Updated: Jan 16
Praise God for all the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ over the last few centuries. Not only has Christianity become the dominant religion of the West, but it has spread to every continent. Even in China, there is currently an estimate of 130 million Christians; moreover, there are now more Christians in Africa than in any other continent. That is astonishing.
The spread of the gospel as a result of tens of thousands of missionaries, who through the love of God and humanity, gave themselves for evangelism. It is profoundly moving and inspiring to hear of the sacrifices missionaries have made. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of preachers continue to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the earth. Truly, God deserves the glory for this gospel work.
While the number of Christians increased, the number of divisions and factions in the form of multiplication of churches has also increased. There are now more than 30,000 denominations of earth and growing year by year. The sad state of affairs is that in countries where the majority of the population consider themselves Christians, corruption and moral standards continue spiraling downward. Something is missing!
The Lord Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand (Matt. 12:25). The kingdom of God is made up of His people, those with faith in Jesus Christ. Since there are so many divisions including hostility toward each other among God's people—, how can the kingdom of God have any influence and standing in the world today?
While the gospel of grace for personal salvation needs to continue to be preached throughout the Earth, the gospel of peace (the manifestation of His kingdom) is what is critical and essential these days for unity among God's people in order that the world might believe in the reality of Jesus Christ unto the ending of this age.
The completion gospel: grace and peace
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God . . . ,
For He, Himself is our peace, who has made the two (Jews and Gentiles) one and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees. He did this to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace . . . He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. [Eph. 2:8, 14-15, 17]
Ephesians 2:8 may be one of the most famous verses in the New Testament: “Saved by grace.” This is the gospel of grace for personal salvation. Just about all preaching for the last few centuries until today is the proclamation of the gospel of grace. We wholeheartedly agree with this gospel; therefore, there’s little need at this juncture to elaborate.
However, the same chapter speaks of the need to preach peace. This is the peace between two divided and hostile people: the Jews and Gentiles. The division and enmity between these two peoples were literally created by God through “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15). Even though Christ has abolished this wall of separation—the enmity or hatred resultant from this estrangement in His flesh on the cross to create one new man (Eph. 2:15-16), believers in Christ continued to struggle and segregate. It has been extremely difficult to overcome centuries of racism, cultural differences, and religious norms.
Consider the apostle Peter, he disobeyed God three times to eat the unclean animals, which is to say to eat with the Gentiles (those of the “nations”— (Acts 10:13-16). By God’s mercy, Peter eventually went to preach the gospel to a Gentile household, and they all came to faith in Jesus Christ. However, even after this powerful experience, years later in Antioch, he and all his fellow Jewish Christians withdrew and separated themselves from eating with ethnic believers in Antioch who were not Jewish.
Therefore, the apostle Paul rebuked Peter publicly, because his separation could not be excused or tolerated. His partition is against the truth of the gospel. Division among believers is against the very purpose of the gospel, the reality of the gospel. Many preachers would give their lives to proclaim Jesus died for the sins of humanity because that is the truth. However, divisions between Christians have been ignored and treated as a minor issue. No, Jesus also died to bring divided people into one. That is just as much the truth as His dying to take away the sins of the world. This is the “fullness” or “completion” of the gospel (Rom. 15:19)!
John 11:52 clearly tells us that Jesus died in order to bring the scattered children of God into one. Somehow, Christians have neglected this truth of the gospel. They can preach boldly that Jesus Christ died for humanity’s sins (1 Cor. 15:3), but deafening silence concerning the preaching that Jesus died to unite God’s children!
But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness [completion] of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:29).
The apostle Paul preached the gospel of God to the saints (believers) in Rome (Rom. 1:7, 15), which is counterintuitive—“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). People normally associate the gospel is preached to the unbelieving, the “unsaved.” However, Paul is preaching to believers. The reason: the saints in Rome were already divided into multiple groups (Rom. 16), and they needed to be brought into oneness, one fellowship. It is understandable and perfectly natural for Jewish believers and Gentile believers to gather separately in order to keep their diet (remember Peter?); or for rich Christians to be segregated from slaves and those impoverished.
Therefore, the entire, full, complete gospel needed to be preached since they were divided—ergo disobedient (Rom. 11:32). Romans chapters 1-8 acclaims the gospel of grace (Rom. 5:2) for personal salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification for individuals no matter the distinctions (Jews or those being called out from among the nations). A believer being brought into glory shares the same image as all believers in Jesus Christ, but this identification did not complete the entirety of the gospel message! That was only half of the epistle (Romans 1-8 but not Romans 9-16).
Paul used the second half of his letter to preach the gospel of peace (Rom. 10:15) to Christians in factions who had identified themselves into two contrary groups. The Jewish believers would consider themselves the superior group since they were chosen and a recipient of the law of Moses (Rom. 9:13; Acts 15:1); and, after all, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). Conversely, the Gentile group also used Scripture to show that Israel (including the Jews—the “natural branches”) have been cut off, and now those from “among the nations” (aka, the “wild branches”) have been grafted into the common root that bore them both (Rom. 11:17).
The gospel of peace was needed to cause every divided believer who considers themselves more superior to repent and have their minds renewed. Each Christian, no matter with which group they have identified, would no longer think more highly of themselves because every member with different functions is needed in the One Body of Christ (Rom. 12:1-5).
In other words, the juxtaposition of “Jacob vs. Esau” does not highlight the sovereignty of God but God’s desire to bring in His reconciliation between them both for He has “included all in disobedience that He might have mercy on them all” (Rom. 1:32). Remember, Jacob and Esau, embraced after their estrangement and the astonishing declaration by Jacob-Israel when this happened: