Over the past 10 years, there is a doctrine being set forth that appears to be gaining favor with some segments of the Christian community. Because off its apparent growth and acceptance, I believe it would behoove us to be like the Bereans, and ''check the scriptures...whether these things be so.''
Essentially, the doctrine espouses the view that during the early or formative years of the Church, the Gospel contained a doctrine of faith (in Jesus Christ) PLUS adherence to the law. Only when Paul received the doctrine of faith alone and then completed his writings that became a part of the canon did the doctrine of faith alone become the only one, that which we follow today. This teaching does NOT deny that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary, only that there was an addendum to it that was applicable only to the Jews.
Those who believe in this doctrine are variously called ''ultra-dispensationalists'' due to their belief that there are twelve (or more) distinguishable dispensations (or periods) in God's dealings with man. More often they are called "Acts 9'rs" (or Ax9) referencing the point in time when Paul was converted to Christianity.
Proponents of this doctrine also have a full-blown set of scriptures to lend support to the doctrine. Primarily because they do not deny ''salvation by faith'', the doctrine seems plausible & easily believable on the surface. Even deep study might tend to make one accept it, were it not for the end result it produces without ever stating it.
In my opinion, acceptance of this doctrine of two Gospels succeeds ONLY in calling into question Gods standard of righteousness, and His stated standard, applicable to all, of how that righteousness may be attained. Leading naturally from this would be a question of Gods trustworthiness. If there are different standards applied to different people, then how can we trust that the standard we have followed is the correct one?
We will begin by examining the basic proof text used by the Ax9'rs to establish the existence of ''two'' gospels, as found in Galatians 2:7. ''But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter...''. Note that the scripture definitely states ''gospel OF the uncircumcision''(gentiles) and ''gospel OF the circumcision''(Jews). The word here translated ''of'' is, in the Gr., "to" (that's the best I can render it), a definite article most often translated as ''the'', but also containing ''this, that, one, he, she, it''. Note that in Gal. 2:12, Paul speaks of Peter ''fearing them who were OF the circumcision''. Here the word translated "of" is the Gr. "ek", denoting origin. In this instance the definite article ''the'' is left silent. We begin with an immediate problem in that the word appears to have been slightly mistranslated, which leaves a clear impression in our language that there might indeed be a special gospel of the Jews as opposed to another gospel of the gentiles.
The clear implication in Gal. 2:7 is that there indeed are two gospels, and that the two are different (otherwise there would not be two). Going from this passage only, one could then find many other scriptures that would tend to support this doctrine. Unfortunately, one would have to ignore not just the context of the book of Galatians, but the passage immediately following. In Gal. 2:8 we see ''(for he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)''. This passage effectively establishes that the basis of the subject here is that there are two apostles sent to two different groups, but in no way confirms that the two have differing messages.
Let's look at the context of Galatians. Paul was writing to a group of believers who were beginning to turn from the original message of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Recall if you will that for many years, Paul was dogged in his travels by what he called ''the Judaizers' '. These were, in the main, devout Jews (mostly from Jerusalem) who, although converted to Christianity, still believed (they were raised that way) that it was necessary to fulfill the mandates of Mosaic and ceremonial law in addition to acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. Ax9'rs seize upon the words of Gal. 1:6 ''...another gospel'' as validation of their precept that there is indeed another gospel differing in nature from the one Paul preached. Again, they ignore the following words of Gal 1:7 ''...which is NOT another;''. This clearly establishes that what was being presented as a gospel was not the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Paul establishes ''...there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.'' Paul then continues by saying ''but if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed''.
Later, in Gal. 2:11-14, Paul relates of his contending with Peter and even Barnabas over the fact that because of their fear of ''the circumcision'', they ''walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel''. This, over a simple observance of a lifelong habit having its root in ceremonial law.
In vs. 21, Paul further specifies that if ''righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain''. In Gal. 3:6, Paul goes even further to establish that justification before God occurs only one way, and that is the same for all people, including the Jews. 6 ''Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness 7 know ye, therefore, that they who are of faith, the same are the sons of Abraham.'' Paul goes further by establishing that ''Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law'' (3:13), and states that the law did not alter, change, or add to the Abrahamic covenant, nor can it annul that covenant.
God, from very early days, established and repeated that justification in His sight could be established in ONLY one way - through faith in Him, and that because of that faith, HE would impute His righteousness to the one walking by faith. Enoch (Gen. 5:24) ''walked with God, and he was no more, for God took him''. Job said ''I have heard of thee by the hearing of mine ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefor I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes'' (Job 42:5) and again, ''for I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth (Job 19:25). As previously stated, Abraham was justified by faith, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Habakkuk said "The just shall live by faith'' (2:4).
If we should allow, for just one minute, that there either has been, or is, any other way to God than thru faith in Jesus, without addition, then the entirety of God's being and essence must be called into question. How can we trust a God that changes the rules every so often? How can we trust a God who allows one person to enter into righteousness based solely on his faith, but requires another to obey a law in addition to faith? We can't. And a God that is not trustworthy is no God at all.
I believe that there are several lessons here. One, it is dangerous to establish a
doctrine upon only one passage of scripture, especially if that doctrine does not then
match perfectly with all other scripturally deduced doctrine, and secondly, we must always
look at the final product of a given doctrine. If the final product in any way calls into
question the integrity, stature, or nature of Gods Holy perfection, then that doctrine must
be rejected as false.