Chapter 27
Having now cleared the ground we can consider in detail
Mr. Serle's three questions:—

I think the first has been sufficiently answered for the present. The others have been answered in Chapter 26.

When I replied to Mr. Serle that my answer to the third was now simply "Never and nowhere"; he informed me that a dozen or more years before he submitted to a magazine a paper in which he pointed out that the Evangel of the peritomE had not been put into commission, if there was one. For some reason it was never published! It is not hard to guess why; and I can only deplore the way progress is repeatedly obstructed by the stupidity (to give it no worse epithet) of people who imagine they have nothing to learn from others! Mr. Serle's suggestion is so important, not only in itself but in its effect on what others have written, that an adequate discussion is imperative.

That great teacher, Pastor Rogers, wrote in "Unsearchable Riches," Vol. 29,. p. 26, that "a strange notion, fortunately held by few, is that the gospel of the Circumcision requires the circumcision of all who receive it."
He went on to say:—

Nevertheless, I believe that this beloved teacher wrote these words under the influence of a profound misconception. Where are we told that the Evangel of the peritomE was ever preached to Gentiles; or, indeed, ever proclaimed at all? The Pastor tells us that it "is found anywhere outside Paul's epistles." Is it? If so, is it not rather strange that nowhere is this plainly stated? But what about Gal. 2:6-10? I venture to suggest that he has read v. 8 (which is a parenthesis) through coloured spectacles. He seemed to be reading it as if it said: "For He Who operates in Peter unto Israel operates in me also unto the Gentiles." That neat balance is not there, in actual fact; for what Paul wrote was: "For He Who operates as to Peter unto apostleship of the peritomE operates also as to me unto the Gentiles." Expositors have found correspondences between the Kingdom ministries of Peter and Paul in Acts, but there is not even a hint of any such thing in this verse. Instead, it would be very hard indeed to find a stronger contrast.

There is a story of a Theologian and a Physicist who had an argument about the nature of Truth in their respective sciences. The Theologian likened the Physicist to a man searching in a pitch-dark cellar for a black cat that is not there. The Physicist replied that the Theologian acts similarly in every respect, except that he finds the cat! For us it is a real tragedy that this gibe is so often justified; and we shall never make any progress until we cure ourselves of the evil habit of finding in Scripture what we have ourselves read into it.

We have no right to read into Paul's epistles the coexistence of another ministry, entrusted to Peter, parallel to his.

Pastor Rogers rightly points out what we have already noted, that "Peter never speaks of circumcision." Quite so—and it is a pity that most of us have so completely failed to appreciate the significance of this fact! If Peter's commission then was to proclaim the Evangel of the peritomE in a manner somewhat corresponding to Paul's proclamation of that of the akrobustia, he ought to have spoken of peritomE! After all, it surely is only common sense that nobody, not even Peter, could proclaim an evangel characterized by peritomE without even mentioning the word, or covenant of which it is the sign. What Pastor Rogers stigmatized as a strange notion is far less strange than this; for we can certainly affirm that we have no record of any words of Peter's which can fairly be described as an evangel of peritomE, or of covenant either, for the word "covenant" is equally ignored by the Twelve. And so is law to a large extent. Pastor Rogers says: "What is known as the Gospel of John is much used to-day. It says nothing of circumcising Gentiles, or of putting them under the law." Agreed: and this only strengthens what is urged above. Yet somehow the plain inference from this fact was hidden from him, for he goes on to say: "Nevertheless it presents the gospel of the Circum cision, and does not mix with the Pauline gospel." But why should it mix with Paul's Evangel? And why should we want it to? What possible sense can there be in trying to edit Scripture so as to force it into the mould of our private theories about it? When someone shows me anything in John's Gospel and Epistles which is opposed. to, or teaching which plainly contradicts, the teaching of Paul, I shall be willing to set them aside. Until then, I humbly suggest that we would do well to read, mark and learn John's writings alongside Paul's, keeping each in its own proper setting—which means not setting them against one another.

Really, it is astonishing that so careful and clear-thinking a writer as Pastor Rogers could have committed himself to so rash a pronouncement. It only goes to show how blind we all (including myself, for I have offended likewise) can be on occasion; and I venture to affirm that if only someone had asked him to prove his assertion, he would have been the first to perceive its baselessness. How can any peritomE evangel be in force so long as Israel are cast away? To address the Evangel of the peritomE; that is, an evangel of which the characteristic feature is covenant, covenant blessing, and the future perfection- of law and righteousness in the New Covenant; to a people who no longer have an effective nationality, whose covenant is near its disappearance, whose peritomE is cancelled out by the cross, would b~ a heartless sham.

Then once more, what about Gal. 2:6-9?
This passage reads:

Are we, then, to declare that Peter and the rest of the Twelve never proclaimed the Evangel of the peritomE, anywhere or at any time? So far as the Scripture records tell us, the answer is that we are.

If Peter did not proclaim the evangel of the peritomE during the period covered by Acts and the Epistles, when did he? I think we ought to recognize that nothing is said here about "proclaiming" the Evangel of the peritomE; or that of the akrobustia either, for what we learn about the proclamation of the hitter is not found in Galatians but in Romans. No doubt someone will accuse me of hair-splitting—there is always a critic ready to do that when attention is drawn to some subtle point of Scripture phrasing, whoever draws attention to it! Yet we ought to recognize in practise the superhuman accuracy of Scripture. It is not the purpose of Galatians to expound the Evangel, and any attempt to do so using material from Galatians alone would come to very little. If Paul had wished to explain that he was proclaiming the Evangel of the akrobustia according as Peter was proclaiming that of the peritomE, his command of language would have been amply sufficient for the task! The reason, obviously, for refraining was that such a statement would have been simply untrue. The actual expressions chosen are not easy to bring over clearly. Where such a phenomenon is found in Scripture we may take it as a signal that something of special importance is being revealed.

Paul is most careful to avoid saying that his ministry is parallel to Peter's or that Peter's is parallel to his, except in One respect, that each has accepted in trust an evangel. In every other respect they diverge. Their evangels are different and incompatible. The operation as to Paul is unto the Gentiles, but nothing, is said of operation unto Jews or unto Israel. The operation as to Peter is unto apostleship of the peritomE; as to Paul nothing is said here of apostleship at all, not even of apostleship of the akrobustia. Lastly we are given a queer distribution of action; Paul and Barnabas unto the Gentiles, but James and Cephas and John unto the peritomE. Why this last?

Let us first remember that Paul did proclaim his evangel to Israelites and Jews; so it would have been untrue if "unto the Jews" has here been written instead of "unto the peritomE." This by itself affords sufficient proof that" the peritomE" is not merely a synonym of "the Jews" or "Israel." The essential point, however, is that he never addressed any evangel, embodying covenant, and to the Jew as a Jew, a covenant man; but instead an evangel to him as a sinner needing a Saviour—in fact, as a Gentile or on the footing as a Gentile. But the Twelve's scope of activity was admittedly "unto the peritomE"—firmly, unalterably linked to the sign of covenant and to Israel as covenant people.

After long and careful meditation on this point I suggest that what we are intended to deduce from Paul's statement is that Peter was simply the repository of the Evangel of the peritomE, the casket enshrining it as it were, the visible and personal symbol of it; just as Paul is the personal symbol of the Evangel of the akrobustia. Paul is no longer here on earth, but he still remains that, and always must.

Once this is recognized, we are delivered from the necessity of trying to work out where and when these evangels are proclaimed, and from any cause to worry if we are led to find that the proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE is wholly future. It may be that Peter did no more than unlock the door for such proclamation in unlocking the Kingdom at Pentecost, and that this particular door, or perhaps aspect of the Kingdom door so to speak, will be opened at the coming of the greater Pentecost of the future. If he only did that much, he certainly fulfilled his trust, even though his work is now in abeyance and torch waiting to be re-lit and taken over by Israelites in the days to come. After all, in unlocking the Kingdom to Gentiles he can fairly be regarded as having unlocked the door for Paul's proclamation of his own Evangel; so why should he not be similarly regarded as having unlocked the door for the general proclamation of his own Evangel by others?

When I first put forward the thesis that the Evangel of the peritomE is something which is to come into effect after we are gone from this world, I did so with diffidence; for it certainly seemed to me somewhat fantastic, and one friend to whom I communicated the idea thought so too and was candid enough to say so right out. For this act of friendship I am in his debt, because his reaction made me pause for two years before committing myself completely; and in the meantime I have pondered again and again and so saved myself from several blunders made in my preliminary drafts. I ask, now, right out: is it fantastic to think that there is to be a future and greater Pentecost? Or to hold that Rom. 11:26 is literally true and that "all Israel shall be saved"? If not, we are bound to ask how, then Israel is to be saved. Is it to be as Israel; that is to say, as the Covenant People; and that is to say, as the people who have the sign of covenant, the physical seal, peritomE? If not, why not? It is not said that "all Israelites" shall be saved. If it were, then indeed that might perhaps be interpreted as meaning individual recipients of the Evangel of the akrobustia even as Paul himself. If these ideas are not fantastic, how can we rightly reckon as fantastic a future proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE, which is essentially the aspect of "the Evangel" which actually embodies them?

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that all fresh ideas seem fantastic at first. Modern knowledge about atomic energy would have been received with derision could they have been propounded by some visionary in 1853. It needs great courage to be original.

One result of Mr. Serle's fresh idea is going to be to force us to reconsider Prophecy in relation to existing History. Candidly, many ideas accepted by some about Pentecost, for instance, have never been really satisfactory. The view that it inaugurated a re-offer of the Kingdom, which re-offer was withdrawn supposedly at Acts 28:28, seemed to justify its happening; but only at the cost of completely dislocating the Apostle Paul's earlier epistles. The recognition that Pentecost was instead the inauguration of the unlocking of the Kingdom was a step in the right direction; but by itself it does not explain the dying-away of the Pentecostal fire. Only when we perceive that the peritomE aspect of the Kingdom never really came into the picture, that Pentecost is chiefly linked to the fleshly and earthly aspect of the Kingdom and that the great future Pentecost inaugurates peritomE and the fleshly and earthly blessings of covenant—only when we see this does the history really make sense.

How are we to meet the points made above? We cannot just let them slide. They do not deal with mere theories, but with hard facts which we ignore only at our peril. Furthermore, how does it come about that only at the very end of Peter's ministry do we hear of him having this commission, for from the start,no secret is ever made of Paul's? And why is nothing more said about it? Why does he then. eat together with the Gentiles at Antioch (Gal. 2:12); and why, having gone so far, does he shrink back, fearing the Circumcisionists; and why do the remaining Jews also share his hypocrisy; and why does he, being unlike Paul all along a Jew, live in a Gentile manner and not (by hypothesis) proclaim his peritomE commission? Gal. 2:6-10 leaves us with Peter entrusted with the Evangel of the peritomE; so why did he not forthwith carry out his commission, even if he had not done so earlier?

Surely the obvious answer, and the only answer, to the last question is that he could not carry it out then? There was another Evangel, incompatible with it holding the field by right; an Evangel of which the essential characteristic was the repudiation of peritomE, the complete denial of its validity; an Evangel which entitled the Apostle Paul to reprove the Apostle Peter for being incorrect in his attitude towards its truth; an Evangel the validity of which Peter himself admitted and publicly recognized by eating with Gentiles. And there is nowhere any trace of reproof for his eating with them. What he is reproved for is shrinking back after so doing! In other words, he not only refrained from carrying out the Evangel of the peritomE with which he was entrusted and was (according to the theory under consideration) supposed to be proclaiming; but he did wrong also in appearing to be acting in harmony with the akrobustia Evangel, or at any rate with conduct which might be regarded by the Circumcisionists as in accord with it!

One important point should be noted. Gal. 2:7 is not to be read as stating that Paul was entrusted with {he Evangel of the akrobustia at and from that very moment; nor does,it say so of Peter and that of the peritomE. Indeed, the beginning of the chapter refutes such an idea and the previous chapter relates the history of his commission. But no such history is given of Peter's commission. Peter says nothing about it. Paul could not have said less about it except by saying nothing at all. Perhaps it is too much to declare that the previous existence of Peter's peritomE commission is thereby absolutely precluded, but the statement is certainly most carefully kept free from any time element. I am rather inclined to think it was part of the call of the Twelve by the Lord Jesus,for their action when the time became ripe for it.

"Do you actually mean that Peter and James and John never proclaimed any evangel which was specially adapted to the Circumcision?" This query, put to me while this paper was first being drafted, betrays the confusion of thought which has beset us all; for although the answer is "No," it cannot be so stated without qualification. The Acts speeches connected with the unlocking of the Kingdom to Israel were specially adapted to Israel and Judah—but that is beside the point! The point is, were they a part of the Evangel of the peritomE? If they were, how is it that they do not support peritomE, urge covenant obligations and lead forward to the New Covenant; why, in short, is it that there was nothing specifically and characteristically of peritomE in them? For it is a fact that in them is no doctrine inappropriate for Gentile ears, even though they were addressed to Jews.

But I do actually mean that Peter, James and John never in any extant speech or writing proclaimed a specifically peritomE evangel in the sense that Paul proclaimed an akrobustia evangel.

May I suggest that many people use words in too random a way? At Pentecost Peter exclaimed in his speech "Men! Jews!" and "Men! Israelites!" but not "Men of the peritomE!" They were all the same people, but the same people viewed from different standpoints, with a different emphasis. If it be really true that Peter was then beginning his heralding of the Evangel of the peritomE, it is odd that he should have so carefully avoided making the point perfectly plain.

My questioner declares further: "The second chapter of Galatians becomes a fiasco if it does not clearly state that Paul had been proclaiming the Gospel of the Akrobustia, just as Peter had been proclaiming the other Gospel." But Galatians does state this clearly about Paul, not in Gal. 2:6-10 with Peter in the same context, but in Gal. 2:2 (the evangel which I am heralding among the Gentiles); and not about Peter. There is no parallel statement about him anywhere.

Beyond doubt there is some parallel between the Acts ministries of Peter and Paul; but we must not force it into an artificial completeness and particularly we must avoid bringing it into Galatians.

Chapter 28
We come now to a further matter which is, in fact, the point to which Pastor Rogers was working up.
He says:—

One error always leads to another. Because of his obsession with the notion that the Evangel of the circumcision (peritomE) "is found anywhere outside Paul's epistles," he had to assume that there was a third evangel, a spurious one as he calls it. But Paul does not call it spurious. He calls it "a different evangel which is not another," and the explanation set out by Pastor Rogers' explains it not at all. An evangel which answers to so strange a description can only mean one which is true enough in its proper setting, but not in the setting under consideration; And this becomes obvious when we examine the double anathema which follows. Paul was writing to the churches of Galatia. It was all part, and a vital part, of the Evangel of the akrobustia (uncircumcision). The crime of those who were disturbing the Galatians was in "bringing an evangel to you besides that which we bring to you"; that is, bringing an evangel other than the Evangel of the akrobustia and bringing it to them. Not till Gal. 2:3 do we get to the heart of the trouble, peritomE or circumcision; and then follows the agreed difference and divergence of function between Paul and Peter. It is a mystery how anyone can read this with an open mind and yet fail to see that the offence anathematized was the attempt by some to enforce a peritomE evangel. At that time, the Evangel of the peritomE was not "another evangel," nor is it now; and the attempt to treat it as another evangel is the very thing which Paul anathematizes so strongly.

Quite obviously without realizing the fact, Pastor Rogers was seeking to evade defining the" spurious gospel" by writing: "The error of the Galatians was that they were forsaking Paul, not to turn to Peter, but to the preachers of this spurious gospel." That will not do at all! This quotation and the previous one contain two concealed assumptions—that the Evangel of the peritomE was a spurious evangel, and further that it properly applied to the Gentiles, that is to say, to those who had not the peritomE. Both assumptions are quite unscriptural.

Where are we told that these preachers were claiming to represent anyone other than Peter and the Twelve? No doubt Peter gave them little support, even if little opposition either—but if they were urging peritomE as part of the Evangel, they were certainly preaching a peritomE evangel. Nowhere does Scripture say or even suggest that the Evangel of the peritomE was false or spurious. The most that can be declared is that it was inoperative, and therefore its presentation inopportune and improper; and there is no possible doubt that such was the case. Certainly, to proclaim an evangel which was inoperative was to bear false witness. That is part of the offence which Paul anathematizes. It had not been wrong in past times to proselytize Gentiles. Why, then, was it wrong at that time, very wrong indeed? There is only one answer, and it is made plain in the closing words of the epistle. The Cross had for the present destroyed peritomE. So long as that state of affairs continues, the Evangel of the peritomE is destroyed also; so that it is "a different evangel" yet not for the present "another evangel."

Not One word has been uttered by anyone to explain why the supposedly spurious evangel should be spurious. All we are told about it in the Scriptures is that it features the peritomE. But so does the Evangel of the peritomE! At least, if it does not, its name is inexplicable and inexcusably misleading; though from what some expositors insist, One might well suppose that peritomE is the very last thing to be associated with it. According to Acts 15:1, some, coming down from Judea, taught the brethren that "If you should not be circumcised after the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." We are all agreed that this teaching contradicts the Evangel of the akrobustia; but where are we told that it is out of harmony with the Evangel of the peritomE? It is no answer to argue that the latter was then and is now in applicable to Gentiles; for so is the teaching of those from Judea; and in this again we are all in agreement. The issue is just this: Is the teaching stated in Acts 15:1 wrong as part of the Evangel of the peritomE? If so, why?

Is it really so difficult as some have been supposing to visualise the Evangel of the peritomE as "a different evangel"—which it surely is—and yet at the present time "not another?" After all, between the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and His return in glory, all covenant standing is set aside. In such circumstances, how can a peritomE, that is, a covenant evangel, be another evangel when its very basis, covenant and peritomE the sign of covenant, are anomalous? From this consideration there follows the corollary that in the days of the New Covenant an akrobustia evangel will no longer be legitimately "another evangel"; and that is precisely what dispensationalists have all along rightly believed and taught. Why do so many people want to have it both ways? If the latter idea is acceptable, it is absurd to try to write off the former as unacceptable.

The ideas of Pastor Rogers here challenged have been taught by nearly all of us. If they are not explicitly part of the orthodoxy of Christendom, they are in line with it and they tend to support its basic error, that the casting-away of all but the remnant of Israel is irrevocable.

The plain truth is this. Paul was evangelizing akrobustia. Those who received his Evangel were accepting something in which flesh peritomE and fleshly covenant blessings had no part whatever, but which was wholly spiritual. To these people, the false teachers were saying, in effect: "Paul is telling you that there is nothing of flesh and no works of law in his Evangel; but WE tell you that you must acquire at the very outset the fleshly sign of fleshly covenant and blessing, and must do works of law, or else you cannot receive his Evangel." They were saying what was a complete contradiction in terms. Moreover, false teachers have been' saying ever since what amounts to the same thing; and that is one of the main causes of the utter confusion which has filled Christendom from the beginning.

"But," someone will retort, "this is the spurious evangel!" It is nothing of the kind! It is a perfectly true evangel—in itself, in its proper time and place—that is to say, when the Evangel of the peritomE is in force. It is, in fact the peritomE aspect of what Paul was saying in the first four chapters of Romans, namely, God's Evangel. What these men were actually trying to do was mix it with the Evangel of the akrobustia, thereby nullifying both. Where Pastor Rogers (with my hypothetical objector) was mistaken was in supposing that this teaching was somehow a third evangel, a different evangel; which he never defined but, instead, seemed to identify with the Evangel of the peritomE.

There is no third evangel, as alternative to the Evangel of the akrobustia and that of the peritomE. The error of the Circumcisionists was in substituting One for the other and thus dislocating both.

After the fulfilment of 1 Thess. 4:15-17, conditions will exist which will be the very opposite of those envisaged in Galatians. Then, for all we know, false teachers may be going around proclaiming the Evangel of the akrobustia and telling their hearers among Jews and proselytes that they need not be circumcised or keep the law of Moses. This will not be a fourth evangel, another supposed spurious evangel1. It will merely be the Evangel of the akrobustia torn out of its proper. setting and thus a perverted anachronism.

Possibly, after reading the foregoing, some may feel disposed to censure me for stating such obvious matters at such length. Admittedly, now that they have been stated they are obvious, and far too obvious to require such detailed and even prolix discussion if they had never been questioned. The "if" is the operative word; and I would remind any such objector that, as a matter of unquestionable fact, they were. not obvious to anyone hitherto; and that though Pastor. Rogers was mistaken, only one person can claim to have done, any better. That person is not myself, but Mr. Serle, who put me on the right track. If the mistake was so obvious as all that, the time to have pointed it out was during his lifetime; and those who failed to discover it then have no right to reproach anyone but themselves on that account. Far fewer mistaken ideas would get into print if readers were to make it their business to be true Bereans and examine the Scriptures regarding them (Acts 17:11). If false or mistaken ideas are published and allowed to stand unchallenged, the chief fault is with those who read, and fail to read attentively. If a writer could know that his work would be thoroughly scrutinized by Berean eyes, he would be immensely helped and strengthened in his task; for it needs, almost superhuman power to be at once writer and self-critic. It is a solemn reflection that if we had all done our duty, Pastor Rogers would promptly have become aware of the points now brought out. To criticize him is to condemn ourselves.

Paradoxically, we are at one and the same time too much and too little interested in the Evangel of the peritomE! Too much, in that we think so often of it as it affects ourselves, as a foil for our own standing and blessings. Too little, in that we are almost completely indifferent to its impact on God's Covenant People, Israel and Judah. Too easily has it been relegated to Peter's Acts ministry and written off as a failure. Recently a correspondent said that the promulgation of Isa. 6:9-10 in Matthew 13 was consequent upon the failure of the mission of the Lord Jesus to Israel. Indeed! Some people are altogether too fond of attributing failure to our Lord and His apostles; in fact, I dare to affirm that no true service of God is ever a failure! But one must concede that if Peter's ministry as recorded in Acts is the whole of the proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE, then it certainly was not only a complete failure, but so half-hearted that it deserved to be. Yet what right have we to make such an assumption? The only authority for it is a tradition, and a very short and sectarian one at that; no better based and no more reasonable than the orthodox tradition that there is no Evangel of the peritomE at all. And if we try to meet this by allowing that there will be a future proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE as well as the supposed past one, why ding anxiously to the supposition in the teeth of the evidence? I have a feeling that some of my correspondents are uneasy lest these ideas should prove to detract from the Evangel of the peritomE. On the contrary, as I think is already very evident, to refuse to identify it with what was at best a partial evangel and to insist that in an era to come it will be something very real and important, is to reject the detraction which our traditions have already performed.

Perhaps the point will become clearer if we consider in a similar way the proclamation of the Evangel of the Kingdom. Are Peter's Acts speeches the completion of it? All dispensationalists will declare, and rightly, that they were nothing of the kind. Then why should there not be at some future time a complete final proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE? Someone may object that Scripture is silent about any such future proclamation. Quite so, and it is silent also about any past proclamation of it. Where are there epistles by Peter, or anyone else, featuring covenant and peritomE, paralleling in some way those by Paul featuring uncovenanted blessing, akrobustia, freedom from covenant obligation and bondage to the Law? Where are there epistles working towards and leading up to the glories of the conclusion of the New Covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah in a manner in some way analogous with Paul's leading up to the glories of his Prison Epistles?' For I am persuaded that the extensive promulgation to Israel of such teaching will be indispensable as the prelude to the New Covenant. It would be contrary to all Scripture precedent to suppose that this overwhelming change in Israel will take place without any sort of mental and spiritual preparation, as if by magic. Even Saul, when on the Damascus road he beheld and heard the Lord' Jesus, had afterwards to go through a period of preparation to fit him for what was to come. In fact, one friend has already suggested lam mistaken in supposing that, when the Lord Jesus comes to His People Israel there will be any need to proclaim to them the Evangel of the peritomE. They will look on Him Whom they pierced, and be converted. This is a misunderstanding. So did Saul; for while it is not given to any of us, as it will in those coming days be given to Israel and Judah, to be saved by sight as he was; yet even, though so specially favoured he had still to learn in the school of grace. The New Covenant inscribing of God's laws on their hearts must not be taken as implying that they will not have to learn through their minds.

Mentally, many of us are still in a fog about Acts which can be cleared only by a draught of fresh air. Perhaps I am too fond of posing questions; but an unexpected question or one from a novel angle can be more enlightening than pages of explanation, so I will ask another:—What is there in the Acts speeches that can strictly be described as "evangel," and what evangel is it?

This is my answer, and I will gladly listen to anyone who can produce a better one: "Very little. Most of them amount to an indictment of Israel for murdering their Messiah. The call to repent is the Evangel of the Kingdom; and, in fact, Peter's speeches all centre round his unlocking of the Kingdom. The issues involved in the words peritomE and akrobustia do not arise at all, except when they are dragged in by trouble makers." If this is correct, and really it is hard to see how it can be refuted, our view of Acts has to be drastically altered. All along we have been aware of the profound difference between its speeches and the whole character of the epistles; and some of us have given an answer to the problem which is no answer at all: that it is because Acts presents the Evangel of the peritomE. Yet this does not even begin to explain the difference between the Acts speeches and what some of us have labelled so conveniently for this theory "The Circumcision Epistles."

Let this not be misunderstood. We do find the word "evangel" in Acts (Acts 5:42; 8:4, 12, 25, 36, 40; 10:36; 11:20; 13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:3; 16:10; 17:18). What we do not find is a description of the Evangel so presented as Paul presents his. Those speeches are not "good news," unless an appalling indictment coupled with a warning of judgment in default of repentance can be so described. Nor can we call the indictment of Jew and Greek at the beginning of Romans an evangel except as an introduction to what follows; or even, by itself, the call of John the Baptist "Repent!" The first Pentecostal speech (Acts 2:14-36) pricked the hearts of those who heard with compunction, not joy. The next is similar and is no more an evangel; on the contrary, the return of Christ was plainly to be delayed (3 : 21), and the reference to covenant was preceded by a threat (3:23). None of these things were good in themselves, their value was only as preliminaries to the really good news; and what was there of that for Israel in Peter's Acts speeches? Some ultra-dispensationalists may reply that it was very good, because they might have repented and brought back Messiah in that generation, and with Him the Millennial Kingdom. Indeed!

Where we do find an unmistakeable evangel is in the last place where most of us would look for it—in Mark's Gospel (Mark 1:1). Compare John the Baptist's proclamation as recorded in Mark with what we find elsewhere. The ominous passages in Matt. 3:7-10 with Luke 3:7-9 and Matt. 3:12 with Luke 3:17 are omitted. The first passage of any length peculiar to Mark (3:7-12) is concerned with the Lord Jesus going about doing good. The part parallel with Matthew 13 is milder, and contain.s three parables peculiar to Mark and very different in tone from the eight in the former (Mark 4:21-29). The next peculiar passage (6:33, 34) is evangelistic in tone too; so perhaps also is Mark 8:22-25, and Mark 9:22-26 certainly is. I am suggesting, in fact, that the essential characteristic of Mark's Gospel is that it is "The beginning of the Evangel of Jesus Christ" and that the corresponding essential omission in it is all reference to covenant, peritomE and law.

I would ask critics in fairness not to attribute to me any suggestion that the Apostle Peter proclaimed no evangel at all. On the contrary, I am inclined to think the ancient tradition that Mark's Gospel was written down from Peter's own preaching is probably true, though the idea that this took place in Rome is mere fantasy. I also hold that the traditional description of these accounts as "the Gospel" is not so mistaken as some of us have thought: if their contents are not good news for us in the fullest sense, I know not what is. What I am here denying most definitely is that Peter ever proclaimed any peritomE, covenant, evangel corresponding to the specifically akrobustia evangel proclaimed by Paul. The nearest to such an entity is the Hebrews Epistle, and Peter is one of the few prominent early Christians to whom its authorship has never been attributed by any scholar worth mentioning. Moreover, Hebrews contains no parallel with Paul's statement of his Evangel. All through, it looks to the coming eon. It may well be intended as a foundation for the peritomE evangel; that itself it sets forth the Evangel of the peritomE, now, is an untenable proposition.

From the way some expositors talk one might suppose that the Pentecostal speeches were addressed to a Covenant People who had only to accept Messiah and then go straight ahead into the full glory of the New Covenant. How fantastic to overlook even for a moment that they had already come under the doom of Rom. 2:25, not to mention that of Isa. 6:9, 1O! It was simply not open. to Peter or anyone else to proclaim to them anything beyond repentance; and national repentance at that, before any peritomE evangel was possible. Here the ultra-dispensationalists have perceived the crucial point and, quite properly, insisted that Israel, not only some Israelites forming a Remnant, had to repent before the Millennial Kingdom glories of Messiah could appear. Inasmuch as national repentance was then not in view (for, that the calloused of Israel would repent collectively and nationally had been plainly foretold), it is evident that the Evangel of the peritomE was not in view either. The most to be said is that a repetition of the Pentecostal speeches could afford a starting point for it.

When Pastor Rogers wrote of the "strange notion, fortunately held by few," that the Evangel of the peritomE requires the peritomE of all who receive it; he omitted to explain why the notion should be strange or why he used the word "fortunately." Perhaps he might have modified his words if it had occurred to him to consider the corresponding proposition that" The Evangel of the akrobustia requires the akrobustia of those who receive it"—a statement which is exactly true; for it was closed to the Covenant People unless, like Paul, they chose to repudiate their peritomE. What he stigmatizes as strange is, On the contrary, a self-evident truth, denial of which involves a contradiction in terms.

I maintain that just as there is now in being a perfect and wholly satisfying akrobustia evangel; so in the days to come there will be an equally perfect and satisfying peritomE evangel, which will lead up to the glories of the New Covenant. We must not imagine that all glory and honour and blessing is reserved for ourselves. If I am mistaken in holding that no peritomE evangel was proclaimed by the Twelve at the first; I am certainly right in maintaining that it could have been no more than a glimpse of what will appear when the Evangel of the akrobustia has passed into history. In the conditions which have existed ever since the Lord was crucified, it could never be more than this, a foil for the display of the glories of the Apostle Paul's Evangel.

Strictly speaking I am not here concerned to show when the proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE will take place, but simply that it has not yet taken place. It may well be that this aspect of prophecy is not intended to be revealed to us, and is therefore not our concern. That it will be proclaimed is so obvious to me that I hardly know what to say more. Nothing is more difficult to prove than what seems self-evident. Perhaps criticism will indicate how to tackle the problem, or others may take a hand. I hope they will, for I suspect that an important line of research into prophecy has opened up. Is it not at least possible that the proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE will be related to the future proclamation of the Evangel of the kingdom in a manner parallel to the past proclamations of the Evangels of the kingdom and the akrobustia respectively? Pentecost was in some measure a foretaste of the greater Pentecost to come. Its earthly glory flared up and as speedily died away, because such earthly glory had no place in the present period. Yet it was only the earthly glory of it that died away. A splendour which the eye of flesh could not perceive caught fire and blazed up to celestial heights in the Evangel of the akrobustia and all it implied. So in the greater Pentecost, when the barriers have been removed, the earthly glory and power will, at last, manifest itself in its own full splendour.

Chapter 29
When Abraham received a sign—of peritomE (circumcision)—the Hebrew Scriptures tell us no more of the righteousness of the faith which won that sign. Nor do any of the Greek Scriptures except Paul's epistles. Stephen's speech in Acts 7 has a good deal to say about Abraham; but about this side of the subject he had nothing to say, beyond informing the Jews, and us, that Abraham's covenant is a covenant of peritomE (Acts 7:8); a point which, as we shall note presently, is more vital than appears at first sight. On th,e other hand, about covenant itself (as distinct from peritomE its sign) the Apostle Paul is silent as regards Abraham. Yet again, only once outside Paul's epistles is there any reference to akrobustia (uncircumcision). This, in Acts 11:3, is very significant. The Circumcisionist party in Jerusalem doubted the Apostle Peter. Their charge against him was: "Thou camest in to men having akrobustia, and with them thou didst eat together." Here again the question of the attainment of the righteousness of the faith does not arise. The subject under discussion throughout is the unlocking of the Kingdom by Peter to Gentiles, and the closing words refer to John the Baptist and repentance unto life. Covenant is right outside the scope of what Peter did; and as soon as he convinced the, Circumcisionists of this, their objection fell to the ground. Even more important is the disclosure that akrobustia is something which men positively have, not primarily a term indicating their lack. Just like peritomE it is a positive entity. Stephen declared that God gave Abraham a covenant of peritomE. Paul tells us that Abraham received peritomE as a sign. The Lord Jesus tells us that Moses had given it to the Jews (John 7:22). Nothing like these definite declarations is stated about akrobustia; but if it were merely a negative thing and no more a lack as the usual English rendering "uncircumcision" implies, it is not easy to see why the Circumcisionists should not have said something like: "Thou camest in to men lacking peritomE"; particularly as the form of words they did use is a remarkable admission from a party whose distinguishing feature was their extreme emphasis on their peritomE.

When, however, we realize that Paul's ministry was not a mere interlude in God's programme, and still less an improvisation to meet an unexpected and most awkward situation, we can understand why the Circumcisionists spoke as they did. They were probably unaware of the fact, but they were speaking a part of Scripture (cf. John 11:49-52), and so they unknowingly phrased their words in harmony with truth, albeit a truth probably outside their vision. Both times I have written "probably" with diffidence, for "perhaps" may well be more correct. We have no right whatever to suppose that the Circumcisionists were bad men, or even to suppose that they were wrong in doubting even the Apostle Peter; for he did not attempt to reprove them or use his overriding apostolic authority. His mild answer implies by its very tone that they had every right to query his action. Since Peter's apostleship is of the peritomE, and by implication his evangel is too (Gal. 2:7, 8); is it unreasonable to deduce that Peter himself was a Circumcisionist and therefore, being what he was, their acknowledged leader? There is nothing at all unusual in a leader being pushed forward by his followers. Part of Peter's difficulty lay in the fact that as well as followers he himself had a Leader Who could not be subjected to what are now called pressure groups, and with Whose plans he was not completely acquainted. He was learning God's will and the learner is always at a disadvantage when he has to teach pupils who imagine they know better. What made the position more difficult for Peter was that the Circumcisionists were not inherently wrong. There had but recently been a vast gulf between the man whose peritomE marked him as one of the Covenant People and the rest of humanity; and, unless we are to disbelieve or somehow explain away much of Hebrew prophecy, there will in days to come Once again be a vast gulf. What the Circumcisionists did not understand was the nature of that gulf; but unless we can do better we are in no position to pose as superior to them. Peter had to learn a lesson which, even after nineteen centuries, very few Christians have mastered; and he had to try to teach his fellow-Israelites that lesson while he was himself learning. No wonder his position was far from comfortable.


A further point which is generally underestimated is that Peter's apostleship was that of the Twelve. It is explicitly linked to that of the peritomE and to James and John, and in Gal. 1:17-19 to those who were apostles before Paul, that is, the Twelve; and the apostleship of the Twelve is that of Israel: of Israel's promises and covenants, the oracles of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the peritomE which is both their covenant and its sign. It was NOT open to the Twelve to leave it, as it was open to Paul and to every other Israelite whom God might choose to call; by following in the footsteps of father Abraham, in akrobustia (Rom. 4:12 cf. Rom. 9:24).

We have got accustomed to taking this for granted to such an extent that we do not perceive at all how startling some of its implications are. All who are influenced by Dr. Bullinger realize clearly that the ministry of the Twelve is for the twelve tribes of Israel and that its ultimate objective is the fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy in Israel through Israel's Messiah. It is unnecessary to labour the point here. This truth stands out in Matthew's Gospel and the Revelation in particular; in Peter's speeches, in Acts, and the introduction to his epistle, and James', It is, in fact, the most certain result established by what is called Dispensational Truth and, the source of its tremendous hold for the last half century on all scientific student's of Scripture. The personal difficulty one encounters in examining Dispensational Truth critically, and the bitter opposition evoked, result from the fundamental importance of this fact. Human nature being what it is, a system of thought which discloses so vital a truth almost automatically becomes invested in most minds with the attribute of infallibility.

But this special standing of the Twelve involves the consequence that anything incompatible with Israel's special position is automatically ruled out for them. Paul was free to renounce his privileges as an Israelite, but Peter and his eleven colleagues were not, in any way. This means that participation in Paul's special distinctive ministry, was not open to them in any terms whatever. They had an essentially different apostleship, a special unalienable calling of their own; and this involves the further consequence that any evangel they had would be essentially different from the distinctive evangel entrusted to Paul.

I have, in fact, here stated at length what Paul says in Gal. 2:7, 8; and my statement is made all the lengthier because I have not only paraphrased what Paul says but also suggested in outline its implications.

Many must have felt puzzled by the remarkable fact that outside the Pentecostal testimony, and Peter's special keys-of-the-Kingdom ministry, history is silent as to the ministry of the Twelve. There is a good deal of myth about it: that one of them went to India, and another evangelized China, but not a scrap of history. Yet since they are not recorded as carrying out any sort of Gentile ministry in the Land, that is, outside the strictly Pentecostal commission in the first part of Acts it is hard to see why they should have carried out one elsewhere, even on the (fallacious) supposition that they had any to carry out. The whole point of the Kingdom ministry to the Gentiles by Peter is that, it was an act complete in itself. Once a door is unlocked, it is unlocked finally unless someone lock it again; nobody can keep on unlocking. Peter unlocked the Kingdom to Israel and later to the Gentiles. Having done it, there was nothing more to be done except justify this action to any who disapproved. This he did quite effectively—and there the narrative ends, surely because that was the end. What glimpse Galatians affords of subsequent history suggests that the Twelve had each done what anyone else should do, and if he is wise always does at the end of his life-work, namely, gone into retirement. Those who demur at this should ask themselves what else the Twelve could have done, bearing in mind that it was not open to them to follow Paul into akrobustia.

One difficulty which has been put to me is very much to the point. I summarize it as follows:

"The sign of that Covenant"? But which Covenant? The statement summarized above concentrates on the Old Covenant; and if peritomE were confined to the Old Covenant I would have to admit myself baffled by it; though even so the hypothetical wish of the Israelite to forget the Old Covenant would not mean that God would permit him to forget it. Surely one of the chief reasons for all the trials to which humanity is being subjected is that they constitute a permanent demonstration not only to all humanity but to all creation? Nevertheless, if peritomE were the sign of the Old Covenant only, the vanishing-away of the Old Covenant would certainly involve the vanishing-away of peritomE permanently—as indeed it has already done temporarily through being the sign of the Old Covenant at all.

Why is the peritomE linked with the Old Covenant at all? The answer is found in Paul's first reference to it, in Rom. 2:25: "For peritomE indeed is of benefit—if law thou mayest be putting into practise." This begins a passage which ends by pointing out that the benefit of the peritomE is in the Jew's possession of the oracles of God. In fact, the association of the peritomE with Israel and the Law which was given by Moses is the Old Covenant side of it. The Lord Jesus stresses this in His only reference to the peritomE, in John 7:22, 23; but He adds parenthetically: "(Not that it is of Moses, but that it is of the fathers)". It would almost seem that He was issuing a warning against associating it exclusively with the Old Covenant, otherwise it is difficult to see what His point could have been. On the other hand, Moses is associated with. the fathers in Acts 3:22, so this interpretation may not be absolutely conclusive. It depends on the wider context of John's Gospel. In John 8 the emphasis turns from Moses (8:5) to Abraham (8:33-58, in this chapter only, 11 times), and Moses appears Once again only, in 9:28, 29. The Pharisees are the party in the controversy who centre their main argument around Moses. They sought to stone the adulterous woman; but when reference is made to Abraham, it is the Jews who act by picking up stones to cast at the Lord Jesus Himself. If Moses was the sensitive point for the Pharisees in particular, it would appear from this that! Abraham was the sensitive point for the Jews as a whole. In the wider view the Abrahamic side of the peritomE was at least as important as the Mosaic and it is doubtful if we can analyse the distinction between them or whether we ought to try. If what is said further on is correct, the two sides have never been wholly distinct, and will merge together in the New Covenant.

We cannot tie peritomE to the Old Covenant only; but does that give us sufficient ground for linking it to the New Covenant?

The linkage of the peritomE to the covenants with Moses and with Abraham is indicated by the two first references to it in the Greek Scriptures, John. 7:22, 23 and Acts 7:8. The Moses link is its relation to the Law; the Abraham link is seen in Acts 3: 25 to be in connection with blessing to all the kindreds of the earth, which is implied in Acts 7:8.

The linkage of the peritomE to the covenants with Moses and with Abraham is implied in Rom. 9:4, where the sonship and the glory and the legislation and the divine service and the promises are explicitly interlocked. In the statement of the New Covenant in Heb. 8:6-10 it is seen as the perfection of God's laws and of His promises to Israel.

Surely it is only reasonable to urge that the onus of proof is on anyone who contends that the peritomE is not a part of the perfection of God's laws and of His promises to Israel? To the Jew it is of benefit if he be putting law into practise; and if this is true even in the present period while "in Christ Jesus neither peritomE nor akrobustia is anything, but there is a new creation" (Gal. 6:15); is it in the least logical to suppose that it will no longer be of benefit when God's laws cannot help being put into practise by His People on whose hearts they will be inscribed?

After Matt. 13:14, 15 covenant and its sign peritomE had come to an abrupt end. It was quite in order to speak of covenant where necessary—and incidentally, it was not very often necessary for Paul to do so, and never for the Twelve except in Acts 3:25—but there was no point in associating peritomE with it except in Acts 7:8 and Eph. 2:12. The greater includes the less. There was no need to mention peritomE in Rom. 9:4, or In Rom. 11:27, 2 Cor. 3:6, Gal. 3:15, 17; 4:24; and it is very doubtful if anyone would venture to contend that, whatever the circumstances, Heb. 7:22; 8:6-13; 9:4, 15, 16, 17, 20; 10:16, 29 would be improved by a reference to peritomE. In short, we cannot argue this point from the absence of the word.

The quotation from Jeremiah in Heb. 8:6-12 is followed by the rather curious comment: "In saying new He has made the former old. Now that which is aging and decrepit is near its disappearance." Taking this with 2 Cor. 3:12-16 we see that the transience of the Old Covenant was in its very nature from the start. What, then, was to become of the Old Covenant promise; in Exod. 19:5-6, that Israel should be a treasure for God's possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation? This promise was renewed in 1 Peter 2:9 and Rev. 1:6, it is an integral part of the New Covenant as it is also an integral part of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1—22:18). What is new in the New Covenant is the specification that in concluding it God will ensure that it can and will be kept by Israel. It is the Abrahamic and the Old Covenants placed in a new setting wherein God's perfection will be displayed instead of Israel's failure.

In all this no word is said, nor is even a hint given, that the sign and seal of covenant should lapse. If the peritomE had been introduced as the sign and seal of the Old Covenant, we might reasonably suppose that with the vanishing of the covenant the sign and seal would vanish too. But we are most carefully guarded from such a supposition. It was to Abraham that a covenant of peritomE was given, according to the Jew Stephen; and it was Abraham who obtained a sign of peritomE which was also the seal, according to Paul in his epistle to the Gentile metropolis, Rome. And Paul is also careful to make it plain that this sign was not only for Abraham to be father of those who are believing through akrobustia, but for Abraham to be father of peritomE, or as it might be rendered, peritomE father. The perfection of Abraham's covenant must therefore involve the perfection of his peritomE fatherhood.

Briefly, I do not and cannot see how we can separate peritomE from any of the covenants other than the rainbow covenant which was universal in scope. There is no getting away from the benefit of the peritomE. In Rom. 2:17-29 Paul is addressing himself exclusively to the Jew. He sets out a principle which is permanently valid for the Jew, so long as. the condition prefaced by "if" is fulfilled. An important part of what Paul teaches in his epistles explains why that condition cannot be fulfilled at present; but the very fact that these nullifying circumstances are transient, so far as this world is concerned, serves to underline the principle. It would become sheer nonsense if it were confined to conditions which Paul and his Gentile converts were well aware had already passed away when he wrote them. Indeed; his purpose in writing them was to convince both Jews and Gentiles who read his words that nobody was putting law into practise—except under new conditions under which "in Christ Jesus neither peritomE is availing anything, nor akrobustia, but faith" (Gal. 5:6). What makes Rom. 2:17-29 in practise, apart from this, irrelevant at the present time is that in the conditions which now exist the very distinction involved in the term Jew and in the words peritomE and akrobustia, has itself become irrelevant. The complete and abrupt end of peritomE for the present time, about which I wrote above, , comes about not because peritomE and what it implies have permanently lost their significance, but because special conditions have arisen for a while in which all fleshly distinctions become meaningless. In. certain mountain and polar weather conditions, when all surfaces are covered with snow and there is too much cloud to allow anything but diffused light, outlines disappear in the general radiance as completely as they do in pitch darkness.

We should observe that with New Covenant Israel itself, there will no longer be any fleshly distinctions either. This is very plain in Heb. 8:10, 11. There will be no need to talk to them as if some of them had the benefit of the peritomE and some had not. No Jew will then need the exhortation of Rom. 2:17-29; the benefit of the peritomE will be evident, not as between one Jew and another, but in the glory which will be Israel's as a whole.

"What Glad Tidings is there in fleshly peritomE?" None at all, at the present time. What Glad Tidings will there be for Israel in future days? Surely—that once again Paul's brethren, his relatives according to flesh, will be "Israelites, whose is the sonship, and the glory, and the covenants, and the legislation, and the divine service, and the promises." For the present these six things have fallen into abeyance; but there are two things which have not, the fathers and the Christ according to flesh. In days to come this will be glorious Glad Tidings in the Grace of God, real Good News, that once again all eight will belong to God's Covenant People. The six have been obscured in the gloom of man's day, for six is the number of man. The two have been divided in the rejection of Israel's Messiah. The Evangel of God wears now its akrobustia aspect. Access to God is in righteousness by faith as Abraham's was and ever will be, in akrobustia; but for the present it no longer leads to covenant, it no longer receives a sign—of peritomE. Instead, it leads to reconciliation, a new creation in Christ Jesus, wherein neither peritomE is availing anything, nor akrobustia; but faith, operating through love. Yet this celestial glory is, on earth, only transient. In due time it will give way to the proper terrestrial glory which is now set aside. The Evangel of God will wear its peritomE aspect and lead in peritomE to the grandeur of the New Covenant and the glory of the Millennial Kingdom.

Chapter 30
One objection, has been, left till now. It is that I am making too much of the distinction between the Evangel of the peritomE (circumcision) and the Evangel of the akrobustia (uncircumcision); in that all they amount to in practice is that the Evangel takes slightly different aspects when it is proclaimed to Israel and when it is sent to the Gentiles, respectively. The operative word is "slightly," for my whole case is that the difference is in no sense slight and in no way to do with the question TO whom the Evangel is sent. The Apostle Paul makes it plain, that his Evangel is that OF the akrobustia—not specifically to anything or anybody at all in this context. Similarly, the peritomE evangel is OF the peritomE, not to any special people necessarily; for Abraham believed God before he received the sign of peritomE.

The crucial question is: "If an evangel is associated by name with akrobustia or peritomE, how can we properly so define it as to make these words other than its primary feature?

My case is that we cannot; and, further, that the distinction between the two words permeates Scripture from the call of Abraham onward and involves differences which cannot in any circumstances be properly regarded as slight. So, all along, I have been insisting that to Paul was entrusted the Evangel of the akrobustia and to Peter that of the peritomE, and asking in various ways how it is that Peter's epistles and recorded speeches do not use the word "peritomE" even once.

To help readers to clarify their ideas, I suggest four more questions:

I venture to think that the answers are already plain.

Once, only, is the Evangel of the peritomE directly referred to in Scripture. That it must exist is readily to be deduced from what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans and Galatians; yet as to its nature and scope, apart from peritomE, we have to rely on inference alone. The fact that Paul developes the Evangel of the akrobustia in detail, and in places explicitly distinguishes those who come under it from those who in peritomE believe God, implies a peritomE evangel. Why, then, is it not anywhere defined?

Why is the Evangel of the akrobustia not defined either, as such? When Paul defines his evangel (1. Cor. 15), it centres round the Lord Jesus Christ, as indeed it must, not round the issue of covenant versus uncovenanted blessing. Surely the answer is that there is no need to define it in such terms, for that aspect is implicit in the fact that any evangel for Gentiles as such exists at all? We easily forget that it is a very great condescension for God to go beyond His Covenant People, and that such a gracious act became possible only because all but a remnant were temporarily cast away. The Apostle Paul had no need to define the Evangel of the akrobustia. All he required to do was to present the Evangel and show that, in the circumstances now existing, the Evangel is an akrobustia evangel. Lest we should fall into the confusion which in fact, we have fallen into, he indicates in such passages as Rom. 1:16; 2:12; 17-29; 3:1, 2, 30; 4:12; 9:3-5; 10:14, 15; 11:26 that there is, somewhere, some time, a corresponding peritomE evangel. But it was not his business to develop and expound it. That, as he points out in Galatians, is the Apostle Peter's commission. And yet we have been teaching that Peter had to carry it out during the short period covered by Acts, during a large part of which he disappears from the record while Paul is triumphantly proclaiming a rival evangel which is wholly incompatible with it.

Similarly, in days to come, all that will require to be done will be to present the Evangel to Israel and Judah and show that in the then existing conditions it will be a peritomE evangel, and that the conditions envisaged by Paul in his epistles will no longer hold good. That this will involve a large amount of doctrinal readjustment is evident, and it is only reasonable to suppose that the proclamations that Peter did not make will then be issued plainly to Israel. As to how the Evangel of the peritomE is to be proclaimed, I do not care to say more at present. The fact is, dispensational theories have caused most of us to study prophecy through a distorting mirror, as it were; but the straightening-out process is beyond my power at present. Perhaps some fully-qualified person will now undertake this study. May I, however, give some indication of what I have in mind? I suspect that when we read Matt. 19:28 we all still follow tradition and Locate this throne session in heaven. Is this interpretation quite certain? As regards future glories even the most enlightened of us is as one peering into a very large room through a very small keyhole. We are permitted these glimpses, not that we should speculate about them, but to help us in what should be our real aim—to study God's Word rationally and live godly and quiet lives.

No apology need be made for reiterating that the real issue is not so much whether Peter did proclaim the Evangel of the peritomE as whether he could proclaim it. The discovery of the two evangels in Galatians 2 was hailed with joy largely because it has fitted in so neatly with dispensational theories; and we did not seem to have paused to ask ourselves whether we were not after all slurring over the real difficulty; nor have we troubled to enquire just why so many of our predecessors went astray over this matter. Yet they were neither knaves nor fools. It may well be that they were a little cleverer than ourselves and that they spotted the difficulty we have cheerfully ignored—that a genuine peritomE evangel was impossible at the time Galatians was written. Where they went astray was in assuming that a peritomE evangel would never be possible again. For instance, Alford remarks regarding Peter: "But his own epistles are sufficient testimonies that, in his hands at least, the Gospel of the Circumcision did not differ in any essential point from that of the Uncircumcision." This pronouncement means, in effect, that although Scripture distinguishes fundamentally between peritomE and akrobustia, it virtually makes no distinction between the corresponding evangels. The only alternative is the assumption that Peter once again failed in his trust—an aspersion on him which I, at any rate, refuse even to consider. The former conclusion virtually makes nonsense of what Paul says in Galatians 2 and, if accepted, puts an end to all rational Theology.

We are more open to other kinds of mistake; and we should beware lest in avoiding the error of time-bound economies we fly to the opposite extreme. Dispensationalism is wholly correct in teaching that, for example, there are conditions in operation now which were not operative at certain past times and will not be operative at certain future times. This is of the very nature of things, since major events in history must produce corresponding changes. Our error has been in preoccupation with the times rather than the events themselves. Even the one supreme Event of all, the incarnation, ministry, sufferings, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, does not make a sharp guillotine cut across time, even though it certainly does in God's purposes. It generated a train of events. The proclamation of the Kingdom of the heavens would have been impossible apart from it. the pronouncement of Isa. 6:9, 10 in Matthew 13 marked the first point of crisis, the point from which everything else inevitably followed. Its repetition as a past event of history in Acts 28 recorded the completion of the train of events as regards Israel. I am in no way going back On what I have said about Dispensationalism in Chapter 14. I am simply pointing out the danger of rushing to the opposite extreme and supposing that what we have hitherto called "dispensational changes" do not occur at all in any form. There is nothing in these matters analogous with the change which takes place a minute after 11.59 p.m. on December 31st; but there certainly are changes analogous with what happened on August 4th, 1914.

A leading dispensationalist has been trying to refute me by showing that the closing chapters of Acts form a "frontier" at which certain things ceased and others made their appearance; but I have never denied that the conclusion of the history of Paul's dealings with the Jews was a point of historical importance. For one thing, it marked the end of the Pentecostal ministry and therefore of certain transitional phenomena. This understanding is a clear gain won for us by "dispensational truth," but it in no way alters another fact, that the effective pronouncement of Isa. 6:9, 10 was not made then, but at Matt. 13:14, 15. Acts is not an isolated phenomenon, it is the result of what happened before.

All this means that we have come back to something like dispensational time-periods; but I would remind any who may feel disposed to smile that I have never contended that there are no such things as time boundaries in God's administration of His People. My complaint is not against the perfectly true contention that God's dealings with mankind have changed in past time and will change in future time. If that fact and its detailing were all there is in Dispensationalism, I for one would have no objection to offer. It is to the obsession with time boundaries, with attempts to fix them rigidly and conform events to them, that I am objecting.

It was a very great condescension for God to go beyond His Covenant People at all. What right have we to expect Him to go even further and define His covenant evangel to us, who are in no way concerned with it? Part, at any rate, of Israel's affairs is presented to us for our learning. They have, as well, that interest for those who love God that knowledge of His purposes must always have; but true love and faith will never seek to go beyond what He has been pleased to reveal.

With this clarification we can now understand more sympathetically Peter's state of mind during the events narrated in Galatians. Naturally impetuous, he was again and again placed in situations where impetuosity was the worst thing possible. Like all such people, he tended to rush too far and then to draw back and become obstinate. It is easy to see how, as the first momentum of Pentecost failed, he must have become discouraged and reluctant to go on. This reluctance was all to the good until the time was ripe for unlocking the Kingdom to the Gentiles; but when it became ripe, considerable pressure had to be put on him to act. Finally, in the second Jerusalem visit recorded in Galatians, we see him agreeing with Paul having the Evangel of the akrobustia, then eating with Gentiles at Antioch, and then Once more shrinking back from the consequences of his action. If it be true that his peritomE ministry was in the far future, there was no reason why he should not have gone on associating with Gentiles to whom he had unlocked the Kingdom; but, unfortunately for him, others were proclaiming some sort of peritomE evangel (Acts 15:5; Gal. 2:14) while he, the Apostle of the peritomE, was doing nothing of the kind. No wonder his impetuosity got the better of him!

Nothing here contradicts what I wrote on p. 33 (Vol. 15, No.1) where I referred to his faith in holding back till His Lord ordered him to move. Peter's character was highly complex and unless we understand it to some extent we cannot understand the narratives about him. God had to discourage his impetuosity in order to induce him to stand still when inactivity was the service required of him. For none of us is it an easy thing to retire, even temporarily, from active service; but that is sometimes God's will for us. The trouble is that we all tend to rush to extremes, and no One more than the eager active soul such as Peter was. All his trials came from having sometimes to act when most unwilling to, and at other times to keep still while pressed by every possible inducement to act.

Peter's dilemmas furnish the touchstone whereby we can test the correctness of our notions regarding the Evangel of the peritomE; for either those from James, and the Circumcisionists in general, were right in refusing to touch Gentiles except as proselytes to Judaism, or they were utterly wrong. Either the Kingdom was open to Jews and to Gentiles on the basis of the Evangel of the peritomE only or it was open on the basis of the Evangel of the akrobustia only. If Judaism was wrong for Gentiles to embrace, how could it have been right for Jews to retain? How could it have possibly been, in the face of what Paul writes in Gal. 2:15-21? Note how he starts: "We, who by nature are Jews." Paul is virtually saying that for the present Judaism is impossible for those who believe on the Lord Jesus. This is Jewry's great problem: an insoluble problem so long as they fail to understand that, in Christ, the Old Covenant is vanishing away. They had either to abandon their Judaism, their circumcision, deliberately; or, in effect, their Judaism, their covenant and its sign, would abandon them. In rejecting Messiah and demanding His crucifixion they had broken and abandoned their covenant as thoroughly and completely as could be; so that it was only their utter blindness that prevented them from understanding the folly of attempting to go in a covenant which they had themselves wiped out.

Nor is the position in general affected by the special standing of the Twelve. They, at any rate, could not follow Paul into akrobustia. The words "yet they unto the peritomE" (Gal. 2:9) associate the Eleven with Peter's apostleship in v. 10. Their apostleship of the peritomE could not be abandoned, for it was bound up with their original call—but in that they were unique. Every other Jew could follow Paul if he were called to do so. The "you" to Peter in v. 14 is contrasted with "we" in v. 15, wherein "we also believe into Christ Jesus," the title peculiarly of Paul's Evangel. In the face of this passage, how can we affirm that the Evangel of the peritomE was operative except for the Twelve themselves only?

This point was discussed in Chapter 29 also; but it is impossible to overestimate its importance, and I make no apology for referring to it again. It is coming to be of current interest, for, if report is true, there is a movement among Jews to accept Messiah and form a "Jewish Church." This would be, in effect, to re-establish the Circumcisionist party among the Jews, though not necessarily to attempt to impose its ideas on Gentiles. All that need be said here is that if even the Apostle Peter could not properly be an active Circumcisionist, although it was not open to him to follow the Apostle Paul either; it certainly is not proper for anyone else. The Evangel of the peritomE is wholly out of order now.

How extensive is the general confusion appears from a remark about Paul which appeared as the chapter was being drafted.
It reads:

All the data necessary to disentangle this can be found in what I have written on the subject. Obviously its author had never considered what the Kingdom and peritomE evangels were, or Peter's position in them. He appears to think that the future evangel to Israel will be that of the Kingdom, and not that of the peritomE, but even this is obscure.

If what I am now setting out is correct, it is of the greatest importance. If it is wrong, the sooner I am corrected the better. I have at least tried to make my case plain—a very difficult task when others have so thoroughly confused all the issues.

The generally accepted view of Galatians is that it was written primarily to correct errors regarding the first four chapters of Romans. I believe this was only a secondary aim and that the essential purpose of the epistle was to show that peritomE itself, and therefore its evangel, is made ineffectual and impotent by the Cross and must so continue until Israel's receiving-back can be inaugurated.

There is another point which should be made, but not pressed, as it is deductive only. I suggest that any unlocking of the Kingdom to the Gentiles by Peter would have been impossible while proclaiming the Evangel of the peritomE. I do not see how such an act could possibly be compatible with a peritomE evangel which, as Gelesnoff rightly pointed out, is founded on the supremacy of Israel. When a friend drew my attention to God working effectually in Peter (Gal. 2:8) and asked: "Was God's work void at that time?" I was for an instant taken aback. Then I recalled that this was a mistranslation, for the passage reads, very literally: "For the One operating in Peter unto apostleship of the peritomE is operating also in me unto the Gentiles." This is an instructive example of the fact that in the last resort most of our errors rest on false translations, while the false translations themselves are the fruit of traditional errors. The fact that a more accurate rendering robs this question of its force is an argument for the correctness of what I am putting forward.

If it is a mistake to suppose that Peter ever proclaimed the Evangel of the peritomE, it is all the more so to suppose that Paul ever did. Except in Acts 15 there is no trace of any reference by Paul to the issues surrounding covenant. Though he refers to peritomE in the first four chapters of Romans, he carefully avoids any reference to covenant itself. Indeed, it is an interesting and perhaps significant fact that these two subjects are kept apart. Paul's references to peritomE are always primarily to elucidate what he has to teach about akrobustia. Even Peter's Acts ministry is concerned primarily with the unlocking of the Kingdom; and after unlocking it to the Gentiles, little more is recorded about the Twelve, for little remained. Paul's speeches to Israel in Acts contain no trace of a peritomE evangel; on the contrary, it is charged against him in Acts 21:21 that he was teaching apostasy from Moses to those Jews who were infected by Gentile ideas, and even telling them not to circumcise their children. The charge is nowhere proved, but there must have been something to furnish a pretext for it. Finally, whenever anything of the nature of a peritomE evangel is acted on, the deed always evokes censure. This by itself is really final.

The point, made on pp. 14 and 86, is worth enlarging on, that the so-called Circumcision Epistles do not use the word at all and, apart from Hebrews, do not even mention covenant, or Jew, Israel or Israelite. The noun peritomE, or its corresponding verb, occur in Luke 1:59; 2:21; John 7:22, 23; Acts 7:8; 10:45, 11:2; 15:1 and perhaps 24; 16:3; 21:21; but a glance will show that there is no peritomE rev angel in these. Only 1n Paul's epistles do we learn directly :about the present status of covenant; and what we learn from 'them gives no sort of encouragement to any idea of a covenant evangel at any time during the period while the Evangel of the akrobustia is being proclaimed. Even if it could have been fitted into the short period before Paul's commission, to claim this as satisfactory is sheer special pleading. Besides, the events in Galatians 2 occurred long after Paul's call, yet they are the only record of the peritomE commission being given to Peter.

This comes out incidentally, and thus all the more forcibly, in V. Gelesnoff's papers on Galatians previously referred to. In Unsearchable Riches, Vol. 9, p. 157 he wrote: "The Gospel of the Circumcision is a gospel vitally related to the Circumcision—a gospel of which the Circumcision is the channel and chief beneficiary. In other words, a gospel founded on, and flowing from, the supremacy of Israel." He then briefly described the Evangel of the akrobustia and finished by saying: "These two gospels will be fully considered in the doctrinal part of the epistle." Unfortunately—for he certainly would have thrown light on the matter and perhaps discovered the truth—it apparently escaped his notice that he never kept this promise; but he had said enough to have pointed us eventually to the truth, had we possessed the spiritual intelligence to understand what his words actually meant. The Evangel of the peritomE is "a gospel founded on, and flowing from, the SUPREMACY of Israel." But Israel's supremacy ended with the pronouncement of Isa. 6:9, 10 in Matthew 13. Thereafter, until Israel's supremacy is once more about to become a reality, no evangel can in any circumstances be founded on it.

Why, then, is so little said about circumcision in the Hebrew Scriptures? Obviously, because so little needed saying. People who really have something to boast about never boast. Those who chatter about their rich or important friends are never outstanding people themselves. Real soldiers do not talk about their medals. PeritomE is the sign and seal of covenant, and covenant pervades the Hebrew Scriptures; so there is no point in drawing attention to what is never out of sight. Israel were told all they needed to know, at the time, about the subject. Moreover, since all blessing was envisaged as in and through Israel, a great deal could be taken for granted. Only when uncovenanted blessing began to show itself in the Lord Jesus Christ did it become possible or at all necessary to discuss it or its implications. True, it did make its appearance in Abraham; but it promptly retired in favour of covenant and became completely eclipsed by it; and the veil was not drawn aside until Paul was commissioned to proclaim God's Evangel.

There was never any danger of the Jew forgetting his privileged standing of which his peritomE was the badge. What Israel consistently forgot was the other side of the matter, the corresponding responsibility, full realization of which on the part of those who have it is the one thing which makes privilege tolerable to those who lack it. The Jew has always failed to display that sense of responsibility, as Paul plainly points out in Rom. 2:17-24; but he never forgot his superiority over the uncircumcised.

Chapter 31
According to the more extreme dispensationalists, at any rate, the Evangel of the Kingdom forms part of the Evangel of the circumcision (peritomE); but I cannot find that anyone has definitely forced it into Galatians; and it is worth considering why the whole subject of the Kingdom is right outside this epistle. The answer, and it is rather significant, is that the issues raised in Galatians concern those who are already Christians (whether Jewish or Gentile) and nobody else. The position of unbelievers, now and hereafter, does not come into the matter. The two evangels it envisages are not anywhere in it presented to the unbeliever in the first place. It is the only epistle addressed to the churches of an area. It assumes that the Galatians were instructed and practising Christians who had later gone astray from the true Evangel (Gal. 3:2 and 1:6). None of the preliminary instructions found in direct evangelism is seen in the epistle. The beginning of the Evangel of Jesus Christ starts with John the Baptist's Kingdom proclamation (Mark 1:1-5). The Kingdom proclamation itself begins with the call to repentance. Paul's setting forth of the Evangel of God begins with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; and in its setting forth the first thesis is a proof that all are under sin and none are righteous—a fact which in itself is proof that repentance must be the sinner's first act, in spite of recent declarations to the contrary.

Paradoxically, the main problem of Galatians in experience arises much later than acceptance of the Evangel; yet in logic, and therefore in God's purposes also, it arises before the Evangel call, be presented at all. Whether repentance and what it implies is in fact open at all to any particular sinner depends on the question which stands in the background of this whole matter—it is whether the said sinner is to be called upon to repent as a Jew or as a Gentile: in peritomE (that is, circumcision) or in akrobustia (uncircumcision). We rightly take it for granted that we may proclaim the Evangel to anyone whom we may meet; but actually the justification of this assumption for the present time is no trivial problem; and in fact it occupies a considerable part of the Greek Scriptures, particularly Acts and Galatians.

What the matter amounts to is that though the Evangel itself primarily concerns the Lord Jesus Christ, the FORM in which it can be presented depends on the question of akrobustia versus peritomE. Those who receive the Evangel are, at first anyhow, wholly unaware of this or of the even more fundamental, though related, fact that the hearing of the Evangel at all depends on it. When they have received the Evangel, then the question immediately assumes primacy. In the Gospels it rises to the surface only occasionally; because the Lord Jesus came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to whom the Gospels were addressed in the first in stance. At Pentecost and after, until Peter began his Kingdom commission to the Gentiles, it lay below the surface; then it assumed a dominating position which continues through the Greek Scriptures.

Years ago as a youth it was impressed on me that the importance of any subject is proportional to the number of times Scripture refers to it. Nothing could be more misleading in practice. Once only are the akrobustia and peritomE Evangels spoken of in Scripture, yet dozens of times in these papers. Do I then on this account stand condemned? By no means! If there were no Evangel of the akrobustia, Paul's Epistles could not exist, the other epistles would be unnecessary in their present form, the Church which is Christ's Body could not even begin to be. There is no need to print in red, as it were, on every page of Paul: "This is an akrobustia Evangel," for the fact stands out on its own account.

How difficult this subject has become has been painfully evident to me throughout the composition of these papers. The whole trouble stems from the attempts of our predecessors to fit Scripture to their theories or traditions instead of believing God; until it has become astonishingly hard to see His Word as it is, uncoloured by human fancies. If only we could look at it thus, there would be no longer any need to write so much about these two evangels. Scripture refers to them but once, because Once is all that is really necessary. If we had had the wisdom to refrain from theorizing, we also would seldom need to speak much of them either.

An unfortunate example of this presents itself now. I am reluctant to deal with it, but the issue is too important to be ignored. It is set out in a paper entitled "The Different Evangels" by Mr. A. E. Knoch in "Unsearchable Riches" Vol. 36, pp. 123-130. The great flaw in this paper is its tacit assumption that a large number of things which are true for to-day must necessarily remain true for evermore. If only its author had explicitly confined himself to consideration of Israel's past and present history and their contrast with our own standing, it would have been admirable. Referring to the "great national demonstration" afforded by Israel's history, he says: "Their trial shows that men cannot observe a law. The try out makes it clear that they are incapable of keeping a covenant." This is true to-day, and a truth so badly needed to-day that it is most distressing to have to say anything against the way it is formulated; nevertheless, if we take these words as if they were a statement of something permanent we fall into a dangerous error which works havoc with Scripture. For it is stated perfectly plainly in Heb. 8:8-12 that in days to come there will be a New Covenant which Israel will not be incapable of keeping, laws which will be imparted into their comprehension and inscribed on their hearts. The triumphant conclusion of this New Covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah will be the splendid crown of the Evangel of the peritomE; and it is neither true nor fair to denigrate this glorious aspect of the Evangel by speaking of "the greatly inferior ingredients which characterize it."

The unconscious bias of this writer shows in another sentence of his: "Israel is the chosen example to expose the futility of works, even when flavoured with faith." The idea of "flavour" and of such works is absent from the Greek as well as the best versions. Surely such good works as are referred to in Eph. 2 : 10 have been overlooked here? There is nothing in Romans or Galatians to cause us to suppose that there is any wrong or evil, anything futile for us or anyone else, in good works themselves. What is wrong, dangerously and hopelessly wrong, at the present time, is even the faintest admixture of any idea that by law works of any sort we can be made righteous or attain righteousness and salvation. THAT is what Paul solemnly warns us against; and his warning is a vital feature of the Evangel of the akrobustia. In fact, the very name of this Evangel is in itself guarantee that peritomE truth and covenant obligation are absent from it.

Yet another example of unconscious bias is the sentence: "Do and live is the order for the Circumcision and all other religionists." Remove the last four words and for "the Circumcision" read "Israel" and this is entirely true. To retain the last four words is to cut the ground from under the Evangel of the akrobustia; for God has no such order at any time for those outside His Covenant People. For all other religionists God's present order is as detailed in the opening chapters of Romans. They can come to Him as sinners who are able to do nothing for themselves, as akrobustia, or not at all. God does not mock them with "Do and live!"

Further on we read: "With us it is live and do. We work because we are saved. . . ." How good and sound! And how fine a thing it would be if we all did work thus I When the unbeliever sees how little of works of righteousness some of us do and how poor in quality that little work is, no wonder he reckons our saving no higher.

I am not yet quite sure that all my readers are convinced that the issues in these chapters are of the high importance I have given them. They are bound to be somewhat unwelcome because their approach is so unusual; and the problem which they purport to solve certainly came as a shock to me. Yet, outside the Evangel itself, what can be more important than a distinct understanding of the relation to it of ourselves and others? The blunt truth is that hitherto we have been all at sea in this respect. Those who pointed out that the Secret of Ephesians 3 was "in spirit" and connected with "the Gentiles" did not find it at all easy to establish their case; and perhaps even now only a minority of even the most advanced Scripture students have really grasped this truth. Will it prove equally difficult to persuade them that the Evangel of the akrobustia is restricted to the akrobustia and the Evangel of the peritomE to the peritomE? This simple fact is exactly true, and unless it is really understood, other truths such as those connected with righteousness and with the Secret cannot be really understood either. Nor can such statements as Phil. 3:3, which is hopelessly paradoxical unless we understand not only the following verses, in which Paul shows that all fleshly standing has now vanished away, but also the relationship between akrobustia and peritomE from the call of Abraham onwards. In Christ Jesus we possess all that peritomE can mean in an era when spirit and flesh are in conflict and when fleshly standing is but refuse because all standing before God is in spirit alone. In the present conditions there is no evangel for the Jew as one whose standing is of peritomE, but only as a sinner, that is to say, one whose peritomE has become akrobustia.

The spurious evangel which prevails in Christendom is not the Evangel of the peritomE; it is a perversion of Israel's prerogatives to Gentiles to whom it never could, and never can, and never will be applicable. When there is no longer any Evangel of the akrobustia, THEN the Evangel will be of the peritomE, and God's People will all come into covenant with Him—the New Covenant—and then those outside covenant will be able to approach Him only through His priests, the Covenant People. The so-called evangel of works, the first fruits of which we see among the Galatians, 'cannot be described as even "a different evangel"; because for Gentiles it was no evangel at all and moreover they had not yet fallen to the depth of being "other religionists"; who in any case have to climb down and repudiate their supposed evangel of works before anything can be done for them.

The "different evangel which is not another" was the Evangel of the peritomE, which was then and still remains wholly out of order and inoperative. To Israel it was no evangel because peritomE itself was inoperative. To the Gentiles it was, so to speak, doubly no evangel, because for them it could never be anything but inoperative.

The division of function in Gal. 2 : 7 was not tied down to one particular moment of time before which each apostle could go as he pleased. Where the issues bound up with the ideas of peritomE and akrobustia arise at all, the places of Peter and Paul were all along plainly defined. Peter unlocked the Kingdom to Gentiles, but he never went beyond that. His evangel was restricted to and by covenant, so beyond the unlocking he had nothing further for them. Similarly, with Gal. 2:7 before our eyes it is fantastic to claim (as I and others have sometimes mistakenly done) that Paul ever proclaimed the Evangel of the peritomE. That he evangelized Jews is beyond question; that he ever evangelized them as of the peritomE, that is to say, as individuals in active covenant relationship with God and with reference to their covenant standing and expectation, is simply untenable. The Apostle who, some five years before the events narrated in Acts 28, wrote Rom. 2:25, had no message for those of Israel who were not transgressors of law and who still retained their covenant standing, supposing such could still have existed; and no trace is to be found in Acts of such a message.

Objection has been raised to regarding the Evangel of the peritomE as "a peritomE evangel," on the ground that this takes no account of the "the." Strictly this is so, but though we must not ignore the Article, we must not exaggerate it either. The distinction between "peritomE" and "the peritomE" has already been explained. It is a matter of emphasis. Circumcision is practised by many peoples all over the world; and if among them some new religion were to arise, it would become necessary if they made this a feature of it to distinguish between their false evangel of peritomE and Israel's true Evangel of the peritomE. Here" the" simply focusses attention on peritomE as the sign and seal of God's covenant. If the ceremony of the peritomE, and all it implies, is not the essential part of a true peritomE evangel or the Evangel of the peritomE—what you will—so extraordinary a phenomenon demands explanation.

A very different objection comes from one who has swallowed certain teaching whole without understanding it at all. He claims that since "evangel" is always singular in the Scriptures, it is an error to speak of "evangels." From this he deduces that it is an error to distinguish between the Evangels of the peritomE and the akrobustia. Inconsistently, he seems to have no objection to distinguishing between peritomE and akrobustia themselves, but only between their evangels. I would not have mentioned this but for the fact that others have been maintaining for years past that there is no difference between the various evangels in Scripture. Apart from the fact that it is not possible even to discuss the subject without using the plural, the absurdity of the idea is easily shown. If there be no difference in Gal. 2:7, why did Peter and Paul divide their functions, and why did not Paul simply say after Gal. 2:2: "We found that my evangel was identical with his," and then and there end the epistle, and a good deal of the contents of his other epistle? as well? Surely the distinction in Gal. 1:6 is not so obscure as all that? "A different evangel" is another kind of evangel; and if (as my critic alleges) only one kind exists, no other kind is possible. and Paul is talking nonsense. I could not even have called this notion "a very different objection" if only one objection was possible.

Yet in fairness it should be said that the critic is not so much proclaiming an error as misunderstanding a truth, and a very important one. Basically there is only one evangel—at anyone point of time; and that is the reason why Scripture does not use the plural; for, unlike most of us, it does not mix up different times, and so does not mix up different people who enjoy different callings. The one evangel now is of the akrobustia; in days to come, of the peritomE.

It is necessary to point out that Paul did not have to defend himself for going to the Gentiles, but for proclaiming a specifically akrobustia evangel to them. Although Peter had to keep on explaining why he unlocked the Kingdom to Gentiles, he eventually rode down. the opposition and if he could venture thus far, Paul could also. The Jewish objection to Paul's Evangel was not because it was proclaimed to Gentiles but no account of its Gentile character. The Jewish believer, full of zeal for the Law and the Temple worship, for his covenant privileges and his peritomE which symbolized them, could not reasonably be expected readily to approve an evangel which set aside them all. Like my critic, he supposed that because there was only one evangel for him, there was no other evangel for anyone else. The Circumcisionist position was wrong, but not in the sense that idolatry or even doctrinal heresy are wrong. It was what is sometimes called "undispensational," in ordinary language, an anachronism; that is to say, it was wrong at the time Luke and Paul wrote and it would be wrong now if put forward by any Jew who might embrace some sort of Christianity; yet how can it possibly be wrong when Covenant and the Law once more come into their own? Peter had nothing to say about the Circumcisionists. We are not told why; but neither are we told why no record exists of his attitude to that controversy except that he was afraid of them (Gal. 2:12). Apparently he was precluded from setting forth his case as Paul did.

One reason for all the confusion surrounding this subject is that the humiliation, sufferings, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are together One unique event; whereas His coming to earth is not, for He will come again on at least two occasions. The unique event involved and set in motion all its consequences, but not all at once. For example, the New Covenant was legalized then, but it cannot be concluded till His third coming; that is, His coming to set up His earthly Kingdom in power, some time after His coming for ourselves. All the earthly glories are now in suspense, because for the present other glories are taking their place which belong to the Evangel of the akrobustia, and Israel's glories all belong to the Evangel of the peritomE. This fact alone is sufficient to show that the proclamation of the latter is impossible for the present.

Its corollary is also of the utmost importance: that since much of the material for the Evangel of the peritomE is in existence now, for it is all based on what the Lord Jesus did and suffered on earth; the Evangel of the peritomE could be pieced together, in outline at least, from the Hebrew Scriptures in the light of the Greek Scriptures; even though its setting forth in complete form is for the future after we have been taken away from this earth. But all that has nothing whatever to do with the question whether in fact it has ever yet been proclaimed. I have no thought of denying this. What I maintain, and believe I have proved, is that 11,0 complete, final, specifically peritomE evangel has yet been submitted to the people who have the peritomE, the Covenant People, Israel; or even that such a presentation is possible at all during this present state of things.

God's prophetic clock is wound up, ready, at any instant He may decide, to strike the midnight hour which will mark the beginning of the day, the first real day for this poor sin-torn earth. But that day is Israel's day, not ours; and all but a remnant of Israel are now cast away. The complement of the Gentiles have not yet entered, so all Israel cannot yet be saved, and so an evangel which is solely concerned with their saving cannot yet be proclaimed.

This is why we must rightly divide or correctly cut the Word of Truth and leave peritomE truth where it belongs. The Evangel of the peritomE is in waiting there, all ready to come into operation instantly when the hour has struck-but it is not for us, and we must keep our hands off it. In his book "The Foundations of Dispensational Truth" Dr. Bullinger informed us (p. 70) that at the beginning of Acts there was nothing to delay the coming glory but Israel's repentance. Yes! But there was everything then to delay Israel's repentance, and there still is; and it is high time that we realized it.

God does not commit futilities. Is it not a blasphemous insult to Him to suggest that He would order the proclamation of an evangel of which nobody would or could take any notice?

The proclamation of the Evangel of the peritomE during the period covered by Acts would either have been a complete fiasco, or would have meant that Israel's repentance could and would have taken. place then and wrought havoc with God's plans, the prophecies as well as the then unrevealed secrets.

I regret extremely that I have had to make all these criticisms of the teachings of others; but there has been no option. I have shared these errors with them; so in fact I have been criticizing myself also. The various erroneous doctrines about the Evangel have become the Fundamentals for those who hold them, established truths which no sane person would dream of questioning. The result of this is that there seems to be a general impression that the questions under discussion are merely academic and devoid of any practical importance for us. This is a disastrous mistake for all concerned, and for me in particular, for I have had to fight on two fronts, to prove my case and to prove that it was worth proving. The errors I have had to discuss, and yet others which have come to notice, suffice to assure me that it is; and that a clearer understanding of the problems concerning righteousness and the very nature of the Evangel is impossible until this matter is placed on a solid basis.

Here I feel I may leave the subject for the present. This will give us all an opportunity to examine it thoroughly and readjust our thinking. I am uneasy over the very meagre criticism so far received. This may be because I am right; but at least as likely, I fear, because nobody has been willing to give the time and trouble necessary to prove me wrong. I therefore most earnestly hope that someone fully qualified will make the attempt. If such criticism were to succeed all would be well, for we could use it as a basis for a fresh start. If it were to fail, well again; for it would give confidence that we are On fairly firm ground and it would necessarily shed further light on the subject.

Never have I ventured to condemn my predecessors for being simply mistaken. Always I have sought to restrict myself to criticizing open and evident contradiction of plain statements of Scripture. Even so, it is only right to say that whenever writers have been open to criticism on this ground; there are others far more blameworthy, namely, the many who read their errors and who failed lamentably to detect that they were errors. If these readers had been true Bereans, it would not have been left to other people, sometimes years after these writers died, to discover the mistakes which were made and blindly accepted as the truth of God.

Chapter 32
The Apostle Paul did not introduce grace and it is not a special characteristic of his Evangel. Nor did he cease proclaiming the Kingdom; indeed, Acts closes by telling us that after the announcement of Acts 28:28 his ministry consisted of "proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching that which concerns the Lord Jesus Christ" (vv. 30, 31). On the other hand, v. 29 does not say that the Jews went on proclaiming the Kingdom or doing anything whatever about it. Where they are not completely insensitive they continue to have much disputation among themselves.

The special characteristic of Paul's Evangel is reigning grace and all it implies. The significance of this is concealed by English usage. In Rom. 5:21 the words "thus, also, grace should be reigning through righteousness" are in the Greek "houtO kai hE charis basileusE dia dikaiosunEs." The verb here corresponds to the nouns 'king' (basileus) and 'kingdom' (basileia). Reigning grace is by its very nature "Kingdom truth."

We do not learn about the coming of the fullness of grace from Paul, but from John.

The great gulf between Paul's writings and the rest of Scripture is not over grace or over truth, but over Israel. Everything in the rest of Scripture centres around Israel. Even the universality of John's Gospel works in and through Israel. It is never contemplated that the world should normally see the light and the life except in and through Israel, in and through Israel's Lord and Messiah Jesus. By contrast, John in his Gospel and first two epistles has nothing whatever to say about the Gentiles. "Nation" in the singular, and obviously referring to Israel, is found five times in his Gospel. Unlike Paul, he is not interested in the Gentiles.

Contrariwise, everything in Paul's Epistles centres round the Gentiles. This is so, even in the part devoted to the relation between his Evangel and God's ultimate purposes for Israel (Romans 9-11) and even where the Evangel is specifically to the Jew first. He is first, because he has an unassailable priority on earth; yet nevertheless Paul begins Romans by undermining completely the Jew's position of privilege. Humanity is indefensible (2:1). There is not any partiality with God (2:11). The entire world falls below the standard of righteousness required by God (3:19). Righteousness is to be reckoned by faith, without regard to covenant or the lack of it (4:11, 12).

John's Gospel refers to the world some 79 times; Paul altogether only 47, of which 21 are in 1. Corinthians. John's First Epistle adds 23 to his total. The reader is urged to look at these (in Wigram's Concordance if possible) and note how differently the two apostles refer to this word in their writings. The best that Paul has to say of it is in the references to world-conciliation and the truth that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1. Tim. 1:15), which links with what, the Lord Jesus said of Himself in John's Gospel (see below). Perhaps this study will startle some; but after all it is in full accord with the general sense of Scripture. Paul's Evangel is to the Gentiles, but it is not to the world. As part of the world the Gentiles have no place with Paul. There is far more for the world in John than anywhere else. Where is there in Paul's teaching anything corresponding to the following from John's? "The Lamb of God Which is taking away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) "For thus God loves the world" (3:16-19), "the Saviour of the world" (4:42), "giving life to the world" (6:33), "for the sake of the life of the world" (6:51), "I am the light of the world" (8:12), "these things I am talking unto the world" (8:26), "I came not that I should be judging the world, but that I should be saving the world" (12:47).

So from Paul's standpoint the world is of no interest except as a background to his teaching. From the purely terrestrial point of view his is a very narrow ministry compared with that recorded by John. The light, the life, the salvation of the world is quite outside his aim; which is the light, life, salvation of the individuals who hear his Evangel. And his Evangel is in no way a world-evangel, but an evangel for Gentiles and for those Jews who are prepared to hear it as sinners who need a Saviour, not as Israel, the Covenant People. There is no evangel at present for Israel as such.

Yet Pau.l has more to say about the Kingdom than any writer except Matthew, Mark and Luke. In Acts alone he refers to it, directly or by report, five times; the same number as in John's Gospel. In his Prison Epistles it is found five times, too; in the others nine times. The occurrences in the Prison Epistles have always been a stumbling-block to those who speak of "the kingdom dispensation in Acts." These teachers want the Kingdom to be confined to the earthly Millennial Kingdom promised to Israel; but the hard facts of Scripture will not permit themselves to be forced into their rigid system. These expositors have grasped the fact that every aspect of Israel's calling is essentially terrestrial; and that the Greek Scriptures reveal another calling, not confined to anyone nation or conditioned by covenant, not according to flesh at all, purely spiritual and celestial. But they define these callings in the wrong way. If only they could see that the cleavage is between what is according to flesh and what is not, these difficulties would melt away like snow on a morning, of late spring.

Yet they seem unable to perceive that Paul's references to the Kingdom give no countenance whatever to the idea that it is necessarily a terrestrial and fleshly thing. His first was after he had been stoned in Lystra by the Jews: "Through many afflictions must we be entering into the Kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22). The first in his epistles is Rom. 14:17: "For the Kingdom of God is not feeding and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit." There is not a great deal of Millennial fleshly blessing in these two.

The Concordant Version note to Rom. 14:17 says that "this is not a definition of the Kingdom of God, but a statement of its bearing on this subject." It would have been better to have told us where there is a more explicit definition of the Kingdom of God, for I know of none. To me it seems to sum up perfectly what is taught in Matthew and Romans about the Kingdom of God, and also what is said in Hebrews. We find righteousness and exultation in Heb. 1:8, faith and righteousness in 11:33, grace and divine service in 12:28 and one of the two outstanding conjunctions of righteousness and peace in 7:2, the other being in Rom. 5:1. Needless to say, if we elect at the very start to define the Kingdom as the earthly Millennial Kingdom of the Hebrew prophets, we may explain all this away somehow; but there remains the great stumbling-block inherent in the fact that the Kingdom of the heavens proclaimed in Matthew was something new. The Hebrew Scriptures know nothing of it as proclaimed in the Gospels and Epistles.

Many will object most strongly to this last statement, but it is a fact, nevertheless; and was even dimly realized when, some 47 years ago, the theory of the Acts 28 : 28 "dispensational" boundary line or frontier was first made public. So the Kingdom of the heavens had somehow to be found in Hebrew prophecy; and as the prophets themselves had (most unfortunately for the theory) failed to mention it explicitly, Dan. 2:44; 4:25, 26; 7:13, 14, 27; Rev. 11:15 and Ps. 2:2-6 were put together, and we were told that "the kingdom of the heavens refers to that kingdom which shall be set up on earth when the Lord Jesus returns to the Mount o fOlives, destroys Antichrist, and brings blessing to His people Israel." The reader equipped to do so, where such is possible, will find it a very interesting intellectual exercise to try to set out these deductions in logical form from the premises in the six texts above quoted. He will soon find it cannot be done.

Another, more cautious, expositor quotes Dan. 2:44 only, and says: "This passage, combined with a close reading of all later references to this Kingdom, show us plainly that it is confined to the earth. Its limits do not extend beyond this planet, etc." I am quoting no more, for all his words are perfectly true of this kingdom which is the subject of Dan. 2:44; but unfortunately its author does not even attempt to prove the contention which is all-important to him: that the Kingdom of the heavens in Matthew's Gospel is this kingdom in Dan. 2:44. Apparently we were expected to shut our eyes firmly and swallow our medicine in one gulp.

Dr. Bullinger, in his generally excellent "Companion Bible," avoids this very ground in his Appendix 112. Instead, he says simply what he wants us to believe and dispenses with proof. He declares that the Kingdom of the heavens "is the dispensational term; and is used sometimes of Messiah's Kingdom on earth, and sometimes of the heavenly sovereignty over the earth." Several references are then given, but not even one suffices to confirm or support any of these three pronouncements. Earlier he says that the word basileia "denotes sovereignty, which requires the actual presence of a sovereign, or king." In the very same Appendix he furnishes, without apparently being aware of the fact, a convincing refutation of his words by his reference to Co1. 1:13. The Kingdom of the Son of His love" was revealed and 'made known' (Eph. 3) for the 'obedience of faith' (Rom. 16:26). The subjects of this Divine sovereignty, on their believing this subsequent revelation, are 'sealed' (or designated) for their inheritance, which is to be enjoyed with Christ (Eph. 1:13)." The words "is to be" imply that the King is not now present with us, but attention is not drawn to the fact.

On the other hand, Dr. Bullinger deserves great praise for so carefully distinguishing between "kingdom" and "church." These two words must never be confused.

It is a tragic thing that in the first decade of this century most of the more enlightened students of Scripture were led into this strange blind alley. It seems that someone—it is not perfectly clear who, but it was apparently J. J. B. Coles—conceived the idea that Acts 28:28 formed the great dispensational boundary line or frontier for the Pauline church. At first sight this looked like a wonderful solution of the problems of the Greek Scriptures, a truly brilliant discovery; so brilliant indeed that it completely dazzled the eyes of most of us, and still continues to dazzle many. I am aware that some people regard me as obsessed with it, and perhaps in a sense I am; but it would be a great deal nearer the truth to say that through much of my life I have been obsessed with the need to refute it, as it has been so great an obsession with most students with whom I have been in contact. Now that I am completing the refutation, I hope to be able to drop the subject except where occasionally it crops up again, as it has since I started this paper. I thought I had killed it in cutting down the trunk of it, so to speak; but repeatedly suckers have, figuratively, come up from its roots and the work of eliminating them has had to be undertaken.

I have even been accused of something like malice in my reply to Dr. Bullinger; yet at least I have praised him where he is right, as he so often is, and refrained from behaving towards him with any sort of subtlety or discourtesy. Recognizing the great importance of the distinction he emphasized between the Kingdom and the church, I have been most careful to avoid blurring it again, and to protest against such confusing as well as unscriptural expressions as "the kingdom church": an invention which comes badly from those who claim to be his defenders or supporters. Yet Dr. Bullinger came to be so obsessed with the ideas and the importance of not confusing them, that he became blind to the fact that one who belongs to "the church" in any Scriptural sense of the term is necessarily in "the kingdom" as well. It is as if someone were to argue that because being a Christian and being an Englishman are wholly different ideas, no Englishman can be a Christian. Put in that analogous way, the absurdity of the notion becomes apparent. Only if subjection to the kingdom were to disqualify for membership of the church would we be compelled not only to distinguish between these ideas (which is quite correct) but to set them in opposition, as Dr. Bullinger's followers do. For there is no getting away from the fact that if the kingdom was set aside or postponed or done away with—what you wish—at Acts 28:28, the members of the "Church," any church, after this date, could not and cannot be subjects of the kingdom.

And then, if so, what on earth was Paul talking about in Eph. 5:5; Co1. 1:13; 4:11; 2. Tim. 4:1, 18?

The C.V. Note on Co1. 1:13 tells us that "the kingdom of His Son is a figurative allusion to the kingdom of Christ. Messiah's kingdom is literal and future and destroys and displaces earth's kingdoms (Dan. 2:44), etc." We can only wonder how men who are able to, and do when they wish, write with most admirable clarity, can lapse into such a quagmire of confusion. Which figure is this? What, precisely, is a figurative kingdom? By what magic touchstone do we discover that "kingdom" is figurative in this passage? Perhaps someone will answer the last by "The form of the Greek." This is "eis tEn basileian," which we find also in Matt. 5:20; 7:21; 18:3; 19:23, 24; 21:31; Mark 9:47; 10:23, 24, 25; Luke 18:24, 25; John 3:5; Acts 14:22; Co1. 4:11; 1. Thess. 2:12 (with eautou inserted); 2. Tim. 4:18. If this form of the Greek denotes a figure of speech in the one place; there is no imaginable reason why it should not do so in the remaining seventeen. Anyone who really believes this will believe anything.

Unsearchable Riches, Vol. I, p. 317, does not venture into this uncertain territory of supposed figures; it is marred only by an ambiguity in the opening words: "The Kingdom of God upon this earth awaits the repentance of His earthly people, but His spiritual kingdom waits for nothing." This is true if by "upon" is meant "established and in control upon"; but if it means "in existence upon," it is altogether false and dangerous. Unwelcome though the fact may be to many people, they cannot escape the declared truth that for two whole years after the pronouncement of Acts 28:28 Paul was proclaiming the Kingdom of God. True, the C.V. Note to Acts 28:31 says that "this proclamation of the kingdom would include its present abeyance and future manifestation." Oh, would it! How very careless or dishonest of Luke and Paul not to have made this point quite plain—if it had been the truth!

Anyone who may think these remarks unfair should study all the occurrences of "abeyance" and "postponement" in the Greek Scriptures. This will shed a strong light on Paul's (supposed) proclamation of the abeyance of the Kingdom.

Resuming our study of Paul's references to the kingdom, we come to 1. Cor. 4:20: "For not in word is the Kingdom of God, but in power." This reinforces what is said in Rom. 14:17.

Next we learn who will not be heirs of God's Kingdom. This, 1. Cor. 6:9, 10, may be coupled up with 1. Cor. 15:15; Gal. 5:19-21 and Eph. 5:5. It is strange indeed that some should imagine that the third belongs to a dispensation different from that of the others. It is also strange that Paul, who is supposed to have been turning his back on "the kingdom ecclesia," should be the one chosen to tell us about the glorious climax of the Kingdom in 1. Cor. 15: 24. Can it be that this idea about Paul is mistaken? It would seem so from 1. Thess. 2:12, 2. Thess. 1:5; and even those who relegate these epistles to Israel would hardly care to go so far with 2. Timothy which, in 4:1 and 18, certainly appears to concur with them.

Is it not, in sober fact, about time we all agreed to turn our backs, once and for all, upon this dangerous error that the Apostle Paul had anything to say about the postponement of the Kingdom or, indeed, that it ever was postponed or in abeyance? It is false through and through, and the sooner we recognize this plain fact, the better.

Christ "must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet" (1. Cor. 15:25). This, needless to say, refers to the whole of His reign from His rousing from among the dead (15:20) right up to the consummation. The reign started at His resurrection, it is in progress now, upon earth it exists in and for those who acknowledge Him, it has neither been suspended, postponed, nor put into abeyance—all this—but it has not begun and does not exist upon earth independently of His people; that is to say, over the world or over what is according to flesh. "The Kingdom of God upon this earth," as a terrestrial visible sovereignty, indeed "waits the repentance of His earthly people." His reign upon earth, upon things earthly and fleshly, lies wholly in the future; but over those who in spirit adore Him as King and Sovereign, it is literal and present and unshakeable. If it be true that the grace which came through Jesus Christ reigns now, then He Himself must be reigning also over those who have received that grace.

R. B. WITHERSLast updated 26.12.2005