Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Back when I was a Mid Acts Dispensationalist – a couple of weeks ago – I used Galatians 2:9 as a proof text for the Mid Acts position.  Here's Galatians 2:7-9:
"But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles;) 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."

These verses were used to "prove" that Paul had an entirely different gospel from the 12, and after he made that known to them (before the great council of Acts 15 or the need to discuss Paul's gospel would have been unnecessary), they agreed to confine themselves to exhorting the Jewish kingdom converts they already had (that's why they pretty much stayed at Jerusalem afterwards), while Paul (and his coworkers) took on the job of evangelizing the world with the entirely new gospel of grace by faith in Jesus Christ that had been begun to be revealed to him on the road to Damascus.  This new gospel would be used by God to form the Church, which is Christ's body – or so I was taught and so I thought.

Mid Acts Dispensationalists do have one thorny problem, however, and that is that although Paul seemingly agreed to limit his ministry to "the heathen," he had an alarming habit of going straight to the Jewish synagogue in every city he visited!  He also wrote "to the Jew first" in a couple of places in his letter to the Romans, his final letter of the Acts period.   Why, "the heathen" must then mean unsaved Jews as well as the pagan Gentiles!  This was decided upon by some Mid Acts teachers despite the fact that Jews aren't likely to consider their fellow Jewish brethren, no matter what their personal beliefs, to be on the same level as uncircumcised Gentile "dogs."  Hadn't Paul referred to these unsaved Jews and Gentiles as "men of Israel and ye that fear God" in Acts 13?  So, then, was Paul being disobedient to the "heavenly vision," and was he going back on his gentleman's agreement?

Paul alone was given a special revelation by the Lord Jesus Christ that Gentiles were now to be welcomed into the churches of God being prepared for their inclusion in the coming kingdom.  Paul explained in his letter to the Romans that this was done partly "to provoke them [Israel] to jealousy...If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them." (Does that "my flesh" part sound like Paul considers them "heathen" to you?)  The other reason Gentiles could now be included in the kingdom church is that God had stated his intention to embrace the nations long before.  Notwithstanding the fact that many Gentiles believed, if the kingdom would be granted at that time, it was imperative that the nation of Israel herself would come to repentance.   Therefore, it was perfectly understandable that Paul would share the truth of the Jews' messiah having come to fulfill the law so they could be made righteous by belief in him with his Jewish brethren as soon as he came to their city!   He was the one who was traveling around the known world at that time so of course it fell to him to reach their fellow Jews; the 12 were isolated in one area.

By the time he wrote his letter to the Romans, it's evident from chapters 9, 10, and 11 that he had little hope of his longed for kingdom of God and Christ's second coming to establish it happening in his lifetime; and in Acts 28:28, he is inspired by God to pronounce the end of that endeavor.   He probably took comfort in his own inspired words in Romans 11:26, "And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."

Getting back to Galatians 2:9, though, this is what I'd like to point out: that the leaders of the 12, while they accepted and understood the inclusion of Gentiles into God's program to redeem the earth, like all Jews, they had a strong distaste for any type of interaction with them, as evidenced by their reaction to the Gentile Syro-Phoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:25-30.  Remember, too, Peter's initial aversion to go to the house where Cornelius waited in Acts 10, and the talk Paul had to give him in Galatians 2:11-15.  So can you picture the looks of relief that crossed their faces when they realized Paul was taking full responsibility to seek out and preach the gospel to the Gentiles?   I can imagine their wide smiles as they eagerly pumped Paul's hand to seal that agreement!

This occurred to me as well:  What proof of God's sense of irony and wry humor that he chose to commission Paul in the middle of his journey to Damascus to seek and destroy members of that "Way"!  What better man to choose to send   throughout the world on a mission to save souls than one who seemed to have a passion for traveling to distant places to "meet" new people!

Galatians 2:9 is not a proof text for a completely new and different gospel committed unto Paul; it's just a grateful handshake with a man willing to do the dirty work necessary to fulfill the plans of the Lord.

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