7. Dispensationalism - Paul's Early Ministry
Paul's Early Ministry
What the main thrust of this chapter seems to be, is that the writer believes Paul preached the gospel of grace from the outset of his ministry, in disagreement with an ultra-dispensational two-body doctrine which claims a change in the preaching of Paul due to revelations he received while in prison. We can make deductions from the scriptures, as the writer has done throughout this book, based on human assumption, until the Lord returns, and never agree on the subject the author addresses in this chapter. The only way we can be sure of this teaching, is arrived at in the same way we can be sure of any other doctrine of God's Word. Accept the Bible for what it says. Add to it and human error takes over, take away from it and we call God a liar.
We need only turn to a few scriptures to understand exactly who taught Paul, what Paul taught, and how it compared with the teaching of the twelve. Gal.1:16-24 answers all of these questions beyond any doubt. As we look at these verses closely we see that no human tool was used to communicate the gospel to Paul.Vs.16-18 We also can see that the gospel or faith which Paul preached was the same as the faith or gospel which he once destroyed vs.23-24.
If Paul was preaching a different gospel the Word of God would clearly state this, it does not. Having searched the scriptures from Matt.- Rev. I can find no claim of a different gospel being taught. I see clearly, the same gospel being taught to different people (Gal.2:8-9), but as stated earlier there is never mention of a different gospel.
For a moment, let us go through the verses the writer uses and the comments he makes concerning these verses and see if the verses state what he says, or does he assume that the scriptures mean this because it fits his line of thinking.
Mr. Stam tells us:
Page 237 he quotes parts of the following verses, a habit which most dispensationalists find it necessary to do,
Rom.11:15 "... if the casting away of them (Israel) be the reconciling of the world...."
Rom. 11:32 "God hath concluded them all in unbelief that he might have mercy upon all."
Eph. 2:16 "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross..."
He then makes this deduction: "Of course, God's gracious purpose in the casting away of Israel was only in process of being revealed as God gradually set her aside".
Read these verses carefully, and the only way you will be able to arrive at the deductions the author has made is if you either add to or subtract from what is written. The Bible states in Matt. 23 that Jerusalem is left desolate vs.38. Not in a gradual sense as the author proclaims, but suddenly as an axe blow, (Matt.3:10). The nation of Israel in its physical sense is cast off, or severed completely, not in the future, as the author would have us believe, but at the time Christ spoke (vs.37-38). Note the tense of the word "is" denotes an action taking place in the present not sometime in the future.
Mr. Stam tells us:
Page 241 "Romans 11:7 and 25 should be enough to convince us that Paul at that time understood that God had given the nation up and that judicial blindness was already settling upon it.
Where in these verse is it implied that blindness was settling? Blindness had already settled. The verses state clearly that the action of blindness has already occurred, not that it is progressively happening. This blindness can be traced back to Matt. 13:13-15. How can the author of the book justify a gradual blindness of Israel after the calling of Paul when Christ states it as fact before Paul ever arrived on the scene?
Mr. Stam tells us:
Page 244 "Undoubtedly Paul both received and communicated one great body of truth gradually, otherwise his term, "my gospel" and our term "the distinctive ministry of Paul are wholly misleading..."
He uses the following scriptures to bring this point out. Acts 26:16, 22:17,18, II Cor. 12:1, and II Cor.12:7.
No mention is made in these scriptures of gradual communication to Paul of one great body. In fact, if you would go back to the conversion of Paul you would see this fact brought to light at his conversion, Acts 8:15 states clearly that Paul is going to bear the name of Christ before "the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel."
These are but a few of the many deductions that the writer makes that have no clear Biblical foundation. I'm sure if the truth were known, it would be seen that the writer draws his conclusions then searches the scriptures to find verses which bear him out, instead of searching the scriptures and drawing conclusions only from what he reads. One of the greatest problems that the author has is his inability to accept the sovereignty of God as it relates to matters concerning the establishment of His kingdom. He believes or at least implies that God has his hands tied concerning the establishment of the kingdom, the following quotes are seen in this chapter:
Mr. Stam tells us:
Page 240 "Acts 11:9 further makes it clear that, until Peter was sent to Cornelius, even the scattered disciples had preached the Word "to none but unto the Jews only." Israel was to be the channel of blessing to the world.
The apostles sought earnestly to bring the favored nation to Messiah's feet, but- (he quotes Rom.10:21)
The gospel had gone to the Jew first and been rejected...."
Page 237, "But God knows better. He knows that the crisis in Israel's history has been reached. Persuasion will be useless. Salvation will be sent to the Gentiles, not through Israel, but in spite of her, and Paul is chosen for this purpose."
Page 238, "One fact should be apparent even to the casual observer: Peter's ministry very definitely anticipated Israel's acceptance of the Messiah (Acts 1:6, 2:30,38,39, 3:17-26), but Paul's just as definitely assumed Israel's continued rejection of Messiah. In fact, he was raised up by God in view of Israelis rejection of Christ..."
These and many other statements the author makes through this chapter and book show he is firmly rooted in the belief that man dictates the actions of God. God is at the mercy of the thoughts and intents of man. Desiring to establish His kingdom He must now postpone it because Israel rejects the Messiah.
Notice carefully what the author is doing, he is bringing God down to the level of man. God no longer is omnipotent, no longer is He seen in complete control of His creation, but rather he must plan moves and counter-moves in order to bring about the desired effect. THIS IS NOT THE GOD WHICH I WORSHIP, THE GOD I WORSHIP IS IN COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE UNIVERSE HE HAS CREATED. Man is just as much a part of His creation, to be used by Him to bring about the desired affect, as any other of His creatures including the angels.
We as totally depraved creatures of God's creation have no desire whatsoever to know or even commune with God. (Rom.3:11, Jer.30:17) We are completely DEAD in our sins (Eph.2:1-3). We cannot blame this death on Adam because, had we been created perfect as Adam was, we would have fallen to temptation just as he did. Adam being our father passed on the sin nature to each of us.(Rom.5:14-21) This does not excuse us from judgment, however, because being creations of God we are still accountable to Him for our actions (Rom.1:19-20). Why do we then believe, being in a state of complete alienation from God, that we are able to make the right decision concerning the acceptance or rejection of Christ. Being in all ways against God we would always chose, if it were up to us, to disobey (Rom.7:8), God therefore must do the entire work Himself. There is nothing in the Word of God which tells us that the Spirit of God lifts up to a plane where we can accept or reject Christ. Even if He did we would still reject Him because of the sin nature in our lives.
According to the Word of God we must be re-created in the image of Christ in order to once again desire to make the right decisions. This re-creation goes completely against our Adamic nature as we see in Romans 7. How can we then stand and say that it is our decision which brings about the final outcome of our salvation. IT IS THE DECISION OF GOD WHETHER OR NOT WE WILL BE A PART OF HIS KINGDOM, THROUGH HIS SOVEREIGN WILL HE DECIDES WHO WILL AND WILL NOT BECOME A PART OF HIS KINGDOM, (Rom.9:16-24, Acts 2:47, Acts 13:48, I Cor.1:22-29, Eph.1:4-5, Phil.1:6, Phil.2:13, Col.1:20-22, I Thess.5:9).
If it is God's desire that every person who walks on the face of this earth would inherit the kingdom of God, and they do not, then God ceases to be omnipotent and man's will is given preeminence over the will of God. The creature thus directing the moves of his creator.
As stated in an earlier chapter, this doctrine is a hard pill for our pride to swallow. We think that even though we have rejected God, even though we have cursed our creator, even though we have caused, through our sin, the humiliation and death of His Son, even though every thought and intent of our minds is always evil constantly, that given the final choice in our salvation many of us would choose God.
I praise the Lord that such is not the case, for had it been the case every man woman and child from Adam on would spend an eternity in Hell, and Christ's death would have been in vain.