Saturday, October 12, 2019

Revisiting the “Two Evangels” Controversy (Part Three)

[For part one of this series, click here:]

A response to L. Ray Smith concerning the doctrine of the two evangels

Despite my disagreement with the late L. Ray Smith on a number of doctrinal subjects (some of which I consider relatively inconsequential, although some are more important), I have a great deal of respect for him, and I have benefited from a number of his articles (especially those in which he defends the absolute sovereignty of God and the salvation of all). At the same time, I think Smith had a number of pretty glaring “blindspots,” and that the doctrinal position he affirmed concerning how many evangels were being heralded during the apostolic era (and the related subject of Israel's prophesied eonian expectation vs. the expectation belonging to those in the body of Christ) was one of them. And among those in the community of believers of which I'm a part who are opposed to the position being defended in this study (including the brother in Christ whose comments I've been responding to), what Smith wrote on this subject seems to be very influential. In any case, it's not unusual to see L. Ray Smith appealed to and quoted by those who believe that only one evangel was heralded during the apostolic era. 

In an attempt to refute the “two evangels” doctrinal position, Smith (in his standard “ranting” fashion) wrote the following in an article entitled, “Exposing the ‘Secret Rapture’ Theory”:

“If Paul's gospel differed in SCOPE, CONTENTS, AND EXPECTATION, from Peter's gospel then we of necessity have "A DIFFERENT GOSPEL"!! And notice carefully that this author is not suggesting that Paul's gospel to the uncircumcision was different from that brought by "some who are disturbing you want also to distort the evangel of Christ" (Gal. 1:7), but that Paul's gospel to the uncircumcision was DIFFERENT FROM THE GOSPEL TO THE CIRCUMCISION. This would clearly mean that Peter's gospel was a DIFFERENT GOSPEL from Paul's gospel. What might the implications of such a thing be?”

The first point that could be made in response to L. Ray Smith’s rejection of the “two evangels” doctrinal position is also the most obvious and straight-forward: according to what we read in Galatians 2:7, Paul clearly did have in mind two distinct evangels which pertained to two different categories of human beings (i.e., those described as “the Circumcision” and those described as “the Uncircumcision”). The grammar itself bears this out. The same Greek construction found in Gal. 2:7 is also found in the expression, “evangel of the kingdom” (which, of course, does not refer to a gospel that was being heralded to the kingdom, but rather to a gospel that distinctly pertained to the kingdom).

Notice how, when “quoting” Galatians 2:7, Smith repeatedly used the expression “gospel to the uncircumcision” and “gospel to the circumcision.” The reason Smith used the word “to” here is because the “one gospel” position to which he held (and indeed to which most Christians hold) absolutely requires the use of “to” rather than “of” in this verse. That is, the “one gospel” theory cannot even survive apart from the term “of” being changed to “to.” In contrast, the view to which I hold could easily “remain afloat” if the word “of” were replaced with “to” in Gal. 2:7 (for my view that there were, during Paul’s ministry, two callings, expectations and evangels is not at all dependent on this single verse). But is the substitution of the term “of” with “to” grammatically valid?

One opponent of the “two evangels” doctrine attempted to argue that “to” is just as grammatically valid as “of” by claiming that, in the Greek expression translated “the evangel of the Uncircumcision” in the CLNT, there is no Greek equivalent to the English word “of” (or “to”). Thus, according to this objector, the Greek could just as validly be translated, “the evangel to the Uncircumcision” (thus supporting the more common view that Paul simply had in view one evangel being heralded to two different audiences). However, the objector is simply mistaken here. There is, in fact, a grammatical equivalent to “of” in the Greek, and thus there is a grammatically valid reason for why “of” should be used in an English translation of Gal. 2:7 (rather than “to”).  

Martin Zender helpfully explains this important grammatical consideration as follows:

Pertaining to nouns, the ancient Greek language (the language of the New Testament) has five cases: 1) nominative, 2) vocative, 3) accusative, 4) genitive, and 5) dative. “Case” refers to the way a word functions in a sentence and how it relates to other words. In English, we determine word function by the order of a word in a sentence; the Greeks do it by adding suffixes to words. Rather than define for you each of these cases, I want to define only the genitive and dative, for these are the cases under consideration.

The genitive case speaks of possession, character or kind—the nature of the thing: “the letter of Sally”; “the music of the Japanese.” The dative case, on the other hand, speaks of direction—where something is going: “the letter to Sally”; “the music to the Japanese.” Thus, the genitive case comes over into English with “of,” and the dative case with “to.”

Is there a way to tell which case is being used in the Greek in Galatians 2:7? There is. Besides case, when considering Greek nouns and their declension there are two considerations: 1) gender, and 2) number. Greek nouns are either masculine, feminine or neuter (gender), or singular or plural (number). These considerations determine which letters are added to words in order to indicate case.

To signify the genitive case of a noun—when the noun is feminine/singular (as are the nouns “Circumcision” and “Uncircumcision”) and the noun is preceded by the definite article (i.e. “the evangel of the Circumcision)—the Greeks add the letters “Eyta” (which looks like this: “H”) and “Sigma” (which looks like this: “C”) to the definite article, which in this instance starts with the Greek letter “Tau” (which looks like this: “T”). When they want to indicate the dative case, the Greeks simply drop the “Sigma.” In Galatians 2:7, the three most ancient Greek manuscripts (Vaticanus; Alexandrinus; Sinaiticus) all use the “THC” construction (the “Sigma” is present).

The Greek equivalent of the English word “of” in Gal. 2:7 is, in other words, the genitive case of the nouns used by Paul in this verse. It is this grammatical fact which makes the expression “evangel of the Uncircumcision” (rather than “to the Uncircumcision”) the only valid translation in English (just as the expression “evangel OF the kingdom” is more accurate than “evangel TO the kingdom”). Thus, simply from a grammatical standpoint alone, we find that L. Ray Smith is wrong “right out of the gate.” And from this it follows that everything he goes on to say in defense of his “one gospel” position (which takes for granted his erroneous understanding of Gal. 2:7) is wrong as well.

At this point, it needs to be emphasized that the “two evangels” doctrinal view in no way “stands or falls” on Galatians 2:7. In contrast with what seems to be the view of some, this verse is not an essential, “supporting pillar” for the “two evangels” position. If anything, this verse is simply the capstone of the entire “Mid-Acts” dispensational position. It confirms but does not provide the foundational support for this position. And – as I tried to demonstrate in my study “God’s Covenant People” (link) – it’s not necessary to appeal to Galatians 2:7 in order to make a compelling case for the position that this verse confirms. Nevertheless, this verse exists (whether one finds it “challenging” or not), and can be understood as providing a clear refutation of those who believe that there was only one evangel being heralded during the apostolic era. This verse leaves opponents of the doctrinal position being defended in this study without any good excuse for believing that there is no single, clear verse in Scripture that affirms the position to which they're opposed.

L. Ray Smith: If Peter really had a "different" gospel or evangel from Paul, and Peter would have on occasion taught in one of Paul's evangelized areas, would Peter be ANATHEMA (or ACCURSED)? Does anyone really believe such a thing? Peter? The HEAD APOSTLE Peter, ANATHEMATIZED for the very gospel he was taught by his Lord and Paul's Lord?”

As should be obvious to the reader, I think that members of the body of Christ believe the truth concerning Jesus’ Messianic identity that constitutes the evangel of the Circumcision (i.e., that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God”). What differentiates those in the body of Christ from those who responded in faith to Peter’s evangelistic messages in Acts 2, 3 or 10 (for example) is simply that we’re not called to our expectation through this particular evangel. Our believing the truth concerning Jesus’ Messianic identity is not what results in our justification. Rather, the evangel through which God calls us to our expectation (and through which we’re justified) is the evangel that was entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations – i.e., the “evangel of the Uncircumcision” (which, again, is the evangel that those pre-designated to become part of the body of Christ will, at some point, believe). So the problem of someone like Peter, James or John heralding the evangel of the Circumcision among the nations does not consist in the communication of this specific truth. Rather, the problem is in what bringing the evangel of the Circumcision to the nations would imply, and involve.

Recall that it is through the heralding of particular evangel to a particular group of people that people are “called” to a particular expectation. So for Peter (for example) to have gone to Galatia and began bringing the evangel with which he was entrusted (and which he’s recorded as heralding to Israel in Acts 2 and 3) to people from among the nations would’ve implied that he was calling them to Israel’s covenant-based expectation. And that’s a big problem. For – as argued elsewhere – Israel’s covenant-based expectation is an expectation that belongs to the following two categories of people:

1. Members of God’s covenant people, Israel (who, being in covenant with God, have certain covenant-based obligations involving circumcision and the law); and

2. Gentiles who (as Peter learned through the events involving Cornelius and his household) are “acceptable to God” by virtue of the fact that they’re “fearing God and acting righteously.”   

So, let’s assume that Peter decided he was going to bring his evangel to believing Gentiles in Galatia. Unless these believers chose to proselytize and become members of God’s covenant people (which would’ve involved coming under the law), the only way they could qualify to even have the evangel of the Circumcision brought to them (i.e., as a way of calling them to Israel’s eonian expectation) would be for them to first become “acceptable to God” in the sense that Cornelius and his household were acceptable to God before Peter heralded his evangel to them. Recall Peter’s opening words to Cornelius and his household in Acts 10:34, when he “opened his mouth” to share his evangel with them: “Of a truth I am grasping that God is not partial, but in every nation he who is fearing Him and acting righteously is acceptable to Him. By “acceptable to Him,” Peter meant that, by virtue of their fear of God and righteous conduct in relation to God’s covenant people (conduct which we find specified in Acts 10:1-4, 22, 33), Cornelius and his household were able to be accepted among those who, by faith in the evangel entrusted to Peter, had obtained the forgiveness of sins and could thus receive eonian life in the kingdom that’s going to be restored to Israel (for a more in- depth defense of this position, see the following two-part study:

It should also be noted that, for Peter and the other apostles of the Circumcision, faith in the evangel they heralded (and having one’s past sins forgiven) required getting water baptized. For Peter, water baptism was not optional, but rather essential to salvation (1 Pet. 3:20-21; cf. Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38, 41). What Peter wrote concerning the saving nature of baptism in his letter is perfectly consistent with what he declared to Israelites in Acts 2:38-40, when he made known to them the evangel of the Circumcision. In these verses, it is clear that Peter understood water baptism to be essential to (although certainly not sufficient for) having one’s sins forgiven: “Repent and be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the pardon of your sins, and you shall be obtaining the gratuity of the holy spirit” (v. 38).

In contrast with what Peter declared and wrote, Paul learned early on in his ministry as “the apostle of the nations” that water baptism was in no way necessary for the salvation of those called to be in the body of Christ, and that Christ had therefore not commissioned him “to be baptizing but to be bringing the evangel” (1 Cor. 1:17). With regards to Paul’s ministry and administration, the only baptism that mattered for those to whom he wrote was the baptism “in one spirit,” by which they had become members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13; cf. Gal. 3:27-28; Rom. 6:3-6ff.; Eph. 4:1-5; Col. 2:12). However, it’s clear from the immediate context that the baptism “in one spirit” through which one becomes a member of the body of Christ was not the baptism to which Peter was referring.[1]

Unlike L. Ray Smith, Paul knew full well what the implications of the Circumcision evangel being “brought” to Gentile believers were, and thus would not tolerate the scenario Smith envisioned. But, as we’ll now see, L. Ray Smith’s hypothetical scenario involving Peter “accidentally” bringing the evangel of the Circumcision to believing (or unbelieving) Gentiles in Galatia is a completely moot point. For, according to what we read in Galatians 2:7-9, there was an agreement among the apostles of the Circumcision and Paul that they would not be heralding their respective evangels among those outside of the people-groups for whom they were appointed as apostles. In other words, it was agreed by Peter, James and John that they would be “for the Circumcision” (with regard to heralding the evangel of the Circumcision), while Paul and his co-laborers would be “for the Uncircumcision” (with regard to heralding the evangel of the Uncircumcision).

Since – in accord with this agreement – Paul knew that Peter, James and John weren’t going to be bringing their evangel to the nations in Galatia, Smith's hypothetical scenario involving Peter (or any other apostles of the Circumcision) “on occasion” teaching “in one of Paul’s evangelized areas” was not something that Paul feared might happen. Thus, Paul did not envision a scenario in which Peter would come to be “anathema.” So, as already stated, Smith’s argument is a completely moot point, and fails to take Gal. 2:7-9 into consideration. Perhaps in his zealous hostility toward the “two evangels” view, Smith simply forgot what Paul wrote here. In any case, his point fails to refute or undermine the doctrinal position against which he wrote (for more on why L. Ray Smith is completely mistaken concerning what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-9, I encourage the reader to check out Martin Zender’s refutation of Alan Hess on this subject:

L. Ray Smith went on to write: “And what if Paul had an occasion to teach circumcision saints with a gospel that was "different" from the gospel they receive by the apostles, then what?”

This is yet another moot point by Smith. For the evangel that was entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations (the evangel of the Uncircumcision) was never heralded by Paul in the synagogues, or to “teach circumcision saints.” Based on what we read in Acts, the only evangel that Paul heralded in the synagogues was the evangel of the Circumcision. In accord with the agreement already referred to, Paul kept his ministry among the nations distinct from anything he did specifically for the sake of his Jewish brethren according to the flesh. While there were some Jews who were called by God through Paul’s evangel, they weren’t called as a result of hearing it preached by Paul in the synagogues. Rather, they would’ve heard it when Paul was heralding it among the nations.

L. Ray Smith: “But even II Pet. 3:15 shows how they welcomed "ALL THE EPISTLES" of Paul which contained Paul's gospel. And for sure they didn't call Paul "wicked," but rather "BELOVED BROTHER PAUL." How then is it even conceivable that Paul's gospel and the gospel of Peter and John were DIFFERENT?

It’s evident that Paul wrote at least one letter to the same company of believers to whom Peter wrote (so Smith and I are in complete agreement on this point). Some think it was the letter to the Hebrews to which Peter was referring. However, for all we know, it wasn’t God’s will for the letter by Paul to which Peter was referring to be included in the “canon of scripture” (which may not be the only case in which a letter referred to in scripture didn’t make it into our Bibles; some believe that, in 1 Cor. 5:9, Paul was referring to an earlier letter he wrote to the saints in Corinth). In any case, Smith is going beyond what Peter actually wrote when he said that the Jewish believers to whom Peter wrote “welcomed all the epistles of Paul.” Peter neither said nor implied this.

The most that can be inferred from what Peter wrote in 2 Pet. 3:15-16 is that (1) Peter recognized that the wisdom given to Paul was manifested in all of his epistles, (2) Paul had, at some point, written a letter to the same company of believers to whom Peter wrote, and (3) the subject of this letter involved the apparent “delay” in God's ushering in the day of the Lord, and helped the Jewish believers better appreciate the interval of time in which they were living (which is, of course, the subject being considered in 2 Pet. 3:1-13). And each of these points is completely consistent with the “two evangels” position. Moreover, there is no evidence whatsoever that those to whom Peter wrote his letters were members of the same company of believers to whom Paul wrote his thirteen letters (i.e., the “ecclesia which is [Christ’s] body”).

L. Ray Smith: “Maybe it's time we give Peter the kind of respect and honor that he deserves!”

There is no question that Peter deserves a great deal of respect and honor. However, Smith’s appeal to the fact that Peter deserves respect and honor is a poor substitute for an actual argument against the view he’s criticizing. Giving Peter “the kind of respect and honor that he deserves” in no way requires the belief that he heralded the same evangel that Paul heralded among the nations. Nor does it require the belief that Peter was in the body of Christ (any more than giving John the Baptist or the prophet Daniel the respect and honor they deserve requires the belief that they were in the body of Christ). As I’ve argued in greater depth elsewhere, the expectation of the twelve apostles (Peter included) is tied to the kingdom of God that is going to be set up on the earth (i.e., the kingdom that is going to be restored to Israel). The twelve apostles were the leaders of the “little flock” referred to by Christ in Luke 12:32, and were part of the believing remnant among God’s covenant nation, Israel.  As members of God’s covenant nation, the twelve apostles have a covenant-based expectation that is in accord with all of the prophecies concerning Israel’s eonian destiny. In accord with what Christ himself declared concerning the eonian destiny of the twelve apostles in Matt. 19:28, they will be sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Peter will, in other words, be among “the saints of the Most High” who will be living and reigning on the earth during the eon to come, and who will be dwelling in “the beloved city” that we find referred to in Rev. 20:7-9.

In contrast, those believers who constitute the body of Christ do not share Israel’s covenant-based expectation. Rather than “reigning on the earth” as “a chosen race,” “a royal priesthood,” and “a holy nation” (in the words of Peter in 1 Pet. 2:9), our eonian life is going to be enjoyed in the location where Christ is, presently – i.e., “in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1-9). We know that Christ is currently sitting enthroned at the right hand of God (which is, of course, in heaven itself; see Heb. 8:1; 9:24). In Ephesians 1:20 Christ’s heavenly location is described by Paul as being “among the celestials” (which, in Eph. 6:12, is also where we’re told the wicked spiritual beings with whom we “wrestle” are as well). And it is “among the celestials” that those in the body of Christ will be seated together with Christ (Eph. 2:6; cf. 1:3). “For,” Paul elsewhere wrote, “our realm is inherent in the heavens” (Phil. 3:20). Thus, with respect to the locations in which the twelve apostles and the apostle Paul will be during the eons to come, there could not be a greater difference. The location of the twelve apostles will be on the earth with the twelve tribes of Israel, while the location of the apostle Paul (and the company of saints to which he belongs) will be “in the heavens” and “among the celestials.”

L. Ray Smith: “Is there a Scripture that actually says that Paul evangelized the same gospel as the apostles? Yes, actually, there is.”

Smith went on to quote Galatians 1:23-24. The irony here is that, rather than supporting Smith’s “one gospel” position, what we read in Galatians 1:23-24 actually serves to further confirm the fact that the evangel Paul heralded among the nations (and through which people were being called to the expectation associated with the body of Christ) was distinct from the evangel which he heralded among the Jewish people. To better understand how this is so, let’s review the timeline of events provided by Paul in Galatians 1-2 and by Luke in Acts 9-15.

Following his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul was filled with the holy spirit and baptized by Ananias. Paul then traveled to Arabia and remained there for about three years (Gal. 1:17). After returning to Damascus, Paul immediately began heralding Jesus in the synagogues, trying to convince his Jewish brethren that Jesus “is the Son of God” and “the Christ” (Acts 9:19-22) – which is precisely the message that the twelve apostles had been heralding since the events of Pentecost in 30 AD. We read that all who heard him heralding Jesus were amazed, and said, “Is not this the one who, in Jerusalem, ravages those who are invoking this Name?” (vv. 20-21)

Paul then went to Jerusalem to stay with Peter for fifteen days (Gal. 1:18), during which time he “became acquainted with no one different from the apostles, except James, the brother of the Lord” (v. 19). Concerning this time in Jerusalem, we read the following in Acts 9:26-29: ”Now, on coming along to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; and all feared him, not believing that he is a disciple. Yet Barnabas, getting hold of him, led him to the apostles and relates to them how he became acquainted with the Lord on the road, and that He speaks to him, and how, in Damascus, he speaks boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, going in and out, in Jerusalem. Speaking boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, he both spoke and discussed with the Hellenists.”

After an assassination attempt (an episode omitted by Paul in Gal. 1:18-21), Paul subsequently returned to Tarsus (the capital of Cilicia) for safety (Acts 9:28-30). And after being found by Barnabas, Paul and Barnabas spent a year in Antioch (the capital of Syria), teaching “a considerable throng” of Jews (Acts 11:25). After a short time in Jerusalem with Barnabas, we read that they returned to Antioch (Acts 12:25). It is at this point in Paul’s ministry that we read of he and Barnabas being “severed” to God for the work among the nations to which he’d called them (Acts 13:1-3).

Now, during the entire time prior to the “severing” of Paul and Barnabas for their ministry among the nations, there is no indication whatsoever that they had been heralding any message other than that which the rest of the apostles had been heralding since the descent of the holy spirit on Pentecost. Thus, in Galatians 1:23 we read that, during this early period of Paul’s ministry (from his time in Damascus to his time in Syria and Cilicia), he had been “evangelizing the faith which once he ravaged.” In other words, Paul had been heralding the evangel of the Circumcision exclusively during this time.

And yet, we’re told by Paul in Romans 1:1 that he had been “severed for the evangel of God,” which is undoubtedly a reference to the same evangel that Paul referred to as the “evangel of the Uncircumcision” in Gal. 2:7 (Paul referred to his evangel as the “evangel of God” several times in his first letter to the Thessalonians; 1 Thess. 2:2, 8-9; 3:2). If the evangel for which Paul had been “severed” is the same evangel that Peter, James and John were heralding (and which Paul had been heralding among the Jews in the synagogues), what necessitated a revelation from Christ according to which Paul and Barnabas had to return to Jerusalem in order to “submit” to those of repute (i.e., Peter, James and John) the evangel which they had been heralding among the nations since the time they had been “severed” (Gal. 2:2)?

According to Paul, this private meeting in Jerusalem with Peter, James and John took place 14 years after his conversion (and approximately 10-12 years after he’d been in the regions of Syria and Cilicia). This means that it took place approximately 5-7 years after he and Barnabas had begun heralding the evangel among the nations. If the truth that Paul and Barnabas had been heralding among the nations since the events of Acts 13 was the same truth that Paul had been heralding to his fellow Israelites in the synagogues since the time covered by Acts 9, such a meeting would have been completely unnecessary. Recall that, more than 10 years before this meeting in Jerusalem took place, Paul had already stayed with Peter, and had spoken to both he and James during this time. They already knew about his conversion to the truth concerning Jesus’ Messianic identity, and were aware of the fact that he had been heralding this truth in the synagogues. And during Paul’s time in Syria and Cilicia (prior to the start of his ministry among the nations), it became well-known among “the ecclesias in Judea” that Paul was “evangelizing the faith which once he ravaged” (Gal. 1:23-24)!

Here, then, are the facts:

1. Paul travelled to Jerusalem to become personally acquainted with Peter and the other apostles (as well as James), and stayed with Peter for fifteen days (Acts 9:26-29; Gal. 1:18-19). Thus, by this time, the twelve apostles and James were well aware of Paul’s conversion and of the fact that, in Damascus, he’d been heralding the evangel which they’d been heralding since the events of Pentecost in 30 AD.

2. Paul then left Jerusalem and travelled to Syria and Cilicia, during which time it became well-known among “the ecclesias in Judea” that Paul was “evangelizing the faith which once he ravaged” (Gal. 1:23-24).

3. Approximately ten to twelve years later, Paul – “in accord with a revelation” – went up to Jerusalem (with Barnabas and Titus) to submit to the apostles and elders there (“those of repute,” e.g., Peter, John and James) the evangel which he had been heralding among the nations since the time of the events referred to in Acts 13:47-49. Evidently, this was done privately, prior to the Jerusalem Conference.

Based on these facts, we can reasonably infer that the evangel which Paul and Barnabas had been heralding among the nations – and which they privately submitted to “those of repute” in Jerusalem – was distinct from the evangel that Paul had been heralding among the Jews prior to the events of Acts 13:47-49 (for it was already well-known to Peter, James and John – as well as among “the ecclesias in Judea” – that Paul believed that Jesus is “the Son of God” and “the Christ,” and had been heralding this truth among the Jews). The reason Paul had to submit the evangel which had been entrusted to him (the evangel of the Uncircumcision) to Peter, James and John is because it went beyond the evangel that God had revealed to Peter (Matt. 16:15-17), and which Paul himself had been heralding exclusively prior to his being “severed” for his ministry to the nations.

Thus, L. Ray Smith’s appeal to Galatians 1:23-24 completely backfires on him.

L. Ray Smith: “Let us suppose for a moment (just a moment mind you), that Peter and Paul really did have and did preach DIFFERENT gospels. What problems might that create? First of all, it would mean that not only did they have different gospels from each other, but also that each one would have had to have their own separate or different gospels as well. Peter would have had to have two different gospels and Paul would have had to have two different gospels. You see Paul often went first to the JEWS (which according to this theory) would have required one gospel, and then when he taught the Gentiles, he would have needed a second different gospel. And since Peter taught primarily to the Jews, he would have needed one gospel for them, but since he also was the first apostle to go to the Gentiles, he would have also needed a second different gospel for them! NONSENSE!”

As I demonstrated in my two-part study on Acts 15:1-17 (, Peter did not have to herald a different gospel to Cornelius and his house than the one that we’re told was entrusted to him in Gal. 2:7. Contrary to what most Christians believe, Cornelius and his house did not, after believing the evangel heralded to them, become members of the body of Christ (and were not, therefore, “the first Gentiles” to become part of this particular company of believers). Rather, the eonian expectation to which they were called through the heralding of the evangel Peter brought to them was the same expectation to which every Jew prior to this time (including Peter himself) had been called – i.e., the covenant-based expectation that those constituting the “Israel of God” will enjoy after Christ returns to earth. Just like the “sheep” referred to in Matthew 25:31-46 (who will be blessed because of their treatment of Israel during the time when the “evangel of the kingdom” shall be “heralded in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony to all the nations,” in accord with Christ’s words in Matt. 24:14), Cornelius and his house will be enjoying an allotment in the same kingdom that the “evangel of the kingdom” pertains to – i.e., the kingdom that is going to be restored to Israel after Christ returns.

Although L. Ray Smith was mistaken for thinking that Peter would’ve “needed one gospel for [the Jews]” and “a second different gospel for [the Gentiles,” his assumption that Paul would’ve had to have heralded “two different gospels” during his ministry is 100% correct. However, contrary to what Smith concluded, there is nothing at all problematic or nonsensical about this. Simply put, the apostle Paul had two distinct ministries. His first ministry (which took place on the Sabbath, and usually in the synagogues) involved heralding the evangel through which Israelites were called to Israel’s covenant-based expectation. However, beginning around the time of the events recorded in Acts 13:1-12, Paul began another, separate ministry. This ministry involved heralding the evangel through which people from among the nations (and a small number of Jews) were called by God to the eonian expectation that belongs to those in the body of Christ (as well as establishing and edifying the various ecclesias to which Paul ended up writing). Although Paul was involved in both of these ministries for most of his apostolic career as the “apostle of the nations,” he kept them distinct.

[1] Moreover, in 2 Peter 1:8-9, the “cleansing from the sins” which the believing Israelites to whom Peter wrote received (and which would’ve taken place when they repented and were baptized, in accord with the words of Peter in Acts 2:38) is only said to be for their “sins of old” (or “past sins”). If the forgiveness they received when they repented and were baptized involved past sins only, then the forgiveness of their future sins was not guaranteed or secured by their original “cleansing.” Instead (and in the words of the apostle John, with whom Peter was undoubtedly in agreement on this point), to remain cleansed from sins required “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7), and having one’s future sins pardoned required “avowing [one’s] sins” (1 John 1:8-10). 

Similarly, James (with whom we can also conclude Peter would’ve been in agreement) affirmed that the justification and salvation of those to whom he wrote was conditional, and required both faith and works (James 2:14-26). In contrast with the conditional nature of the forgiveness of the sins of those to whom Peter, James and John wrote, every member of the body of Christ can be fully assured that his or her eonian salvation is secure (Rom. 8:28-39; Titus 3:4-7), and that he or she will be among those who are to be “snatched away to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:14-18; 5:4-11).


  1. Hej Aaron, it's Bart from Poland. I just wanted you to know that you are a tremendous blessing to the ecclesia of God, to us, members of the body of Christ and thar your studies posted on this blog is proof that God does not forsake His chose ones anf will not let them be sucked by lies ! You are a hero in the ecclesia for me and I think everybody who is searching for answers from the sometimes very complicated word of God. We are weak but weak know that God is powerful and He is using uou mightly ! Yout studies are to the point, on the point, and very calm, scietific and mature ! Amazing work. How can we repay God for your service to the truth and the ecclesia ? May our belover Father and our Saviour Christ Jesus always give you comfort and peace of mind to stay the course ! Love from above ! Bart

  2. In Galatians 2:14 Paul "perceived that they are not correct in there attitude toward the truth of the evangel", which evangel was Paul referring to? The reason I ask this is that you said you believed Paul preached two evangels. Paul is now addressing Gentile Galatians in Galatians 2.In Gal 2:15 Paul says "We, who by nature are Jews, and not sinners of the nations, having perceived that a man is not being justified by works of law, except alone through the faith of Christ Jesus, we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by works of law, seeing that by works of law shall no flesh be at all justified. What is different in there belief here? The Jews believed what Paul was teaching the Gentiles. Who are the "WE ALSO"? I believe Paul is referring to Galatian Gentiles as to who the "WE ALSO"are.

    1. Hi Michael,

      In Gal. 2:14, I believe Paul was referring to the evangel that, in v. 7, he said had been entrusted to him (the "evangel of the Uncircumcision"). Peter's hypocritical conduct in relation to the gentiles manifested a wrong "attitude toward the truth of the evangel," and was resulting in some being led astray (even Barnabas). Thus, Paul had to publicly rebuke him. As for the "we also" of v. 16, I believe Paul was referring to those Jews who'd been called by God through the evangel of the Uncircumcision, and who were in the body of Christ (e.g., Paul and Barnabas). For more on how I understand Gal. 2:12-16, see the last section of the following "Response to Objections" article:

      Thanks for the questions.