Two Face the Gospel

 In Christianity there are diffently two faces of the gospel presented to the lost.  And both of these personifications are at opposite extremes of the gospel, as if the gospel has more than one truth found in it.  On one had we have those who present grace and only grace as the guarantee of eternal life.  They profess that our behavior after being born again has nothing to do with our salvation.  Consequently, the logic is one can live as they want and still go to heaven.  Of course the champion of this is personified by Christ.  On the other hand we have those who present works as a prerequisite on top of grace in order to be saved.  The Law, give by Moses, is the one everyone thinks of when it comes to having to do works in order to be saved.  Both of these views can find no agreement with each other, as if there is two completely different gospels found in scripture.  The result is two versions of Christianity embodied in one gospel.  Let’s call this embodiment what it is, let’s call it “Two Face”.

Some will rationalize that the gospel had evolved during the fist century church and that works was thought to be needful in order to be saved.  Just as the Jews wrestled with the question of whether or not gentiles should follow the Law of Moses or not.  We can see this debate played out in the book of Acts.  The prevailing opinion was gentiles should not be troubled with the Law of Moses.

Act 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

Why would they not trouble the gentiles, well because their message in the book of Acts and all of the New Testament is we are not justified by the Law.

  Act 13:38-39 KJV Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: (39) And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

So some contend that those passages that speak of works in some form or another in scripture are earlier understandings of the gospel and are really lesser gospels than other books.  In common terms, don’t hang to much on what James say, rather put your hope more in what Paul says.  James just didn’t understand the gospel when he wrote It, like Paul did when he wrote much later.  Is this the way we should be looking at scripture, as something that need to evolve in the fist century?   

The bottom line of scripture is we are not justified by obeying the Law of Moses.  It says this in scripture in so many ways I would hate to have to recount them all.  BUT… then there are those many scriptures that speak of obedience to God or there is no salvation.  I hate to say it, but it is true.  There are those many scriptures that speak of needing to endure, keep the confidence, not live in sin, not live according to the flesh.  If all of these verses are found in James does it mean that we can ignore them, as some would contend?

So what is the answer to this Two Face Gospel?  Before I answer this let me help make answering the question even more difficult to answer.  Did you know that Paul did not have a new revelation given to him by Jesus.  Yes it is true he got his gospel by revelation of Jesus but he did not have Jesus teach him a truth outside of what he already had in the Law of Moses and the Prophets. .

Gal 1:12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Some would justify their position of an evolving gospel in the fist century because Paul had not yet preached his revelation when James wrote his epistle.  This is a position of some of those on the grace side of Two Face.  Funny thing is Paul never once quotes this expected new revelation in scripture.  Not ever.  What Paul testifies to as the gospel is not any parchments that he wrote the new revelation from Christ on as some suppose.  Instead over and over again Paul quotes the one thing the grace crowd supposes is irrelevant to the Christian.  Paul’s gospel that he quotes over and over again is the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  In fact if you go to the last chapter of Acts at the very last part, you will see Paul preaching about Christ and the Kingdom of God, not from his supposed new revelation, but from the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  If one wants to do a little more reading, when Paul is saved from the Jews in Jerusalem and held in prison what hope do you think he puts his hope in.  Some in the grace crowd think Paul would say his new revelation, but this is not true.  Paul put his hope in the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

Act 24:14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

In fact all of the church had only the Law of Moses and the Prophets for their gospel.  Sorry, scripture does not support any new revelation outside of what is already given in, you guessed it, the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  So we can conclude that our gospel is not based on a new revelation best understood by Paul as dictated to him by Christ.  Our gospel according to the gospel says Paul’s revelation was a new understanding of what he already had in the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 

Since this is true, was there still some evolution of the gospel?  Did Paul understand the Law and Prophets better than James?   The problem with this idea is those troubling verses concern man’s responsibility in salvation are not all found in the book of James.  In fact Paul, the champion of grace, says the same things James and Hebrews says.  So this makes the issue even more confusing.

My next post will look at the Two Competing Gospels and get down to the one true coherent gospel where grace does not conflict with works.  Want to know when I post my conclusion, take the guess work out of it and simply follow The Gospel According to the Gospel.

5 thoughts on “Two Face the Gospel

  1. Gal 1:12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ

    When one ‘receives’ the revelation from God, he knows and understands the function and application of Law, Prophets, and Grace (Christ). The three are one truth. Law proved man’s fallen state. Prophet as spokesman of God proclaimed the consequence of both sin (death) and righteousness (resurrection). Christ came as the fulfillment/completion of God’s redemptive plan for fallen man. Christ is the redemption of fallen man, as proved/represented by the blood sacrifices under the Law and as affirmed and proclaimed by the Prophets. The blood sacrifice under the Law is infant Grace…yet Grace as surely as Grace today. But in Christ the infant is full grown. Thus He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill or complete its purpose and application.

    Teachers present material for learning to primary grades using concrete (demonstrate/hands on) methods rather than abstract (see/hear/reference only) for the purpose of successfully teaching facts. God did the same with the Law. Law is the concrete demonstration of sin’s guilt and consequence (convicted of sin). Grace is the abstract application understood by the previous concrete presentation (Law).

    Oh well. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it :).


    • Nice Carolyn! I too believe in the OT and NT Covenant’s: and the Law & Gospel understanding of St. Paul, (Gal. 4: 1-7). A very important part of Paul’s ministry was just the proper understanding about the Law of God, we can see the fruit of Paul’s grappling with this in the revelations God had given to him, (Romans chapters 5 thru 8). And this was no small matter to Paul as a Jew and a former Jewish Pharisee! (Acts 22: 1-5, etc.) And indeed the “Law is the concrete demonstration of sin’s guilt and consequence (convicted of sin). Grace is the abstract (theoretical, but a pronounced summary of God’s beauty & purpose) application understood by the previous concrete presentation (Law). – Grand statement Carolyn, and very “theological”! *Thanks to let me add my little parenthetical. 🙂

      • According to Paul, the Law was not just a “concrete demonstration of sin’s guilt and consequence”. To Paul it was the concrete demonstration of the gospel. This is why Paul say that through obeying the Law no man is justified. But a righteouness from God apart from the Law is shown, testified to, by the same Law of Moses and the Prophets. Paul continues by saying even the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ, first to the Jew and the gentiles. To only look at the Law only as man’s guilt is a misunderstanding not only of Paul’s gospel, but the gospel message as a whole. The Law is the good news that Paul was preaching in the last chapter of Acts in the very last part when He finally made it to Rome. Not some new revelation as some think he received.

    • I would like to tweek your comment just a little. The practice of sacrifice in the Law was the hope of the gospel being lived out in the lives of the Jews. We all know that the blood of animals never took sin away, that is why Christ came. But it was a picture of the sacrifce that already happened before time began, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and manifest in history. That said, the grace that came to the OT saints came not through the sacrifice but through the promises given to Abraham which the Law, 430 years latter, did not nullify. The sacrifice was a picture of the promise, but grace came to Abraham first and the seal of this grace, this imputed righteousness, was circumcision. The whole nation as God’s people were under the covenant of the promise and the Law (a picture of the hope of the promise) was only in affect until the seed should come. Now today we Christians are not grafted into the Law but the promises of Abraham by which we receive the Holy Spirit.

      So it isn’t that God gave them “infant grace”. He gave them what we boast of, imputed righteousness. This is why Paul says the Jews rejected the righteousness of God. He gave it to them through the promise and the Law testified to the promise and they still rejected it. Irronically they rejected the promise and called themselves children of Abraham. Now we who are included in the same imputed righteousness are children of Abraham.

      • Dave: The essence of Paul’s Gospel came from the OT certainly, but his spiritual and theological high-water mark came alone from God by “revelation”! Here the Law of God could only be provisional, as we see also in Hebrews (10:1, etc.).

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