For the last couple weeks, we have been studying some basic rules for any Bible student, teacher or preacher to follow. One of these rules is to trust God’s Word rather than commentaries. For many people, the idea of Bible study is reading a commentary. Last week when we discussed this rule I brought in eight commentaries, and we did a test. I looked up the same verse in all eight commentaries to see how each writer explained the verse. I picked a verse that is very clear to someone that rightly divides the Bible but hard to understand for the average Christian. Acts 1:6 says this: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” If you’re not familiar with this verse, Jesus has just taught the disciples for 40 days after his resurrection, and they ask him this question. The kingdom they are asking about is the only kingdom they knew about and the only kingdom Jesus taught about which is the EARTHLY, DAVIDIC, LITERAL kingdom where Jesus would rule and reign ON EARTH. This is what the OT clearly teaches, and this is what Jesus taught; unfortunately, this is probably not what you are taught at church. You are wrongly taught that the prophets and disciples were wrong and that God really meant it was a “spiritual” kingdom with Jesus ruling and reigning in our hearts. People that teach this are accusing Jesus himself of being so bad of a teacher that even after 3 years walking with him during his earthly ministry and 40 days of teaching that the disciples were still confused! The confusion is caused by the stack of commentaries I just mentioned because most Christians trust commentaries over the Bible itself. I started with Matthew Henry’s commentary. He berates the disciples for asking the question of Acts 1:6 and then goes on to call them childish, prideful, confused, and a whole lot more. Commentary after commentary followed suit accusing the disciples of not understanding what Jesus really meant. I would ask all those who spiritualize your Bibles and explain away the promises to Israel; wouldn’t this be the perfect time for Jesus to stop them in their tracks and tell them all that the earthly kingdom talk was wrong? Does Jesus take this perfect opportunity to do this? No! He just tells them it’s not for them to know the timing of things. Jesus knows Israel will reject the offer of the kingdom after his resurrection and the stoning of Stephen. Jesus knows he will soon call Paul and offer salvation to Jew and Gentile alike based on belief alone apart from the law. Jesus does not berate them like the commentators do, but Jesus simply tells them it’s not for them to know the timing of things. I was happy to read in J. Vernon McGee’s commentary that he had some understanding of the earthly plans God had for Israel. Most of the others fall in line with their Covenant theology friends and most of Christianity as a whole and explain away everything the Bible so clearly explains for us. It’s not fashionable anymore to believe the Bible AS WRITTEN, and Bible believers are few and far between these days. The Bible works effectually in “those that believe.” (1 Tim 4:10) This explains the state of Christianity today clearly. Christianity believes the commentators over scripture. I very well realize you have been taught your whole life to read yourself into the kingdom Jesus was speaking of but I would remind you that the words themselves in scripture ALONE do not teach this.
I’d like to talk about one huge difference between the vast majority of churches that would be categorized as Christian, and even fundamental, and those that rightly divide their Bible. I’ve experienced this difference my whole life growing up in church. The difference is an openness in allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you something even though it might sound different than what your traditional view has been. One sure fire way of never teaching from a pulpit again is to teach something different than your denominational position says is allowable. I have a friend that was told he could not understand the Bible because he had never taken a course on Biblical hermeneutics. Let me tell you something about hermeneutics classes, they have ALL failed. I know that statement might anger some men with a higher education from a seminary or Bible college but the truth is the truth. Why would I say such a thing? Look around you at the state of Christianity today. The only churches growing quickly today are the ones who spend 45 minutes waving their hands in the air during their praise and worship service, and the preachers mumble self-help mottos and tell you everything God is going to give you just because he loves you so much. Never mind the FACT that God is as JUST as he is loving, and he hates the sins of pride and arrogance as much as he hates the sins that are easy to point out. Hermeneutics is a failure because each seminary teaches Biblical interpretation according to their own tradition! Every class in Bible interpretation is taught from the denominational agenda of the school. I could provide a list of denominations here, and you could easily tell me the slant each one teaches their “preacher boys” as they show up for class each day. There’s really not much need because these preacher boys have been spoon fed their denominations agenda from day one. I know this because I grew up in this and was well on my way to indoctrinating my kids too. Chances are you are doing the same thing. The huge difference between a church that rightly divides the Bible, and those who stand behind their chosen denominational position is an openness to the teaching of the Bible ALONE, taken LITERALLY, trusting that God can give us the words we are to learn in our own language. At Abundant Grace we allow 1 hour if needed EVERY SUNDAY for questions, and yes these are discussed in the open. If you can’t and don’t question anything and everything you believe, are you open to the Holy Spirits guidance? Why do you think every denomination has its own colleges and seminaries? Is this because they all teach the same method of Biblical interpretation? You already know the answer. It’s so once we have taught our kids that our denomination is right, and everyone else in Christianity is wrong we can send them to a college that tells them the same thing. Of course never mind the FACT that each of those other colleges also use the Bible to prove their position, and they tell all their kids that YOUR denomination is wrong! I understand many will not like this post but I’m so weary of seeing people fight for their traditions and ignore the Bible that it feels like a weight on my back, and I just want to scream at the world to just BELIEVE WHAT GOD SAID IN HIS WORD and forget your denominational tradition. Problem is so few are listening. Teachers today do such a masterful job of teaching around the verses that don’t support their position or explaining the meaning away that the average Christian has no clue how little they actually understand their Bible. I contend that those that read their Bibles regularly see these contradictions all the time but have been conditioned to ignore them. Does this describe you?
I recently heard someone use Galatians 1:6 to attempt to prove there is only one gospel in the Bible. This was accomplished in the usual way. The verse was read, and then explained in a way different than the words actually say. This is the standard procedure when people are tied closer to their denomination than the Bible itself. Well scripted explanations and references to commentators or scholars make the people in the pews easily ignore the fact that the ACTUAL WORDS often don’t convey the meaning being orated by the speaker. The book of Galatians was written in part to explain the OUTCOME of the Acts 15 Jerusalem council. The Jerusalem council was convened for the sole purpose of settling the dispute between PAUL and the ELDERS IN JERUSALEM as to the content of the gospel. This fact proves that there was a vast difference between the gospel being preached by Paul and the gospel that was STILL being preached by the 12. Peter in Acts 15:11 settles the matter by stating that “WE (Israel) shall be saved even as THEY (Gentiles)”. Peter had finally realized after the exhortation from Paul that his gospel of the earthly kingdom was set aside and God was now dealing with everyone in grace and by faith alone. The words themselves in Galatians 1:6 prove that there were different gospels. The phrase “another gospel” proves the point. Paul knows, at this time, that Israel has been set aside in unbelief. Paul tells us his gospel in verse 7 is the “gospel of Christ” and goes on to tell us in verses 8 and 9 that no other gospel should be preached other than HIS gospel, the gospel of Christ. This, once again, proves there was more than one gospel at the time! Pay close attention to the little word “YE” in verse 9! Words matter! Paul was talking to the Galatians. None of the 12 nor Jesus himself had a ministry to the Galatians! The Galatians had heard and received PAUL’S gospel! Most of the book of Galatians is about Paul telling these Gentiles NOT to be drawn back to the gospel Jesus and the 12 had been preaching which involved FAITH AND WORKS. Jesus over and over in Matthew through John required works along with faith. These are the verses your church probably changes to match your chosen denominational agenda. Paul goes on in verses 10-12 making sure his readers know his gospel did not come from men which separated him from the 12. Paul tells us in 15-16 that he was separated from his mother’s womb to “reveal his son in me”. Notice the words “in me”? Only Paul tells us of our position “in Christ” and only Paul explains that Christ is in us solely by the grace of God. Now read verse 20. Paul is making it very clear that his readers know he is not lying. This is quite a strange choice of words don’t you think? Paul says similar things several times. Would it make any sense at all for Paul to say this if he was preaching the same thing as the 12? This verse would make no sense whatsoever if Paul is preaching the same gospel as the 12. He would have all the backing of Peter and the 11, and there would have been no reason whatsoever for the Jerusalem council or much of the book of Galatians for that matter. Verse 20 proves Paul was preaching a different gospel than Peter. Paul feels the need to verbalize he is not lying because he is preaching grace alone apart from the faith plus works message that Jesus and the 12 preached. Paul goes on to tell his readers in 2:2 about “that gospel” that he preached among the gentiles as he explains the outcome of the Jerusalem council. Verses 2:7-9 clearly shows that the different gospels are going to different audiences AT THAT TIME. You must remember Peter’s remarks at the end of the Jerusalem council when he stated everyone now will be saved under PAUL’S GOSPEL. Galatians 2:11 through the end of the chapter explains Paul’s open rebuke of Peter because Peter was “NOT WALKING UPRRIGHTLY ACCORDING TO THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL” How could Peter, who walked with Jesus himself, not be walking according to the truth of the gospel? You that are loyal to your denomination and not scripture alone please answer me. I’ll tell you how he isn’t. Peter DOES NOT KNOW the gospel Paul is preaching! Peter has only known the Gospel of the kingdom and has never heard the gospel of the grace of God beyond what Paul had instructed him previously. The book of Galatians cannot be used to prove there is only one gospel in the Bible because this book proves to a Bible believer that Paul is preaching a gospel of faith ALONE, apart from the law. Jesus never taught a gospel of faith alone and the content of his gospel is that the earthly prophesied kingdom in AT HAND. Paul tells us NOT to go back to what the believers in Jerusalem were preaching. Why? Because the believers in Jerusalem had believed in Jesus’ gospel of faith plus works and repentance and baptism, but Paul knows that the gospel of the kingdom is over just like Peter now does. Galatians is clear! Your commentaries are written based on the writers chosen theological position, and most often this leans to a Covenant position with a few Dispensational phrases here or there where it doesn’t contradict their point. You can choose to believe the Bible as it stands, or you can choose to believe the Bible the way it gets “explained” to you. The choice is yours.
Steve Schoenberger is a student of the Bible and the teacher at Abundant Grace Bible Fellowship, A Mid-Acts Dispensational Bible church teaching the Bible rightly divided according the revelation of the mystery delivered to the Apostle Paul