There is only one way in which salvation is accomplished. As discussed in the previous post, the means of salvation was kept a secret throughout most of human history. Now that the means of salvation has been clearly explained to us by the apostle Paul, we understand how it is that God at any time could save humanity – a humanity that is full of sin. There is only one way, ever, of salvation and that is Christ’s finished work on the cross.
God does not ever save anyone by his or her works. The equation is never, in any dispensation, faith plus works equals salvation. Individuals are saved only by God’s grace throughout the corridors of history. Recognizing that, we must also identify that from the beginning of the world, individuals did ask the question concerning how a person could be just in the eyes of God:
Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?
Job, asking within what is most likely the earliest penned book within the Bible, did not know how man could be just in the sight of God. Job knew about the redeemer. He knew about being on the earth. He knew about many of the aspects of salvation – forgiveness, justice, etc.. Despite all that, he did not know how man could be just with God.
Within Psalm 51 and Psalm 143, David pleaded mercy before God, not knowing how God could be merciful to him. Jonah, in Jonah chapter 2, states that salvation is of the Lord and in chapter 3, verse 9, he states, “who can tell if God will turn and repent from His fierce anger?” Jonah did not know.
We, the body of Christ, know God’s grace and how it is that He can look at sinful humanity and why it is that He refrains from obliterating humanity from existence. We know that God can save through Christ and His finished work. Salvation, and how it worked, was a mystery and it has now been revealed. God is now offering salvation based upon His finished work. The finished work was performed at the cross and the resurrection. Salvation was a mystery – how it worked could not be known before it happened and before it was revealed.
In Acts 3, when Peter was preaching at Pentecost after the death and resurrection of his Messiah, he stated:
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Peter was preaching about a time of restoration, a time of salvation, when all sin in the world, along with the curse, will be gone and God’s kingdom will be on planet earth and there will be peace on earth and good will towards men. The Bible tells us that there will be restitution and a kingdom. Peter states in 1 Peter that Christ will bring salvation with Him from heaven:
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:4-5
Peter in Acts 3:21 tells us that there was something spoken since the world began. The kingdom, the Messiah, salvation to come was preached and was disclosed. Something also was hidden, it was a mystery, since the world began and this mystery was Christ’s finished work on the cross and all of the things that come with salvation offered to all men. This mystery was hid in God, not known since the world began and Paul says it was kept secret.
This mystery is, however, not a secret today. The information about Christ’s finished work on the cross to all men was revealed to the apostle Paul and he communicated it in Scripture, inspired by God, so that we can know it. The common mistake made within Christendom is that since it is now revealed to us, in our current dispensation, people look through the lenses of Scripture with this understanding and they make the assumption that since this was God’s purpose since the world began, neglecting that it was hidden, they think that that must have been what everybody believed for salvation since that is how all men are eventually saved. That is not the case. The bulk of Christianity is wrong in that assumption.
Salvation was a mystery and God offers salvation today according to what we now know; according to what was revealed to the apostle Paul. God was not offering salvation through the mystery revealed to Paul in time past. It was a subject kept secret.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
2 Timothy 1:8-9
This is how salvation works. According to God’s purpose, He already knew what He was going to do to save humanity and it was by His grace, which was His work on our behalf, not by our works. Paul continues:
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
2 Timothy 1:10
“But is now made manifest” … we must ask, “what happened before the but is now?” The answer is that it was not made manifest. It was not made known. It has now been made manifest. By what? By the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ. When did Jesus appear? Is this verse referring to His first coming? Is it referring to a baby in the manger? We have to ask the question, “did they, Jews in Israel before 1 B.C., know this information at that point in time?” The answer is no. Did Peter talk about this mystery information? No. What we have to remember is that Jesus Christ appeared to Paul multiple times and that He provided Paul revelation each time He appeared:
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 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.
And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
The multiple appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ to the apostle Paul should be of no surprise to us. Paul informed us in Acts 26, while recounting the road to Damascus incident to king Agrippa, that Jesus appeared to him numerous times and it was with the intention of providing Paul more and more content to just what it was that Paul was now being arrested into service for:
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 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; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
The apostle Paul speaks about Jesus’ appearing to him within 1 Timothy 1:
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
1 Timothy 1:16
Instead of showering down His just wrath against Saul of Tarsus, Jesus showed grace to the one who was persecuting Him and made him the apostle to the Gentiles. The “them” in “for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe” is you and me. The apostle Paul was the first member of the new creature known as the body of Christ and he is our pattern to be followed. Jesus provided this newly appointed apostle a gospel that is unique to our present dispensation. Let’s look at 2 Timothy 1:10 again:
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
2 Timothy 1:10
When asking the question “where is the gospel found that saves a person,” we must first ask the question “what does the word ‘gospel’ mean?” This is a critical subject to understand and the answers to these questions are unfortunately neglected by the Church in our current age.
Romans chapter 3 tells us how salvation works. Verse 23 tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Verse 24 tells us that we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Verses 25 through 26 provide us key information for us to understand:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
There is so much packed into these two verses – propitiation, salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, Christ’s righteousness, the providing of redemption, justification through faith in Jesus – and these things were not declared before this time. God’s righteousness to believers in Jesus Christ and His righteousness being imputed to them was not declared to anyone before the apostle Paul. It was hidden information. It was kept secret since the world began. What was spoken since the world began was that man is a sinner, that God is the Saviour, that a Saviour would come, and that He would die and rise from the dead, but “how” salvation would be accomplished was kept a secret. It was part of the mystery.
“How can a just and loving God respond to the problem of evil” is a common question that is asked by non-believers. The answer to that question is found in Romans 3:25 through 26. The Bible tells us how God responded to evil. He sent Christ to die on a cross for sins. Christ was sent to be a propitiation through faith. Looking closer at Romans 3:25, we see that it contains information that is key to answering the question “where is the gospel found that saves you?”:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
There exists confusion within Christendom today pertaining to salvation made clear. There is a difference between salvation, there being only one way, and gospels, of which there are many found within Scripture. It is quite obvious, while giving a plain and literal reading of the Scriptures, that there is more than one gospel within the Bible. There is only one way of salvation, but there are many gospel messages provided within the Bible throughout the corridors of time.
A gospel message is not the same as what salvation is or how it works. The gospel, whichever one applies at that time in God’s progressively revealed history, is the message from God. The work of salvation is not the same as the preaching of the gospel of salvation. Everyone at all times who is saved comes to that salvation through the merits of Christ’s finished work. The question we need to ask, however, is “did they know that during their particular point in history?”
While carefully studying our Bibles, we must understand and recognize what offer was provided to different people, by God, throughout the history that is documented within the Bible. Abraham is one of the best examples provided within Scripture. Within all of the context that we read concerning Abraham, there is no mention of Christ’s finished work. Instead, what we read about is an offer made from God and then how Abraham responds in faith, as the just shall always do.
The terms of salvation are always different from salvation itself. How salvation was accomplished through Jesus Christ’s finished work is different than the terms by which God provides in order to obtain salvation. If God accomplishes salvation and He offers it, He can make whatever offer He wants to since it is His salvation. God requires faith, but we must ask the question, “faith in what?”
Abraham had faith that his wife Sarah would conceive, but Abraham becoming a father with Sarah had nothing to do with Christ’s finished work on the cross. The gospel message must be distinguished from the actual work of salvation. Granted, it is difficult to do that during our current dispensation since the gospel message, the offer that God makes for us to place our faith in, is the same message as what actually provides salvation – the finished work of Christ on the cross. How salvation was accomplished is what God would have you and I to believe today in order to be saved. That said, the terms of the offer from God have been different within prior dispensations and they will be different in the future.
If Christ’s work is the way of salvation, how do you receive that salvation? You can know that Christ did all the work – He finished it. The question is, “how do you get that?” How do you get Christ’s righteousness credited to your account? We must understand how one receives salvation.
If salvation is justification, imputation, forgiveness, glory, holiness, and purity, how does one receive it? That is what the gospel is. The gospel is a message about salvation. It is an offer pertaining to what one needs to hear in order to receive the benefits of salvation. Salvation is found in Christ on the cross. We must ask, “where within Scripture are the terms, the offer, where God tells us what it is we must put our faith in in order to obtain that salvation?”
Recognize that it is God’s salvation, it is God’s riches, and that He gets to offer the terms throughout history, while keeping the “how” to salvation a mystery since the world began. Thus He has offered different gospels, terms, messages, for people to respond to throughout history.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us how salvation works, the imputation of sin to Christ and righteousness to us, but what is missing in this verse is any mention of how we get that salvation. This verse does not speak to that. How does one receive the grace of God? What must they do to be saved? What are the terms? This is where the student of the Bible must identify what God delivered to humanity, how He deals with humanity, and how man should respond.
We must understand how salvation works and what God’s offer was at that point in time in order for man to receive it. If God told the Jews that they had to keep the commandments in order to obtain everlasting life, the commandment keeping has nothing to do with “how” they received eternal life. We cannot, however, miss the fact that those were the terms that God set with the nation Israel at that point in history. The Law shows the knowledge of sin. Thus God was trying to communicate something to humanity in that when a covenant was made and agreed to, God’s chosen people could not even keep the terms that were set. It had nothing to do with how salvation was actually accomplished. It was, however, still required of them.
No one at that point in history understood how salvation was accomplished, but faith was demonstrated by doing what God told them to do. Keep in mind that God provided the nation Israel a way to approach Him even when they failed to keep the Law and that was through the sacrificial system. We are not told to do that today. God gave us instructions to trust in Christ’s finished work, not to keep commandments (the Law) and to offer sacrifices when we fail.
Man has always been saved by the grace of God through faith, not by works. There can be no other way to be saved. There is only one way to salvation, but there are indeed multiple gospel messages within Scripture. The gospel is not salvation. The gospel is what you hear in order to receive salvation. We must make salvation clear and that clarity comes through rightly dividing the Scriptures.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
Jesus, recorded in Mark 8:35, is teaching that if a Jew lost his or her life that they were going to gain something. Martyrdom within Jesus’ kingdom ministry accomplished for them a position in the kingdom. That fact does not hold true within our current dispensation, the dispensation of the grace of God. Within verse 35, Jesus states “whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s”. We know that Jesus is the one that does the work of salvation, but what we must ask of this verse is, “what gospel was Jesus teaching at this point in history?” At this point within history, Jesus had not died on the cross and He was not resurrected yet. Jesus, in Mark 8, is not teaching His death on the cross for salvation. Therefore, what gospel was He preaching? The answer is found earlier within the book of Mark:
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
This is the gospel of the kingdom. John the Baptist preached the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom. The 12 disciples and the 70 disciples preached the gospel of the kingdom. Peter continued to preach the gospel of the kingdom all the way through Acts chapter 8.
Why would the kingdom message be a gospel? The kingdom message promised Christ’s return to the planet and peace on earth. That message is nothing but “good news”. The gospel in Mark chapter 1 is the message that the kingdom was at hand, that the time was fulfilled, and that the prophecies that had been spoken since the world began were going to occur. All the nation Israel had to do was to believe it. That was the message provided at that point within history. Within Mark chapter 10, Jesus again makes a distinction between the gospel and who He is:
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
We must recognize that at this point in history, believing Jews were preparing themselves to enter the promised kingdom and they were responding, in faith, to a gospel that was all about the kingdom, where earthly possessions were of no use. We see this represented throughout the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and we also see it represented within the early chapters to the book of Acts:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom, what theologians refer to as the Millennial Kingdom, will come after great wrath, with earthquakes, calamities, death, and disease. When that kingdom comes, there will be no need for those who enter it to bring along earthly possessions. Just like Israel in the desert for forty years, everything will be provided for those who enter Christ’s earthly mediatorial kingdom.
The gospel is God’s offer of how man can receive salvation. Faith is not how salvation is accomplished, it is how you receive it. Faith does not save. God saves and He saves through His finished work on the cross and we are to place our faith in that finished work. Your faith does not do anything to save you. Faith is you hearing God’s words and receiving it. Your saying “I have faith” does not change what Christ did on the cross. Likewise, if someone says “I do not have faith,” that does not change what Christ did on the cross either. Salvation has been accomplished by what Christ did on the cross. The gospel today is the communication of “trust what He did on the cross” and when you hear that and you trust in it, you have faith. Salvation is then given to you. Grace, through faith, is how you receive it. The “how” one receives salvation is through faith:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
“Through faith” is your response. It is how you receive. It is not what God has accomplished. Salvation is through faith and not by works. But we must ask the question, “faith in what?” We must not confuse faith itself as the substance of salvation. Christ’s cross is the substance of salvation. Christ’s cross is how salvation is accomplished. Your faith is your response to it and it must be a positive response in order to be saved. Christ paid for salvation and how you receive it is through faith in that. Faith in Christ’s finished work is what is required.
The apostle Paul speaks to a gospel according to the revelation of the mystery. He refers to it synonymously as the gospel of the grace of God and the gospel of your salvation. This is a unique gospel. It is unique to this dispensation in which you and I live. It is a gospel where only belief is required. It is different from the gospel that required belief and baptism (the gospel of the kingdom):
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Mark did not know the mystery of Christ. The mystery was not revealed within the book of Mark. Mark writes about the gospel of the kingdom and Paul writes about the gospel of the grace of God. With both of these gospels, we must ask the question “what is one to believe?”
The nation Israel was to believe in Christ as their Messiah and the kingdom that He offered. Paul communicates belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Understand that grace always requires a work to be completed in order for that grace to be provided and Christ did that work on the cross. Within the gospel of the kingdom, Christ is the King and He is going to return to set up His kingdom, but within that gospel, Christ has not yet completed the work necessary. Yes, Jesus is the King, but He has not returned as of yet and He has not initiated His kingdom on earth as of yet. Salvation will be provided to the nation Israel when they enter their kingdom.
Jesus offered terms that stated that the nation Israel had to believe in Him as the Christ, their prophesied Messiah, and that they had to obey the commandments. On what basis could Christ forgive? The nation Israel did not know about the finished work of Christ on the cross. Paul, however, could preach the basis of forgiveness, redemption, justification, and sanctification and based on that basis, Paul repeatedly tells us that we are not to do any works for salvation. Thus the gospel message has changed, but Christ’s finished work on the cross has not changed. The gospel message has changed, but God hasn’t changed. Salvation hasn’t changed.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Peter continues the gospel of the kingdom at Pentecost when he answers his Jewish listeners with “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin”. Seeking out baptism is a work and that should be no surprise to us since the nation Israel was instructed to keep the commandments and to do works. Each of the apostles to Israel continued this message after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection:
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? … Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
James 2:20, 24
James tells us that faith without works is dead. James’ message is not one of “faith only,” which is the message of the apostle Paul, but rather faith plus works. James’ audience is the 12 tribes of Israel and they were offered Jesus as the Christ and a future kingdom. Realize that this kingdom is still future and that the nation Israel is still waiting for it.
The gospel, the offer, that the apostle Paul preaches states that Christ already did the work. What work is there left for you to do? None! God is making it clear within this dispensation that what Christ did is everything that needs to be done. There is a distinction between what God did and what God offers. Why is it that Israel had to keep the Law? The answer is that God required it of them. We are not to read into that that it took Law keeping in order for God to be glorified or for Him to accomplish salvation or for Him to be magnified. God was only trying to demonstrate to humanity their need for a saviour since no one can keep the Law.
The 12 disciples were chosen by Jesus to preach a specific gospel. The gospel that the 12 preached was the same message that John the Baptist and Christ Himself preached:
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
There is nothing mentioned within the passage of Luke 9:1-6 about the cross of Christ and His finished work. This gospel of the kingdom is God’s offer to the nation Israel and that harmonizes completely since Jesus was a minister of the circumcision and He was sent to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs of Israel:
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
All throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the gospel is being preached, healings are occurring, miracles are being witnessed, and the nation Israel is being told to believe the gospel. The gospel is the offer. Some believed, but many rejected the offer. Thus salvation did not occur. The kingdom did not come.
Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
Jesus’ death and resurrection were prophesied within Scripture, but this passage tells us that the disciples did not understand those things. The only point that needs to be made is that the inner 12 did not understand Jesus’ death and resurrection, but yet they were preaching a gospel nine chapters earlier. The gospel in Luke chapter 9 does not include the death and resurrection. The disciples did not understand it, so how could it be included? We come to the same understanding when comparing Matthew 9 against Matthew 16:
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
Peter’s action resulted in a harsh rebuke from our Lord, but the point is that clearly, Peter had no understanding of the means of salvation – how that Christ’s finished work on the cross would be the salvation of all mankind throughout the corridors of time. Peter did not know the mystery and in fact, stood in opposition to what God had purposed since the world began. Christ did not tell Peter about that mystery, but Christ knew it. It was not for Peter to know. Seven chapters after Matthew 9 and the preaching of the kingdom, the disciples still know nothing about the cross. Thus we conclude that there were two separate gospel messages being preached between Peter and Paul – one that had no cross of Christ and one that is all about the cross of Christ.
The cross is the content of the gospel that we are to believe within this current dispensation. Paul states as much in 1 Corinthians:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
A gospel is God’s terms offered up to you. Why are these two gospels, the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God, different? God sent Jesus and the 12 apostles to Israel in order to confirm the promises made to the fathers through what the prophets spoke. God called Paul, not numbered among the 12, and sent him to the gentiles. The gospel that God sent through the apostle Paul was different than the gospel that Peter was preaching. Remember, however, that there is only one way that all men can ever be saved. That information was kept secret and revealed to the apostle Paul. We can now understand it. Peter, John, and James did not understand it. That means that we, today, can understand things that Peter and the other 11 did not know in Luke 9 and Matthew 9.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Paul was given information and he refers to it as “a dispensation of the gospel”. In Ephesians 6:19, he calls it “the mystery of the gospel”. In Acts 20:24, Paul calls it “the gospel of the grace of God”. It was a gospel offer and a message that was kept secret. It was a gospel offer and a message that did not include works. It was a gospel offer and a message that stood apart from the gospel of the kingdom and the terms of this offer take us right back to Romans chapter 3:
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
The offer communicated by the apostle Paul is free. It is by God’s grace. The verse above does not say “Being justified, if you humble yourself, since God gives grace to the humble.” Have you heard the expression “God will give grace to the humble”? Where does that expression come from?
Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.
Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5
These seven verses tell us that the cost of grace is humility. Those verses stand in contrast to the apostle Paul’s message in Romans 3:24 where Paul states that the cost of grace is free. The terms for salvation within the book of Romans are “freely” because Christ did the work and salvation, which is redemption, comes by grace and we receive it freely through faith in His blood. The message of “free grace” is found only within Paul’s 13 epistles. The seven verses above come from various books that surround the apostle Paul’s 13 epistles within your Bible. Though we will discuss this subject in detail within a future post, we must ask the question at this point, “which books within the Bible are actually written TO me?”
And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
What is the free gift within this verse? Justification. It is justification that comes through faith.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
There is a free gift being offered with no strings attached. Faith is what is being asked for and faith is not a work:
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Do not work for your salvation. You cannot contribute to it. Believe! Belief is not a work. Faith is not doing anything. Faith is hearing the offer of free salvation and one responding with “Yes!, I want that!” “I trust what Christ did on the cross and He gives me salvation freely.” That is how you receive it.
- You know that you need salvation. (Sin)
- You know what salvation is. (Forgiveness, redemption, justification, etc.)
- You know who gives salvation. (Jesus Christ)
- You know how salvation is accomplished. (Christ’s finished work on the cross)
- Now you know how to receive salvation. (You believe the correct gospel, the offer made for salvation)
Now that we know all these things, one of the questions that will arise is, “when did this offer of salvation begin?” Acts chapter 26 provides us insight into the answer to that question:
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; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 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.
Jesus, speaking to Paul within this passage, is sending him to the gentiles to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins. Did the gentiles have forgiveness of sins? This verse indicates that at this point in history, they did not. Jesus sent Paul to the gentiles to preach that they may receive forgiveness of sins. How do they receive it? Verse 18 states, “by faith that is in me.” This passage tells us that at that moment in time, the gentiles do not have salvation and that Paul is being sent to preach to them so that they may receive it, by faith.
How does one receive salvation today? By faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. One has to have faith, but it is not faith in just anything. It is faith in the offer that God has provided. If one comes to Christ and says “I want to be saved according to the gospel that was given to Abraham,” they will not be saved and God will say “I did not offer that to you.” Likewise, if a person comes to Christ and says, “I want to follow you into the kingdom and thus I am going to be water baptized this weekend,” He will state, “I never promised that to you.”
God has provided an offer of salvation through Scripture that differs from other offers. It is imperative that we recognize and understand what it is that God is telling us to believe and what it is that He is offering us. What are the terms for salvation during this current dispensation? Right Division enables us to discern the difference, dispensationally, between God’s offers throughout history. We must understand what God has revealed for us to understand and believe and we must commit to doing what He has told us to do. When you believe that, you will receive what God is offering you. Today, that is full, complete, and free salvation when you trust, you believe, in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Salvation has now appeared by the gospel of the grace of God:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Salvation, what it is, is spoken of throughout the Bible, but Titus 2:11 tells us that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all. It is not salvation itself that has been revealed, it is the grace of God that brings salvation that has been revealed. Salvation is by grace through faith, but no one before Paul knew how it would be accomplished. Grace is how it is accomplished.
Within Ephesians 1, Paul explains how one receives salvation:
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 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,
Ephesians 1, verses 12 and 13, does not include how salvation works and does not answer the question “how can a just God forgive sins,” but what it does tell us is how one can receive what He has accomplished for our salvation. You hear the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and you trust it. That is what happened that caused you to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. You hear the gospel, the offer of salvation, and you believe it. You trust in Christ and His gospel and you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians then goes on to describe the riches that you have in Christ Jesus, by grace, through faith. God does the work, you receive the free gift through faith.
Paul’s writings make salvation clear. Understanding the information that was kept secret and was then revealed to Paul, makes salvation clear. Paul’s writings glory in Christ on the cross. The book of Hebrews, written to the Hebrews, also talks about Jesus’ work on the cross and it is the work that He does for priestly Israel. He states that He does it once, but that He is not done yet and that He will come a second time unto salvation. In contrast, Paul talks about your salvation being complete. It is done. It is finished and it happens to be offered freely to you. The revelation of the mystery of Christ, revealed to the apostle Paul, has nothing to do with Paul and has everything to do with what Christ accomplished on the cross. Salvation is made clear through Paul’s writings. Salvation is now offered freely to all by grace.
 Romans 16:25
 Time Past (Eph 2:11), But Now (Eph 2:13), Ages to Come (Eph 2:7) – you live in the “But Now” portion of Scripture.
 Romans 11:13
 See John 13:20 then 1 Cor 4:16; 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17; Phil 4:9; Gal 4:12; 1 Thes 4:1-2; 2 Thes 3:7
 Compare Gal 2:7-8; Gal 3:8; Mk 1:14-15; Acts 20:24; 1 Cor 15:1-4; Rev 14:6
 Ephesians 3:2
 Romans 16:25
 Acts 20:24
 Ephesians 1:13
 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
 Acts 3:19-21; Acts 15:11; Mt 24:13; 1 Pet 1:12-13
 Keeping of the Law.
 James 1:1
 The Messiah – See John 1:41
 Romans 11:13
 1 Corinthians 9:17
 Romans 3:25
 Romans 5:12
 Hebrews 9:28