The Next Step!
Clearly "the gospel of your salvation" is an important message and is at the heart of a very special event that occurred in the life of each person who has come to trust in the Lord. Paul says this in Eph.1:13-14
13 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,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
There is however another gospel that all believers should believe, it is the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
KJV Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 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. 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; (Eph 3:6 KJV)
That is there is a next step you should take. Some will say that you need to be baptized in water as a testimony to the world of the faith that you now possess, others will say that you need to speak in tongues or have other gifts of the Spirit through the laying on of hands. The Hebrews were told that they needed to come off the baby food, here is what Paul says to the Hebrew people in the time of the book of Acts, below are passages from Heb 4:12-5:3
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
1 ¶ Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
Getting off the milk is important, but what is instructive is the fact that milk is the metaphor for "principles of the doctrine of Christ" which in turn are various doctrines including "baptisms" and "laying on of hands". These are presicely what many would have us be involved with and are very prevalent today within professing Christianity. The Hebrews knew of them all to well, are of Jewish origin and were to be left for something better. Baptism in water and "signs" associated with laying on of hands will not be a good recipe to encourage growth into full age.
It is a strange thing to notice that many who claim to be spiritual Israel and encourage the believer to adopt baptisms and signs also neglect the advice given by Paul to the real Hebrews and that was to leave them.
Let me suggest that if you wish to grow you need the right food and this will mean being careful whose table you attempt to sit at. Do you really want to be seated at some other group's table where you have not been invited or do you wish to eat baby food under the assumption that it will give you the strength to discern good and evil? Healthy food is that which God prepares for YOU in season!
Growth requires many components, one very necessary one is the leaving behind of that which is the abc's much of which was Israel's shadow and picture book. We must leave it and then embrace stronger doctrine.
Some will point to Paul as the blueprint of our activity as believers in this age. Didn't he come after the cross and the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost? Surely he is the exemplar Christian for us today. While this is appealing at first thought it has its problems, for example look at Paul's statements to the Corinthians"
1Co 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
1Co 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
1Co 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
The corrrect use of tongues was acceptable behaviour. Should we follow Paul today who said "forbid not to speak in tongues"? The gift of prophecy was preferable -- do you think we should encourage those who claim to have the gift of prophecy? If we did we would need other gifts to ensure their reality and so all the gifts would need to be present. By taking Paul in the book of Acts as our exemplar in how we should act spiritually and in what way we should manifest a spiritual life is very much contingent and guided by this decision. I trust you can see already that Paul's Acts ministry would be problematic in this context.
Paul was not sent to baptize lest someone could accuse him of baptizing in his own name, yet he did baptize:
1Co 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
1Co 1:15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
1Co 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
1Co 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Ac 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
Ac 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
There is a context in the book of Acts which was "Jew first", Rom.1:16,17. Paul was a minister of the New Covenant:
2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
This was his job, in the acts. He preached the hope of Israel and said none other things than what the prophets and Moses said should come.
Ac 26:22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
Paul gave warning to the Jews about rejecting the kingdom mesaage that he and the other apostles presented Acts 13:
40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
The Jews stumbled at the stumbling stone and were judged at the end of the book of Acts chapter 28
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
Here we have a new ministry opening in a context of judgment on Israel. The movement is clear, from the covenanted people (this people) to the Gentiles.
Paul from prison speaks concerning a new and relevant revelation given to him consequent to the defection of Israel Acts 28. It is a revelation for us who are Gentiles with no advantage given to Israel. There are two features of his epistles that reveal his new and distinctive ministry, either they were written
- In prison: He was the prisoner of the Lord for the Gentiles -- this can be found in his so called prison epistles e.g. Eph. 3:1, 4:1; Col. 4:3; 2Tim. 1:8. These epistles will display his bonds and particular and distinctive doctrine.
- Post Acts 28: After the Acts 28 boundary and not necessarily written from prison (Paul could be released for a time) , evidence comes by way of doctrine.
Paul after the Acts 28 boundary ministers the gospel of the unsearchable riches Eph. 3:6-8 as well as the gospel of salvation Eph. 1:13. If you have been given the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him then you will have ears to hear. If not then "other sheep" there are which are not of the Lord's earthly ministry which will be brought in and made "one" with the Jewish hope. Much of professing Christianity have not responded to the latter gospel and preach, teach and believe in a Jewish hope within the new Jerusalem.
To understand Paul's latter ministry is to find Gold (Aurum) and therefore we will symbolize this with PAul.
Look what he says in Col 1
25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
(Col 1:25-27 KJV)
Lets summarize some of the salient points:
- minister according to dispensation of God
- for you gentiles
- to fulfil the word of God (incomplete otherwise)
- mystery hid NOW made manifest
- riches of the glory among Gentiles
- Christ in you hope of Glory
Well you have a choice to make -- accept or reject -- a decision based on the presence or absence of a gift from the Father.