Two Gospels?

Gary W. Summers

A few weeks ago, I received a brief e-mail from someone whose name I did not recognize. Following is what he wrote: “We must rightly divide the Word. Learn that Jesus preached to the Jews. Peter was a disciple for the Jews. On the other [hand, GWS] Paul is the disciple for Gentiles. Baptism does nothing for salvation! Ye must be born again!” My reply was: “Five out of your six statements are true. Number 5 is false. See 1 Peter 3:21. How can baptism save us, yet do “nothing for salvation”? You contradict the Word.”

Some may not know what he was getting at, and he did not state it explicitly, which accounts for my brief answer. His position is actually this: Peter preached the gospel to the Jews; they needed to be baptized; Paul preached to the Gentiles, and they did not need to be baptized. This is what he means by “rightly dividing the Word.” The position is nonsense to anyone who knows the New Testament. In effect, he asserts there are two different gospels—one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles. Where does the New Testament teach such an idea?

If anyone ever needs to convince somebody of this faulty theology, the following Scriptures will disprove the error. First, when Jesus gave the Great Commission in Mark 16:15, He said to preach, notice, the Gospel, to every creature. He did not say there were two different gospels by which Jews and Gentiles would be saved. In fact, the phrase, the gospel (sometimes with modifiers), appears about 75 times from Acts onward. Similarly, Jesus told the apostles to be witnesses to Him “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Nothing indicates the apostles would preach one gospel in Jerusalem and another gospel to the rest of the world.

In fact, the book of Ephesians stresses that Jesus broke down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile (2:14-16), who are now reconciled in one body. How? By having two gospels? This is the book that stresses unity—one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father of all (4:4-6). There cannot, therefore, be two faiths—nor one baptism for Jews but none for Gentiles. We are all children of God “through faith in Christ Jesus,” and we all put on Christ through baptism (Gal. 3:26-27).

When I sent a response to the man who erroneously believes that there are two different gospels—one for Jews and one for Gentiles—I did not actually expect a reply. It is not unusual for someone to send an e-mail and then ignore what I say to them in return, but this fellow actually wrote a second time. He elaborated on the two-gospel theory briefly, claiming that teaching “a Gentile that salvation is based on more than faith” is “a heresy.” Gentiles, he claimed “are saved by faith and nothing else.” I did not yet respond to this untrue claim because he wrote something even more fundamentally false. Remember I had cited 1 Peter 3:21? He wrote back: “1 Peter 3:21 has nothing to do with water.” Yes, I know that everyone who is familiar with the Scriptures is yelling, “What?” Following was my answer to the writer.

Thanks for your response. There are several points I would like to make, but time seems to be at a premium for you; so, I will just deal with the first point you raise, which was “1 Peter 3:21 has nothing to do with water.” …it always helps to look at a verse in its context. Did you fail to notice that the last word of the preceding verse is water? The ark in which Noah and his family lived is being discussed. They were saved through water—not the Holy Spirit. That event served as the type, for which baptism (in water) is the antitype. The Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in this context. It is hard to miss the water that is there. Where are you getting your information? Not from the text! I challenge you to pick up a commentary to see what it says. Try Barnes, or Clarke, or the Pulpit Commentary. Of course, the text decides it, but you will find that few, if any, commentaries agree with what you have postulated.

This seemed like a reasonable thing to ask the writer to do. First and foremost, the text of any verse is important. Anyone who has read 1 Peter 3:20-21 knows that the water of verse 20 corresponds to water baptism. Looking at the text is fundamental in studying the Bible. Those under the water in Noah’s day were drowned; those under the water in the Christian era are saved. The power is not in the water but through the resurrection of Christ (see Romans 6:3-5).

I had not looked up anything in the recommended commentaries when I gave the advice, but here is what they say: Barnes says in 13:2:150: “in like manner we owe our salvation, in an important sense, to water; or, there is an important agency which it is made to perform in our salvation.” Clarke agrees (6:862). Pulpit says that “the water that saves is the water of baptism” (22:1:137). Instead of checking on these and considering the passage, the writer sent back the following message the same day: “Wish you the very best. Have a good one.” That was it. Hmm.

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