The word “grace” appears 170 times in the English translation of the Bible, 37 of them in the Old Testament. Of the 133 remaining, only four are contained in the gospels and they all refer to the Lord Jesus (Luke 2:40, John 1:14, 16, 17). The Book of Acts contains 10 appearances, and 2 others can be found in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:4, Rev. 22:21) where they essentially open and close the book. That leaves 117 references to grace in the various Epistles.
As it’s used in the New Testament, grace is clearly a word that is meant for the Church. It comes from the Greek word charis, which is defined as “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”
Much has been written about the different approaches taken by Peter and Paul in presenting the Gospel of Grace to their audiences. Some claim that Peter didn’t mention having our sins forgiven by the Lord’s sacrifice but instead preached a message of repentance and baptism.
But Paul emphasized the redeeming power of the Lord’s blood, shed on the cross. He didn’t say much about baptism, claiming the Lord hadn’t sent him to baptize but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), and spoke even less about repentance. From this some have concluded that Peter and Paul preached two different gospels.
Let’s take a closer look at this opinion. We’ll use Peter’s first public message after the Ascension as an example. Remember, he was talking to the crowd on the Temple Mount during their observance of the Feast of Pentecost. All of them were Jews and many of them were well versed in their scriptures. Let’s join the conversation.
“Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38)
To repent actually means to change our mind about something. While it can bring about a change in behavior, none is necessary to fulfill the meaning of the word. In the case of Peter’s audience the Jews had to change their minds about what it takes to be saved. They had been taught that obedience to the law is what makes one righteous and that was wrong. Peter said it’s believing in Jesus that brings forgiveness. It’s exactly what he had heard the Lord Himself say on numerous occasions (John 3:16, John 6:28-29, John 6:38-40). Later Peter would say, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Believing in Jesus means believing He was the Son sent by the Father to die for the sins of the people. He was both Lord and Christ.
Then Peter told them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. According to my concordance, the Greek phrase translated “in the name of” invokes every thought or feeling that is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, or remembering the name being referenced. It can be used to establish one’s rank or authority, and to convert a request into a command. A servant acting in the name of his master had the authority of the master himself.
To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is to recognize His authority to do what He came to do and promised to do (to save us from our sins). It means we believe He has such authority and has exercised it on our behalf. That’s why John’s baptism didn’t bring either salvation or the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). He had no authority to save us from our sins. Only Jesus had that authority (Mark 2:6-12).
And finally Peter promised them the Holy Spirit. There’s only one way to receive the Holy Spirit and that’s to believe that the Lord’s death paid the full price for all our sins as confirmed by His resurrection. The Holy Spirit was not given to anyone until the Lord’s atoning sacrifice had been perfected in His victory over death (John 7:37-39, John 20:19-23) .
Somewhere in our past, legalistic preachers began teaching that repentance means to change our behavior, and with out a change in behavior there was no repentance. But if that was the case, the phrase “repent and be saved” would require us to stop sinning before we could ask God to save us. It amazes me that some of the same preachers who preach this also lead their congregations in singing “Just As I Am” while issuing an altar call.
In his answer to their question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter did not invoke the Law or their traditions, nor did he set forth any other pre-conditions. He simply said, “Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit.” To his Jewish listeners these few words carried the full impact of the Gospel of Grace.
A Matter Of Perspective
I’m convinced that the whole debate over whether Peter taught a different Gospel than Paul can be resolved by a clearer understanding of the vastly different perspective of their two audiences.
Peter didn’t speak of the blood because the Jews already understood the idea of shedding innocent blood for the remission of sins. Untold thousands of innocent animals had shed their blood in the previous two millennia to set the sins of the people aside and stay the hand of judgment against them. Their Temple was called a house of blood because at times blood had flowed like a river from beneath the altar. They needed to change their minds and understand that all those animals they sacrificed were but a temporary substitute for the sacrifice the Messiah made on their behalf, and while the blood of animals had set temporarily aside the peoples’ sins, the blood of Jesus washed them clean forever (Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-14).
On the other hand, Paul didn’t speak of the need to repent because Gentiles didn’t need to change their mind about the way to salvation. They had no way to salvation. They needed to learn that there is a God and they were sinners destined for His judgment. They needed to know that this God had made a way for them to be saved from the penalty of their sins, and that way was the blood shed by the Lord Jesus for the remission of their sins.
Put another way, Peter summarized the Gospel like this.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1 :18-21).
While Paul said it this way.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
It sounds like the same gospel to me. Please remember that although these two men certainly had their differences in the flesh, when they preached or wrote about the Gospel they were both under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, who cannot contradict Himself. The idea that Peter and Paul taught different gospels is not supported in Scripture.
A New Race Of Human
Whether Jew or Gentile, here’s what the Gospel of Grace means to us.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Ephes. 2:14-16).
In building His Church, God was taking some from among the Jews and some from among the Gentiles to create a new race of mankind. We’re saved only by His grace, through faith (Ephes. 2:8-9), for the purpose of demonstrating the manifold wisdom of God to the heavenly beings (Ephes. 3:10-11). All the sins of our life have been forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14) and we’ve been invested with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephes. 1:13-14). We’ve also been given the authority to become the very children of God (John 1:12-13) and heirs with Christ in His inheritance (Romans 8:17).
Being in Christ, we’ve become a new creation in God’s eyes. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). From His perspective we’re already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, in order that in ages yet to come He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephes. 2:6-7). To this end God has taken ownership of us and accepted responsibility for making us stand ( 1 Cor. 6:19-20, 2 Cor. 1:21-22). There’s no power in Heaven or on Earth that can do anything to change that (John 10:27-30, Romans 8:38-39).
Soon he’ll descend into the upper atmosphere and with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, He’ll call us up to His side (1 Thes. 4:16-17) and carry us off to our mansions in His father’s house (John 14:2-3). From that time on and forever we’ll always be with Him, joint heirs with Him in the inheritance His father has given Him (Psalm 2:8).
Meanwhile, Back On Earth
At the time of our departure the Gospel of Grace will see its fulfillment and the pause between the 69th and 70th Weeks of Daniel will come to an end.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matt. 24:14
By saying the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world again the Lord provided us with another confirmation that the Age of Grace will have ended and Daniel’s 70th Week will have begun.
In the New Jerusalem, the incredible home our Lord has been preparing for us, the Church will be enjoying the first chapter of our eternal life with Him, hidden away like a bride in her bridal chamber. But on Earth Daniel’s 70th Week will bring horrific judgments as God prepares the creation for its restoration.
Then the Times of the Gentiles will end, the creation will be restored to its original splendor. The Lord will assume His rightful place as King of the whole Earth, and the Kingdom Age will begin. The New Jerusalem will descend out of Heaven to take its place as the source of light for the world (Rev. 21:24). The Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace will have both found their fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.