THERE are two great revelators, or unfolders of Divine Truth in the Bible—Moses in the Old Testament and Paul in the New.
Someone may say, "Is not Christ the Great Teacher?" In a sense this is true; but in a real sense Christ is the Person taught about, rather than teaching in the Gospels. The Law and the Prophets pointed forward to Christ; the Epistles point back to Him; and the Book of Revelation points to His Second Coming, and those things connected with it. The Four Gospels tell the story how He was revealed to men and rejected by them.* Christ, Himself, therefore is the theme of the Bible. Moses in the Law reveals God’s holiness, and thus by means of the Law reveals human sin and the utter hopelessness and helplessness of man. Paul in his great Epistles reveals Christ as our Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption, and All-in-All.
The twelve Apostles (Matthias by Divine appointment taking the place of Judas) were to be the "witnesses" (Acts 1:22) of Christ’s resurrection—that is, of the fact of it. They were not to unfold fully the doctrine of it as Paul was. The twelve were with Jesus personally and knew Him as a man, and when He died they saw it. When He was buried, they knew it personally as eye-witnesses. And when He was raised, they found it out experimentally, visiting His actual tomb and seeing that it was empty. They were also to see and handle the physical, risen body of our Lord. And it was with them that our Lord abode on earth forty days after His resurrection, "shewing Himself alive [physically, in a body] by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3).
This great fact—that is, that the Person whom the Jews themselves well knew they had crucified and buried, was risen from the dead and ascended to Heaven—this tremendous fact the twelve Apostles witnessed to Israel at Jerusalem and everywhere else. Thus we find the opening chapters of the Book of Acts filled with the single testimony that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead and that remission of sins was through Him.
But unto none of these twelve Apostles did God reveal the great body of doctrine for this Age. Just as God chose Moses to be the revelator to Israel for the Ten Commandments and all connected with the Law dispensation, so God chose Saul of Tarsus to be the revelator and unfolder of those mighty truths connected with our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection and His ascended Person. And all the "mysteries" or "secrets" revealed to God’s people in this Dispensation by the Holy Spirit are revealed by Paul. Finally, Paul is the unfolder of the great company of God’s elect, called the Church, the Body of Christ, the individuals of which Body are called members of the Body of Christ—members of Christ Himself.
No other Apostle speaks of these things. Peter himself had to learn them from Paul (2 Pet. 3:15-16). When Paul finishes his thirteen great Epistles (Romans to Philemon) those which belong to the Church, God indeed permits him to give a message then to the Hebrews. This is not part of the Church’s doctrine, but is simply explaining to Hebrew Christians the character, the real application, the typical meaning, of their Levitical system—that is, how it pointed forward to Christ.
James addresses his Epistle to "the twelve tribes"—that is, his Epistle has special reference to the Jewish Christians in the early days and to such throughout the Dispensation, for that matter. Peter writes to "the strangers who are sojourners of the Dispersion," that is, to the dispersed Jews who acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.
In the second chapter of Galatians we are distinctly told by Paul that James, Cephas, and John were to go to the circumcision, while Paul tells us that his message was to the Gentiles. Since then the testimony by the Jewish Apostles to the Jews was duly given, there is now no distinction between Jews and Gentiles; and Paul’s message holds good for the world, both Jews and Gentiles. So that we find Paul finally sets the Jewish nation aside in the last chapter of the Book of Acts and opens his great Epistle to the Gentile’s center of the world with the statement that "there is no difference" between men; for "all have sinned," and there is again "no difference," for "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," since the same Lord is "Lord of all" (Rom. 3:22-23; 10:12).
God does as He pleases, and it pleased Him to choose —first to save people in this Dispensation through "the foolishness of preaching" [the "preached thing"]—that is, through the message about the Cross and what was done there (See 1 Cor. 1:21). And second, it pleased Him to choose Paul to be the great proclaimer and revealer of just what the Gospel is for this Dispensation.
You can judge any man’s preaching or teaching by this rule—Is he Pauline? Does his doctrine start and finish according to those statements of Christian doctrine uttered by the Apostle Paul?
No matter how wonderful a man may seem in his gifts and apparent consecration—if his Gospel is not Pauline, it is not the Gospel; and we might as well get our minds settled at once as to that. Paul calls down the anathema—that is the curse of God Himself—upon anyone who preaches any other Gospel than that which he declared (Gal. 1:8-9).
Not for one moment are we to believe that James, Peter, and John were at variance with Paul—not in the least. They were given certain things by the Spirit to say to certain classes of people. They do not conflict with Paul. And their words are included in the statement that "All Scripture is profitable" (2 Tim. 3:16).
But nevertheless, Paul is the declarer and revealer of the Gospel to us. Take Romans to Philemon out of the Bible and you are bereft of Christian doctrine. For instance, if you were to take Paul’s Epistles out of the Bible, you cannot find anything about the Church, the Body of Christ, for no other Apostle mentions the Body of Christ. You cannot find one of the great mysteries, such as the Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15) or the mystery of the present hardening of Israel (Rom. 11). No other Apostle speaks of any of those mysteries. Paul alone reveals them—the great doctrines such as Justification, Redemption, Sanctification. And what is perhaps the most tremendous fact of every real Christian life, that of his personal union to the Lord in glory. Paul is the great Divinely-chosen opener to us of truth for this Age.
The great doctrines that Paul reveals may be outlined as follows—
1. The unrighteousness before God of all men.
2. The impossibility of justification by works before God— that is, of any man’s attaining a standing of righteousness before God by anything done by him. Do what a man may, he is a condemned sinner still.
3. The fact and the Scripturalness of righteousness on the free gift principle—that is, of Divine righteousness, separate from all man’s doings, conferred upon man as a free gift from God.
4. Propitiation—that satisfaction of God’s Holy Nature and law for man’s sins rendered by Christ’s blood.
5. Reconciliation—the removal by Christ’s death for man of that obstacle to righteousness which man’s sin had set up between God and man.
6. The plan of the actual conferring of the gift of righteousness upon all who believe, without any distinction. This change of a sinner’s standing before God, from one of condemnation to one of righteousness, is called Justification. Negatively, it is deliverance from guilt on account of Christ’s shed blood and deliverance out of the old creation by identification in death with Christ on the Cross. Positively, it is a new standing in the risen Christ before God.
7. Redemption—the buying back of the soul through the blood of Christ from sin; from the curse of the law—even death, involving exclusion from God under penalty; from the "power of death," which involves the hand of the enemy; and from all iniquity.
8. Forgiveness—the going forth of Divine tenderness in remitting the penalty for sin in view of the blood of Christ trusted in, and in complacency and fellowship to creatures who before were necessarily under Divine judgment.
9. Remission of sins—that is, the actual removing of transgressions or trespasses from the sinner, so that for all time and eternity his sins shall not again be upon him.
10. Identification—(see above, Justification). The great fact that those who are in Christ were united with Him at the Cross by God’s sovereign inscrutable act and were crucified with Christ and buried with Him, so that their history is now ended before God. And when Christ was raised up as the Firstborn of the new creation, they also were raised up with Him and their history began as new creatures in God’s sight in Christ, the Last Adam.
Of course, in the experience of the Christian there comes a time when he is actually made partaker of this new life—that point of time when he is, as we say, saved, or converted, or born again, etc. Nevertheless, the life that is in every Christian came up out of the Tomb, and it is in Christ Jesus that a man is created anew.
11. Incorporation—This tremendous doctrine Paul alone mentions, and he makes it practically the foundation of all his exhortations to the saints with regard to their conduct and life. By "incorporation" we mean the fact that all those who are really saved and are new creatures in Christ Jesus become members of one organism (called "the Body of Christ"), which is more real than the very earth we tread upon—Christ Himself in Heaven being the Head of this Body and every real Christian a member of it. So that believers are thus members of Christ in Heaven and also members one of another here on earth. No wonder Paul is able to exhort the saints to love one another when they are members one of another! (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4).
12. Inhabitation—The wonderful fact that the Body of Christ and each member of it individually is inhabited, indwelt, by the Holy Spirit Himself, and not only so, but that the Church is being "built together" as a great temple of God so that in the future God’s actual eternal dwelling place will be this wonderful, mysterious company built into a building called "a holy habitation of God in the Spirit."
This mystery is a great and marvelous one—the fact that we are saved, are partakers now of the life of the Lord in glory, that the Holy Spirit indwells us.
13. Divine Exhibition—That is, that through the Church in the ages to come is to be made known that which God counts His "riches," even His Grace (Eph. 2:7; 3:10).
The failure or refusal to discern the Pauline Gospel as a separate and new revelation and not a "development from Judaism," accounts for two-thirds of the confusion in many people’s minds today as regards just what the Gospel is. Paul’s Gospel will allow no admixture with works on the one hand or religious pretensions and performances on the other. It is as simple and clear as the sunlight from heaven. The end of man is where God begins in Romans 3, at what might be called the opening of the Pauline revelation. Most unsaved people today believe in their hearts that the reason they are not saved is because of something they have not yet done, some step that remains for them to take before God will accept them. But this is absolutely untrue. When Christ said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), He meant that He had, then and there, paid the debt for the whole human race. "He gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:6).
Now Paul in his wonderful revelation declares that God hath reconciled the world to Himself; that God was in Christ (at the Cross) reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). Men do not know this, but they conceive that something stands between them and God before God will accept or forgive them. If you tell a man that God is demanding no good works of him whatsoever, no religious observances or church ordinances, that God is not asking him to undertake any duties at all, but that God invites him to believe a glad message that his sins have already been dealt with at the Cross, and that God expects him to believe this good news and be exceedingly happy about it. If you tell an unsaved man such a story at this, he is astonished and overwhelmed—yet this is the Gospel!
Would that we had grace just as vigorously to defend his great message today, whether from its enemies or its real friends who do not see it clearly as yet; or who, like Peter (Gal. 2), through fear of others are ready to compromise and tone down the Gospel of God.
*Christ, when on earth, did not "start" anything. He said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My Church," but He had not yet built it. He was a "minister of the circumcision" (Rom. 15:8; Matt. 15:24); and though He taught, it was to disclose to men their helplessness and lead them to rely on Him. Finally, all failed in Gethsemane. Then came the Cross and the end of all things human. Then the Resurrection and a new beginning.