“And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;” (Acts 17:6)
The book of Acts shows how everything was ready for the prophesied Tribulation judgment of God to fall upon Israel and the Gentile world for their rejection of Christ. However, God did an unexpected (to Israel and the Gentiles) thing: He saved the chief of sinners, Saul, the leader of the rebellion against Christ, and sent him forth to all nations to proclaim “the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16), based upon the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary. A new dispensation was ushered in, "the dispensation of the grace of God" (Eph.3:2,3). Now this is a puzzling point: Why would Paul ask the Ephesians “if they had heard of the dispensation of the grace of God?” Paul had taught there for three years. Surely they had heard that message from him! Well, the answer is found in the fact that Paul visited Ephesus in 54 AD. He wrote the letter to the Ephesians in 62 AD. At least 5 years had gone by since he was there. Paul wasn’t sure that anyone there was continuing to teach the “revelation of the mystery”. In fact, he was concerned that anyone had even heard about it. Well, several years later we find the answer to Paul’s question. II Timothy 1:15 gives us the answer… “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” Ephesus was the capitol of Asia in the Roman Empire.
Nothing has changed today. Do you ever talk about the revelation of the mystery? If people were depending on you to hear about the dispensation of the grace of God, would they ever hear? I doubt it! We are so wrapped up in celebrity speakers (Max Lucado, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, Joel Osteen, John Hagee, etc), marriage encounters, financial seminars, child rearing seminars, choirs, gospel sings, church buildings, Awana Clubs, sports and health information that we don’t have time to talk of the things God has revealed to us. We gravitate to one or more of the above mentioned activities and make them our ministry for the Lord. People are very interested in these “things” I can assure you. But is that our commission? No! It is found in II Cor. 5:17-21.
Romans 1:1-5…If we bring verses 1 and 3 together, we see that the Apostle Paul was called to proclaim "the gospel [good news] of God, concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." He was separated" to the proclamation of this message. Many believers have asked me how I can be so sure that I am correct about the special ministry of the Apostle Paul, the revelation of the mystery, the dispensation of the grace of God, etc. Well if God was ushering in a new dispensation, one would expect to find some information about it at the outset to insure that we would not miss it. That is exactly what God does in verse one when He tells us He separated Paul to the gospel.
The gospel Paul proclaimed was God's good news about Christ and His glorious triumph in defeating Satan, overcoming death, nailing the Law to the cross and providing for sinners salvation full and free.
This is why Paul calls his message "the good news of the glory of Christ” (II Cor. 4:4) and "the good news of the glory of the blessed God” (I Tim. 1:11). To enter intelligently into the truth of this good news brings to the sinner’s heart the greatest blessing he can possibly experience.
Rom. 1:2 presents a problem, for it states that Paul's gospel was "promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” To some this is evidence that either (1) Paul preached the same gospel that Peter, James and John preached ("the gospel of the kingdom") during his early ministry, or that (2) "the gospel of the grace of God" was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures.
1. There is no evidence that Paul ever preached "the gospel of the kingdom." He proved to his Jewish hearers that Jesus was the Christ. This is not unusual because how can a Jew trust Christ as his Savior if he does not believe that Jesus was the true Messiah? Paul's first recorded sermon at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, was justification by grace, through faith in Christ, apart from the Law (Acts 13:38,39).
2. "The gospel of the grace of God" was not prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul states clearly that "the dispensation of the grace of God" had been "a mystery," kept secret until it was made known to him "by revelation" (Eph. 3:2,3).
3. The essence of Paul's good news in Romans had not been prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures. Where in the Old Testament do we read about God's righteousness imputed through the death of Christ, or of justification without the deeds of the Law or of Jews and Gentiles placed on the same level before God, or of the believer's baptism into Christ, or of the one joint-body? All these grace doctrines are dealt with only in the Epistle to the Romans. Some theologians say that Rom. 4:6,7 teaches that David taught the doctrine of imputed righteousness apart from works; however verses 6 and 7 only say that David, in the case of his sin with Bathsheba, "describes” the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputes righteousness apart from works. Paul simply used the one instance of David’s sin with Bathsheba to describe what he (Paul) was clearly teaching to Jew and Gentile alike. If David had taught the people of Israel that their righteousness was apart from the Law he would have been a liar and unfit to be King of Israel. Deuteronomy 6:24-25 makes this explicitly clear. Paul on the other hand teaches that “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness” (Rom. 10:4-5).
4. In both his earlier and later epistles Paul consistently speaks of "my gospel," "the gospel which I preached unto you," "that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles," etc. In Acts 20:24, looking backward as well as forward, he expresses the desire: "... that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” This statement, made toward the close of his ministry, about his whole ministry, past and future, could hardly state more clearly the fact that Paul had been commissioned to proclaim one gospel, the full content of which was progressively revealed to him. (Acts 26:16; II Cor. 12:1).
Why, then, does Paul say that his gospel had also been "promised afore” by the prophets in the holy Scriptures"? It is clear that Paul here refers not to the contents of his gospel but simply to the fact that God had predicted that He had wonderful good news in store for mankind. I Cor. 2:9,10… "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit...”. Paul cites an Old Testament prophet (Isaiah) to explain to the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit has now revealed things that He had kept secret since the world began. “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” (Isa. 64:4) The book of Romans is full of these blessings now revealed to His church, the body of Christ.