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“Repent and Do Works”


By Justin Johnson

“But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” –Acts 26:20

Acts 26 is an unnecessary source of confusion for students of Pauline truth. For example, in Acts 26:20 Paul says that he taught Jews and Gentiles to repent and turn to God and do works. Yet, we know that Paul taught the gospel of Christ’s free righteousness imputed unto us without our works.

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” – Romans 4:5

Is Paul teaching a works based message? Is this evidence that Paul taught the same as the works of Jesus and Peter in Matthew through Acts?

Of course not.

Repent and Turn to God

The confusion begins with a wrong definition of the word “repent”, which does not mean to “turn from your sins”, or to “stop sinning”, or “promise to live a better life”. Repent simply means a change of mind.

This is what it meant when the prophets told Israel to change their mind and hearts about disobeying the law, else God’s wrath would be invoked.

This is what it meant when John, Jesus, and Peter charged Israel to change their mind about the coming of the Lord. While they were living in sin thinking the end would not come, they were told of the “last days” and the coming of the Lord to set up his kingdom.

This is what it meant when Paul exhorted his brethren to change their mind about Jesus, and to the Gentiles to change their mind about sin and “dumb idols”.

The admonition to “repent and turn to God” is an appropriate message since the beginning of the world. All men are called to change their mind about their own sin and turn their mind and hearts to God.

Every gospel message includes this generic teaching.

However, what is conspicuous by its absence is the will of God in the present dispensation. That is, the preaching of the cross for salvation is missing from this verse. Paul leaves it out in his apt defense unto a Hebrew-friendly king and Jewish prosecutors.

Works Meet for Repentance

While some would make a big ado about the works meet for repentance that Paul mentions, this is no more than the good works that God has always called his people to do.

Before the flood, Noah preached righteous living. Moses taught good works under the law. Jesus and the Twelve taught good works in their ministry to Israel. Paul also encourages us unto good works in the dispensation that does not require works for salvation.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” – Titus 2:14

Just as God’s message to mankind has always included a change of mind about sin and towards the will of God, what follows is the exhortation to do good works.

At no time, including this dispensation of grace, does God fail to encourage good works. Although, in this dispensation alone works are excluded as part of the faith unto salvation.

So then, to the law abiding prosecution, and the king familiar with the righteous teachings of the law of the Jews, Paul explains that he was not teaching lawlessness or disobedience to God.

This in no way contradicts Paul’s message in his epistles, nor does it conflate the mystery of Christ with the prophetic message to Israel.

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Sin and Your Identity in Christ


By Justin Johnson

There are tremendous doctrines about who I am in Christ found in Romans chapter six. These identity doctrines deliver you from the power of sin and death.

Missing these important identification truths produces a variety of doctrinal mistakes.

My New Life in Christ

Romans 6:3-4 describes that now we, that are saved, are identified with Christ.

The old man, though present every morning in my flesh, is to be reckoned dead (Rom 6:6, 11).

This teaches that the judgment and sentence of my old man is already complete.

No longer am I trying to make it look better than what it was, nor am I letting it walk around with impunity. It is nailed to Calvary’s cross.

There is now no eternal connection between me and my old man in Adam (Col 2:11).

I am not merely destined to die then face a judgment unto condemnation and death. I am now destined to live in the resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:8).

Freedom from Sin and Death

As a result, sin and death have no more rightful dominion over me (Rom 6:9, 14). The life I live now is the resurrected life of Christ in me, the hope of glory!

Without power of dominion, sin cannot accuse me, condemn me, kill me, or make me subject to it any longer.

It can taunt me like the unrepentant thief crucified next to Jesus, but it is already dead. The thief was nailed to a cross!

When it tries to raise objections to the court, it cannot because the court is already dismissed and the bailiff has him on the electric chair. Anything he might say are seen as last words, and irrelevant to his sentence of death.

Death cannot threaten me with its fear of judgment, for my old man has been judged and is dead. I am now alive in Christ.

Silencing Sin and Death

When these identity doctrines are neglected, then all of the gracious benefits we have in Christ are called into question.

Sin will try to adjudicate over your eternal life by asking, “Can we lose our salvation when we sin?”

Grace responds with, “Your testimony and authority is not valid in this court. The case has been closed. The old man is already dead. This new man is free from your accusations.”

Death will try to object, “But sin must be judged and suffering must match the crime. He did not suffer!”

Grace responds with, “This man is in Christ. Christ died unto sin once, and does not die anymore. You have no right to speak in this court seeing as this man is already dead and resurrected in Christ.”

Neither sin nor death can do anything to change who you are in Christ, free from both.

Identification Mistakes

Those who think that the sin of their old man determines their destiny, direction, or duty have missed the doctrine of their identity with Christ, dead to sin.

Those who think they must suffer even unto death for their sin do not understand who they are in Christ, where death has no dominion.

In Christ, you can forget the daily re-crucifixion of Jesus in the Mass, flagellation, the works of penance, fasting, stair walking, stigmata, prayers of confession, and whatever other forms of suffering the old man tries to perform on itself to make a fair shew in the flesh.

Pleas are no good to save the man that is already dead. These are all useless to rid you of your sins or your sin.

Christ’s Work Against Sin

Christ dealt with all your sin problems by the cross. This is what we mean when we say, “Christ did it all”.

He did more than die a death in your place; he died so that in your place he could conquer death in resurrection.

Do not forget what the Lord Jesus Christ did for you, he not only died for your sins, but he died unto sin for you.

Thank God we are now no longer identified by our weak and useless, corrupt and sinful, old man, but are now identified with the Lord Jesus Christ and the reign of grace.

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How to Be Baptized Without Getting Wet


By Justin Johnson

When most people think of baptism they think of water. Whether it be immersion, sprinkled, splashed, or sprayed, they think water has something to do with it.

Did you know the Bible teaches it is possible to be baptized without getting wet?

Consider John the Baptist. That he baptized with water is clear (John 1:31; Mark 1:5). Everyone John baptized got wet.

However, in Matthew 3:11 the only man to be called Baptist in the Bible identifies two other baptisms that do not include water.

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” – Matthew 3:11

The Holy Ghost is spiritual and so is not made of water, and I’m pretty sure the baptism with fire would evaporate any moisture left on anyone who participates in that fiery furnace (Isa 4:4: Mal 3:2).

Then there is the baptism of the nation Israel unto Moses in 1 Corinthians 10:2. They walked across the sea on dry ground and the Egyptians who were dunked in the water drowned.

After Jesus was baptized with water by John, he spoke of another baptism for himself which would end in his death. The only water involved in the death of Jesus was that which flowed out of him (John 19:34).

“But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” – Luke 12:50

Many Baptisms: Some Dry, Some Wet

There are many different baptisms in the Bible and most of them are dry.

Baptism has become synonymous with water baptism, but baptism does not mean water. A better definition would be how someone is identified with something.

This is why Paul describes a baptism into the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Everyone who is saved by the gospel of Christ today is identified with the Lord in his second baptism unto death.

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:13

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” – Romans 6:3

Baptism into Christ is identification with Christ. We become crucified with Christ without ever touching water (Gal 2:20).

Baptism with water never symbolized death, but cleansing, as in the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). In the present dispensation of grace, our sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ through his death.

There is only one baptism Paul says is necessary in the church, and it does not include water or a priest to perform it. It is performed by the operation of God when we believe the gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ (Eph 4:5).

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” – Col 2:12

If you think baptism must always include water, then you are a little wet behind the ears.

Baptism does not require water, there are many examples in the Bible, and the one baptism you need does not require a single drop.

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When Believing in Jesus Can’t Save You


By Justin Johnson
“Are you saved?”
“I believe in Jesus.”

If you think this is what saves you, you might be deceived. You say, why wouldn’t someone who believes in Jesus be saved?

Because you can believe in Jesus and not be saved.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in Jesus, too, and think that the salvation of all men is only found in him. Yet, the greatest lies resemble truth. The lie in this false gospel becomes obvious when you consider what is not expressed by this oversimplified statement.

For example, Muslims believe in Jesus: he is considered a prophet in the religion of Islam and the Koran. The Hindus believe in Jesus: he is a great guru for them. Historians believe in Jesus: he was a first century Jew who lived in Galilee. Even the devils in hell believe in Jesus and tremble!

Do you see that there are times when merely believing in Jesus cannot save? Here is how you know when believing in Jesus cannot save you.

When you don’t know who Jesus is.

If you don’t know that Jesus was Christ, the Son of God, then he cannot save you. Jesus said:

“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” – John 8:24

This means Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16; Col 2:9). If he is not, he cannot be your Saviour (Titus 2:13). God is the only Saviour (Isa 43:11). If Jesus is not the fullness of the Godhead bodily, then he is an imposter, a liar, or worse.

When you don’t know what Jesus did.

Why did Jesus need to die? If you don’t know, then let me be frank: you are not saved, but you can be.

Maybe he was not crucified at all like the Koran wrongly teaches? Perhaps he died naturally, or died without blood like some false Bibles teach. If he did not die, shedding his blood, cursed on a cross, then your sins cannot be forgiven (Eph 1:7; Heb 9:22).

Without the cross, God has no means to save anyone.

Did he not rise from the dead? Then, you have no proof Jesus was Christ, no hope of glory, no comfort in death, no salvation from sins, and no expectation of eternal life (Rom 4:25; Matt 12:40; 1 Thess 4:14).

“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” – 1 Corinthians 15:17

When Jesus did not complete the work.

James, the apostle to the twelve tribes, writes that faith without works is dead. Mere belief in Jesus does not justify unto salvation. After all, even the devils believe and know who Jesus is:

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”- James 2:19

“ And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.” – Luke 4:41

James was teaching justification to the twelve tribes of Israel under their law covenant. This was not written with the knowledge of the mystery of Christ, the gospel of God’s grace.

The gospel of grace is that Christ did all the work necessary for your salvation (Rom 4:5; Titus 3:5). This is called grace, and it is offered freely (Rom 3:24).

There is nothing else that need be done (Col 2:10). How can this be? Christ did it all. Your only response is faith.

The only way to be saved is by grace through faith, and this is only possible if the work needed to save you was completed by Christ, the object of your faith.

If you think you must contribute some work in order to seal the deal with God, then believing in Christ is not enough to save you. You are not trusting his finished work on your behalf (i.e his grace to you).

How Believing in Jesus Can Save You

The Lord Jesus Christ revealed the gospel that saves any man today to the apostle Paul. This gospel of grace allows Christ to save through mere belief in the gospel of Christ (Eph 1:13)

“To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” – Romans 3:25

Before that time, the righteousness of God to save by faith alone was not known, and so faith by itself would impugn the righteousness of God to save (James 2:20).

Christ had to make himself known to Israel for people to believe who he was, he had to die and resurrect for men to know what he did, and the mystery of the gospel had to be revealed before belief could stand alone without works, law, or Israel (i.e. pure grace).

There was a time when belief in Jesus was either impossible, or insufficient, but now according to the revelation of the mystery, faith in Christ is what saves upon hearing the gospel of the grace of God.

Jesus was God in the flesh who died for your sins, rose from the dead, and revealed the gospel of his finished work having done everything necessary for your salvation. Trust him to be saved according to the gospel of grace.

If you don’t know who Jesus is, what he did, or fail to trust his finished work, then believing in Jesus cannot save you.

Are you saved?

“I believe in Jesus”

So what. What do you believe about him? How does he save you? How do you know?

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Mid-Acts Dispensational Right Division is a Gospel Issue


By Justin Johnson

There is no more important issue for humanity than the gospel of our salvation. Yet, when you ask a handful of Christians to explain the gospel rarely do you get a consistent or clear answer.

Common ideas about salvation are experiential and based on performance. These beliefs are not much different than other religions. They sound like this:

  • – Doing the best I can
    – Going to church
    – Being good
    – Believing in God
    – Raised in a Christian home
    – Experienced God’s love

More spiritually minded people will recognize that the gospel has something to do with Jesus. We hear the salvation gospel described as “believing in Jesus”, “following Jesus”, “making Jesus Lord of your life”, “accepting Jesus”, “receiving Jesus”, or “loving Jesus”. Pretty much, anything that has to do with Jesus is a legitimate explanation of the gospel for these folks.

Even certified theologians differ about the gospel. Some think God chooses who will be saved. Others think God grants salvation in response to our behavior. Catholics believe it is a sin to presume that you are eternally saved. Now, that is confusion!

The only thing clear about the gospel in Christianity is that few people can articulate it clearly.

The Gospel of Our Salvation

It is not the gospel of salvation merely to believe in Jesus; the devils do that (Mark 1:24, James 2:19).
It is not the gospel to love Jesus with all our heart; the Muslims dothat as well.

“Making Jesus Lord” is something the Mormons include in their theology, and every good Hindu “accepts” Jesus (they accept thousands of gods).

None of the beliefs above can save you from God’s rightful judgment against our sins. Paul clearly states the gospel of our salvation in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

“… 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 15:3-4

It was through Christ’s death that our sin is removed and we are justified.

“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

We receive righteous standing with God by faith.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” – Romans 5:1

Belief in this gospel alone will save you and give you the grace of eternal life (Rom 6:23). First, we hear this gospel of grace. Second, we trust it, then we are saved: no more, no less.

“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 1:13

The Mystery of the Gospel

What does this have to do with the mystery of Christ and mid-Acts dispensational right division? Everything.

You can find gospel messages in the Bible before the gospel of grace surrounding the covenants, Israel, the Commandments, baptism, the Messiah, and the kingdom. Christians cause confusion when they fail to distinguish between the gospel of the kingdom and the mystery gospel of the grace of God.

No one before the revelation of the mystery of Christ understood the significant meaning of the death of Jesus to all men (Luke 18:34).

The mystery of Christ is the gospel of the grace of God. It is the preaching of the cross for salvation. No one before the revelation of the mystery understood how faith alone could justify sinners (James 2:24). The gospel of grace was kept secret from humanity (1 Cor 2:7-8).

Mid-Acts right division recognizes the difference between God’s progressive instructions in the Bible, and clarifies our understanding of the gospel for today. By separating the gospel of grace from the message of the law, covenants, kingdoms, and baptism the glorious gospel of Christ stands alone.

Resolving the confusions over tithing, tongues, and water baptism are only consequences and not the main benefit of mid-acts dispensational right division. The biggest benefit to the church of learning the mystery of Christ is clarifying the gospel of our salvation.

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A Division Ignored in the Covenant-Dispensational Debate


By Justin Johnson

It is commonly said that the Old Testament was for Israel, while the New Testament is for the Church. This wrong division has led to one of the most lengthy and heated rifts among Christians regarding the fulfillment of the promises and prophecies given to Israel.

Covenantalists say that the Old Testament promises and prophecies are fulfilled in the New Testament Church. Dispensationalists (of the popular and historical Acts 2variety) say that the promises and prophecies are not fulfilled by the New Testament Church and will be fulfilled by a return of Israel as a nation into their land.

Both positions have their problems, and neither has it right. The Covenantal position must spiritualize plain prophetic passages in the Old Testament that speak about Israel. The Dispensational position must explain why many prophecies speak directly about the New Testament, Jesus’ earthly ministry, and Pentecost.

There is a third answer to the dilemma that has largely been missed or ignored, because it requires a dramatic change in the way the scriptures are divided.

Whereas both camps have tried to answer the question of prophecy by dividing the Old Testament from the New Testament, there is a better way to divide the scriptures: a division between prophecy and mystery.

Reinterpreting the New Testament

Covenantal teachers advocate reinterpreting the Old Testament by their supposed New Testament spiritual fulfillment.

Many Dispensational teachers take the Old Testament literally, but find spiritualizing New Testament passages necessary in order to apply it to the Church. Both must spiritualize portions of scripture.

The answer to the dilemma lies in rightly dividing both prophetic testaments from the Church, which is a mystery, and leaving both testaments in the hands of Israel, to whom they were given.

The Church, which is the Body of Christ, was revealed to Paul and is described as a mystery (Eph 3:6, Col 1:27, Eph 5:32). It is not the subject of prophecy, whether the prophecy is the Old Testament or its fulfillment in the New (Rom 16:25, Col 1:26).

After all the New Testament was never intended for the Church, but was prophesied and reiterated in Hebrews to be applied to Israel:

“For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:” – Hebrews 8:8, quoting Jeremiah 31:31.

Both Right, Both Wrong, Neither Work

The Covenantalists are right that the New Testament will fulfill the Old Testament promises and prophecies, but they are wrong that we need to alter the original prophetic meaning for it to do so.

The Dispensationalists are right that the prophecies are not fulfilled in the Church, but they are wrong when they try to apply New Testament doctrine to the Church.

The necessary division for proper interpretation of the Bible is not between the Old Testament and the New, as if one was for Israel and the other for the Church. Neither testament speaks to the mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ.

The most important division to make is between both testaments (subjects of prophecy to Israel) and the Church (the subject of the mystery).

Prophecy vs. Mystery

Rightly dividing the New Testament from the Church is what separates mid-Acts Pauline dispensationalists from every other dispensational or covenant teacher.

Instead of interpreting the Old Testament by the New, or the New by the Old, we interpret the entire Bible through the lens of what is the prophecy and what is mystery; what is earthly, and what is heavenly. These are the necessary divisions that remove the confusion of so-called Christian scholars.

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