Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Epistle of James


INTRODUCTION to JAMES





There is some confusion as to the place of the General Epistles. This is especially true of the book of James. It is caused by three factors:
·         The date of these epistles.
·         The subject of these epistles.
·         The receivers of these epistles.

Dispensationalists see a conflict with the Epistles of Paul, especially a conflict between grace and works. These as Circumcision Epistles are distinct from the Church Epistles of Paul. The receivers are Hebrews consisting of the believing Jewish remnant. Hunter observes “much of James sounds like the kingdom teaching of the Lord Jesus and His disciples before the resurrection”[1]  James is addressed to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (1:1).[2] Paul says the Jewish remnant, “Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come” (Acts 26:7). There are several Jewish references in this epistle (cf. 1:18; 2:21-22; 5:4, 7). It does not profess to be addressed to Gentile churches, nor is it addressed to a single church; but to a people or nationality.  This is vital to understanding the book of James.

Author

It is generally believed that James, the half-brother of Jesus is the author (Gal. 1:19; 2:9). This can be traced back to the time of the church fathers in the very early church. Early Christian writing refers to him as “James the Just.” There are three features that fit James as the author:

·         The historical circumstances reflect the time in which James was in Jerusalem. He was the head of the Jewish church at Jerusalem. James fits the portrait gained from Acts (15;13-21; 21:18ff). James maintains Jewish vocabulary and truths. All but thirteen words are found in the Greek Old Testament (LXX). The style is Semitic.

·         The theological concepts fit the early Jewish remnant. Moo calls it a “primitive Christian theology.”[3] This is contrary to the claim that James has no theology. Part of this problem is James is written on a practical level, not a theological one. However, we must not downgrade nor dismiss the theological thoughts in James.  His theology includes (1) God, who is one (1:5; 2:19), the judge (4:11), giver of grace (4:6) and jealous (4:5). (2) The Law of God which is the law of liberty (1:25). The unity of the Law (2:10-11). The royal law needs to be obeyed (2:8). However, “James reveals little concern about obedience to the ritual law.”[4] (3) Eschatology. The main characteristics are the Jewish teaching of the end times. The eschatological judgment is given to stimulate right attitudes and behavior (1:10-11; 2:12-13; 3:1; 5:1-6, 9, 12). The eschatology involves the promised kingdom (2:5). Surely, the letter is not void of theology.

·         There are resemblances to James’ speech in Acts 15 and the letter.

JAMES
RESEMBLANCE
ACTS 15 SPEECH
1:1
He wrote Letters
15:23
1:16, 19
 To the Brethren
15:25
1:27
Keep yourself, Holy
15:14, 29
2:5
Choice of God
15:14, 25
2:7
Name of God
15:17
5:19-20
Conversion
15:19

Date

The letter shows the evidence of being written early, even before Paul penned his epistles. The traditional date of James’s death is 62 AD and had to be written before that time. At the other end, it had to be written after the crucifixion, resurrection, and Pentecost. There is no evidence in the letter concerning the conversion of Gentiles or the issues raised by their conversion. There is no evidence that the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) had taken place.

There are four views of authorship and date (which go together):[5]
·         The work is pseudonymous, written by a Jewish proponent in the second century. This is to be rejected. This takes a low view of Scripture, denying supernaturalism and divine inspiration.
·         It was written by committee and assembled after the death of James. On the same grounds as above, we reject this view.
·         It was written after Paul’s letters. However, one must reject the authorship of James to hold this view.
·         The best view is that it was written by James before Paul’s letters. This clearly puts the epistle during the apostle’s lifetime. There are a number of reasons for the early date: (1) There is little or no connection to the tradition found in the Gospels. It was likely written before the standardization of the Gospels.[6] (2) The manner of the letter is strongly Jewish. Mayor long ago pointed out that, “No less confirmatory of an early date is the Judaic tone of the Epistle.”[7] (3) The primitive nature of the meetings of the Jewish believers. Most scholars put the date in the 30’s to late 50’s. It is most likely the first written document in the New Testament. As such, it cannot be a polemic against Paul since it was written before Paul penned his letters. Blue dates it between 45 to 48 AD.[8] However, Zane suggests a date of 34-35 AD.[9] It is clear that it was written sometime before Jerusalem Council in 48-49 AD.[10]

Unique Features
·         There is no personal reference to any specific individuals among the recipients.
·         One out of two verses are imperatives (commands).
·         James alludes to over 20 Old Testament books. It “has a more Jewish cast than any other writing of the New Testament.”[11]
·         Many references to nature which was a Jewish teaching characteristic. Jesus used this method as well.
·         There are many allusions to the Sermon on the Mount. If Matthew had not been in existence at the time of this letters writing, makes little difference. James was associated with Jesus’ ministry thus it is probable that he heard the sermon, recalling it from memory.[12] Porter gives 45 parallel statements between James and the sermon (e.g. James 1:4 and Matthew 5:48).[13] There are numerous connections between the two, indicating a strong influence of Jesus’ preaching on James. Jesus presented three great truths: (1) Jesus taught on the behavior of believers (cf. Matthew 5:20). (2) Jesus clarified the believer’s goal (Matt. 5:48). (3) Jesus illuminated the method by which to reach maturity (Matt 6:1). These are “the hidden framework on which James hung his challenges to his readers.”[14]
·         The letter is NOT used to teach doctrine, but to lead into an appreciation of what they already knew.
·         Stress is on morality and ethics of the teaching of Jesus.
·         Probably written to Hellenistic Jewish synagogue. Some suggest it was the synagogue of dispersion Jews in Jerusalem, which is referred to in Acts 6:9.

Purpose of James

There is one key word for the purpose of James—edification. James wants to encourage the Jewish remnant to bear their trials with patience and to exhort them to maturity and holiness. He encourages maturity through compassionate service, speech, contriteness, and concern for others. He does so through the Jewish practice of the time, yet there is much that can be applied today. Hill gives this warning:

“I want to make it very clear that we should teach and preach the practical truth found in them [i.e., the circumcision epistles]. As we rightly divide the truth, we must rightly handle the truth and allow the Holy Spirit to apply it to our lives.”[15]





[1]  Finley Hunter, “The Circumcision Epistles,” unpublished paper.
[2]  King James Version is used unless footnoted.
[3]  Douglas J. Moo, PNTC: THE LETTER OF JAMES, [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 2000], 11.
[4]  Ibid, 31.
[5]  Dan G. McCartney, BECNT: JAMES, [Grand Rapids, Baker, 2009], 14-20.
[6]  Ibid, 15.
[7]  Joseph B. Mayor, THE EPISTLE OF ST. JAMES [Grand Rapids, Baker, reprint 1978], cxxiv.
[8]  J. Ronald Blue, BKC: “James,” [Wheaton IL, Victor, 1983], 816.
[9]  Zane C. Hodges, THE EPISTLE OF JAMES, [Irving TX, Grace Evangelical Society, 1994], 12.
[10] Douglas J. Moo, PNTC: JAMES, 26.
[11]  Joseph B. Mayor, JAMES, ii.
[12]  Virgil V. Porter Jr, “The Sermon on the Mount in the Book of James, Part 1,” BIBIOTHECA SACRA, July-September 2005, 346. James Adamson, NICNT: JAMES [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 1976], 22.
[13]  Virgil V. Porter Jr, “The Sermon on the Mount in the Book of James, Part 1” 347-352. I will point out some of these paralells in our notes.
[14]  Thomas L. Constable, NOTES ON JAMES, [Soniclight.org, 2015], 7.
[15] Bob Hill, THE BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO GOSPELS, [Commerce City CO, Biblical Answers Ministry, 1999], 101

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Review on Church & Discipline


40 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AND DISCIPLINE.

By Jeremy M. Kimble, Kregel Academic, 2017.







This is another 40 Question book that is published by Kregel Academic. The author, Jeremy Kimble is a professor at Cedarville College. He has written a clear and concise work on the local church and discipline. As in earlier publications in the series, each chapter answers a question on the subject matter.


He begins with why Church membership and discipline is important and ends with what is their significance in the Christian life. He sees the importance of church membership as preserving the truth of the Gospel; what he calls covenant commitment; and the church is its membership. In the church discipline is necessary because of the mandate of Scripture; it is a proper demonstration of love, and persevering its members in the faith and edification.

He goes on from this starting point to:

Define church membership as a formal commitment.     

Define discipline as the exercise of authority.

He sees the church in relation to the New Covenant and an extension of the Kingdom which he argues from the gospels. To me, this is one weakness in the heavy alliance on Jesus’s earthly ministry and the covenant. Little is said about the church as earthy fined by Paul and his epistles. To him, church membership is linked with the act of water baptism and the Lord’s supper.

After dealing with his Biblical view of the church and discipline, he turns to answers on practical matters including:

1.      Why do some churches not believe in membership?

2.      What kind of church should one join? The characteristics he suggests are somewhat broad and not specific.

3.      On the question who should become a member, he has a good point and emphasis on regenerated people.

4.      Age of becoming a member he says is indicated by maturity and discernment rather their years.

5.      When should some be removed? The unrepentant sin in the life of a believer. He warns that this is not to be hastily, haphazardly, or unlovingly done. The real goal of discipline is restoration, not punishment. (I am afraid in most cases punishment is the true motive).

6.      Benefits of membership is one of the better chapters. Sees the benefits as discipleship, service opportunities, to give structure for your life, and being a witness.

7.      What are the responsibilities? Membership brings responsibilities of submission, helping other grow, and attendance.

He then moves onto questions about church discipline. He looks at several passages on the subject. How it has been practiced in history. He deals with Old Testament discipline of God’s people, not fully recognizing the difference between Isreal and the church. This is the weak and confusing chapter. The Old Testament had an element and authority the church does not have, i.e. the killing of the offender. This is caused by failing to see the Isreal as a theocracy; the church is not. In the Old Testament discipline applied to the nation, not only the individual.

Today in the church discipline is not just corrective but provides growing as a disciple. Discipleship is a call to discipline to accomplish the goal of maturity in Christ. Church leadership has the role of positive and negative discipline in the local church. Discipline is a complex issue because we are sinful people dealing with other sinful people. However, discipline is not always practiced in some churches, but he notes its benefits. Its aim is always restoration. The trouble is we tend to throw out the baby with the bath water. We are quick to punish, slow to restore.

Overall this is a helpful book in simulating one to think. It is a starting point for these issues. It is broad and what I would call a startup book to deeper study on these important subjects. It is a good survey on the issues. It gives much food for thought to the Pastor and church leadership. It is a welcome guide and survey on these subjects. It is readable, understandable, and helpful in spite of a few weaknesses.  

 I received this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Monday, July 31, 2017

Reflections on Romans (4)






Common ground with the Romans (1:6-7a).





Paul uses his unique call and commission to denote common ground with himself and the Roman saints. Many classify these verses as parenthetical.[1] The emphasis is on the Roman saints. The church is clearly connected to Gentiles (1:5). The question is if this only refers to the ethnic gentiles? There are two prominent views:

·         The church is made of mainly Gentiles (Schreiner). This could include the idea that Paul was speaking only to the Gentile portion of the church, not the Jewish side.

·         The reference to Gentiles points to the geographical location, thus the Gentile world (Cranfield). This seems to be the prominent view among scholars. This would account for the references to Jews who are living in Gentile territory (Rom. 2:17).[2]

These believers had three things in common with Paul, brought out by the words “you also” were—

·         “Called of Jesus Christ” (1:6). The phrase is commonly identified as a possessive genitive indicating called to belong to Jesus Christ.[3] The Romans would understand that they, like Paul, were called to belong to Christ. Some would translate the word of as by. We are called by God to belong to Jesus Christ, which makes us a part of Jesus Christ. It is the choice of God the Father. The Christian is a called person.  The choice of God is in power, not according to the flesh, but in Christ who is our wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:24-30). This implies dependence on God’s call and will. Theologians refer to this as the effectual call. It is defined as:

The work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds to the knowledge of Christ and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel.”[4]

·         “Beloved by God” (1:7). Like Paul, the Romans were beloved by God. We are the object of God’s love. Paul uses it a number of times for a characteristic of believers (cf. Rom. 12:19; 16:8-9. 12; 1 Cor. 10:14; Col. 3:12). While God loves the world (John 3:16), but this is on deeper and personal level (1 John 3:1). This dative substantival participle is used in the connection with “your loved.” designate: “(1) the people of faith who are loved by God, (2) Unbelieving Jews, whom God loves ‘because of the patriarchs,’ and (3) those whom Paul himself loves as believers in Christ and his coworkers”[5] (cf. Romans 9:25; Col. 3:12; Rom. 11:28; Rom. 16:5, 8, 9, 12). We are beloved not because of our merit and goodness, we are beloved because of the effectual work of Christ for us. The reason is because of our identification of being accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). 

·         “Called [as][6] saints” (1:7). The word saint means separated or holy one. The words saints and holy is from a common root word (hagios) meaning separated from a common condition. The temple is called holy because it is separate and different from other buildings. Barclay declares, “it is to have a different standard, a different peace and beauty from the stained, frustrate, defeated life of the world—God.”[7] Believers are called saints meaning separated ones. Being separated to God makes us saints. The phrase, “called saints,” has two vital aspects: First, believers are holy people according to God. Second, they are called to a new status and responsibility to God.[8] It is not something we do but is done to us by God. He separated us for His purpose to work through us.

We have the same common ground today as well. We are called; beloved; and saints through Christ our Lord.





[1] Douglas J. Moo, NICNT: ROMANS, 53. C.E.B. Cranfield, ICC; ROMANS, 67. Also Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 83.
[2] See Introduction about the Roman church, especially on the audience of the epistle. 
[3] Richard N Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 83; However, it is not without debate, F. Godet, ROMANS, 83. says it is a genitive of cause—the   calling that comes from Jesus Christ. I take it as Christ being the agent of the call, not the source of the call. 
[4] James Oliver Buswell Jr., A SYSTEMATIC THEOLOG OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION [Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1962], 2:157-158.
[5]  Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 84-85.
[6] The word “as” / “to be” (KJV) are words added by the translators as it is in italics in the translation. The words are not in the Greek text.
[7] William Barclay, THE MIND OF PAUL, [London, Collins / Fontana Books, 1965], 38.
[8]  Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 86.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reflections on Romans (3)






ROMANS 1:5



Paul is a receiver of grace and apostleship (1:5). Paul brings out a number of issues in this text.

The phrase “Though whom” connects verses 4 and 5.  Clearly, Paul is a receiver by the means of Jesus Christ. It reveals the continued activity of Christ and indicates that God is the source (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9; Gal. 1:1). Some downgrade this phrase, saying it is “scarcely necessary.”[1]Though whom” or “by whom (KJV) is the preposition genitive, dia, signifying immediate agency or instrumentality. Wallace identifies it as a genitive of production which produces the nouns (grace and apostleship).[2]

The main verb is the word “received,” which means to take in hand, thus, to receive as a gift. It applies directly to Paul. It is used with the word “we,” an epistolary plural, which we would call an editorial “we” and refers to Paul alone. It speaks of Paul, who alone is the Apostle to the Gentiles (cf. 1:8-16; 11:13)

What he received is identified by the two main nouns: The nouns of grace and apostleship entail his mission and area of responsibility. They specify the awareness that his ministry is unique to the Gentiles (cf. 1:8-16). He states clearly in verse 5 that his ministry for all the Gentiles. There is some debate on the understanding of these two nouns. Either way is permissible.[3] Some understand these as two distinct things: grace and apostleship. Others take it as a hendiadys denoting grace-apostleship. If this is correct, it certainly signifies that the apostleship was a gift of grace. However, Haldane is probably correct that gracious gifts to be used in His service.

The purpose of grace and apostleship to Paul is “to bring about [the] obedience of faith” (1:5). The phrase conveys an evangelistic element. It is used both at the beginning of the epistle and at the end (16:26). Gentile obedience has particular reference to the ministry of Paul and his gospel or apostleship (15:18). Paul received grace and the gracious gift of apostleship for the purpose of obedience of faith.[4] It gives the essence of Paul’s ministry. The phrase itself has given way to a number of interpretations, which Longenecker contributes to the uncertainty of the meaning of the genitive (of faith). He identifies 5 ways in which it could be taken, but he takes it as a genitive of source.[5] Thus, the obedience that comes from faith. However, it seems that most take it as a genitive of apposition. Moo makes these two statements the same: “This obedience to Christ as Lord is always closely related to faith, both as an initial, decisive step of faith and as a continuing faith relationship with Christ. In light of this, we understand the words obedience and faith to be mutually interpreting; obedience always involves faith, and faith always involves obedience.[6] Godet says, “The only possible meaning is: the obedience which consists in faith itself.[7] Obedience and faith in apposition are common in this epistle: Rom. 1:8; 16:19, 10:16; 11:23, 30, 31; 15:18. It is the believer’s response to the gospel of grace, especially the Gentile aspect of the gospel.

The object of this mission to bring obedience of faith “among all the Gentiles” (1:5). Paul’s apostleship was a Gentile apostleship (Rom. 11:13; Eph. 3:1-10). Only Paul has such an apostleship…it was unique, directed, and focused upon the Gentiles. The core of “obedience of faith’ is a part of the mystery/secret (Rom. 16:25-26). It is a manifestation of the mystery. It is the substance of Gentile eternal salvation. It is a realization of the dispensation of grace (Eph. 3:2-3). The heart of its content is the equality of Jew and Gentile (Eph. 3:6). “Paul’s commission is to be viewed as other less than the eschatological actualization of the eternal plan to create faith’s obedience among the nations[8] (Eph. 3:10-12)

It should not be limited to the Pauline mission but includes ethical elements as well. This involved obedience, which is an ethical demand. Surely, the phrase included an ethical sidestep to the Law. As Garlington states:

Whereas before to be a member of the covenant people was to live within the boundary set by the law, the eschatological people have assumed a new corporate identity. And since there is now “no distinction” between Jew and Gentile (1:16-17; 2:11; 10:12; etc.), Paul endeavors in Romans to expound the ethical and social expression of this new corporate entity.[9]

The ethical demand centers upon the phrase “obedience to the faith.” “Faith obedience is set in vivid contrast with legal obedience” correctly states Welch.[10] It is now by faith, not the law, which controls this new corporate body.  In every occurrence in Romans obedience has reference to Christian behavior (cf. 2:8, 5:19; 6:12, 16-17). Ethical obedience has the essence of faith. This is clear in Paul, indicating disobedience is equivalent to unbelief (cf. Rom 10:16, 21; 11:23; 15:31). 





[1]  C.E.B. Cranfield, ICC: ROMANS, [Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1975], 1:66
[2]  Daniel B Wallace, GREEK GRAMMAR: BEYOND THE BASICS, [Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1996], 105-106.
[3]  C.E.B. Cranfield, ICC; ROMANS, 1:66;
[4] This “gives voice to the design of the apostles missionary gospel” notes D.B. Garlington, “The obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans,” Part 1; WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL 52, 1990, 201.
[5]  Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 79-80; See Cranfield, ROMANS, 1:66 for seven options.
[6]  Douglas J. Moo, NICNT: ROMANS, 54.
[7]  F. Godet, COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, [Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, reprint 1956], 82.
[8] D,B. Garlington, The Obedience of Faith,” Part 1, 205.
[9] IBID, Part 1, 202.
[10] Charles H. Welch, JUST AND THE JUSTIFIED, [London, Berean Publishing Trust, reprint 1971], 9.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Book Review of Dispensationalism




Michael J. Vlach, DISPENSATIONALISM: REVISED AND UPDATED, Los Angeles, CA, Theological Studies Press, 2017; 112 pages.

Michael Vlach (of Masters Seminary) has produced a good survey on the issues of dispensationalism. He classifies himself as a mix between a revised and progressive dispensationalist. However, any dispensationalist, no matter how he classifies himself does not attempt to settle the issues. The book deals with basic characteristics of dispensationalism: Its fundament beliefs and myths consider the subject. It covers:

A very brief of history of the system and the variations within dispensationalism.

The essential beliefs of dispensationalism. He gives six essential beliefs:
1.      A historical-grammatical hermeneutic.
2.      The church is not a replacement of Israel.
3.      The Church and Israel are distinct. The church is not the new Israel.
4.      The spiritual unity between Jew and Gentile, but does not cancel the distinctions between the two.
5.      Israel has a future of salvation and role in the Messianic kingdom.
6.      The “seed of Abraham” has a promise to Israel and the Gentiles which are different they are not canceling their unique positions.

He proceeds on to myths about dispensationalism. He centers upon the five most popular myths. Including that it teaches two ways of salvation, it is related to Arminianism, antinomianism, non-Lordship salvation, and it primarily centers on seven dispensations. Plus, lesser myths. He calls the myths false ideas.

This revised work includes 3 new chapters: (1) Continuity and Discontinuity in Dispensationalism; (2) Key Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology, and (3) Recommended Sources on Dispensationalism. He gives a good survey on these issues. He hits the essence of the issues involved. I find the chapters of continuity/discontinuity and its differences with Covenant Theology very good.

The book is short, reader friendly, and does a good job on focusing on some key issues. Issues that are common across the spectrum of dispensation views. It will be helpful to any dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist. He writes from the major Acts 2 position. The are two weaknesses of the book from my view: (1)One weakness is that he completely overlooks the mid-acts dispensational position. (2) He also ignores Dispensational Theologies (such as Lewis Sperry Chafer and Charles F Baker) on his resource list. Neither take away from this excellent work. He has produced a consistent introduction to the field. It will be a helpful introduction to dispensationalism, ideal for beginning students, and will clarify some issues within the field. I found it to be an enjoyable read and refresher on dispensationalism. 

Pastor Jim Gray
Berean Advocate
Maricopa AZ

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reflecting on Romans (2)





THE GOSPEL OF GOD

Romans 1:1-4


Paul was “set apart for the gospel of God.” (1:1). Paul sees himself as “set apart.” This separation is to something, not from something. His calling and separation were to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:15; Rom. 1:5). Paul was “set apart” for this purpose at birth [Gal. 1:15-16]; conversion [Acts 9:15]; and by commission [Acts 13:2]. It has the thought of dedication, especially in the Old Testament. It was used of the firstborn (Ex. 13:12); the first of the harvest which is to be given to the Lord (Num. 15:20); service by the Levites to the Lord (Num. 8:11); and the nation itself as God’s possession (Lev. 20:26).

One of the most important aspects of Paul’s teaching is the gospel. Paul has many different terms in referring to the gospel. Since in Romans the gospel is referred to numerous times by Paul and 60 times in his writings it is vital to see what he means by the term. The word gospel means good news or glad tidings and presents the message of God or His saving work. The verb (evangelizomai) means to announce or preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:16, 23).

Paul uses this phrase, “Gospel of God,” six times (Romans 1:1; 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8, 9; 1 Timothy 1:11). Mark (1:14) and Peter uses it once (1 Peter 4:7). This has two possible meanings; both related: First, it could mean God’s ownership, or second, the giving of the gospel by God. A survey of the expression as used in Scripture indicates that this is a generic term referring to any type of good news given by God. A survey of the term reveals:

The preaching and message of John the Baptist (Mark 1:14). Popularly called the gospel of the kingdom. It is identified as the Gospel of God.
Paul connects the term with the gospel he was called and set aside for, which reached back to the promise of Jesus’ humanity and exaltation. (Romans 1:1-6). This promised was through the prophets and Old Testament scriptures, certainly refers back to the promise given to Abraham. 
Ministering the gospel of God to Christ and to the Gentiles (Romans 15:16).
Paul preached the gospel of God (1 Thessalonians 2:2, 9).
God imparted the gospel of God to believers (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
Peter uses the term (1 Peter 4:17) in the context of the rejection of the gospel of God.

We can safely conclude that the term does not apply automatically to any particular form of the gospel. It is a generic term. All gospels or aspects of the gospel can be said to be the gospel of God. He is the origin and giver of good news in all dispensations. It can be said that the gospel of God is the core of any gospel. The common core in all the uses of the gospel of God is Jesus Christ—his person, work, and exaltation. Two vital things need to be understood as to the term.

It does not rule out the fact that there can be different aspects or gospels under this general heading, such as the gospel of the kingdom; the gospel of grace; the gospel of peace, and others. He is the origin, communicator, and definer of the the different gospels and its aspects.
Each Gospel of God is determined or identified by the context or modifiers in the text. Gospels can have a different focus, forms, instructions, and limitations; but all are the Gospel of God and have a common core—Jesus Christ (cf. Mark 1:1; Rom. 15:19).
Dispensationally we could diagram the Gospel of God as:


GOSPEL OF GOD
TO ISRAEL                                                        TO THE CHURCH
Gospel of the Kingdom                                       Gospel of Grace
Gospel of the Circumcision                         Gospel of Uncircumcision
                                                                         Gospel of Peace
The Earthly Kingdom                                Church, the Body of Christ


The gospel of God opens and closes the book of Romans (1:1-4 cf. 16:25-27). The focus is on the gospel of God which Paul identifies as “my gospel.” It concerns the proclamation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (1:3 cf. 16:25). It is in accordance with, but not in fulfillment of the Old Testament (1:2 cf. 16:25). It is now directed to the Gentiles apart from Israel (1:5 cf. 16:26). This new avenue of the gospel is part of the mystery revealed to Paul (16:25; Eph. 3:1-10). Paul also uses the terms “the gospel of His Son;” “the gospel of Christ;” and “my gospel” to describes this gospel in Romans. 

The foundation of the Gospel of God[1] is threefold. While some dispensationalists seem confused as to this foundation by either holding Paul preached the gospel of the kingdom during his early ministry; or that Paul’s gospel of grace was prophesied in the Old Testament. Neither is the case. There is a threefold foundation common to all the gospels of God (Rom 1:1-4 cf. 1 Cor 15:3-4; 2 Tim 2:7-8).

The Promise of Christ: “Which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2). This could be understood as phase 1 of the gospel. It is to be understood as the promise given beforehand in the Word of God (i.e. Old Testament). He marks the source of the promise, with the Word of God being the channel by which the promise was made known. The promise is akin to prophecy. The clause “concerning His Son” should be understood with the subject of prophetic promise. The basis of the promise is found in Genesis 3:15. He is the star out of Jacob (Num. 24:17). He will be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15). He is the fulfiller of the covenant made with David (2 Sam 7).
The Incarnation of Christ: “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant (seed) of David according to the flesh” (1:3).[2] The prophecy reaches its climax with the coming of the promised one. The word born or made (KJV) is the Greek verb which has the meaning of transition from one state to another.[3] This is phase 2 of the gospel of God, which focuses on the Son of God becoming a man. This brings out His preexistence to His existence of manhood—the incarnation. He was born as a descendant of David. This involves his qualification as Messiah. He came as the seed of David. He became one of us taking on flesh which indicates His human existence with all it features—yet without sin.  
The Resurrection of Christ: “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1:4). This is phase 3 of the gospel. The resurrection is a public declaration of the deity of Christ. It also is in connection with the Holy Spirit (Spirit of holiness). The gospel rests on the cornerstone of Christ—who was promised, incarnated, and resurrected.

There is no gospel apart from these elements. Paul calls the death, burial, and resurrection the “first importance;” (first of all—KJV) (1 Cor. 15:3).    

The gospel gives three aspects in relation to the believer:

      It has the power to save (Rom. 1:2; 1 Cor:1-4).
It has the power to keep the believer secure (1 Pet. 1:5),
It has the power to establish (Rom. 16:25). The knowledge of the mystery is essential to establish us as a member of the body of Christ. The mystery aspect of the gospel was kept secret until it was made know through Paul (Eph. 3:2-3). This mystery explains that the earthly kingdom (preached in the Old Testament and Gospels) has not come and will not come until after the dispensation of the mystery is
Stam asserts:

“In the light of the Word of God as a whole, and especially of the Epistle to the Romans itself, it is clear that Paul here refers not to the contents of his gospel but simply to the fact that God had predicted that He had wonderful good news in store for mankind.”[4]





[1]  God is a most important word in this epistle. It is found 153 times in Romans (once every 46 words), yet this is often overlooked. This is a book about God and His message and work on behalf of mankind. See Leon Morris, PNTC: THE EPISTLES TO THE ROMANS, [Grand Rapid MI, Eerdmans, 1988], 20.
[2]  Some scholars hold that verses 3-4 are part of an early hymn or confession formula quoted by Paul. I do not think that is likely. 
[3]  Leon Morris, TNTC: ROMANS, 42.
[4]   Cornelius R Stam,  ROMANS, 26.