Personaly I loathe long posts, but this fictional interview will answer many ,if not all of you questions.God bless
Stachys: Can we talk about your teachings?
Paul: By all means. The Lord revealed to me doctrines, which I termed “secrets” (μυστήριον). I designated them so because that is what they were. The Lord had not revealed them to Israel’s prophets, nor to the Twelve. He also had kept them hidden during His earthly ministry. They were revelations the ascended Lord revealed exclusively to me.
Stachys: What were these secrets?
Paul: One was the gospel of the grace of God–that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (Acts 20.24; Galatians 1.11-12) Another was salvation by faith alone–believing the good news that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification (1 Corinthians 15.1-4).
Stachys: Peter and the Eleven did not know this gospel and salvation by faith alone?
Paul: No. Peter and the rest preached the gospel of the kingdom which had begun with John the Baptist. That gospel focused upon the identity of Christ–who He was–the Messiah, the Son of God. They looked for the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth with Christ ruling as King (Matthew 6.10). I received my gospel directly from the risen Lord (Galatians 1.11-12). It focused upon His work–that He died for our sins and rose from the dead. The faith part of the gospel of the kingdom was believing Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16.16; John 11.27; Acts 8.37). But in addition, that gospel also required repentance, keeping the Law, and water baptism for salvation (Mark 1.4, 16.16; Luke 10.25-28; Acts 2.38; Acts 15.1, 5). My gospel (Romans 2.16, 16.25; Galatians 2.2, 7; 2 Corinthians 4.3; 2 Thessalonians 2.14; 2 Timothy 2.8) requires but one thing: trust in the death and resurrection of Christ. When Peter preached the Lord’s death, he did not preach it as good news but as a Jewish crime (Acts 2.22-24, 3.13-15). He demanded the nation repent of it (Acts 2.36-38). For Peter, the significance of the Lord’s resurrection was He could return and establish His kingdom on earth–if the Jewish people would repent (Acts 3.19-20, 25-26). The gospel the Lord gave me proclaims His death and resurrection as goodnews (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). My gospel is a gospel of grace and faith alone (Romans 1.16-17, 3.22, 26, 28, 4.5; Ephesians 2.8-9; 1 Corinthians 15.1-4). The Twelve had no idea Christ’s death and resurrection had paid for the sins of the world and that God had reconciled the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5.14-21). This truth remained hidden until the glorified Lord revealed it to me. The Twelve learned this truth from me (2 Peter 3.15-16).
Stachys: Wow. That’s not what most people have been taught.
Paul: Well, that’s not my fault (smiling). I wrote these things in my letters. They are there for anyone to read. In my first letter to Timothy, I wrote I was the first (πρῶτος), God’s prototype or pattern (ὑποτύπωσις), for those who would follow in this new salvation (1 Timothy 1.15-16). To the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 3.10-11, I expressed this truth with an illustration of architecture. I wrote them, “as a wise master-builder, I laid the foundation” (ὡς σοφὸςἀρχιτέκτων θεμέλιον ἔθηκα). The foundation is Christ Himself, specifically His work on the cross and resurrection. The Church, the body of Christ, is the creation which came into being based upon His death and resurrection. The Lord also revealed to me many other truths He had kept hidden.
Stachys: What were these?
Paul: Well, to continue, one was the Church, the body of Christ, in which those who believe my gospel become members of His body. No difference exists between Jew and Gentile in this relationship (Galatians 3.27-28). This was unknown to the Twelve.
Stachys: Peter did not know about the Church? Some teach that the Church came out of Peter.
Paul: Well, no one thought so in my day, especially Peter. Peter knew nothing of the Church. Peter and the rest of the Twelve never had a ministry to Gentiles. Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to Jews and never mentioned the Church, the body of Christ, in their letters. Peter left Jerusalem to visit Cornelius only through direct communication and prodding from the Lord. And after he returned, the believing Jews in Jerusalem upbraided him for having gone (Acts 10-11). God designated me as the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11.13) and designated the Twelve as apostles of Israel (Matthew 19.28; Galatians 2.7-9). The ascended Christ revealed to me, not Peter or the other apostles, the secret of the Church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 3.2-7; 1.22-23; Colossians 1.19; 1 Corinthians 12.12-27; Galatians 3.28).
Stachys: The Church did not begin at Pentecost?
Paul: Read Luke’s account. What is the definition of the Church, the body of Christ? It is that body in which Jew and Gentile are equal in Christ. Whom did Peter address at Pentecost? Jews or Gentiles? He addressed Jews. Pentecost, or the Festival of Weeks, was a Jewish feast day, held 50 days after Passover. Peter called on the Jewish nation to repent from the murder of the Messiah (Acts 2.5, 14, 22, 36-39). If this was the birth of the Church, why did Peter not address Gentiles? We find the same thing in Peter’s second sermon, in Acts 3. He addressed Jews only (Acts 3.12, 25). Throughout his messages, he quoted the prophets. The Jewish prophets meant nothing to Gentiles. If the Church came into existence at Pentecost, why did no evangelism of Gentiles occur? Read the Scriptures. Peter and the Twelve never had a ministry to Gentiles.
Stachys: Few seem to know this. What else?
Paul: The Lord revealed to me that when one believes my gospel he is identified in Christ’s death and in His resurrection (Romans 6.3-5, 8). This identification is the basis of our hope of resurrection and the key to victory in the Christian life (Romans 6.6-7). Peter and the other apostles knew nothing of this identification truth–of believers being baptized and identified in His death and resurrection.
Stachys: Other truths?
Paul: Several more. The Lord revealed that the one who believes my gospel is under new administration: Grace, not Law (Romans 6.14). God gave the Mosaic Law to Israel, not to Gentiles. The Law’s primary purpose was to condemn and to reveal sin. It had no power to make one better. Peter and the Eleven continued to practice Judaism under the Law of Moses. They knew nothing of a new administration of Grace which replaced the Mosaic Law. Peter finally understood at the Council of Jerusalem that through my gospel one is saved by trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection alone, apart from the works of the Law. Once he saw this, he sided with me (Acts 15.7-11).
Stachys: The Law was bad?
Paul: Heavens, no! The Law was holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7.12). The problem was not with the Law but with us. This is another truth the Lord revealed to me alone. The nature we inherit from Adam cannot keep the Law. I learned this truth through hard experience and wrote about it in Romans 7. When the Law encounters our fallen, Adamic nature it excites sin. It does so because our fallen nature, which I also called the flesh, is in rebellion against God (Romans 7.8, 11, 21, 23, 25). To counter this and conform us into the image of Christ, God has given us a new nature (Romans 7.22; 2 Corinthians 5.17) and placed us under the administration of grace (Romans 6.14). By this arrangement, we can more ably obey Christ. This new relationship operates through faith, hope, and love. The love of Christ constrains us (2 Corinthians 5.14) and through the superintending work of the Holy Spirit, God transforms and sanctifies us to Himself (Romans 8.29), in a way the Law never could (Galatians 5.16-26). We are to “reckon” or “consider” (λογίζομαι) ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6.11). This is an act of faith and the key to sanctification and living the Christian life.
Stachys: What about national Israel? What is their future? Do they have a future?
Paul: Yes! God’s covenants and purposes for Israel will be fulfilled. When God establishes a plan and makes a promise, He keeps it (Romans 11.29). At present, national Israel is blind. God revealed this secret to me and I wrote about it in Romans 9-11. When God called Abraham, He began a new program. He laid the foundation for the creation of the Jewish people. He revealed Himself to them and gave them covenantal promises. God promised they would become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19.6; Isaiah 61.4-6). He promised they would become the preeminent nation upon the earth and that He Himself will reign as their King and rule the earth (Deuteronomy 28.1, 13; Zechariah 14.9). But at the present time, they are blind (Romans 11.7-8). God removed them (they removed themselves by rejecting Him) from the place of blessing and placed Gentiles into that position. But God will reestablish them into the place of blessing (Romans 11.11-12, 25-27). One day, they will recognize Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. They will repent and be saved (Matthew 23.37-39; Zechariah 12.10-14, 13.6; Romans 11.26). The prophecies and all God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled. But this cannot occur until the Lord removes the Church, the body of Christ (Romans 11.25-26). Therefore, the future of Israel is bright!
Stachys: What do you mean, “removes the Church?”
The Ἁρπάζω: the resurrection of believers of Paul’s gospel.
Paul: We can close with this secret–the believer’s great hope (Titus 2.13)–the return of the Lord and the resurrection of our bodies. People get confused about the subject of the Lord’s return. The Lord revealed to me His return for His Church, the body of Christ. This return was a secret and an entirely different event from His return which the prophets taught and which He taught in His earthly ministry. That return will occur at the end of the Tribulation, to deliver Israel and the nations. The return the Lord revealed to me comes before the Tribulation. The Lord will deliver the Church from His wrath (1 Thessalonians 1.10, 5.9). This return was secret (1 Corinthians 15.51). The Rapture and the 2nd Advent are separate events and cannot be harmonized. The word translated “Rapture” comes from the word ἁρπάζω I used when I taught the Thessalonians this wonderful truth (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18). It means to seize or snatch away, which describes what the Lord will do for believers–He will snatch them from the grave and from their mortal bodies and transform them to have resurrection bodies. In my follow-up letter (2 Thessalonians), I wrote to correct the false teaching that the persecution they were experiencing was the Tribulation, the Day of the Lord, I used the word ἀποστασία for “Rapture.”
Stachys: Can you say a bit more why did you use these words? Snatch away and departure from what?
Paul: Jewish theology has two great themes: One is the kingdom of God on earth, in which Christ will rule and Israel will be supreme among the nations, and the other is the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord encompasses a long period. It begins with the seven year Tribulation and continues to God’s creation of the New Heavens and New Earth. But most of its focus is upon the Tribulation–when God will exercise His wrath upon the earth. David was the first to write about it in Psalm 2–which is a short course and summary of Jewish theology–no extra charge for that (laughter). But before God pours out His wrath upon the earth He will remove His body, the Church. No believer of my gospel will experience the judgments in those terrible seven years. I taught the Thessalonians this comforting truth (1 Thessalonians 1.10, 5.9) and used ἁρπάζω to describe how the Lord will “snatch away” believers to meet Him in the air before He begins to vex the earth. This amazing truth means one generation of believers will not experience physical death. I had hoped to experience this myself but had no idea the Lord would extend His program of the Church for so long. I used ἀποστασία to correct the false teaching the Thessalonians had received that they were experiencing the Tribulation. Believers will depart (ἀποστασία) before the Antichrist, the Beast is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2.1-3). They will experience none of the events of the seven years of God’s wrath.
Stachys: Why do so few know these things? Why is there so much confusion?
Paul: Several reasons account for the confusion. The primary reason is the failure to recognize the vast differences in my ministry and the ministry of Peter and the Eleven, or put another way, God’s program for Israel. When one reads my doctrines and the secrets the Lord revealed to me–God’s program for the Church, the body of Christ–into His covenantal program for Israel, the result is confusion. The two programs are entirely different and cannot be mixed. If they are, confusion results. I dealt with this regarding the gospel at the Council of Jerusalem in 51 A.D. Fortunately, God had prepared Peter for that battle long before, when He commanded him to go to Cornelius’ house. Because God gave him that experience, he was able to grasp what I was saying and come to my aid. Beyond justification, on the matter of the believer’s sanctification, I wrote the whole book of Galatians. The Galatians, influenced by the Judaizers, were being taught that believers of my gospel had to obey the Mosaic Law. They were abandoning my teachings of grace and placing themselves under the Law. They thought they could be conformed into the image of Christ through the Law. I fought that battle but lost. I lost all of Asia. I had spent so much time there–in Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Iconium, Derbe, Lystra, Antioch Pisidia–I lost them.
Stachys: You lost them?
Paul: Yes. It was a bitter pill and heart-wrenching to see these believers abandon their freedom in Christ and the truths of grace for the yoke of the Law. I wrote Timothy of this great tragedy (2 Timothy 1.15, 4.14-16). The syncretism in Christendom today–the mixing of Law and Grace, conflating God’s program for the Church and His program for Israel, failure to distinguish the Rapture and the Second Coming, not understanding salvation by faith alone from salvation by faith and works, thinking God has replaced Israel with the Church, believing Peter and I preached the same gospel, the teaching that Peter and the Eleven ministered to Gentiles–I could go on–all these have their roots in the battle I fought in my lifetime. Confusion results from failure to understand the Scriptures–to understand my letters–to see God saved and commissioned me as THE apostle of the Gentiles and that with me He began an entirely new program, the Church, the body of Christ.
Stachys: Thank you. This is sobering. It also is an encouragement to concentrate on your letters and study the truths the Lord revealed to you. Finally, what are your thoughts about today, what concerns you most?
Paul: I am the epitome of God’s love and grace. I was so misguided. I thought I was doing God’s will but had become a religious monster. But God loved me. He chose and commissioned me to reveal His grace and revelations He had kept secret–to all–Jews and Gentiles. God chose me to be to the Church what Abraham and Moses were to Israel. My greatest concern is for those without Christ, without hope, and without eternal life. God wishes all to be saved and come to the truth (1 Timothy 2.4). Christ has done all the work and has made salvation so simple. One need only trust in His work–in His death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Living the Christian life is not easy. But God has provided freedom in Christ. Peter noted at the Council of Jerusalem that the Law was a burden, a yoke (Acts 15.10). It was. I know. I was a Pharisee. But those who believe my gospel are under grace. They are free. God has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us. As we came to life by faith, we are to live by faith. God is Life. The more we trust Him the more alive we become. He is our blessed hope–and He is coming–soon!
1 This fictional interview serves as a vehicle to present Paul’s life and doctrines. Luke’s account in Acts is distinctly Jewish and differs in emphasis from Paul’s letters. Luke’s intended audience was Jews and his purpose was to explain Israel’s fall from God’s favor and why the kingdom of God did not come. Paul’s letters addressed Gentiles primarily. In them, we find Church doctrine–doctrines the risen Lord gave for the Church, the body of Christ.