Overview. The three great New Testament apostles can be summarized as follows:
- Peter gives us the kingdom of God.
- Paul gives us the assembly of God.
- John gives us the family of God.
Peter was given the keys to the kingdom in Matt. 16. He writes to establish Jewish believers that the coming kingdom glory wasn’t lost. Paul tells us about that which is new… the mystery hid on God, not made known in previous ages. Peter assures those familiar with the Old Testament scriptures that the prophecies of God are not nullified by the New Testament, but rather made “more sure”. Paul gives the truth of the Church; like the structure of a building. John writes of eternal life, that very life of Christ that is now in the believer; like the light that shines out the windows. In 2 Tim. 1:1 we find the subject of Paul drawing close to that of John. At the end of Paul’s life he could see his doctrine was being given up. His final epistle is almost transitory to John’s. If there is any thing real in the day of the Church’s ruin, it is the display of the life of Christ here in this world. It is important not to become unbalanced in these different lines of ministry. In 1 Chron. 12:2 we read of certain men that could “use both the right hand and the left” and they were capable of “hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow”. They were not specialists in one thing. We should not be specialists is Paul’s doctrine only, or in any one line of ministry. We need to be familiar with it all, because it is all important!
Paul’s Doctrine. The truth that Paul preached is perhaps the highest truth in the Word of God. Paul was a “chosen vessel” to reveal the characteristic truths of Christianity. Paul’s doctrine is mentioned in two parts in the New Testament; he calls them “my gospel”, and “the mystery”. These two parts, if taken together, are what establish our souls in the full revelation of Christianity. Notice the order: first the gospel, then the mystery. Paul’s gospel has primarily to do with the individual standing of the believer, and the mystery has to do with the Church collectively. We need to be established in our soul first individually, before we understand the full counsels of God regarding the Church. But at the same time, it would be a mistake to neglect the collective aspect of Paul’s doctrine. We learn that the mystery is the key to understanding the whole Word of God; because in the mystery “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
|The Gospel||The Mystery|
|Romans 16:25-26||v.25a “…according to my glad tidings and the preaching of Jesus Christ…”||vv.25b-26 “…according to the revelation of the mystery, as to which silence has been kept in the times of the ages…”|
|Ephesians 3:8-9||v.8 “…that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…”||v.9 “…And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God…”|
|Colossians 1:23-28||v.23 “…the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature…”||vv.25-26 “…according to the dispensation of God… Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations…”|
The believer’s standing “in Christ”:
The truth of Christ and the Church:
Four Revelations. We find four distinct truths given to the apostle Paul by revelation.1 Although we cannot be entirely sure, it would appear that Paul received these truths when he was caught up to the third heaven, and heard unspeakable things, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
- The truth of the mystery; “By revelation He made known unto me the mystery… that the Gentiles should be joint-heirs, and a joint-body, and joint partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus by the Gospel, etc.” (Eph. 3:3,6).
- The truth of the Lord’s supper, the practical expression of the unity of that body; “I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, etc.” (1 Cor. 11:23; 10:17).
- The truth of the first resurrection; “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, etc.” (1 Cor. 15:51).
- The truth of the rapture; “For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord… then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, etc.” (1 Thess. 4:15,17).