3. Dispensationalism - Good News
Mr Stam tells us:
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.
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.
This is precisely what I believe the Bible teaches. There is only one item of good news that can be seen throughout the ages, since Adam first sinned in the garden of Eden. Namely, the punishment for sin, death, has been atoned for and man no longer needs to fear what awaits him after he takes his final breath. To have all the riches, health, and land this world contains will be of no value if, after a few decades, we leave it all to spend a Christless eternity in Hell. Mark 8:36 "For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul."
Likewise, when the gospel is received and accepted, all of the pain and suffering in the world (even the concept of a life of utter poverty) will not cause despair in the heart of the believer, because of the realization that this life is but a vapor that appeareth for a short while and then vanisheth away and only that which is done for Christ will endure throughout eternity. What good would a promise of land be to the Israelite, if he knew that he would someday die in his sin? Death and what awaits man after its arrival has been the concern of man throughout the ages. Death alone holds the fear of the unknown that men dread above all other fears and the good news, the gospel of Christ causes the believer to cry in victory "Oh death where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory. The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." I Cor.15:55-57.
Mr Stam tells us:
Second, God uses distinctive terms to designate the various items of good news: e.g., "the gospel [good news] of the kingdom" (Matt. 9:35), "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24), "the gospel of the uncircumcision" (Gal. 2:7), etc. Surely if God distinguishes between these gospels they cannot be exactly the same.
They certainly can be exactly the same gospel. Christ is known by many different names, the good Shepard, the door, the bread of life, the Son of God, the Son of Man, etc. Does this mean there is more than one Christ or do the different names signify different aspects of the same person? The gospel can be seen in the same way. One way is in "The good news of the kingdom". Christ's kingdom, the kingdom in which death and Hell have been conquered is set up on the earth. The good news of the grace of God shows us another aspect of the one gospel. That being, the aspect of membership. It is only through God's grace that we can enter into this glorious kingdom. The good news to the uncircumcision is that it is for Jew and Gentile alike another aspect of the same gospel. The good news to the circumcision is that the law and the prophets have been fulfilled and there is no longer any need to be subject to them. Still another benefit of the same good news.
Mr Stam tells us:
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 (Gen. 3:15). To Abraham He preached the gospel, or good news, that in him all nations should be blessed (Gal. 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:
Look carefully at the scriptures the writer uses and you will not see the good news being given progressively but the same good news stated in different ways. To Adam and Eve (actually to the Serpent if seen in the context of the verse) the promise is made that the power of sin will be broken by the seed of the woman. The power of sin is death (Romans 6:28) and the Serpent is promised in the Garden of Eden that the seed of his life, that of sin and death, will someday be destroyed by the seed of the woman, Christ. In Abraham's case the same thing is promised, i.e. that all of the nations of the earth will be blessed through his seed, Christ. In each Old Testament case the prophecy is the same. The seed of Adam, Abraham, and David is coming and He will set up a kingdom on the earth in which sin and death no longer reign.
Mr Stam tells us:
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 Cor. 15:1-4). "The gospel" which they preached was "the gospel of the kingdom" (Matt. 9:35 cf. Luke 9:2), not "the preaching of the cross" (I Cor. 1:18).
The problem that the author seems to face is exactly the same problem that the children of Israel faced. The children of Israel, the disciples included, expected a physical reign of Christ on the earth. They desired to have all nations in subjection to them in the physical realm. Was this oversight on the part of the prophets? According to the verses in question it was not, because we see that Christ tells the disciples, "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."
This is the saving gospel which Paul speaks about in I Cor. 15. The gospel, which in Paul's words, shall make all men alive, (I Cor.15:22) even those which up until Christ’s time were asleep vs.20. The children of Israel knew that a Messianic kingdom was to be established, the disciples knew a Messianic kingdom was to be established, and proclaimed it was near. The fact of their inability to understand HOW it was to be established does not negate its establishment.
We as believers know that Christ will return to the earth some day and we will be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. We don't know when, we don't know how, we only know that the scriptures promise it and through faith we are brought to believe it. Does it follow then, that since we don't know the particular aspects of His second coming we cannot proclaim it as fact? Of course not, just because these things are hidden for the time being does not mean that the action of Christ's return will not be accomplished.
This is the same thing that happened to the disciples, it was revealed to them that the kingdom of God was at hand, this they proclaimed. It didn't matter if they knew how it was to be accomplished, what mattered was that it was accomplished. There is not one verse of scripture which states that the disciples went about proclaiming how the kingdom was to be established. They may have had many different ideas, we have many different ideas about how Christ will return again, all the scriptures state is that they preached the gospel or the "good news" or the kingdom of God. The Messiah, about whom the prophets foretold in the Old Testament, has come to set up His kingdom and redeem His people.
Now that the action of redemption has been completed, do we preach a different gospel? No, ours is still the same, the Messiah about whom the prophets foretold in the Old Testament, the one who would crush the serpents head, the one through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, has come to set up His kingdom and redeem His people. We now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, know how He did it but we do not preach a different gospel.
Mr Stam tells us:
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" (Gal 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 (Rom. 4:11), but also, and mainly, as a token of God's covenant with him (Gen. 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:
In his zeal to promote his theology the writer has once more found it necessary to leave the Biblical translation of this verse for one that is more adaptable to his own desires. As is the case for many Old Testament scriptures, the translation for this passage of scripture is found in the New Testament. Gal. 3:16 tells us who the "seed" was that God referred to in his promise to Abraham in Gen. 22:17,18.
We must learn to build our theological beliefs on the Word of God not on the presumptions of man which, although many times done in good faith, run contrary to God's Word. A rule of thumb which I have adopted concerning the study of the scriptures is this: Never presume what the Bible does not clearly state. Many times what we desire to see the Bible imply, is never implied by the Word of God.
Basing his theology on this false foundation the writer now builds, but unfortunately his building cannot stand the test of God's Word and he must presume more and more in his efforts to make the scriptures make sense.
Mr Stam tells us:
The "gospel of the circumcision," then, was the good news based on this covenant. We read in Gal. 2:7 that "the gospel of the circumcision,5 was [committed] unto Peter" and we find him preaching it in Acts 3:25,26:
Is this the case, or do these verses prove that Christ was the seed God promised in Gen. 22. Let us look at the verse in question for a moment. "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 kindred’s 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."
All we need to do is ask this question. Who is being blessed and who is the one blessing? If Israel is being blessed then it cannot be the seed spoken of to Abraham, because the seed promised to Abraham was to give the blessing not receive it. If, however, we look at Christ as the seed we see He is the One giving the blessing, therefore He is the seed spoken of in Gen.22. Israel was the first of the nations of the world to receive this promised blessing, the kingdom was established in Jerusalem and branched out from there to the rest of the world.
Now we need to look at another aspect of the promise to Abraham, was the promise a physical one, to be seen in the physical realm of the world's system, or was it to be a spiritual promise, fulfilled in the hearts of the believer. Again we need only go to the scriptures to find our answer. Look again at Acts 3:26, what is the blessing mentioned in this verse? "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." There is no mention of physical blessing in this fulfillment, only spiritual cleaning. The purging of sins, the reinstatement of man to fellowship with God through the work of Christ, the crushing of the serpents head, the establishment of the Davidic kingdom all seen through the redemptive action of Christ.
Mr Stam tells us:
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 Gal. 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:
Again, do these verses state a different gospel or are they explaining a different aspect of the same gospel? Paul starts by asking this question. "Cometh this blessedness upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?" From this question alone we can see that Paul was not presenting to the Church of Rome a different gospel, he was expanding on the gospel already given. "Cometh this blessedness" what blessedness? Undoubtedly the same blessedness which was promised to Abraham and the prophets, the blessed seed which Peter describes in Acts. Paul now states that this blessedness is not only for the Jew (circumcision) but for the Gentile (uncircumcision) also. A different gospel? Not according to my Bible. What we see here is a different trait of the same promise. This gospel, the good news of Christ’s defeat over the enemies of sin and death, is not to be given only to the house of Israel. Why? Because the promise was not given to circumcised Abraham but to uncircumcised Abraham. Therefore as Paul tells us in Gal. 5:6, "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availed anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." The gospel of Christ alone is the gospel which can save souls whether they be Jew or Gentile.
Mr Stam tells us:
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.
Notice the contradiction the writer makes in this statement. He believes, as stated earlier, that the Gentile nations were to be blessed through the Jewish nation under the "gospel of the circumcision". This is definitely inclusiveness. Are not all nations blessed through this gospel? How then can it be stated as exclusive?
At this point we can see the small gap which separates the dispensationalist from the nondispensationalist at the point of their foundations. The dispensationalist believes God's promise to the world was salvation through the preaching of the ENTIRE SAVED NATION OF ISRAEL, the nondispensationalist believes God's promise to the world was through the preaching OF A REMNANT OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. From this foundation the buildings, although seemingly close, begin to spread farther apart as they are built. One foundation is sure and the building rises straight the other is weak and the building leans. Only the one which is constructed on the Word of God will not collapse when the props of human speculation are removed.
Mr Stam tells us:
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.
Is this a true statement or another speculation on the part of the author? The word "reconcile" in the Greek means "to bring back to a former state of harmony." Did Christ, while on the earth proclaim the good news that he would bring the world back into a former state of harmony with God? We know from the scriptures that Christ made the declaration that He was the only One who could restore the lost fellowship with God. John 14:6 He goes one step farther in verses 19 - 23 as He makes it known that after he leaves the earth the fellowship that man once had with God will be restored through the action of the Holy Spirit in the believers life.
Adam and Eve abode with God in the Garden of Eden. Verse 23 tells us "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." This is as much a proclamation of restored harmony as can be found in the scriptures, in fact it goes beyond restoration to perfection, we who love Christ not only dwell with Him but He indwells us.
John 1:11-12 shows the universal concept of this reconciliation "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not, but to as many as received Him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God."
Luke 24:46-47 gives us the same message of reconciliation that Paul teaches in Heb. 2:17-18. Compare both scriptures and you will see the same message. Christ came for one reason and that was the restoration of fellowship that lost man once had with God. That in its very essence is the concept of the Kingdom of God, God living once again in harmony with His people.
Mr Stam tells us:
Neither did the apostles at Pentecost proclaim reconciliation,
Read Acts 2:38-39 and you will see that they did preach the remission of sins through the power of Christ.
Mr Stam tells us:
much less the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile to God in one body.
Compare Acts 2:39 with Eph 2:13 and you will see that the "all who are afar off" refers to the gentiles.
Mr Stam tells us:
Likewise, we do not find our Lord on earth or the twelve at Pentecost going back to Adam in their preaching.
Look at Luke 3:23-38, where does the genealogy take us? Back to Adam not David or Abraham, Christ in these verses is seen as the seed of Adam, the seed which would crush the head of the serpent. Look also at Matt. 23:35-36 and you will see that Christ goes back to the first righteous blood that was shed, that of Able, to proclaim his message of universal redemption and judgment.
Mr Stam tells us:
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.
We need read only the following scriptures to discover the utter ridiculousness of the writer's statement. Matt.21:42-46, Matt.23, esp.Matt.23:37-38. Matt.8:11-12, Mark 12:1-11
Think for a moment about what we have just discussed in this chapter and you will see how close and yet how far away the author is from the truth of the scriptures. He makes a distinction between the gospel to Israel and the gospel to the church, yet fails to understand that the early church was Israel. He states that Paul was the apostle to the church and yet Paul was a Jew, where do we draw the line of demarcation, at what point in church history do the believing Jews cease to be God's earthly people and become God's heavenly people?
If the author believes all Jews are God's earthly people then Paul is a liar because time after time in the scriptures He tells us he is a member of God's heavenly body and that Jews and Gentiles alike have been made a part of the body of Christ. The book of Heb. written to believing Jews brings out the same point. Heb.12:22.
If he believes there is a point at which believing Jews became a part of the church and the earthly plan of God was "postponed" at what point in the scriptures do we see this metamorphism take place? Many Jews are going to have to be cloned so that they can live on earth as God's earthly people and at the same time live in heaven as God's heavenly people, due to the fact that there were thousands of Jewish believers at the time the so-called "dispensation of the kingdom" was postponed and the "age of grace" entered in.
He states the kingdom of God will be a kingdom made up of Israel and the Gentile nations who accept the Messiah. Yet he states in the same breath that the saved of Israel and those from the Gentile nations, although one body, cannot be seen as the kingdom of God.
He tells us on page 208 that "God had put a difference between Israel and the Gentiles, among other reasons, simply to show that basically, essentially, "there is no difference." and yet proclaims that Israel is different from the Gentiles, Israel being God's earthly people, the Gentiles God's heavenly people.
The foundation of his building is becoming so insecure he is in need of more and more props of human speculation to keep it from tumbling. Unfortunately when it falls, and fall it must, many will be hurt by the debris in which they once found refuge.