A Commentary: Studying the New Testament
The New believer often becomes confused when reading the New Testament.
John the Baptist says “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, (matt 3;2) Jesus says “believe.(john 11:25)” Peter said “repent, and be baptised” (Acts 2:38) and finally, Paul says “by Grace through faith are ye saved, and not of works, lest any man should boast”. (Eph 2:8) In regards to baptism, he says “For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the Gospel”(1Cor 1:17). So? How do we square these apparently contradictory messages?. The answer is very simple. “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). This means to understand what applies to us, and what doesn’t. I hope this helps.
To begin with, none of these messages contradict. All have the same theme. God’s Grace, and his unconditional love for his creation..One universal message from many different men.”The Gospel of the Grace of God” is the universal theme in all their preaching.
All were messengers of Jesus. All of their messages, and Jesus message during his earthly ministry, were fit for the time, and the two prophets (in Revelation) message will be the message for the tribulation. To understand the New Testament, one simply needs to put things in a historical, chronological context, and apply it to the preaching of these messengers of Jesus.
Jesus preached what is commonly referred to as “the Kingdom Gospel,” and IF Israel would have accepted him,the messages of Peter, Paul, and the two prophets of revelation would not exist. This “Kingdom Gospel” will again be in effect when Jesus returns, and begins his thousand year Reign. This will “rattle some cages”, and “ruffle some feathers”, but Jesus message during his earthly ministry was strictly for Israel, and baptism was not a primary element of his message. BELIEF unto repentance was required.
Another way to look at it is to go to your workplace, and pull up some updated procedures. If you go back just a few yrs, and look at the corresponding procedure in place at the time, you will see that they were applicable at that time, but wouldn’t make a lot of sense, or even be correct, in the context of the present day in your workplace. So it is with the Bible. As times and circumstances changed, they had to be updated. So it is with God’s message to his creation. As events unfolded in God’s plan for man, God keeps us “updated” thru his Word. Applying this principle of “revision”, for lack of a better term, helps us to make sense of the New Testament Gospels.
Contrary to what many believe, since the completion of the Bible, there are now no mysteries between God and his creation on earth in the present age. God always gives us CURRENT INFORMATION of his plans for us. Nothing is hidden. I digress, Where it is hidden, the TIMING of the Rapture of the church for example, (the doctrine of imminance) God TELLS us it is hidden. Outside of the TIMING of the Rapture, He’s not keeping anything from us, and he’s got a good reason to keep this timing from us. The Doctrine of Imminence is a matter for further study, and I’ll not address that at this time.
As of this writing, PAUL’s message of Grace thru faith alone is the most recent revision of God’s plan for the ages. But, I’m not here to preach Paul. JESUS Is the author, Paul is a messenger, and Paul’s message of Grace through faith alone will no longer apply after the Rapture. Mankind will recieve a new message from God in the two Prophets sent to Israel during the tribulation period. Logically speaking, Paul’s instructions about deacons and elders and preachers for example, won’t make much sense during the tribulation. During the tribulation, accepting Jesus will mean torture and execution, or starvation. Faith, and obedience unto death will be required.
Paul, and all the other messengers of Jesus were given fit messages for the time, from Jesus PERSONALLY, and in a historical context. Please remember this in your study. . Back to some of the messengers and their messages:
Noah’s Covenant, Abraham’s Covenant, and Moses message pointed to a COMING sacrifice, with the laws and ordinances as an allegory and shadow of things to come. It was “revised and updated”, by fulfilled prophecy and events unfolding in God’s plan for man. The Crucifixion of Jesus specifically. The faith of Abraham was an allegory of the Faith of the believer TODAY. Abraham looked FORWARD to the cross and a coming Savior by FAITH, and today’s believer looks BACK to the cross by FAITH alone, without seeing Jesus, while the Jew in Israel at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry was LOOKING at the man, hence the difference in what Paul preaches to those who never met Jesus, and what Jesus preached “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
Look at it like this: If Abraham went to church in his day, almost three thousand years ago, what gospel would he have heard preached? Jesus had not came and died for his sins yet, so “Christ died for your sins” which is preached today would have made no sense at all. BUT, a grace gospel saying “Christ WILL come and die for your sins one day” would have been the saving gospel for Abraham, and it WAS!.. “God will provide himself a sacrifice”.
Ok, now look at what Jesus preached. Jesus did not preach “I have died for your sins”, he let the apostles do that after his resurrection. Jesus preached to “BELIEVE IN ME, you’re looking at me”, so if Jesus had preached grace through faith alone before his death, it would have sounded silly. All the “gospels” these men preached were the saving gospel of the time, and they do not contradict one another.
Jesus preached to Israel alone, and their intended role in the Kingdom was to take Jesus message to the world. Many will take offense to that statement. Jesus said “I come but for the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, in reference to his ministry here on earth before his death on the cross.
John the Baptist pointed to a PRESENT Saviour, and his message reflected that. Belief unto baptism was required. Logically speaking, his message wouldn’t make much sense if applied to the age of Grace today. Jesus was THERE, in their midst, and had been for thirty years, Faith wasn’t the primary element of John’s message. Jesus was as well known in Israel as Donald Trump is in America for example. John’s message reflected that. It also was “revised and updated” after the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ..Peter preached “repent, and be baptised” which reflected the reality of the Resurrection, and Israel’s first hand knowledge of Jesus at that time. Jesus was street knowledge in Israel. All of Israel knew Jesus as an accepted Prophet and a Teacher in the Temple, and also as “the carpenter’s son”. His resurrection had occurred just 50 days prior, so no one had to be convinced of who Jesus was, or his Resurrection from the dead. The message Peter preached on the day of Pentecost would have made no sense to anyone outside Israel in his time. For example, if Peter had preached elsewhere that day, Rome for example, they would have had no idea what he was talking about. Using old reliable logic again, at this time in Israel, It wouldn’t have taken a lot of faith to believe in something you witnessed with your own eyes and received first hand accounts about. Again, Faith wasn’t a primary element of Peter’s message. Belief , and obedience unto baptism was required. Baptism at that time was a VERY big deal. (more on that later).Because the Jews had rejected Jesus, and would not be fulfilling their INTENDED purpose of Evangelizing the World with the “Kingdom Gospel” of Jesus, A “revision and update” was in order. They were “blinded in part” and “set aside, until the fullness of the Gentiles is come in”. God used Paul, a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin to do this.