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THE GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION AND THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION

THE GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION AND THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION

“…. they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, and the gospel of the circumcision unto Peter” (Gal. 2:7). Many assume, with no Scriptural evidence, that the difference between the gospel of the circumcision and the gospel of the uncircumcision is that Paul preached the gospel of salvation by faith to the Gentiles and Peter did not. But Peter did preach the gospel of salvation by faith to the Gentiles which is proved in Acts 15:7-9, “And when there had been much disputing Peter rose up, and said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe……..and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith“.

What was the difference between the gospel of the uncircumcision and the gospel of the circumcision? In order to answer that question we will consider the following topics:

WHAT DOES THE “OF” IN THE TWO TERMS TELL US?

IN WHAT WAYS WERE PETER’S AND PAUL’S GOSPEL THE SAME?

IN WHAT WAYS WERE PETER’S AND PAUL’S GOSPEL DIFFERENT?

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DIFFERENCES

WHAT DOES THE “OF” IN THE TWO TERMS TELL US?

The “of” in the terms gospel of the circumcision and the gospel of the uncircumcision is, in my opinion, the Genitive of Relation, it means “pertaining to”. So the gospel of the circumcision pertains to Jews and the gospel of the uncircumcision pertains to the Gentiles.

IN WHAT WAYS WERE PETER’S AND PAUL’S GOSPEL THE SAME?

Peter preached the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:22-37) And Paul preached the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:16-43).

Peter preached to the end that men would believe and be saved (Acts 10:43 ). Paul preached to the end that men would believe and be saved (Acts 16:31).

IN WHAT WAYS WERE PETER’S AND PAUL’S GOSPEL DIFFERENT?

Peter preached “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Paul wrote to the Corinthians “Christ sent me not to baptize (I Cor. 1:7).

In Acts 3:19 Peter preached, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ Which before was preached unto you”. Paul never mentions the “times of refreshing”.

Peter says in Acts 5:31, “God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior……”. Paul never refers to Christ as “Prince”.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DIFFERENCES

As mentioned above, Peter preached, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…….” Paul never mentions the “times of refreshing”. This difference, in my opinion goes to the very heart of the difference between Peter’s gospel of the circumcision and Paul’s gospel of the uncircumcision.

Peter’s message certainly did have salvation in mind, but his primary emphasis was on the return of Christ for the “times of refreshing”. The apostles were so anxious for that time that they asked the Lord just before His ascension, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” This shows that the restoration of all things, i.e. the millennial reign, was uppermost on their minds, and that it was on Peter’s mind is evidenced by his remarks in Acts 3:19-20.

As was mentioned above, Paul never mentions the “times of refreshing”. And whereas Peter does refer to Christ as “Prince”, Paul never does. In my opinion, these two differences points to Peter’s message going primarily to Israel so that they will accept their risen King so that He might set up the millennial reign. Paul’s message, on the other hand was primarily for salvation.

While it is true that Peter preached to individuals, it was Israel as a nation that was required to accept Christ in order for the times of refreshing to be issued in. Paul also preached to individuals but his primary purpose was not the “restoration of all things”. This is not to suggest, however, that Paul was not interested in the millennial reign. His ministry was to the Gentiles so that Israel would be jealous and accept Christ. That in turn would have lead to Israel’s acceptance of Christ, which would in turn lead to His return and the millennial reign. But the difference in the two messages (gospels) was one of emphasis. Peter emphasized national repentance and Paul the individual acceptance of Christ. (Paul did indeed preach the millennium as is proved by the paper on that subject .) Both would lead to the same event, i.e. the times of refreshing, but each had a different track, so to speak, of getting to the same thing. .

Let us look now at the other difference between Peter’s message and Paul’s. It was that Peter preached “repent and be baptized“, but Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Christ sent me not to baptize”. Paul at times did call for repentance, but he never called them to “be baptized” as Peter did. Why was Peter called to baptize Jews and Gentiles alike (see Acts 10:48) and Paul was not sent to baptize? Why is that significant?

In the Gospels we read, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. The kingdom of Heaven is the millennial reign of Christ over the nation of Israel. In the Gospel period believers were baptized and in doing so showed their faith in the message that “the kingdom of Heaven was at hand”. And by that act of faith they also showed their faith in Christ as that kingdom’s King. That acceptance of Christ as their King allowed them entrance into the kingdom of Heaven where all the millennial blessings were to be enjoyed.

Peter continued the same message. When asked by those who had believed his message of Acts 2, what they should do, Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins….” (Acts 2:38). So Peter’s preaching was a continuation of the Gospel period (as emphasized by Matthew, Mark and Luke,) in which Israel was called upon to accept Christ as King. If they had done that, Christ would have set up His reign.

That Israel was looking primarily for their King and the blessings promised their nation is evident as we consider Matthew 21:9, “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.…”. The title “Son of David” points to Christ as King. When Peter began his preaching at Acts 2 and 3, that was his emphasis as well. That is to say, Peter’s emphasis was the preaching of Christ as King of Israel so that Israel would accept Him and He would return to bring in the “times of refreshing”, i.e. the time of Israel’s national blessings.

Some might object that surely Israelites, like all men, would be looking primarily for their Savior. That may or may not be true. But what is evident from Scripture is that in terms of the Scriptural account of Who Israel was looking for, they were looking for the King of Israel to issue in national blessings.

However, as mentioned above, Paul was not sent to baptize. The significance of that is, in my opinion, that Paul’s emphasis was not on national blessings for the nation, it was the salvation of individuals.

CONCLUSION

Peter preached the gospel of the circumcision and Paul the gospel of the uncircumcision. The emphasis of Peter’s message was that Israel should repent and be baptized so that they would realize the fulfillment of the national blessings promised them upon the return of Christ.

Paul, on the other hand, while anxious to see Israel accept their Messiah, had as his primary concern the salvation of individuals. Paul’s first concern was not the national blessings but the individual blessings that come with salvation.

This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please write me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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