position ‘from whence they had fallen’ without turning away from that sin? Are Christians who have fallen into adultery, fornication, porn addiction, or homosexual sex forgiven of that sin while they are engaging in it? Are they in a state of sanctification in the sight of God? According to the ‘doctrine of devils’ preaching of the hyper-grace deceivers they are!
That type of nonsense preaching steals the fear of God away from people causing them to remain in their sin without fear of consequence. That is the kind of anti-biblical doctrine you get approaching the Scriptures through the wisdom of man’s theologies instead of seeking for the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. Repentance without works is just as dead as faith without works! Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:7
It is plainly shown in the Scriptures that Paul was a repentance preacher! He did not preach the ‘only believe’ message (or should I say massage) that many today accuse him of. His writings are full of a demand for proper living; and the warning that those who wallow in gross sin shall not inherit the Kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:19-21, 1Cor. 6:9-10)
Without a doubt Paul took great pains to make it clear that grace is a free gift, and not something we can earn by our own merit. But he also preached works as a fruit of true faith; just as James did. And, in spite of the insistence of many, there is NO discrepancy between the Gospel Paul preached and the ‘faith without works is dead’ message James preached! They both preached the same Gospel of repentance toward God (evidenced by turning from sinful ways) and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
Paul certainly preached grace through faith, but he preached a Gospel that went a lot deeper than a mental acquiescence to the truths he preached. A message that demanded an obedience from the heart; not as a means of self-atonement, but as proof of true faith in Christ’s atoning work!
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Romans 6:16-17
How can anybody read passages like the one above and claim Paul taught anything similar to today’s preaching that says you are: ‘sanctified and forgiven no matter how you live – just as long as you believe’? No matter how hard the hyper-grace crowd try to portray his preaching as an ‘only believe’ gospel they are speaking contrary to the Word of God!
What could be worse than a message about the grace of God that does not actually bring one into that saving grace; but instead leaves you in your lost condition with a deluded notion you have been granted salvation? That, quite sadly, is an accurate description of the hyper-grace gospel preaching that has come to such prominence in this generation.
And whether you understand it or not: Dispensationalism, with all the (a.) setting aside of the writings of the original Apostles as not applying to us, (b.) steering people away from obeying the words of Christ found in the Gospels, (c.) focusing only upon the supposed ‘grace only’ Gospel they say Paul preached, while (d.) ignoring the overwhelming witness of Scripture that God demands the wicked forsake their wicked ways, has all had a huge role in the development of this false ‘believe only’ gospel which is so prevalent today!
What is being called the Gospel of Grace in this day is NOT ‘the grace of God that brings salvation’ which the Bible teaches of. And the wacky notions of Dispensational Theology are partly (if not largely) to blame for the ‘license to sin’ being preached to the masses of this generation!
Did Paul Baptize Or Not?
The second part of the question in the comment from John C. was in regard to baptism. His hyper-grace indoctrination causes him to see any action required on our part (whether it be repentance, following standards of holiness, or partaking of ordinances) as self-righteous works; and therefor are not a part of the Gospel message.
But do we see baptism in the ministry of the Apostle Paul? Let’s take a look and see for ourselves.
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, Ephesians 4:5
Somehow many folks today have got to thinking that ordinances like baptism and communion have no role in the Christian Church. They teach that baptism was practiced in a different dispensation; and now, in this supposed ‘age of grace’, it is no longer a part of the plan. That is not correct!
If you are a follower of Christ, and have not yet followed him into the waters of baptism, I would really encourage you to prayerfully consider doing so. It is our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; and it is a very edifying and uplifting experience!
Many like to fuss and fight over just what role baptism plays in our salvation, and I don’t want to raise that issue here, but it is absolutely clear from the Scriptures that baptism was a part of the ministry of the early Church, and was also commanded in the words of our Lord that we call the *Great Commission.
*A commission that Dispensationalists shamefully claim was not to the Church, but only to Jewish disciples of Christ. But how could the original Apostles possibly go into ALL the world and preach their supposed ‘Kingdom Gospel’ to EVERY creature in a ‘dispensation’ that would (according to Dispensational Theology) close in a few short years? Why would Jesus have given them a task he knew they couldn’t accomplish? Another unworkable conundrum presented by that wonky theology!)
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 1Corinthians 1:13-17
Though many like to quote verse 17 above as supposed proof Paul did not baptize those who converted to Christ through his efforts, when we read the verse in its context we see otherwise. Paul DID baptize!
Without belaboring the matter let me just say here it is totally clear from the Scriptures that baptism was certainly a part of the ministry of the Body of Christ. And we see that, though Paul placed his focus on the message of the Cross (and properly so), he did in fact baptize believers; as did also those he ministered the Gospel to.
SO… there, brother John C., is repentance preaching and the act of baptism in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Can you see it now? I write these words not to offend or belittle you brother, but in the hopes you will realize the way that your indoctrination into a wayward theology of man has blinded you to truths that should be quite evident to you.
Unless The Lord Builds The House…
As the teachings of Dispensationalism are like tentacles of error that reach into all aspects of Bible teaching, and even among the Dispensationalists themselves there is a lack of agreement as to what they actually believe to be Dispensational (AKA Separation) Theology, I have not exhaustively covered the matter in this series.
But I hope it was enough to convince you to reject their notions just as you would the teachings of any other cult of false theology. It is a damaging and dangerous doctrinal approach to the Bible that gets increasingly errant as it evolves. And if you let it corrupt your understanding of God’s ways it can actually bring the Curse of God upon you. Please prayerfully consider that statement, for it is true!
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, Luke 24:44-45
How amazing that these disciples who were raised in an environment that was steeped in the Word of God, who had set weekly in the temple listening to the teachings of the Learned Ones of that day, and who had even set at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ and listened to him teach, STILL had no proper comprehension of the Scriptures until the Lord ‘opened their understanding’!
If you have gotten anything at all from this series I hope it would be this: We are not to approach the Scriptures through the various and conflicting theologies of man; but through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit! That enlightenment is available to all who are humble of heart, and who have a hunger and thirst to learn the true sayings of God.
Let’s be seekers of truth so that we might be oracles of truth; and not just promoters of the of wacky notions and wayward theories of man!
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Luke 11:9
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5
May the Lord give us all a proper understanding of the truths of his Kingdom through the wisdom of his Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name!
THIS IS PART III OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES. YOU CAN FIND PART IV HERE.
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