Tag Archives: Paul’s ministry

Does not Acts 15:11 disprove dispensational Bible study?

DOES ACTS 15:11 REFUTE DISPENSATIONAL BIBLE STUDY? IF NOT, WHAT IS THIS VERSE TEACHING?

by Shawn Brasseaux

What does Acts 15:11 mean? Does this verse disprove dispensational Bible study, as some claim? Does it teach there is only one gospel in the Bible, as some claim? Does it mean that every saved person in history is part of the Church the Body of Christ, as some claim? Let us search the Scriptures for the answers.

In Acts 15, some “Judaizers” (Mosaic Law teachers) from Jerusalem are going around and subverting the souls of Paul and Barnabas’ Gentile converts: “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (verse 1). Paul and Barnabas have a major argument and debate with these Judaizers, and these legalists instruct Paul and Barnabas to go back to Jerusalem with some of them, and ask Israel’s apostles and elders about the matter (verse 2).

Once Paul and Barnabas arrive in Jerusalem, they declare to the Jerusalem assembly of believers (particularly Israel’s apostles and elders), all the wonderful things God has done amongst the Gentiles through their ministry (verse 4). However, some Pharisees who believe, object by saying that it was needful for Paul and Barnabas to physically circumcise those Gentiles and command them to keep the Mosaic Law (verse 5). Verse 6 says that Israel’s apostles and elders confer amongst themselves about the issue.

When a great debate is started, the Apostle Peter arises and explains to them Cornelius’ salvation (which he personally witnessed some 10 years previous). Let us read Peter’s words in Acts 15:7-11: “[7] And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. [8] And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; [9] And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. [10] Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? [11] But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”

Notice how Peter is coming to Paul and Barnabas’ defense. Recall that when Gentile Cornelius was saved in Acts 10 under Peter’s ministry, it was under extraordinary circumstances. Up to that point, Peter saw Jews (and later some Samaritans) get water baptized and then receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:14-17). With Cornelius, Peter saw the Holy Ghost fall on those Gentiles before they were water baptized, and the Bible says the Jews with Peter were amazed at the reversal. Read what happened with Cornelius in Acts 10: “[44] While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. [45] And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. [46] For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, [47] Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? [48] And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”

Notice Peter’s words in verse 47: “which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Peter knew that these believing Gentiles at Cornelius’ home were just as filled with the Holy Spirit as he and they (the believing Jews) were. This is all in Peter’s mind when he discusses it with the apostles and elders in Acts 15, about a decade later. Hence, Peter says in Acts 15:8: “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us.”

When Peter hears about Paul and Barnabas and how they did not teach physical circumcision and Law-keeping amongst the Gentiles, Peter may not have understood it, but he was not surprised. Peter remembered how God had departed from the “norm” with Cornelius, and Peter (unlike those in Acts 15:5) saw how God departing from the “norm” with Paul and Barnabas’ converts was not necessarily a bad thing and was not impossible. This is how Acts 15:11 should be viewed. Peter assumed that Paul’s Gentiles converts had received the Holy Spirit without legalism, just as Cornelius had received the Holy Spirit without water baptism. Peter’s words are thus indicating that it was not “needful” to physically circumcise Paul’s Gentile converts and tell them to keep the Mosaic Law (which is what the believing Pharisees were arguing for in Acts 15:5).

Peter urges Israel’s other apostles and elders not to “tempt” God, to challenge God as to whether or not He is operating properly through Paul and Barnabas by not promoting legalism amongst the Gentiles, since he (Peter) did not “tempt” God and question what He was doing when he saw God do some strange things with Cornelius and those other Gentiles. Read in Acts 15 where Peter continued recounting the story of Cornelius’ salvation, “[9] And [God] put no difference between us and them [the Gentiles], purifying their hearts by faith. [10] Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? [11] But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” Peter does not fully understand what is going on with Paul and toward the end of his life Peter confessed he never fully did comprehend Paul’s doctrine (2 Peter 3:15-16), but he does recognize God is doing something “unusual” with Paul and Barnabas (just like he saw those unique events with Cornelius).

The word “grace” in Acts 15:11 is probably the greatest cause of stumbling for many, and it should not. “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” While this sounds like Paul’s Gospel, the Gospel of the Grace of God, it is not. Remember, God’s grace is not exclusive to Paul’s ministry: God’s grace is found throughout the Bible (look at Genesis 6:8, for example), but the way in which God manifested His grace is different in various dispensations. For instance, the very nature of the New Covenant that will be given to Israel is “grace and truth,” which will replace the Old Covenant of Law with its wrath and punishment (John 1:17). God will give Israel grace (what she does not deserve) through the New Covenant, despite the fact that she broke the Old Covenant of Law.

In Israel’s program, God deals with a Jew in two ways: on an individual basis and on a national basis. Any believing Jew received forgiveness of sins when he or she confessed the breaking of the Old Covenant, got water baptized, and trusted Jesus as Messiah (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:12)—this was then credited to them, to be permanently forgiven when the rest of Israel was converted. However, the Old Covenant was given to the entire nation Israel, not just to one Jew. The entire nation Israel broke the Old Covenant, so God deals with them on a national level too. Israel’s national sins must also be dealt with, and they will be blotted out at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19; Romans 11:26-27; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 10:15-17). This is why Peter speaks of their [Israel’s] salvation as future: “we shall be saved” (Acts 15:11). Peter acknowledges that God will save Paul’s Gentile converts through grace, too. In other words, Peter is saying that Paul’s Gentile converts are saved, despite the fact that they do not have physical circumcision and Law-keeping.

What Peter does not understand is that this dispensational change with Paul’s ministry involves God’s grace now being manifested through Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, and that God is offering His grace to every person (lost Jew or lost Gentile) through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for their sins, and without Law-keeping (Peter emphasized Law-keeping to Cornelius in Acts 10:35, and notice Peter did not link Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork to Cornelius’ salvation like Paul would do with his converts and us)—we learn this “Gospel of the Grace of God” only from Paul’s ministry (Acts 20:24; Romans 3:24; Romans 4:4,16; Romans 5:15,17,20,21; 1 Corinthians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 1:6,15; Gal. 2:21; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:5,7-8; Ephesians 3:2,7; Colossians 1:6; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 2:11; Titus 3:7).

So, Acts 15:11 does not disprove dispensational Bible study. It simply shows that God saves sinners in every dispensation and that that salvation is not what they deserve (remember, grace is what we do not deserve). Peter did not understand it all, but he did recognize that Paul’s Gentile converts were acceptable to God without physical circumcision and Law keeping, just as he witnessed how Cornelius received the Holy Ghost without water baptism. In Acts 15:11, Peter used this reality to come to Paul and Barnabas’ defense, and evidently, this caused James to understand some of the matter (Acts 15:14ff.), and, consequently, this saved Paul’s ministry from being hindered and saved his converts from additional trouble with Israel’s believing remnant (Acts 15:19-32).

Also see:
» Do not Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6 disprove dispensational Bible study? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Was Cornelius a member of the Church the Body of Christ? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» If dispensational Bible study is true, how come few people believe it? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

What is “the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15?

WHAT IS “THE WORD OF TRUTH” IN 2 TIMOTHY 2:15? Is IT THE GOSPEL, OR THE BIBLE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Some years ago, I was amazed to learn that, within the grace community, there is confusion regarding 2 Timothy 2:15 (of all verses). Strangely, some who claim to “rightly divide the word of truth” really have no solid understanding of what “the word of truth” even is in the context of the verse they claim to be following (2 Timothy 2:15). Is “the word of truth” the Gospel, or is it the Bible? As always, context is key to understanding Bible verses!

The Bible uses the term “word of truth” five times (with two additional forms). We will look at these instances now (we will analyze 2 Timothy 2:15 later). It will be demonstrated that this term, “the word of truth,” does not always carry the same meaning in each of the verses it appears.

  1. THE BIBLE: The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:43: “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.” This “word of truth” is not the Gospel, for all of Psalm 119 is focused on God’s Word as a whole, not a gospel message. According to the context, the “word of truth” in Psalm 119:43 is all of God’s Word, the entire Bible (which was just the Old Testament at that time).
  2. THE BIBLE: The angel Gabriel told the Prophet in Daniel 10:21: “But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.” Here, “the scripture of truth” is the Bible. We have no reason to believe that “the scripture of truth” is not another way of saying, “the word of truth.”
  3. THE GOSPEL OF GRACE: In Colossians 1:5, the Apostle Paul wrote about, “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.” Here, the “word of truth” in this verse is the Gospel of the Grace of God.
  4. THE GOSPEL OF GRACE: “The word of truth” is also the Gospel of Grace in Ephesians 1:13: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”
  5. EITHER THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM, OR THE BIBLE: When James wrote in James 1:18, “Of [God’s] own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures, this “word of truth” is at least the Gospel of the Kingdom (the Gospel of the Circumcision, Jesus Christ is Israel’s King [Matthew 3:2] and all of the world will be blessed in and through Israel’s kingdom; Galatians 2:7-9), but in light of 1 Peter 1:23-25, it may be a general reference to the Bible.
  6. EITHER THE GOSPEL OF GRACE, OR THE BIBLE: The context of 2 Corinthians 6:7 does make it apparent whether “the word of truth” in this verse is the Gospel of Grace or the Bible: By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” The context does not seem to restrict it to one or the other.

As we can see, the “word of truth” is not necessarily the Gospel of Grace, the Gospel of the Kingdom, or the Bible, in every instance. The context demonstrates what shade of meaning this term carries in that particular passage. Just as we looked at the context in those verses, we need to look at the context of 2 Timothy 2:15 to determine what shade of meaning “the word of the truth” conveys in that verse. What a concept!

I find it quite strange and equally fascinating that some who claim to be mid-Acts (or Pauline) dispensationalists really do not grasp one of the key verses that teach dispensational Bible study. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Oddly, some will say that this “word of truth” is “the gospel” (as in, we have to “rightly divide the Gospel of Grace,” but exactly how we are to “rightly divide” the gospel, Paul never delineates, so this notion seems unlikely to be Paul’s instruction). While “the word of truth” in Colossians 1:5 and Ephesians 1:13 is most certainly the Gospel of the Grace of God (we saw that these verses clearly say it is), that does not force “the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15 to also be the Gospel of the Grace of God. Recall that we already saw the Bible also uses “the word of truth” to refer to itself, not to a gospel message.

The Gospel of Grace does not belong to everyone in the Bible (one can simply read Galatians 2:7 and Acts 20:24 to see that). Galatians 2:7: “But contrariwise, when they [James, Cephas/Peter, and John] saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me [Paul], as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;” and note what Paul said in Acts 20:24: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” In fact, the heart of the Gospel of the Grace of God (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for our sins; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) was not even revealed by God until we come to Paul’s ministry (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; Galatians 2:7; Ephesians 3:1-11; 1 Timothy 1:11; 2 Timothy 2:8). Israel’s 12 apostles were not preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God, for they did not even know Jesus was going to die, let alone resurrect (Luke 18:31-34; John 20:8)! We cannot “rightly divide” (?) the Gospel of Grace among the various dispensations as some teach, for those dispensations have their own sets of good news from God. However, we can certainly “rightly divide” the individual passages scattered throughout the Bible and leave them with their audience (that is, not force those verses on ourselves). It for this reason that “the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15 cannot be a reference to any gospel message in Scripture (the Gospel of Grace, the Gospel of the Kingdom, et cetera). We need to let the context determine the meaning.

Let us read 2 Timothy 2:15-18: [15] Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [16] But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. [17] And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; [18] Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”

Pay very close attention to the flow of thought here. Paul wrote that if we want to avoid “profane and vain babblings” (empty, worthless chatter), we must “study to shew [ourselves] approved unto God… rightly dividing the word of truth.” This cannot be restricted to the Gospel of Grace, for there is more to the Bible than just gospel messages. Plenty of people today promote “profane and vain babblings” that do not involve gospel messages, but do relate to other Bible verses. Thus, “the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15 must be a noun of wide application: that is, more than a gospel message is involved in this verse. Also note that, unlike in Colossians 1:5 and Ephesians 1:13, Paul did not write in 2 Timothy 2:15, “the word of truth of the gospel” or “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation,” he simply wrote, “the word of truth.” This should catch our attention!

Verses 17 and 18 of 2 Timothy chapter 2 speak of false teachers, people who do not “rightly divide the word of truth,” whose names are Hymenaeus and Philetus, and they teach that “the resurrection is past already” and “overthrow the faith of some.” This really has nothing to do with the Gospel, this has to with the failure to place this “resurrection” on the proper place of the Bible timeline. They are not denying the resurrection, just getting its timing wrong. We must go to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 for insight: “[1] Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, [2] That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. [3] Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;….”

What is going on in Thessalonica is evidently what is occurring in 2 Timothy 2:18. There are false teachers (or, in the case of Thessalonica, at least one forged, or counterfeit, Bible manuscript) circulating the idea that the rapture (the resurrection of Christians for this Dispensation of Grace; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) has already happened. The implication is, if the rapture has already happened, then Israel’s prophetic program has resumed, and that would mean that people who thought they would be saved from God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9) are now experiencing it in the seven-year Tribulation! Notice how this troubled the Christians at Thessalonica: “[2] That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. [3] Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first,” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3). Even today, people teach strange doctrines about a “mid-Trib” rapture, a “post-Trib” rapture, a “pre-wrath” rapture, or no rapture at all—people are still confusing the simple doctrine of the rapture.

Jesus Christ prayed to His Heavenly Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” All of the Bible is true, but certain portions are not true for everyone. All of the Bible is true, but it is not all true today. That is, one set of Bible directions is true for one group of people, but it is not true for another group of people (these people have a set of directions that are true for them). For instance, is a global flood threatening us today, such as in the days of Noah? No, but that was true in Noah’s day!

So, when 2 Timothy 2:15-18 says, [15] Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [16] But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. [17] And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; [18] Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some,” the only sensible answer as to what the word of truth is, is that it is referring to all of the Bible (specifically, how we are divide our mystery program, the Dispensation of Grace, from Israel’s prophetic program, lest we confuse ourselves and think we are in the prophetic program). The “word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15 can only be the Bible, not a gospel message, for the context does not allow any gospel message to be involved.

 

Also see:
» What is “rightly dividing the word of truth?” (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Is dispensational Bible study heresy? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» If dispensational Bible study is true, how come few people believe it? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Why did Paul water baptize?

Why did Paul water baptize?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul wrote, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel….” Unlike the 12 apostles in Matthew 28:19, Jesus Christ did not send Paul to water baptize, and yet, Paul did water baptize in Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, and Acts 18:8 (1 Corinthians 1:15-17). If Paul was not sent to water baptize, then why did he water baptize at all? A related question is, Why was Paul water baptized if water baptism has no place in our Dispensation of Grace? These are very good questions, and the Bible certainly has the answers. Will we be Berean Bible students and search the Scriptures for ourselves?

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:15-17 that Paul water baptized Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanus’ household. In Acts 18:1,7,8, which is where Paul first came to Corinth, the Bible says some of the Corinthian believers were Jews (this is what 1 Corinthians 1 is discussing). Crispus was the “chief ruler of the synagogue;” he and his household believed and were water baptized (Acts 18:8). Why Paul water baptized is best answered by considering the follow facts in Scripture:

  • The signs, miracles, and wonders of Israel’s program were carried over into Paul’s ministry. In doing so, God was demonstrating to Israel that her program was falling away, and Paul’s ministry was replacing Peter’s (Romans 11:11-13; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
  • Peter water baptized (Acts 2:41; Acts 10:46-48), so Paul also water baptized.
  • Paul spoke with tongues, performed healing miracles, et cetera, just like Peter did: healing—Acts 3:6-8 cf. Acts 14:8-10, raising the dead—Acts 9:36-42 cf. Acts 20:9-11, laying on hands to give the Holy Ghost—Acts 8:14-20 cf. Acts 19:6.

To validate Paul’s ministry for the Jews’ sake, God temporarily granted Paul the gift of miracle-working. Lest the Jews discredit Paul for not water baptizing, he also water baptized—that is, they could have said, “Paul does not water baptize… we should not follow him.” Paul water baptizing (and performing miracles) provoked the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11). Eventually, water baptism became divisive within the Corinthian church, and so Paul quit water baptizing.

Actually, the contents of 1 Corinthians indicate that Paul wrote it before Acts 28. By the time we get to Paul’s latter epistles (his prison epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Titus, Philemon, et cetera), Paul makes no more references to water baptism. By Acts 28, Israel’s program had ceased and she had fallen. The Acts transition period was over, and so Paul’s prison epistles such as Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, make no references to water baptism.

As a side-note, Paul was water baptized of Ananias because of Ananias’ benefit, not for Paul’s benefit (Acts 9:18; Acts 22:16). Paul was saved apart from his water baptism. Ananias knew that, up to that point, believers of Jesus Christ were water baptized. Had Paul not been water baptized, it would have been a stumbling block to those believing Jews who had been water baptized. Paul being water baptized was another instance of his ministry and apostleship replacing Peter’s. Paul being water baptized safeguarded against his critics from claiming that he was not a legitimate apostle for having not been baptized.

 

Also see:
» Why was water baptism necessary in Israel’s program?
» Do I need to be water baptized—for a testimony, for salvation, or not at all?
» Why was Jesus water baptized?