THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD

Article By Mark McGee


The Gospel of the Grace of God is the MOST IMPORTANT discovery I've made in studying the Bible since receiving Christ as Savior. It explains the PLAN OF GOD and how He's working in the world and through His Church today.

The first part of this Internet Study answers some basic questions about the Grace Gospel. The second part of the study presents some Frequently Asked Questions about it.

I studied for many years to understand the truth of the Grace Gospel after I first heard about it. Our prayer is that you will be like the Bereans and "examine the Scriptures every day" to see if what we share is true.


What It Is

What is the Gospel of the Grace of God? In short, the Gospel of the Grace of God is the Gospel the Apostle Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles and wrote about in his letters. It is not the same Gospel Peter, James and John preached and wrote in their letters. All of Christ's Apostles (i.e. Peter, James, John, Paul, etc.) preached Christ, but they didn't all have the same Gospel message. They didn't have the same purpose or audience either.

That may seem like a shocking statement, but it's not. It just seems that way because a lot of people aren't saying it. In fact, the statement is Biblical and provable. It's also extremely helpful to Christians finding their way in the Word and the world. If you'll spend a few moments with me, I believe you'll see why.


Where It Came From

Who gave Paul a different message, purpose and audience? God did! God chose Paul out of the masses of humanity for something special and new. Paul's ministry was something unknown to anyone in the world at that time. The timing was specifically in God's hands. Paul did not choose God. God chose Paul. Paul did not choose the Gospel he would preach. God gave Paul that Gospel message, just as He gave Peter, James and John their Gospel message.

"Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem."

Acts 9:1-2

Saul later became the Apostle Paul, but in this reference he's the angry, hostile Jewish prosecuting attorney who hates Jesus Christ and followers of His Way. He wants to kill Christ's disciples ("murderous threats against the Lord's disciples"). He has the power to find the disciples, arrest them and return them to Jerusalem for trial and execution ("He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues").

But something happened to Saul that changed his life and ours forever. He met the living Christ on the way to persecute His followers.

"As he [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'"

(Acts 9:3-6)

Christ intervened in Saul's life in a way He had not done with any other apostle. Jesus chose Peter, James, John and the other apostles while traveling the countryside during His earthly ministry. Christ chose Saul from His heavenly throne years after His resurrection and ascension.

"The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing, so they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything."

(Acts 9:7-9)

Saul's traveling companions could tell something amazing had happened to Saul but they didn't know what it was. They would later be very surprised at the change in Saul's life. We learn more about that change and what happened to Saul as we continue to read the Book of Acts.


Where It Started

God used a disciple of Christ to begin Saul's ministry. His name was Ananias and he lived in Damascus. He was one of the people Saul would probably have arrested and convicted if he had arrived in Damascus untouched by God's Hand. The Lord told Ananias to go to Saul and deliver a message to him.

"But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man [Saul] is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

(Acts 9:15-16)

Notice that God said Saul [Paul] would carry His Name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. Notice anything different in God's purpose for Saul? The difference is clearly that Paul would minister to a group of people to whom the disciples of Christ would not minister. They preached their Gospel only to Jews. The years of their ministry from Christ's ascension to the time of Saul's conversion is evidence of that. They were preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. They preached that Christ was the Messiah of Israel Who would return to set up His Messianic Kingdom "if" the leaders and citizens of Israel would acknowledge Christ as their Messiah and King. Peter preached this Gospel message first on the Day of Pentecost:

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ [Messiah], who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you...Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.'"

(Acts 3:19-25)

Years later, after Saul's conversion, God told Peter to minister to a devout and God-fearing centurion of the Italian Regiment who lived in Israel. God knew Peter would have difficulty doing that since the disciples of Christ believed gentiles were unclean and not worthy of the Messianic Kingdom. God caused Peter to fall into a trance and gave him a vision three times. That prepared Peter to respond to the centurion's interest. We gain insight into the Gospel Christ's disciples believed and taught from something Peter said to Cornelius:

"You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection."

(Acts 10:27-29)

This proves Peter's Gospel was specifically to Jews from the Day of Pentecost to the day he met with Cornelius. It also proves Christ's disciples were still obedient to the Law of Moses; the same Law Paul would later say believers were not under. Peter was the spokesperson for all of Christ's disciples. They all believed it was wrong to associate with Gentiles or visit them because it was against the Jewish Law. That means they did "not" preach the Gospel to anyone but Jews. That was consistent with the ministry Christ had given them. But what about "after" Peter's meeting with Cornelius? Did Peter, James, John and the other disciples change their Gospel message? Did they join Paul in his ministry to the Gentiles?

Many of Christ's disciples from Jerusalem had a major problem with Paul's ministry to Gentiles. They traveled from Judea to Antioch (where Paul was teaching) and told the Gentiles that unless they were circumcised they could not be saved. That led to a sharp dispute and debate between Paul and the Judean disciples. They decided to go to Jerusalem to solve the problem. After much discussion, James (the half-brother of Christ) made the final decision that the Jewish disciples should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who were turning to God. We learn even more about what happened in Paul's letter to the Galatians. He told them why he went to the meeting in Jerusalem and what came out of the meeting. He went with Barnabas, a Jew, and Titus, a Gentile. He pointed out that it was 14 years after he visited with Peter and James in Jerusalem. That was more than three years after his conversion on the road to Damascus.

"I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek....they [the Jewish apostles and elders] saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews."

(Acts 2:2-9)

God entrusted Paul with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. God entrusted Peter with the task of being an apostle to the Jews. Everyone agreed that Paul and Barnabas would go to the Gentiles. Peter, James, John and the other Jewish believers would go to the Jews.


How It's Special

Some might argue that Paul and Peter's Gospels were the same and the only difference in their mission was the audience. However, a close reading of the Book of Acts and Paul's letters will show that the messages were also different. The Jewish disciples in Israel had to obey the law of Moses and all the teachings that Christ gave to the disciples while He ministered on earth (Matthew 28:20). Not so for the world's Gentiles and the Jews outside Israel who responded to Paul's Gospel of Grace. Paul spent the rest of his life explaining the differences between his Gospel and that of the Jewish disciples. Both groups worshipped the same Lord, but they followed Him in different Dispensations.

The word "dispensation" is the Greek word oikonomia. It translates as "household management." It is the position, work, responsibility, commission or arrangement of an administration. Paul used the word for the "management" or "administration" of a spiritual household or economy. I've place an emphasis on the English words the NIV translators used for oikonomia.

"Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things."

(Ephesians 3:2-9)

"Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness--the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:24-26)

"And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (Ephesians 1:9-10)

"If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me." (1 Corinthians 9:17)

"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-4)

We learn from Paul's teachings that a spiritual "dispensation" or "administration" comes from God. He is the Chief Administrator. Paul was an assistant administrator carrying out God's wishes. God worked differently with the Gentiles through Paul than with the Jews through Peter, James and John. The rules were different. The goals and objectives were different. There's nothing wrong with that. It's the way God wanted it.


What's In A Name

Why do we call the Gospel Peter preached the "Kingdom Gospel" and the Gospel Paul preached the "Gospel of the Grace of God" or "Grace Gospel?" The primary emphasis of Peter's Gospel was obedience to God's Law "by works" so He would send Christ to earth to set up His earthly Messianic Kingdom. The Grace Gospel emphasizes a Mystery known only to God before He revealed it to Paul. That Mystery is that Christ would dwell in the hearts and lives of Gentiles and Jews "by grace through faith" and build them into a unified Spiritual Body. Peter preached Christ reigning on earth from a King's throne in Jerusalem. Paul preached Christ reigning in the lives of Gentiles and Jews from a throne in their hearts. Peter's Gospel is about fulfilling Old Testament prophecy about Israel. Paul's Gospel is about fulfilling the Mystery of God that was hidden in God from "before the creation of the world." Some even call the present administration "The Dispensation of the Mystery."

What's a "Mystery?" The Greek word is musterion. It translates as "mystery," "secret" or "deep truth." Here's how Paul used the word to teach Christ's followers in the "Dispensation of Grace" what God had for them. I've emphasized the English words used to translate musterion.

"And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (Ephesians 1:9-10)

"Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things." (Ephesians 3:2-9)

"This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:32)

"I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you, the word of God in its fullness--the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27)

"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:2-3)

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful, And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." (Colossians 4:3)

"Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." (1 Timothy 3:16)

"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and God destined for our glory before time began." (1 Corinthians 2:6-7)

"So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God." (1 Corinthians 4:1)

"They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience." (1 Timothy 3:9)


How Paul Explained It

Paul knew something that no one else knew; not because of anything he had done, but simply because God was pleased to reveal it to him. Paul did not learn it by studying under Peter, James and John. He couldn't learn it from them because they had a different Gospel message than the one God wanted Paul to preach. Paul learned the Grace Gospel directly from God: by special revelation. Paul spent the rest of his life defending his unique knowledge of God's Mystery. Many people, from inside and outside the Body of Christ, opposed Paul's dispensational ministry. Here are a few examples of how Paul defended his position as Apostle to the Gentiles and the Dispensation of the Mystery: "The Gospel of the Grace of God."

"I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preach is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately in Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days...Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important--whatever they were makes no difference to me, God does not judge by external appearance--those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 1:11-2:16)

Notice that Paul stood up to Peter, the Chief Apostle of the Dispensation of the Kingdom of God, and accused him of the worst kind of hypocrisy! Paul and Peter were longtime friends. Why would he do that to Peter? Paul was the Chief Apostle of the Gospel of the Grace of God. Peter was being disobedient to what he knew to be God's plan for Gentiles and Jews in the new dispensation. Paul had to step in and make a strong and bold point so that all would know this was wrong. That's why he did it.

Here are some other examples:

"I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them." (Romans 11:13-14)

"Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)

I've heard some people complain that Paul was a boaster when he pointed to his special calling. They miss the point. Cornelius Stam explains it well in his book, "Paul: His Apostleship and Message."

"In defending his apostleship, Paul glorifies, not himself, but the grace of God. While he did--and rightly--magnify his office, this was not to glorify himself, but the grace of God, for God had revealed the riches of His grace, not merely through a message, but through the individual appointed to proclaim that message: the chief of sinners, saved by grace. If the apostleship of Paul (the divinely-chosen vessel to demonstrate that grace) were disproved, so, of course, would be the message he proclaimed. Thus, while defending his apostleship he freely confesses that he himself is nothing."

In I Cor. 15:9 Paul freely acknowledges: "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet [worthy] to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." But he adds: "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (Ver. 10).

Paul goes even further in Eph. 3:8: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Thus he writes to the Corinthians in II Cor. 12:11: "...in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing." In I Tim. 1:12-16 he spells this out, as it were: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.

How this all harmonizes with his basic claims as to his apostleship: Rom 1:5: "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name."

Eph. 3:6,7: "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, given unto me by the effectual working of His power."

("Paul: His Apostleship and Message," Cornelius R. Stam, Berean Bible Society, 7609 W. Belmont Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60635, 1985)

We make much of The Gospel of the Grace of God and Paul's unique position as Apostle of that message because it is God's will that we do. We take no special pride in proclaiming this message. It is our duty to teach what God has delivered to us. However, we do take pride in Jesus Christ. He is the One Who bled and died for our sins. He is the One Who opened an effectual door for Gentiles and Jews to become members of His Glorious Body.

"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called 'uncircumcised' by those who call themselves 'the circumcision' (that done in the body by the hands of men)--remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Ephesians 2:11-22)


If you would like to see more questions and answers about the Gospel of the Grace of God, link to the GRACE GOSPEL FAQ.


Taking God's Grace to the World!


"Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers."


Last Updated: 12/20/1999