Monday, August 6, 2018

The Distinctiveness of the Apostle Paul

In rightly dividing the word of truth, it is absolutely imperative that we rightly divide Paul’s ministry from that of the twelve apostles. Yet, mainstream and watered-down dispensationalists insist that there is no difference between the ministries of Peter and Paul and claim that it is "hyper-dispensationalism" to believe that there is. They have evidently never asked themselves the important question, “Why Paul?” If his apostleship, message, and ministry was the same as the twelve apostles, what was the point of Christ saving him in the manner he did, away from Jerusalem, and away from the twelve?

The twelve apostles had already been commissioned by Christ to go into all the world (Mk. 16:15). Well, they did not go, but Paul did! What brought about this change? It was the continued rejection of Christ by the leaders of Israel, their fall, and the revelation of the mystery.

In the kingdom commission, the apostles were told to begin at Jerusalem because, according to prophecy, the Gentiles are to be blessed through Israel, and Jerusalem will be the capitol city in the Kingdom Age. Due to the fact that the nation of Israel did not repent of killing their Messiah, there was no need for them to go to the nations. When Paul explained his ministry to the apostles in Jerusalem (in Acts 15, about 15 years after conversion), they agreed that he would go to the heathen with his gospel while they continued to go to the circumcision. The commission given to the twelve apostles was postponed but it will be fulfilled in the future tribulation period (Matt. 24:14).

Paul’s ministry was so different that some to this very day claim that he was a false apostle. Even lost people can see the difference between Peter and Paul! 

It is not an exaggeration to say that Paul’s conversion is one of the most significant events in the Bible:
1. It is more fully described and more often referred to than any other conversion
2. It is more fully described and more often referred to than any other personal experience in the Bible outside the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
3. The majority of three chapters in Acts are taken up with the account of it (9, 22, 26)
4. So aware was Paul himself of the significance of his conversion that he refers to it repeatedly in his epistles (1 Cor. 15; Gal. 1; Phil. 3; 1 Tim. 1). Paul was not an egomaniac (Eph. 3:8)! He wrote by inspiration of God! Clearly, the Lord has placed an emphasis on the distinct apostleship and ministry of Paul because he is the spokesman for the body of Christ to follow in this age.

Paul is distinct from the twelve apostles in his:

I. Conversion (1 Tim. 1:12-16)
The sudden and glorious appearance of Christ to Saul of Tarsus was totally off the prophetic script! He had blasphemed the Holy Ghost (Acts 7) and therefore could not be saved under the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 12:31-32). Everything was ripe and ready for God’s wrath to poured out (Acts 7:56), but instead He poured out exceeding abundant grace by saving the leader of the rebellion against Him and sending him out with the message of reconciliation that He might build one NEW man, the church which is His Body. Paul was the first one to hear and believe the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).

II. Apostleship (Gal. 1-2)
All of the apostles (sent ones) saw the Lord and were personally sent out by Him with a message and ministry (with "signs of an apostle"). Paul clearly distinguishes his apostleship from that of the twelve (Rom. 11:13; 1 Cor. 15:5). He was not even qualified to be one of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26), and there are many differences between his apostleship and theirs (I will list differences in a later lesson).

III. Message (Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:1-13)
Paul received an abundance of revelations (2 Cor. 12:7) directly from the Lord. The gospel of the grace of God, the church which is the Body of Christ, the rapture, and many other things were revealed to him first. He was the first one to glory in the cross and preach it as GOOD NEWS. It is Paul alone who taught that we are justified by the faith OF Christ. It is Paul alone who says, “ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

IV. Commission
When we simply compare how Christ sent out the twelve apostles with how He sent out Paul, it should be obvious that they were not sent under the same commission.

1. Sent from Christ on earth vs. from heaven (Acts 22:19)
2. Begin in Jerusalem vs. depart from Jerusalem (Acts 22:21)
3. Gospel of the kingdom vs. gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24)
4. Go baptize vs. sent not to baptize (1 Cor. 1:17)
5. Teach the law vs. not under the law (Rom. 6:14)

V. Ministry
Having a different apostleship, message, and commission obviously means that Paul had a different ministry. He was "made a minister" to every creature with the gospel of the grace of God, and to the church which is the Body of Christ with the mystery (Col. 1:24-29). The apostle Paul never offered the kingdom to Israel (1 Thess. 2:14-16, one of his earliest epistles). He only went to the Jew first during the transition period of Acts while God was getting a remnant out of Israel before He officially set the nation aside in judicial blindness.

Are there some similarities between Peter and Paul? Yes, but for every similarity I can show you a significant difference. Why does this matter? We cannot follow the ministries of both Peter and Paul at the same time in light of the significant differences. Who are we to follow? We are to follow Paul because He is divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for this present Age of Grace (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9). This is the answer for all of the "isms" and "scisms" that abound in the professing church today. 

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