After God called the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, he devoted his life to proclaiming the Gospel of God. He preached it to all nations of the known world except Judaea. The gospel he brought was rejected by the majority of the Jewish people. They hated it and more than once even sought to kill him.
At long last, when he was finally in Rome God inspired him to no longer hold out hope for Israel’s acceptance of the gospel. In Acts 28: 27-28 we read:
Acts 28 (KJV) vs.27 For the heart of this people (the Jews) is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. vs.28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
Prior to this decisive statement Paul relentlessly preached his gospel to Jew and gentile alike. But to no avail.
Even before Saul’s (Pauls’) calling, Jesus Christ and the 12 Apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. This was not the same gospel that Paul preached. For more information and proof that these were different gospels go to: http://www.gospelfortoday.bibleanalytics.ca/part-one.html.
Consequently, we find Paul’s ministry falls into four distinct periods:
- Saul heralds Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 9: 1-30).
- Saul is severed by the holy spirit: Paul preaches Justification (Acts 13:1-19:20).
- Paul no longer knows Christ according to the flesh: teaches the Conciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21), (Acts 19:21-28:28).
- The dispensation of the Secret Administration committed to Paul (Eph. 3: l-9).
THE FIRST PERIOD
So great was the glory of Saul’s first sight of the Lord that he was blinded by its brightness (Acts 9:3-8). Here he gets his initial commission.
Acts 9 :3 (KJV) And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
The heralding of Jesus to the Jews as the Son of God by Saul prepared the way to preach justification to the other nations. Justification in turn, provided the basis for the message of peace, the Conciliation. Justification is immeasurably beyond “the forgiveness of sins.” A governor or ruler may pardon a criminal, releasing him from the penalty due his crimes; but he dares not justify him. Only a judge can do that. For a judge to justify a guilty man would ruin His own reputation. But God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, is justified Himself, first of all, in justifying those who believe. Pardon for sins was proclaimed to those who repented, and were baptized: justification comes without a cause.
All of these together formed the foundation Glory on which the dispensation of the present secret administration (fellowship) rests.
Ephesians 3:9 (KJV) 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:
Ephesians 3:9 (Concordant Literal Version) and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all,
The grace shown to the nations now would be impossible apart from the fact that God is conciliated to the world. This favor flows from justification.
Initially it was like that of the twelve apostles, in that it also included repentance and pardon, but unlike their commissions, it was eventually proclaimed to the nations where justification superseded repentance and pardon Acts 26:16-20).
Acts 26:16-20 (KJV) But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 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.
Similar to this is the account we have of this ministry in the city of Damascus (Acts 9:20-22).
Acts 9:20-22 (KJV) And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
He proved that Jesus was the Christ, but also preached Him as the Son of God. None of the 12 Apostles were sent to the gentile nations, only Paul.
THE SECOND PERIOD
After his call on the road to Damascus, the next great landmark in the life of Saul was his severance (separation), by the holy spirit (together with Barnabas) to a special work (Acts 13:2).
Acts 13:2 (KJV) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Then, in accord with his new ministry, Saul becomes Paul. He stands and delivers a sermon in Pisidian Antioch which adds much substance to his message, for there he first introduces the grand doctrine of justification by faith (Acts 13:39).
Acts 13:39 (KJV) And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
This ministry is often referred to by Paul as “my evangel.” It continued until he had “completed the evangel of the Christ” from Jerusalem and around unto Illyricum (Rom. 15:19). It covers Paul’s trips among the nations, including the establishment of churches (ecclesias) in Galatia, Thessalonica, Corinth and Ephesus. The epistles to the Thessalonians were written during this period, as well as that to the Galatians and the first epistle to the Corinthians, but the second Corinthian letter and that to the Romans was not penned until its conclusion. They mark the crisis between this period and the next. This part of Paul’s ministry is most significantly concluded with the words: “Thus mightily the word of the Lord grows and was strong. Now, as these things were fulfilled…” (Acts 19:20, 21).
Acts 19:20 (KJV) So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. 21 After these things were ended (fulfilled -CLV), Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
THE THIRD PERIOD
“As these things were fulfilled” introduces us to Paul’s decision to visit Jerusalem and Rome. The latter connects this crisis with his letter to the Romans (Rom. 15:22-25)
Rom 15:22 (KJV) For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you. 23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; 24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. 25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
His visit to Jerusalem gives us a graphic picture of the character of his new ministry, the Conciliation. By this ministry, every barrier between God and the nations is effectually removed.
At this point it is well to note the distinctive character of the blessings for the nations, which is developed through Paul’s ministry. According to the prophets, all blessing for the nations must flow through Israel. Their blessing is always “with His people” (Rom. 15:9-10). All that changed.
Rom 15:9 (KJV) And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
And hitherto, in spite of the fact that Israel was becoming apostate, blessing had been “to the Jew first” and the nations were participating in ” their spiritual things” (Rom. 15:27).
Rom 15:27 (KJV) It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
All this was changing. It was becoming more and more evident that blessing is not dependent upon Israel’s national salvation. Conciliation is not based on their blessing, but on their “casting away” (Rom. 11:15).
Rom 11:15 (KJV) For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
In fact, Paul’s ministry waxes as Israel’s wanes. Its glories grow brighter in the gathering gloom. Consequentially when Israel failed utterly as the priest nation, so instead of bringing the nations to God, they drive them away. It is then that God opens up a spiritual way of access to Himself to all nations which eclipses the hostile and cumbrous approach which Israel knew.
Sure, in the eon to come, the Millennium, blessing for the nations will be in proportion to Israel’s superior bliss. Now, however, Israel’s failure provides the arena for God’s grace to act towards the hated gentiles. Paul’s third ministry is fully set forth in the fifth to eighth, as well as the eleventh chapters of the epistle to the Romans. Its emphasis is peace. In it God beseeches men to lay aside all enmity and accept the Conciliation He has brought into being through the death of His Son.
From Acts 13 to 28—42 to 61 A. D.—two administrations with their respective gospels parallel each other—the gospel for the circumcised (Israelites) and the gospel for the uncircumcised (Gentiles)—with the former decreasing and the latter increasing both in revelation and glory until finally….
THE FORTH PERIOD – PAUL’S prophetic writings
Paul’s final epistles reveal previously undisclosed truths which were made known after his itinerant ministry, being set forth in his prophetic writings. Being based on Israel’s “casting away,” rather than her restoration, it was entirely new—a secret unknown to the prophets or the twelve apostles (Rom. 16:25, 26).
Rom 16:25 (KJV) 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, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
Rom 16:25 (Concordant Literal Version) 25 Now to Him Who is able to establish you in accord with my evangel, and the heralding of Christ Jesus in accord with the revelation of a secret hushed in times eonian, 26 yet manifested now and through prophetic scriptures, according to the injunction of the eonian God being made known to all nations for faith-obedience -“
During the three previous periods Israel still had its standing before God. The book of Acts still traced the affairs of the Kingdom as heralded in the power of the spirit. Israel was not finally set aside until Paul, as a prisoner, is in Rome. There Isaiah’s solemn message is sounded in their ears for the last time. All are to know that the salvation of God was dispatched directly to the nations, and they will hear (Acts 28:26-28).
Acts 28:26 (KJV) Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
Acts 28:26 (Concordant Literal Version) saying, ‘Go to this people and say, “In hearing, you will be hearing, and may by no means be understanding, And observing, you will be observing, and may by no means be perceiving, 27 For stoutened is the heart of this people, And with their ears heavily they hear, And with their eyes they squint, Lest at some time they may be perceiving with their eyes, And with their ears should be hearing, And with their heart may be understanding, And should be turning about, And I shall be healing them.'” 28 Let it be known to you, then, that to the nations was dispatched this salvation of God, and they will hear.”
Not until this crisis was it possible to reveal the last and more excellent ministry of the great apostle of the nations. Hitherto blessing had been always, in some way, subordinate to Israel. If nothing new had been done, then the nations would be in a sad situation, for, according to the prophets, their only channel of blessing had been choked off.
But God had already done something new. He had already revealed the secret which effectually disposed of Israel’s religious reign and now the grandest glory of all greets the gloom which gathers around Israel’s national grim state. The scope of blessing for all is changed from the terrestrial realm to the celestial (Eph. 1:3).
Ephesians 1:3 (KJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Ephesians 1:3 (Concordant Literal Version) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ,
Whatever God may do, even in grace, cannot go counter to His revealed counsel for His chosen nation. On earth political supremacy must be reserved for His earthly people, the Jews. But in the celestials no such restrictions reign.
There He may lavish the glories of His grace to all who believe without infringing in the least upon Israel’s special prerogatives as God’s chosen nation on earth. And so, a secret is made known—the secret of Christ— which places Him in the highest place among the celestials, even as He shall be upon the earth. And this secret it is which underlies Paul’s final ministry. Spiritual blessing among the celestials becomes the portion of those who receive this message (Eph. 1:3). Jewish privileges disappear. The nations are not discriminated against in this supreme glory, but are blessed equally with those who believe out of God’s chosen nation. They are made joint enjoyers (fellow heirs) of this allotment, members of a joint body and joint partakers of all that, and more, which, in his previous ministries, Paul could only portion out to them as dependents of the chosen nation (Eph. 3:6-11).
Ephesians 3:6-11 (KJV) 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 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: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Ephesians 3:6-11 (Concordant Literal Version) 6 the nations are to be joint enjoyers of an allotment, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the evangel” 7 of which I became the dispenser, in accord with the gratuity of the grace of God, which is granted to me in accord with His powerful operation.” 8 To me, less than the least of all saints, was granted this grace: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, 9 and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all, 10 that now may be made known to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, through the ecclesia, the multifarious wisdom of God, 11 in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord;”
Thus, during Paul’s four ministries, two forces have been at work. One has dragged Israel down into the dust, the other has raised the nations to the place of blessing and the believers among them to the supreme height of power and glory.
The way to such a loftiness has been gradual. At least four distinct steps mark the ascent to this pinnacle of grace until at last we find ourselves at the very zenith of revelation. This is found in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, epistles written after the apostle was imprisoned at Rome. They contain the truth of all truth for us. They are the touchstone of all doctrine for the present. They are the limit of glory beyond which there can be no more.
In the fleeting days of this administration it is of principal importance that we get a firm grasp of Paul’s ministries and of their relationship one to another. From first to last, they contain truth for the present time. His very call forms a pattern for all those who were about to believe (1 Tim. 1:16).
1 Tim 1:16 (Youngs Literal Translation) but because of this I found kindness, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern of those about to believe on him to life age-during:
It was an exhibition of transcendent grace outside the land of Israel and it came from heaven. Thus, his ministries begin and end with striking characteristics—grace, celestial grace, shown in an foreign lands.
The first two periods of Paul’s ministries have much in common, and so have the last two. The first are itinerant. The heralding is by word of mouth. Israel’s prior place is acknowledged. After the great crisis, when he no longer knows Christ according to the flesh, Israel no longer gets priority. The apostle spends his time in prison and writes rather than speaks. The first two are in accord with Israel’s blessing in the day of the Lord – the Millennium and the nations are granted a place such as will be accorded them in that day. But in the last two, two great secrets are made known—the Conciliation and the Secret Administration—which give the nations a standing not dependent upon Israel at all.
From this it follows that Paul’s earlier ministries needed adaptation to accord with the present truth. His earlier message of repentance was not committed to writing, and his utterances in the book of Acts are clearly intended to conform to the kingdom on which that book is an exposition. After all, the ministries of the 12 Apostles was based on repentance for forgiveness and keeping the Mosaic law. This was not the case with the administration of grace which Paul proclaimed.
But after Paul was separated (severed), there is a marked change. Then he begins to bring in truth which, though applicable to the kingdom in its future manifestation, is distinctly truth for the present administration. Justification is not restated in the prison epistles because Paul had already preached this during his itinerant ministry.
During this period, too, he receives the glorious truth of the Lord’s coming and our deliverance from impending indignation. He received this from the Lord. It is manifestly not from the other apostles, for they never preached any such thing. This truth does not appear in the book of Acts, as it is not in line with its subject. It was revealed to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:16, 17), and is referred to in the prison epistles in Philippians 3:20 and Colossians 1:5.
Philippians (KJV) 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Philippians 3:20 (Youngs Literal Translation) For our citizenship is in the heavens, whence also a Saviour we await—the Lord Jesus Christ—
Colossians 1:5 (KJV) For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
God was arranging all of Paul’s acts and words in view of the impending out pouring of grace, which could not come until the full apostasy of Israel. Furthermore, note that Paul was given his revelations in instalments. His ministry went from glory to glory.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV) But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This unique gospel for the nations was to remain in effect “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).
Rom 11:25 (KJV) 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.
Today peoples of all nations have the opportunity to enter into an intimate relationship with God, whereby they will be able to call him Father (Abba). This opportunity will only be available until the end of this present era when all God’s elect have been called. It will not be available in the Millennium.
It seems certain that, even with our renewed minds, we will never be able to fathom all the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of God’s allotment among the saints. However, in order to enjoy some of these riches now, in spirit, we need to be invigorated with God’s mighty strength, and to put on His protective panoply (Eph.6:10,14-16).
Ephesians 6:10, 14-16 (KJV) 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. …14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Paul’s last epistles reveal the transcendent glory God prepared for His saints which far exceed the promises made in earlier writings of the New Testament. The way was now open for peoples from all nations to enter into celestial glory because of the conciliation of God made possible through the death and resurrection of His beloved son, the Lord Jesus Christ. From all this, it is very clear that there are two separate and distinct gospels. More information can be found at: www.gospelfortoday.bibleanalytics.ca.
Back to Top of page