Christ’s first disciples,
believed the Old Testament’s account of in the
“Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoices; Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope: Because thou wilt not LEAVE MY SOUL IN HADES.” … “He [David] spoke of the RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, that neither was HE [Christ/Messiah] LEFT IN HADES, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus did God raise up (out of Hades), wherefore we (His disciples) are all witnesses … For David ASCENDED NOT into the heavens…” (Acts 2: 26, 27, 31, 34, R.V.).
Therefore, the salvation of the SOULS of some, after the time of death, must occur at the time of the First Resurrection: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and the judgment was given unto them (i.e., the resurrected saints): and I saw the souls (in Hades) of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God … and they lived and reigned WITH CHRIST A THOUSAND YEARS. The rest of the dead (in Hades) LIVED NOT UNTIL THE THOUSAND YEARS SHOULD BE FINISHED. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and SHALL REIGN WITH HIM A THOUSAND YEARS:” (Rev. 20: 4-6. cf. Luke 20: 25; Rev. 6: 9-11; Luke 14: 14; Heb. 11: 35b; Phil. 3: 11, etc.).
THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL IS A FUTURE SALVATION
The expression, “salvation of the soul,” has been misused in Christian circles over the years to the extent that any correct Scriptural teaching on this subject has become almost nonexistent.* Soul-winning has erroneously been equated with reaching the unregenerate with the message of the gospel of grace; and few regenerate believers (true Christians), who view soul-winning in this manner, don’t even give the matter a second thought.
[* One major cause of this deplorable situation existing within the Churches of God today, is their mistaken belief that the “Prize” and the “Crown” cannot be lost! (1 Cor. 9: 24, 25; Rev. 3: 11); that the “Hope” and “glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2: 13), has nothing at all to do with receiving an “inheritance” (Matt. 5: 5; 25: 34) which can be lost through disobedience and disbelief; (Gal. 5: 21; Col. 3: 24); and that the resurrection of reward (Luke 14: 14; Phil. 3: 11), for service and righteous living after conversion, will be guaranteed to all the regenerate on bare faith alone!]
Books have been written on soul-winning, Bible colleges and seminaries teach courses on soul-winning, and soul-winning conferences are held by these same institutions and by various Churches. But, among these groups of regenerate believers, almost without exception, soul-winning is viewed from a non-Scriptural perspective.
Soul-winning in Scripture has to do with (1) the saving of the souls of those who are already eternally saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ: and (2) the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom at the time of the “First Resurrection” (Rev. 24: 4-6). When it comes to the saving or the losing of the soul in this respect, solely from a Scriptural standpoint, the unregenerate are not in view.
But exactly what is soul-winning? And why is there so much confusion on this subject today? The questions are interrelated, and Scripture is quite clear concerning the answers to both.
having to do with those who are already saved, is seen connected with a
kingdom in both Testaments. In the Old Testament, this kingdom was an
existing kingdom (the Old
Testament. theocracy); and in the New Testament, this kingdom is seen as a
coming kingdom (the coming millennial
Thus, it is no wonder that corruption and confusion have marked the proclamation of this message throughout Man’s Day. Satan, the present ruler in the kingdom - ruling from a heavenly sphere through the Gentile nations on earth (cf. Dan. 10: 13-20; Luke 4: 5, 6; Eph. 6: 12) - knows that the ultimate outworking of that contained in the “message about the kingdom” (Matt. 13: 19, N.I.V.) surrounding the salvation of the soul will bring about an end to his rule.
Accordingly, Satan has done all within his power, over millenniums of time, to destroy this message. And exactly how well he has succeeded can be seen on practically every hand in Christendom today (cf. Matt. 13: 31-33; Luke 18: 8; Rev. 3: 14-21).
The underlying theme throughout the Epistles of Peter involves our present hope, which is centred in the salvation to be revealed, wherein Christians will realize the inheritance “reserved in heaven” for firstborn sons. During our present pilgrim walk, anticipating “that blessed hope” set before us, we are being “kept [guarded] by the power of God through faith” for the purpose of realizing the salvation of our souls and occupying positions as joint-heirs with God’s Son during the coming age. The entire program of God for Christians today moves toward this end.
As the living hope possessed by Christians and the inheritance “reserved in heaven” for Christians have their respective counterparts within teachings drawn from the five major warnings in Hebrews, so does the salvation “to be revealed in the last time.” Hebrews 1:14 speaks of a future salvation which is so intimately associated with the inheritance of the saints that “salvation” itself is said to be inherited; and Heb. 2: 3 calls this future salvation, “so great salvation.”
It is the greatest thing God could ever design for redeemed man, for it consists of the recipients exercising power and authority from the heavens over the earth with God’s Son when He rules as “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Through coming into possession of this future salvation, Christians will realize the very purpose for their present [eternal] salvation ‑ the goal of their calling, the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls.
However, the first warning in Hebrews, as the other warnings in this book, gives two sides to the overall picture; and the lessons at the very beginning, as in subsequent warnings, are drawn from Old Testament history. The object lesson beginning these warnings surrounds the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness:
“For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation...” (Heb. 2: 2, 3a)?
The “Just recompense of reward”
is receiving exactly what an individual deserves. All of the Israelites who left
The danger which the Israelites faced was not that of
being returned to
Rather, the danger which the Israelites faced lay in
the fact that they could be overthrown in the wilderness and not realize the purpose
for their deliverance from
The same is true for Christians today. All Christians [i.e., regenerate believers] have availed themselves of the substitutionary death of the Passover Lamb. The death of the firstborn is past and can never be their lot, for the Passover Lamb has already died in their stead.
The danger which [these] Christians face is not that of being removed from the safety of the blood. Such an act is an utter impossibility, for the firstborn has died (via a Substitute); and God, as in the type, is satisfied.
Rather, the danger which Christians face is the same as that which the Israelites under Moses faced: Christians can be overthrown in their present position and fail to realize the purpose for their [eternal] salvation.
Through obedience, which involves a “living” faith - connected with faithfulness in carrying out the works which the Lord has outlined for one’s life - an individual will realize this purpose. But through disobedience, which involves a “dead” faith - connected with unfaithfulness in carrying out the works which the Lord has outlined for one’s life - an individual will fail to realize this purpose.
In either instance, Christians will receive “a just recompense of reward.” They will receive wages exactly commensurate with services rendered as household servants in the Lord’s house, receiving exactly what one deserves in this respect, based upon faithfulness or unfaithfulness to their calling, whether positive or negative
The “so great salvation” in Heb. 1: 3, synonymous with the salvation to be inherited in 1: 14, is, within the context, associated with the inhabited earth to come:
“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world [‘the inhabited earth’] to come, whereof we speak [lit. ‘concerning which we are speaking’]” (2: 5).
Angels occupy positions of power over the nations during the present age. But, during the coming [millennial] age, angels will not occupy these positions. Satan and his angels will be removed from their positions of power at the end of the present age; and Christ, with His “companions” (cf. Heb. 1: 9; 3: 14), will [if “considered worthy”] exercise power over the nations during the coming age.*
[* See Luke 20: 35; Rev. 3: 21.]
The writer of Hebrews clearly states that this coming inhabited earth under the rule of man is what the preceding verses are dealing with. The inherited salvation (1: 14), the so great salvation (2: 3), has to do with the coming age when a new order of rulers ‑ a new order of sons (Heb. 2: 9, 10; cf. Rom. 8: 18, 19) - will be crowned and exercise regal power and authority over the earth.
The Books of Hebrews, James, and 1, 2 Peter all deal with the salvation to be revealed, the salvation of the soul; and these epistles, as all of the other epistles (which also deal with this same subject), must be interpreted within this same framework. The warnings in Hebrews and works in James have to do with the same thing as the text in 1 Peter 1: 3-5 - a “just recompense of reward” to be realized in the coming age.
The salvation of the soul refers to something which lies beyond the time of a Christian’s Judgment and Resurrection; and it is distinct from the eternal salvation which is received upon initial faith the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude wanted to write about “the salvation we share” (Jude 3), but felt it necessary to write and urge believers “to contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints.”
We are now living in a time of apostasy, when Christians are denying the scriptural teachings of Resurrection, Judgment, Reward for works done after initial salvation, and the Millennial reign of Christ upon this earth.
The apostle James, when addressing “dear brothers” who had previously been given birth through the word of truth, exhorts them to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil” that was so prevalent, and to humbly accept the word which was planted in them which, “can save you.” [lit. “save your souls.”] (Jas. 1: 21)
* * * * * * *
THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
The trial of “every man’s work” in fire at the judgment seat of Christ will be with a view to approval, if found worthy. The Greek word translated “try” in 1 Cor. 3: 13 is dokimazo, the same word used in 1 Peter 1: 7. “Works” are approved through fire in 1 Cor. 3: 13, and “faith” is approved through fire in 1 Peter 1: 7. Both Scriptures refer to that future time when the approval of works at the judgment seat will reveal an approved faith as well.
“Works” of a nature which can be approved will have emanated out of faithfulness to one’s calling, resulting in “a faith” which can also be approved. During the present time, faith is being brought to its goal (into the place where it can be approved) through works; and at the judgment seat, the approval of faith will be based upon the approval of works. The former cannot be realized apart from the latter, and the relationship between faith and works after this fashion is such that Scripture reveals both being approved “through fire.”
However, there is another side to the judgment seat of Christ, for Scripture reveals that a Christian’s works may be found unworthy of approval. The “trial” will be with a view to approval, but such will not be the case if the fire reveals works which are not worthy of approval ‑ works emanating from other than a faithfulness to one’s calling.
And disapproved “works” can only result in a disapproved “faith.” A faith of this nature will not have been brought to its proper goal, and individuals possessing works unworthy of approval will “suffer loss.”
Then, using the inverse of that which is taught in 1 Peter 1: 7-9 about approved faith brought to its goal (shown through approved works), an individual possessing a disapproved faith (shown through disapproved works) will not only be denied “praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (v. 7), but his suffering loss will have to do with the loss of his soul (v. 9).
James 1: 12 refers to Christians being “approved” prior to receiving a crown:
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried [‘approved’], he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord bath promised to them that love him.”
The word translated “tried” is dokimos in the Creek text. This word, from the same root form as dokimios in 1 Peter 1: 7, refers specifically to being “approved at the end of testing.” In 1 Cor. 3: 13, it is the approval of an individual’s “works”; in 1 Peter 1: 7, it is the approval of an individual’s “faith”; but in James 1: 12, it is the approval of the individual “himself.”
The approval of works, as has been shown, will result in and reveal the approval of faith. This will, in turn, result in the approval of the individual, for it is a physical flesh and bone entity who will realize the goal of his “faith,” the salvation of his soul.
In 1 Cor. 9: 24-27 Paul states that the Christian is in a race with a crown in view, which will be acquired only after the runner has been approved at the conclusion of the race:
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain [the prize]: and every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain an corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible [crown]. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [lit. ‘be disapproved’].”
The word translated “castaway” (v. 27) is adokimos in the Greek text. This is the same word translated “tried [lit. ‘approved’]” in “James 1: 12, but with the prefix “a,” which negates the word. Adokimos, thus, means “disapproved.”
Studying 1 Cor. 9:24-27; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1: 7-9 in the light of one another will produce one clear, uniform teaching: Christians are enrolled in a race, with crowns to be won or lost at the termination of this race. And how well Christians run the race depends upon their “faithfulness.” Faithfulness to one’s calling is the key, for only through faithfulness can works ensue; and works are necessary to produce a “living” faith, resulting in fruit-bearing, which can, in that coming day (at the judgment seat), be approved (cf. James 2: 14-26).
Only in this manner will individuals be approved for crowns, allowing the recipients of crowns the privilege of occupying positions as joint-heirs with Christ in His coming [millennial] kingdom.
Christian’s disapproval for the
crown referred to in 1 Cor.
9: 24-27 has its contextual
parallel in the verses immediately following (1 Cor. 10: 1-11), which record
The verses outlining these experiences are divided into two sections (vv. 1-6 and vv. 7-11). The first section outlines in general terms the experiences of the Israelites under Moses, and this section is concluded in verse six with the statement:-
“Now these things were our examples [lit. ‘these things happened as types for us’] to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.”
Then, the second section outlines in more specific terms four sins of the people which characterized the wilderness journey, and this section is concluded in verse eleven with the statement:
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [lit. ‘for types’]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [‘ages’] are come.”
Thus, there is a type - antitype treatment of Israelites under the leadership of Moses with Christians under the leadership of Christ. This same type - antitype treatment of Israelites with Christians also forms the basis for the first four of the five major warnings in the Book of Hebrews (1: 14 - 2: 5; 3,14, 16; 6: 1-12; 10:19-39), apart from which these warnings cannot be properly understood.
Just as a proper understanding of the first four of the five major warnings in Hebrews is built around a type - antitype treatment of the Israelites under Moses with Christians under Christ, a proper understanding of 1 Cor. 9: 24-27 is built around this same type - antitype treatment. These verses logically lead into the tenth chapter, and this chapter forms the basis for explaining what is meant by being approved or disapproved at the conclusion of the race.
is to be interpreted in the light of Scripture, and the
approval or disapproval of an individual at the judgment seat
of Christ must be understood in the light of Old Testament typology - namely the experiences of the
Israelites under the leadership of Moses following the death of the paschal
* * * * * * *
The Pauline Epistles
By Arlen Chitwood
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3: 15, 16).
The Books of 1, 2 Peter deal extensively with one subject ‑ the salvation of the soul (1 Peter 1: 4-9; 2 Peter 1: 2-11). This is the central message throughout both epistles; and if this is not recognized at the outset, it will be impossible to properly understand either epistle.
Peter, in his first epistle, dealt with the salvation of the soul in relation to testings, trials, and sufferings (1: 5-11; 2: 21-24; 4: 12, 13, 19). And in his second epistle, Peter opened with thoughts surrounding maturity in the faith and the importance of always keeping the message surrounding the salvation of the soul uppermost in one’s thinking (12-19; cf. James 1: 21). But then Peter took a different turn in his second epistle and began to warn against false teachers, paralleling, to a large extent, the content of Jude’s epistle, which also forms a warning against false teachers (2: 1 - 3: 8; cf. Jude 4-19).
Then, the warnings in both Peter’s and Jude’s epistles would have to do with the same false teachers whom Paul so often warned against in his ministry and epistles (e.g., Acts 20: 29-31; 1 Tim. 4: 1-3; 2 Tim. 3: 1-8; 4: 3, 4). All three writers dealt with the same subject matter (the saving of the soul), and all three warned against the same false teachers who would arise (those who would teach contrary to that which Paul, Peter, and Jude taught in their ministry - things pertaining to the salvation of the soul).
Then note that Peter ended his second epistle by calling attention to Paul’s writings. Peter, at the conclusion of that which he wrote, called attention to the fact that Paul had previously written about the same things which he had just finished writing about. And Paul had written after this fashion “in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things...” (2 Peter 3: 16a).
Paul had dealt with exactly the same things which Peter dealt with in his two epistles. Paul had dealt with the same salvation (3: 15) and the same warnings against false teachers (3: 16b, 17).
Peter dealt with this message, Jude dealt with this message, Paul dealt with this message, and the writers of the other New Testament epistles (the writers of Hebrews, James, and 1, 2, 3 John) also dealt with various aspects of this message.
This is a message surrounding the
kingdom of the heavens and a salvation to be realized therein. This
salvation was offered to
The message surrounding salvation in relation to the kingdom of the heavens is the central message of the New Testament, introduced in the Old Testament. This is the message seen in the gospels at the beginning of the New Testament, leading into the finished work of Christ at Calvary; this is the message which continues in Acts, following Christ’s finished work at Calvary; and this is the message which continues on into the epistles and the opening four chapters of the book of Revelation (where God completes His dealings with the one new man “in Christ,” allowing Him to once again turn and complete His dealings with Israel [chapters. 6 - 18]).
In this respect, correctly understanding the correlation between that which is taught in the four gospels, the Book of Acts, the twenty-one epistles which follow, and the opening four chapters of the Book of Revelation (which, for the Church, climax that which precedes, anticipating the marriage festivities and Christ’s millennial reign [chapters 19, 20]) is dependent on one thing. It is dependent on understanding basics pertaining to the message surrounding salvation in relation to the kingdom of the heavens ‑ the salvation of the soul.
whole of the New Testament centers around this message - first as it pertains
Thus, the importance of properly understanding this message can hardly be overemphasized. This is a message which pervades the whole of Scripture, beginning, not in the opening chapters of Matthew’s gospel, but in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis. It is a message introduced in the Old Testament (as Christ’s finished work at Calvary is introduced in the O.T. [Gen. 3, 4, 22; Ex. 12; Num. 21]), and it is a message which must be understood in the eyes of the Old Testament prophets (as Christ’s finished work at Calvary must be understood in this same respect [Luke 24: 25 – 27]).
Understand the former (the message in the O.T.), and you can understand the latter (the message in the N.T.); but ignore or misunderstand the former, and you will not possess the information which God has provided to help you understand the latter. The new is simply a continuation of and an unveiling of that which has lain in the Old from the beginning.
(Foundational material pertaining to the message surrounding the kingdom of the heavens ‑ particularly as it relates to the progression of the message through the gospels and then through Acts [with events in Acts occurring during the time several of the epistles were written] ‑ has been set forth different places throughout the first nine chapters of this book. And these nine preceding chapters contain, in respect, the necessary foundational material which will allow one to go on from that point and properly view the central message of the Pauline epistles, the central message of the general epistles, and the goal and climax of the matter in the Book of Revelation.
The present chapter will concern itself with the message pertaining to the kingdom of the heavens in the Pauline epistles, the next chapter will concern itself with this same message in the general epistles, and the concluding chapter [Ch. 11] will concern itself with the goal and climax of the matter ii~ the Book of Revelation.)
Each of the individuals whom God, through His Spirit, used to pen the words of the New Testament Canon exhibited certain individual qualities and characteristics in that which they wrote. This was true relative to both their use of the Creek language and their use of different words, terms, or expressions.
The thought is not at all that the [Holy] Spirit of God, in a mechanical fashion, moved men as they wrote. If this had occurred, there would not be the noticeable differences in styles, words, terms, or expressions used in the different epistles. There would be uniformity in this respect. But uniformity exists only in the thread of teaching throughout what they wrote, not in how they wrote.
It is evident that the [Holy] Spirit of God took and used men within the framework of all their own individual qualities and characteristics as they penned the Word, which would take into account all their prior experiences in life. And this is something which falls within the scope of God’s sovereign control of all things, not only in the different writers’ generations but in all the preceding generations from which the writers’ particular and peculiar hereditary traits were derived as well. Nothing, occurs in a haphazard manner within the scope of God’s plans and purposes.
The [Holy] Spirit of God took and used men to pen particular parts of the Word of God, while, at the same time, He allowed these men to use their own language style, words, terms, and expressions as they wrote; and, through this process, the Spirit guarded them from error in that which they wrote.
And within the [Holy] Spirit’s control after this fashion, the structure of the Word of God and the intricate fashion in which it was put together moved completely beyond man’s finite wisdom and ability. Those whom the [Holy] Spirit of God used to pen the Word of God, though being allowed to write within the framework of their own individual traits, wrote strictly as “they were moved [‘borne,’ ‘carried,’ ‘led’] by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1: 21).
And the end result of the [Holy] Spirit’s work in this respect - preceded by God’s sovereign control in matters throughout not only the different writers generations but prior generations as well - was always the same. That which these men wrote was the very Word of God, down to the individual words which they used and the individual letters comprising each of these words.
Can man understand these things surrounding the inspiration of Scripture? No, but man can believe these things. And, because of the clear statements in Scripture and the evident nature from Scripture concerning how things were brought to pass, belief (faith) is exactly what God expects (Heb. 11: 6).
1. PAUL AND THE GOSPEL
The manner in which God revealed His Word to man has been briefly covered for a reason. The epistles (Pauline and general epistles) were written by at least five - probably six - different men (the author of Hebrews being unknown), and certain individual distinguishing qualities and characteristics can be seen in their writings.
In Paul’s case, his extensive use of the word “gospel” - how and why he used the word - forms a major trait which makes his writings different from those of any other writer of a New Testament book. Paul, for evident reasons, appeared almost obsessed with this word, using it far more extensively than any of the other writers. And he used the word both alone and through qualifying it various ways (e.g., “gospel,” “gospel of God,” “gospel of Christ,” etc.), usually referring to the same thing, though possibly with different emphases.
Paul’s writings comprise slightly less than one-third of the New Testament, but of the one hundred thirty-two times that the word “gospel” appears throughout the New Testament - in both its noun and verb forms (euaggelion and euaggelizo respectively) - almost two-thirds of these occurrences are found in the Pauline epistles.
The word appears twenty-three times in the four gospels, seventeen times in the Book of Acts, eighty-three times in the Pauline epistles, six times in the general epistles, and three times in the Book of Revelation.
Why did Paul use this word so extensively? The writer of Hebrews only used the word twice; James didn’t use the word at all; Peter only used the word four times; John didn’t use the word in either his gospel or his epistles, though he used it three times in the Book of Revelation; and Jude didn’t use the word in his epistle.
And, beyond that, what was Paul referring to when he used this word? The word “gospel” simply means good news. What was the good news to which Paul referred?
people want to associate the word “gospel” with
only one thing ‑ the good news surrounding Christ’s finished work
And, interpreting Scripture after this fashion, they usually end up with a perversion, for the word “gospel” is used much more often than not - particularly in the Pauline epistles ‑ referring to good news other than Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
And erroneously understanding the word “gospel” to refer to Christ’s finished work at Calvary in a text where it doesn’t will not only do away with the teaching in the text but it will also often result in a perversion of the message surrounding the simple gospel of the grace of God.
An example of the preceding would be the manner in which 1 Cor. 15: 14 is usually understood. The word “gospel” appears in the first verse, and all four verses are usually looked upon as referring to the same thing - the gospel of the grace of God. But both the text and the context reveal that such an interpretation is not correct at all.
Paul used the word “gospel” in connection with that which is stated in verses one and two, but it is evident that this has no reference to the gospel of the grace of God. Salvation in these verses is spoken of as an ongoing process in the lives of those to whom he was writing, and it is also spoken of as something which can be lost. Neither would be true relative to the gospel of the grace of God which Paul had proclaimed to them “first,” referred to in verses three and four (referred to apart from the use of the word “gospel”).
And when individuals combine these four verses and attempt to make everything pertain to the gospel of the grace of God, that spoken of in verses one and two is always done away with, and that spoken of in verses three and four is often corrupted (through bringing elements [from vv. 1, 2] over into the gospel of the grace of God which do not belong there). And this same thing would be true numerous places in the Pauline epistles when the context is ignored and the word “gospel” is made to refer to something which the text doesn’t refer to at all.
extensive use of the word “gospel,” particularly
his extensive use of this word to refer to something other than the gospel of
the grace of God, goes back to his experiences at the outset of his
ministry. Before Paul ever launched out
on the ministry to which he had been called - to carry the good news rejected
“good news” had to do with the mystery revealed to Paul by the Lord in
And Paul referred to the good news surrounding this message as “my gospel” (Rom. 16: 25), “our gospel” (2 Cor. 4: 3), “the glorious gospel of Christ [lit., ‘the gospel of the glory of Christ’]” (2 Cor. 4: 4), “the gospel of God” (Rom. 1: 1; 2 Cor. 11: 7), “the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1: 16; Gal. 1: 7), etc. Then, numerous times Paul simply used the word “gospel” alone to refer to this good news (Rom. 1: 15; Gal. 1: 6).
The fact that the mystery had been revealed to Paul, with Paul called to carry this message to Christians throughout the Gentile world, is the reason why he used the word “gospel” so often in his epistles. It was only natural for him to refer to the message which he had been called to proclaim through the use of a word which meant, “good news,” for the message was good news.
the unsaved [i.e., the unregenerate], Christ’s finished work on
Paul’s ministry centered around the latter, not the former. Paul’s ministry centered around
proclaiming that which the Lord had revealed to him in
This “good news” had to do with the greatest thing God could offer redeemed man - positions as co-heirs with His Son from a heavenly realm, in the coming kingdom. To use the writer of Hebrews words, it was “so great salvation” (Heb. 2: 3).
And Paul’s repeated reference to the message surrounding this offer as “good news” is one of the distinguishing characteristics of his writings.
2. PAUL AND THE FAITH
Christians at the beginning of the present dispensation, before they were ever called “Christians” (Acts 11: 26), were known simply as those “of this way” (cf. Acts 9: 2; 19: 9, 23; 22: 4; 24: 14, 22). In each instance the word “way” is preceded by the definite article, and the expression could be better translated, “the way.”
believing the message proclaimed on the day of Pentecost and following were
singled out through the use of this expression.
They were believing Jews who followed a way
different from that being
followed by the remainder of the nation (which was looked upon by
origin of this expression is rooted in believing the message being proclaimed
Prior to his conversion, Paul was going about the country seeking to destroy that which he and numerous other Jews viewed as a new, heretical Jewish sect by doing away with those “of the way”; and, on his journey from Jerusalem to Damascus, he had his eyes opened to the truth rejected by Israel. Resultingly, he became a follower “of the way” and subsequently exhibited the same urgency and zeal toward proclaiming “the way” as he had previously exhibited toward trying to destroy “the way.”
later, writing to the Churches in
And Luke (writing Acts) used it the same way relative to events prior to Paul’s conversion (Acts 6: 7). And it was used this same way by those writing the other epistles (e.g., Heb. 12: 2; James 2: 14; 1 Peter 5: 9; 1 John 5: 4 [also Rev. 2:13]; Jude 3). Then going back behind both the epistles and the Book of Acts, it was used this same way by Christ during His earthly ministry (Luke 18: 8 [“faith,” in each preceding reference, is articular in the Gk. text]).
In this respect, it can clearly be shown that “the faith” was a commonly used expression, seen throughout the New Testament, to refer to teachings surrounding the proffered [millennial] kingdom. Those “of the way” in Acts were those who held to “the faith.” And though Paul used the expression, “the faith,” extensively throughout his epistles after this fashion, he was far from alone in so doing. Other writers of Scripture are also seen using this expression in the same manner Paul used it.
Thus, the expression, “the faith,” refers, not to belief in general (i.e., as often expressed, “all the great Biblical doctrines of the faith [referring to the virgin birth, blood atonement, etc.],” but belief in particular. This is what the article shows, used to point out something particular, something which would be evident by the context. And to say that verses such as 1 Tim. 6: 12, 2 Tim. 4: 7, or Jude 3 (among many others) refer to holding to that which is looked upon as “all the great Biblical doctrines of the faith” is not only textually wrong but theologically destructive.
Scripture is to be interpreted in the light of Scripture, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2: 13); and when this is done, going back into the Book of Acts and carrying the matter through into the epistles, it can be clearly demonstrated exactly what the expression, “the faith,” refers to. And to misinterpret and teach contrary to that which Scripture clearly reveals about “the faith” not only obscures that which is taught in one realm but also invariably results in false teachings in another realm.
3. PAUL AND THE SAVING OF THE SOUL
The Creek word psuche, meaning either “soul” or “life,” is used a number of different ways in Scripture, referring to things surrounding man’s life in both the physical and spiritual realms. However, the word is never used in Scripture after the fashion in which it is often used in Christian circles ‑ associating the saving of the soul with one’s presently possessed eternal salvation.
Rather, in Scripture, in the spiritual realm, the saving of the soul refers strictly to a future salvation ‑ a salvation presently being brought to pass in the lives of the redeemed, but not realized until a future time (cf. 1 Cor. 1: 18; Heb. 1: 14; 1 Peter 1: 9).
The writers of the four gospels and the writers of Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter all used the word psuche, soul/life, after the preceding fashion (e.g., Matt. 16: 25-27; Mark 8: 35-38; Luke 9: 24-26; John 12 25; Heb. 10: 35-39; James 1: 21; 1 Peter 1: 9). And these same writers (with the exception of James) also used the word referring to the physical realm as well (e.g., Matt. 6: 25; Mark 3: 4; Luke 12: 22; John 10: 11; Heb. 12: 3; 1 Peter 3:20).
Paul used the word psuche thirteen times throughout the course of his epistles, and with the exception of two instances (2 Cor. 12: 15; 1 Thess. 5: 23), he used the word referring only to the physical realm (e.g., Rom. 11: 3; Phil. 2:30). In the epistles, references, in so many words, to Christians either realizing or not realizing the salvation of their souls within the framework of the mystery revealed to Paul are seen in the general epistles, not in the Pauline epistles.
“The salvation of the soul” is not really Pauline terminology, though it is correct terminology and Paul alludes to the matter in both 2 Cor. 12: 15 and 1 Thess. 5: 23. Paul, referring to things surrounding this future salvation, used two main expressions – “the gospel” and “the faith.” Those writing the general epistles, referring to things surrounding this same salvation, used three main expressions – “the gospel,” “the faith,” and “the saving of the soul.”
However, though the writers of the general epistles used the word “gospel” after the same fashion Paul used this word (e.g., Heb. 4: 2, 6; 1 Peter 4: 17), any extensive use of the word after this fashion was left to Paul. The “good news” surrounding the mystery had been revealed to him, and he was the one who, logically, would continually reference this “good news.”
Thus, the terminology used by Paul and that used by the writers of the general epistles, referring to things surrounding the salvation to be realized by Christians in the coming kingdom, differs in the preceding respects. But all the various things surrounding the message and the end of the matter remain the same.
It all goes back to how the [Holy] Spirit of God used different men to pen the Word. All the writers of the epistles dealt with exactly the same thing, though their emphases on different aspects of the matter were different, and their ways of expressing and saying certain things were, at times, different.
But because of God’s sovereign control in matters surrounding these men’s lives and the [Holy] Spirit’s work in the matter of guarding these men from error as they wrote, that which these men wrote was exactly, in every detail, what God wanted man to possess in order to understand all the various things about His plans and purposes. It was the very Word of God, as stated in 2 Tim. 3: 16, the Breath of God.
What are the ramifications of either seeing or not seeing the Pauline and/or general epistles after the fashion in which the different men wrote, along with correspondingly either seeing or not seeing the central subject matter of these epistles? The answer is evident.
At the outset, the former will provide a correct grid and the latter an incorrect grid to work with. And, as individuals work their way through the epistles, they will either be building on that which is correct or on that which is incorrect, with the end result either being in line or out of line with that which each man wrote.
But a proper understanding of the epistles doesn’t begin with the epistles themselves. Rather, such an understanding begins with “Moses and the prophets.” It begins where God began, “In the beginning...” (Gen. 1: lff; cf. Luke 24: 27).
If a person wants to properly understand a particular part of Scripture, at any point in Scripture, there is never an exception to one rule of interpretation. The person must always begin with Moses. Begin here and study forward. This is the way in which God has designed and laid out His Word, and this is the way in which He expects man to come into a knowledge of His revealed plans and purposes.
God laid His entire Word out in a dual fashion: 1) through providing a foundational framework at the very beginning, upon which the whole of subsequent Scripture rests (Gen. 1: 1-13); and then 2) through providing all that which rests upon the foundational framework, revealing the complete structure, as He would have man to see and to understand it (Gen. 2: 4 - Rev. 22: 21).
In the foundational framework, everything pertaining to God’ restoration of a ruined creation throughout six days (throughout the entirety of Man’ Day) moves toward a seventh day of rest (the Lord’ Day). And the remainder of Scripture is simply a building upon this septenary structure, whether dealing with events during Man’s Day or with events during the Lord’s Day. The remainder of Scripture simply reveals God’s work throughout six thousand years (work to restore a ruined creation), with a view to the seventh one-thousand-year period (the day of rest, following restoration).
And it matters not where a person is reading and studying in Scripture, this whole overall thought, established by God at the beginning, must be kept in mind. This is foundational, fundamental, and primary.
And when a person begins to look at the New Testament epistles, this has to be kept in mind, for these epistles must all rest on the foundational framework which God set forth at the beginning of His Word. They must have to do, first and foremost, with God working six days, six thousand years (to bring about the restoration of a ruined creation), with a view to God resting on the seventh day, the seventh one-thousand-year period (following the completion of His work).
the preceding is only foundational. In
order to properly place the epistles in their correct perspective, there are
numerous things which must be understood about God’s work throughout the six
days and His rest on the seventh day.
And uppermost in the matter would be properly
understanding the message surrounding the proffered kingdom throughout
both the gospels and the Book of Acts (and properly understanding the message
in the gospels and the Book of Acts is contingent on properly understanding a
number of things which precede, things previously revealed in “Moses and all the prophets”). This would involve numerous things about
was called into existence to be the recipient of that which
And a person can do one of two things when studying the New Testament epistles. He can either make a proper connection with preceding Scripture (begin in Genesis and work forward into the gospels and Acts) or he can make an improper connection with preceding Scripture (ignore or misunderstand that which precedes).
And these two approaches to Scripture parallel two related directions which can be taken in the Christian life - the narrow way and the broad way (cf. Matt. 7: 13, 14; Luke 13: 24). The former leads to life, which is what the instructions in the epistles are about; and the latter leads to destruction, which is what the warnings in the epistles are about.
* * * * * * *
The General Epistles
By Arlen Chitwood
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).
The seven epistles extending from James through Jude are usually referred to as “the general epistles.” Hebrews is not normally included in the list, for many believe Paul wrote Hebrews and class the book among his epistles. And others, though questioning the Pauline authorship, are usually inclined to leave the book in a category by itself ‑ neither placed among the Pauline nor among the general epistles.
Hebrews though should really be looked upon as the first of the general epistles, not the last of the Pauline epistles or placed in a category by itself. The authorship of Hebrews is unknown and cannot be ascertained. Certain things about Hebrews would appear to indicate that Paul didn’t write the book (e.g., the structure of the Greek text, the sparse use of the word “gospel,” and several references to “the saving of the soul”), but there is no data to work with concerning who did write the book. Thus, to simplify matters, Hebrews will be classed among the general epistles in this study.
eight of the general epistles have to do with the same subject matter, which is
the same as the subject matter dealt with throughout all of the preceding
thirteen Pauline epistles. The New
Testament epistles, whether Pauline or general, have to do with different
facets of the same subject matter dealt with throughout preceding Scripture ‑
not only in immediately preceding Scripture (the gospel accounts and the Book
of Acts), but also in Scripture preceding that as well (the Old
Testament). And the writing of the
epistles was made necessary because of the existence of a completely new entity
new creation “in Christ,” the
“one new man” [2 Cor. 5:
17; Eph. 2: 13-15]) to be the recipient of that which had been offered
to and rejected by
existence of this new entity ‑ this “one new man,”
completely separate from
However, neither this additional revelation nor the new creation “in Christ” could be looked upon as completely new per se. Rather, this additional revelation could only be looked upon as having its roots in the Old Testament Scriptures. It could only be looked upon as revelation which would open numerous parts of the Old Testament Scriptures to one’s understanding, parts which had to do with the new creation “in Christ” and parts which would remain closed without this additional revelation. And this additional revelation would bring about its intended purpose mainly through providing information which would open up the vast storehouse of previously established types, beginning with the writings of Moses.
God chose to begin opening the Old Testament Scriptures after this fashion by first taking one man, Paul, aside and revealing these things to him alone (similar to His creating only one man in the beginning [through whom His plans and purposes would ultimately be realized], or similar to His calling only one man out of Ur [through whom His plans and purposes would ultimately be realized], or similar to the Church being looked upon collectively as one new man [through whom His plans and purposes would ultimately be realized]).
Then, after calling and setting Paul aside, the Lord would use this one man to carry the message to others. And this task would be accomplished through his traversing the land proclaiming the message, through his teaching “faithful men” who would “be able to teach others also” (1 Tim. 1: 18; 2 Tim. 2: 2), and through his writing thirteen epistles to not only Christians of that day but epistles remaining with Christians throughout the entire dispensation.
(Note that the pattern for the God-ordained ministry of the one new man “in Christ” is set forth in the calling of the one man, Paul, in the beginning [1 Tim. 1: 15, 16]. Those comprising the one new man are to take the epistles [and other parts of Scripture], traverse the land, and teach “faithful men” who will “be able to teach others also.” And the central message is, accordingly, to be the same as Paul’s, seen throughout the epistles ‑ the good news surrounding Christians in relation to the coming glory of Christ.)
God took Paul aside shortly after his conversion and revealed to him what is called in Scripture, “the mystery” (Eph. 3: 1-11). And Paul took this revelation, which was simply an opening of numerous parts of the Old Testament Scriptures having to do with the new creation “in Christ,” and began proclaiming this message in accordance with his calling.
will explain Paul singling out Peter and spending fifteen days with him on his
second visit to
following his subsequently being taught the things surrounding the mystery by
the Lord in Arabia, Paul went up to
And the reason is evident. Peter had been called to proclaim “the gospel” (referring to the good news surrounding the coming glory of Christ rather than the good news surrounding the grace of God) to “the circumcision,” and Paul had been called to proclaim this same gospel to “the uncircumcision” (Gal. 2: 7). And this good news is what the mystery revealed to Paul had to do with (cf. Rom. 16: 25, 26; Gal. 1: 11, 12; Eph. 3: 1-6; Col. 1: 25-29; 1 Tim. 1: 11).
message which Paul was about to carry into the Gentile world, whether spoken or
written, centered around the mystery revealed to him
Thus, the epistles written during this time – Paul’s epistles extending from Romans through Philemon, and the general epistles extending from Hebrews through Jude (and also the seven epistles in Rev. 2. & 3.) ‑ can only be looked upon as having to do with this same message. The spoken and written message of that day had to do with instructions for Christians relative to their calling.
new creation “in Christ” had been brought into existence to realize
heavenly positions as co-heirs with
Christ in the coming [millennial] kingdom.
And that which the Lord taught Paul in
The spoken and written message of Paul and others (Peter, James, John, et al.) provided instructions and warnings for Christians relative to their calling. And these instructions and warnings, in a new and different form, were made necessary because of the bringing into existence of a new and different entity, the one new man.
However, as previously stated, the epistles do not and cannot stand alone. Everything in the ministry of the apostles ‑ verbal or written ‑remained connected with that which preceded, going all the way back to the opening chapters of Genesis. And Christians today, seeking to properly understand the message as it is seen in the epistles, must go back behind the epistles and first have at least some understanding of that part of God’s revelation which leads into the epistles.
The epistles lie toward the end of Scripture, with only the Book of Revelation (which provides the capstone for all Scripture) following. And the place which the epistles occupy in Scripture and the information in the epistles must be understood in the light of that which precedes (that dealt with from Genesis through Acts) and that which follows (that dealt with in the Book of Revelation). They draw from that which precedes, and the consummation is seen in that which follows. Thus, the more a person understands about surrounding Scripture, the better equipped that person will be to understand the message of the epistles.
HEBREWS THROUGH JUDE
The epistles, much more often than not are viewed by Christians within a completely incorrect framework. They are looked upon incorrectly, they are taught incorrectly, and Christians in general have an incorrect understanding of the subject matter therein. And it is a simple matter to see and understand why this is the case.
The present has not been properly aligned with the past and future. There is little understanding all the way around of the preliminary data which one must possess in order to grasp the central message of the epistles. And, resultingly, the picture which one sees, as it pertains to the whole of God’s plans and purposes, can only be completely out of focus.
The epistles have been severed from those things which God gave to open up and explain the epistles, and the result has been mass confusion in Christian circles. Practically everything is being taught from the epistles but the central teaching which the writers of the epistles dealt with.
The existing problem can be illustrated from any of the New Testament epistles; but, since this study has to do primarily with the general epistles, brief remarks on different things within these eight epistles will suffice to illustrate the matter at hand.
The Book of Hebrews ‑ as the remainder of the general epistles, or as all of the Pauline epistles ‑ is a book which deals with the saving of the soul (cf. 4: 12, 13; 6: 18, 19; 10: 35-39). This book is built around five major warnings, written to Christians. And the [Holy] Spirit of God drew these warnings entirely from different parts of Old Testament typology.
These warnings have to do with firstborn sons (cf. 2: 10; 12: 16, 17). And with sonship in view, the subject matter surrounding the warnings in Hebrews can be clearly seen. These warnings simply have to do with different facets of teaching surrounding Christians either realizing or not realizing the rights of the firstborn at a future time, and the things taught in this book are drawn from the experiences of the Israelites (both national [chapters. 2 – 4. and 6.] and individual [ch. 12]) as they either realized or failed to realize the rights of the firstborn in past time.
which is in view throughout Hebrews has to do with
But man in his finite understanding of matters, fails to make the proper connection of the things in Hebrews with that which preceded. And he spends his time attempting to understand the book on the basis of events in Exodus, chapter twelve (the death of the firstborn, the point of beginning) rather than going beyond the events of this chapter and looking at those Scriptures from which the things in the book are drawn (the rights of the firstborn, following a resurrection of the firstborn on the eastern banks of the Red Sea).
Man looks at the passage surrounding “so great salvation” in Heb. 2: 3 and attempts to teach things pertaining to salvation by grace through faith from the passage. And he does the same thing with the other warning passages, misapplying and misinterpreting Scripture in the process.
The passage in chapter six (vv. 4-6, the heart of the third of the five major warnings) which pertains to a falling away, with there being no possibility that the person who falls away can ever be renewed again to repentance, is often looked upon as one of the most difficult passages in Scripture. However, the opposite is, in reality, true. The passage is not difficult at all. The basic overall understanding of the passage is actually quite easy to grasp and understand.
Difficulty comes when a person attempts to apply the passage to things surrounding the Christians’ presently possessed [eternal] salvation. And “difficult” is not really the proper word when this is done. Rather, attempting to read teachings surrounding salvation by grace through faith into Heb. 6: 4-6 makes the passage “impossible” to understand, for that’s not what this section of Scripture deals with.
However, on the other hand, if a person views the passage in the light of its context and has some understanding of the relationship of Hebrews (and all the other epistles as well) to that which has preceded, the passage will, in reality, interpret itself.
passage, contextually, flows out of and draws from the type-antitype structure
of the preceding warning (chapters. 3. and 4.); and also, contextually, the passage
pertains to that time when Christ will exercise the Melchizedek priesthood (to that future time when He will be the
great King-Priest in
This is seen in the type as it pertains to the Israelites and an earthly calling at Kadesh-Barnea, and it must be equally true as it pertains to Christians and a heavenly calling in the antitype. The basic understanding of Heb. 6: 4-6 is that simple and easy.
And so it goes with the remainder of the book or the remainder of the general epistles. Understand some basics, and interpretation becomes quite simple; but misunderstand these basics, and interpretation becomes difficult to impossible.
James deals with the saving of the soul (1: 21; 5: 19, 20), which, contextually, within the book itself, has to do with crowned rulers realizing an inheritance with Christ in the coming kingdom (1: 12; 2: 5). And this is exactly the same subject matter seen throughout the surrounding epistles.
In connection with the saving of the soul, James deals extensively with faith and works (2:14-26); and the key to understanding this section of James, which many expositors seem to home in on (along with certain cult groups, seeking to teach [eternal] salvation via faith and works), is twofold: 1) The passage deals with Christians relative to faithfulness and the coming [millennial] kingdom, not with the unsaved relative to eternal verities; and 2) works emanate out of faithfulness, something which cannot occur among those who have not passed “from death unto life,” among those remaining spiritually dead.
Faithfulness, works, and fruit-bearing go hand-in-hand in this respect. Faithfulness will result in works and fruitfulness (bringing about the salvation of one’s soul), but unfaithfulness will result in no works and no fruit (bringing about the loss of one’s soul - [inheritance]).
are two main errors which expositors usually make when approaching James. They either relate the things in this epistle
mainly to basic issues surrounding salvation by grace through faith, or they relate the things in this
epistle mainly to the present experience of Christians (with little regard for or mention of the coming [millennial]
epistle deals with the former only to
the extent that a person must first pass “from death
unto life” before he finds himself in a position to exercise
faithfulness (e.g., 1: 18), and
the epistle deals with the latter only to the extent that faithfulness during the present time will
have a direct bearing on the Christians’ [entrance
into and] position in the coming [millennial]
Relative to the former, this is simply not the central subject matter of the epistle. James’ message pertains to the saved, not the unsaved. And relative to the latter, the epistle is being dealt with from a correct perspective as far as matters go. However, exposition is stopped far short of the revealed goal.
There must always be a proper Biblical connection of the present experience of Christians with the proffered kingdom in view. And, in this respect, dealing only with the present experience of Christians from the Epistle of James is accomplishing little more than proclaiming a half-truth.
3. 1, 2 PETER
In his first epistle, Peter deals with an inheritance set before Christians (1: 4, 5), which has to do with the goal of their faith, the salvation of their souls (1: 9). And this salvation is connected with the present in the respect that it has to do with present sufferings (1: 7, 11; 2: 21; 4: 12, 13), and it is connected with the future in the respect that it has to do with future glory (1: 1 1, 13; 4: 13; 5: 4).
In his second epistle, Peter associates this [future] inheritance, this [future] salvation, with the greatest thing God could offer redeemed man; and he further associates it with Christ’s greatest regal magnificence (1: 4, 16 [superlatives are used in both verses in the Greek text, and greatest regal magnificence is the thought behind the superlative translated “majesty” in v. 16]).
And, in the process, Peter deals with the importance of Christians understanding, receiving, and keeping the good news concerning this future salvation ever before them. Peter, knowing the importance of this matter, stated that he was going to keep on proclaiming these truths to the extent that those to whom he was writing could never forget them, even after his decease (1: 12-15).
Then in the second and third chapters, Peter sounds a warning against false teachers – [regenerate] teachers who would arise among Christians and teach things contrary to the message which he so strongly proclaimed. These false teachers would be saved individuals who had previously heard, understood, and accepted the message (2: 20 [epignosis, “mature knowledge,” is used in the Greek text of this verse]); but, rather than remain within that which they had heard and accepted, they would turn from [it] and teach things contrary to this message (2: 1, 2).
Peter began to bring his second epistle to a close by calling attention to a
septenary structure of Scripture, which he had referred to in chapter one and
upon which the whole of Scripture rests.
4. 1, 2, 3 JOHN
The trend of thought throughout John’s three epistles takes a number of different turns, but the truths taught therein centre around one thing ‑ Christians walking in the truth (cf. 1 John 1: 7; 2 John 4, 6; 3 John 3, 4). And a walk of this nature, set forth in either John’s epistles or in any of the other epistles, is with a view to overcoming and receiving a full reward in the coming kingdom of Christ (cf. 1 John 2: 28 – 3: 3; 5: 1-5; 2 John 8).
A central crux in John’s first epistle has to do with Christ’s present high priestly ministry (1: 6 - 2: 2), reflecting on the fourth of the five major warnings in Hebrews (ch. 10). And teachings surrounding Christ’s high priestly ministry in John’s first epistle reflect, as well, on teachings drawn from his gospel.
In John 13: 4-12 there is the account of Christ taking a towel, girding Himself, taking a basin of water, and beginning to individually wash the disciples’ feet. This was done to teach His disciples a spiritual lesson of vast importance; and, in so doing, Christ drew from the symbolism surrounding the priestly ministry in the tabernacle. And this was also the place from which John drew when dealing with the same matter in his first epistle.
The high priestly ministry of Christ - ministering in the sanctuary on the basis of shed blood, after the order of Aaron - was in view in both instances (though still future when the events of John 13: 4-12 occurred). Christ, throughout the dispensation, is exercising a ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, providing a cleansing for the kingdom of priests which He is about to bring forth (the [firstborn] sons who will rule and reign with Him, His co-heirs).
And according to the teaching of both John, chapter thirteen and 1 John, chapters one and two ‑ along with Hebrews, chapter ten and other related passages ‑ truths surrounding Christ’s present high priestly ministry form an integral part of the Word [or ‘Message’ N.I.V.] of the Kingdom.
Drawing from the typology of the Levitical system, where the entire body of a priest was washed upon his entrance into the priesthood, Christians today (N.T. priests) received a complete washing at the point of salvation (upon their entrance into the priesthood). And this washing in both type and antitype can never be repeated.
But also in keeping with the typology of the Levitical system, present defilement of the cleansed vessel through contact with the world requires subsequent partial washings ‑ shown in the type through subsequent washings of parts of the body at the laver in the courtyard of the tabernacle. And, because of this, Christ, through His present high priestly ministry, is providing cleansing for Christians on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat in the heavenly tabernacle.
Christ, when washing the disciples’ feet, not only drew from the typology of the tabernacle but He also reflected on His impending high priestly ministry. And Christ, to show the gravity of the matter, specifically told Peter, “If I wash thee not [referring to a part of his body, his feet], thou hast no part with me” (John 13: 8). Peter had already been washed completely (v. 10), but unless Peter allowed the Lord to cleanse him from worldly defilement following this previous complete washing, he could have no part with Christ in the coming [millennial] kingdom.
John used the same teaching to which he had referred in his gospel to open his first epistle; and he directed the message, as in the gospel account, to saved people relative to present cleansing and the future kingdom.
And Christians can do one of two things relative to Christ’s present high priestly ministry on their behalf: 1) They can either avail themselves of Christ’s work as High Priest (receive cleansing from present defilement and look forward to having a part with Christ in His kingdom [cf. Heb. 10: 32‑39; 1 John 1: 9; 2: 28 - 3: 31), or 2) they can refuse to avail themselves of Christ’s work as High Priest (not receive cleansing from present defilement and resultingly one day be denied a position with Christ in His kingdom [cf. Heb. 10: 19-31; 1 John 1: 6, 8, 10; 2: 14]).
According to Jude’s introductory remarks, he sought to write an epistle dealing specifically with [the ‘common’] salvation by grace through faith, but the Spirit of God constrained him and led him to write about something else.
Explaining the simple message of salvation by grace through faith was not the primary reason God gave the epistles. Adequate information necessary to open the types dealing with the simplicity of eternal salvation, as set forth by Moses and the prophets, had already been given prior to the writing of the epistles. Rather, God designed the epistles for those who were already [eternally] saved, to provide instructions which would serve to open that part of the writings of Moses and the prophets pertaining to the ‘Word of the Kingdom’.
And, in keeping with the preceding thoughts, Jude, rather than being led to write an epistle dealing with salvation by grace through faith, was, instead, led to write an epistle exhorting Christians in the present race and warning Christians concerning false teachers. And both the exhortation and the various warnings seen throughout the epistle pertain to “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (vv. 3ff).
The expression, “the faith,” as it is used in Jude 3, is simply another way of referring to the things surrounding Paul’s gospel. Jude’s exhortation had to do with earnestly striving in the present race, with “the faith” in view; and his warnings ‑ closely paralleling the warnings in Peter’s second epistle ‑ had to do with false teachers arising and proclaiming things among Christians contrary to “the faith.”
And that’s the way in which the New Testament epistles are brought to a close ‑ an exhortation to strain every muscle of one's being in the present race of “the faith,” and warnings against false teachers proclaiming perverse things concerning “the faith.”*
[* NOTE. See Obedience to the Faith at end.]
What are the ramifications of either seeing or not seeing the Pauline and/or general epistles in their correct setting relative to Scripture both preceding and following? Such ramifications are evident. All one has to do is compare conditions existing in the first-century Church with conditions existing in the Church today.
in the first-century Church knew that the letters (epistles) being sent to them
had to do with the same message being proclaimed throughout the Churches by the
apostles and others - a message having its roots in preceding revelation. And this message pertained to a
completely new entity (separate
and distinct from
These things were consistently taught throughout the first-century Church. Christians during that day understood these things; and, understanding these things, they governed their lives accordingly.
But these things are not being taught at all in the twentieth-century Church, except in isolated instances. Christians during the present day know little to nothing about these things, and their lifestyle often negatively reflects this fact.
Everything begins in the past - actually in the eternal council chambers of God before the ages began - and moves toward a set goal. And this set goal ‑ whether seen in Moses, the Psalms, the prophets, the gospels, Acts, or the epistles ‑ is always revealed to be the same.
It is the same set goal seen throughout the first nineteen chapters of the closing book of Scripture, then realized in the twentieth chapter. It is always revealed to be the seventh day, the seventh millennium, the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God.
Viewing the epistles within their correct setting will allow one to look upon the content therein from a correct perspective. Scripture in the epistles can be interpreted and applied correctly; and, through so doing, Biblical interpretation will be perfectly in line with other parts of Scripture.
But erroneously viewing the epistles apart from their correct setting can only produce the opposite results. A correct interpretation, application, and alignment with other Scripture will be sadly lacking. And the true message in the epistles will be all but lost.