by George Sidney Hurd
I have recently had discussions with individuals who defend the belief that there are two distinct gospels found in the New Testament – one gospel for the Jews which required circumcision as well as other law observances, and the other gospel which Paul preached to the Gentiles which was salvation by grace through faith alone.
It is commonly held by them that, by the end of Paul’s own lifetime, the gospel which he had preached to the Gentiles had been rejected by all those whom he had evangelized in Asia Minor, being displaced by the gospel of the circumcision. This is based upon their interpretation of Paul’s statement that all those in Asia had turned away from him (2Tim 1:15). From this they deduce that the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone preached by Paul was lost to the Church in the first century, being replaced with Peter’s works-salvation gospel. This is how they explain the fact that such a doctrine is not found anywhere in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Most who hold to this two-gospel message argue that very few have been saved from Paul’s day to the present, since the majority have only heard and received the gospel of the circumcision which requires works for salvation.
Being a Dispensationalist myself, I was always somewhat familiar with the two-gospel teaching. However, those brethren who held to this teaching were generally regarded by most as being a sectarian fringe group of Hyper Dispensationalists and I didn’t give much thought to the subject: That is, until I encountered some among us Universalists who also hold to a variation of this same teaching. From what I have been able to gather, its main proponent among Universalists today is Martin Zender. 
I am in agreement with them in that the gospel of grace through faith alone which Paul preached is the only way that we as Gentiles may be saved. However, the main point of contention is their claim that there was a different gospel for the Jews which required that they perform works of the Law in addition to faith in order to be saved.
Additionally, according to them, only Paul’s epistles are applicable to the Church today. They claim that the Church did not begin on the day of Pentecost when the gift of the Holy Spirit was first given to believers, but midway through Acts with the stoning of Stephen and the commissioning of Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Therefore, the other twelve Apostles are not even part of the Church of Jesus Christ, according to them.
Upon what foundation is this doctrine based? Amazingly, as we shall see, the entire doctrinal scheme was derived from only one verse as it was translated in the King James Version, taken out of its context. Their key passage is Galatians 2:7-9 which reads:
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” (Gal 2:7-9)
From verse 7 they argue that there were two distinct gospels – one under Peter’s apostleship, pertaining to the Jews, and the other under Paul’s apostleship, pertaining to the Gentiles. They argue that the Jewish gospel preached by Peter required circumcision and law observance in addition to faith in order to be saved, whereas the gospel proclaimed by Paul was salvation by grace through faith alone.
However, even a casual consideration of the context in which this verse appears makes it abundantly clear that Paul here is not speaking of two distinct gospels, but rather the only true gospel, the gospel of grace, which was presented to all people-groups, including the Jews. After Paul’s brief introductory statements in chapter one, he goes directly to the motive of his epistle, which is to expose the Judaizers who had crept in among the Galatians and were subverting the faith of some, presenting another false gospel. Beginning in verse 6 he says:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:6-9).
Paul here most emphatically says that there is only one gospel and that any gospel other than that which he preached was in fact not a gospel at all. Those who argue for two gospels say that the gospel Peter preached to the circumcision required circumcision and law observance. However, that is the very false gospel that Paul opposes here in Galatians. Paul said concerning circumcision:
“Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal 5:2-4).
The two gospel advocates say that the gospel of the circumcision required that they be circumcised and keep the Law. But Paul says that if one seeks to be justified by any ritual or by the works of the Law, then Christ would profit them nothing. Seeking to be justified by works constitutes a falling from grace. It cannot be argued that Paul only means to say that the Gentile believers cannot be justified by works, whereas the Jews must, since he makes it abundantly clear that absolutely no one can be justified by the works of the Law. He said:
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that A MAN is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law NO FLESH shall be justified.” (Gal 2:15-16).
Paul here includes himself and Peter, both being Jews, when he says that NO MAN – NO FLESH, can be justified by the works of the Law. Likewise, in Romans 1 thru 3, Paul establishes that both Jew and Gentile alike stand guilty before God without any possibility of being justified by the works of the Law. In 3:20 he sums up the matter saying:
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall NO FLESH be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:20)
Paul emphatically states that NO FLESH can be justified by the Law. It only served to give us the knowledge of our own sinful condition – nothing more. The Law was the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones (2Cor 3:7). It was not given to live by but to die by. After having done its work, destroying all hopes of self-salvation, Paul in the next verse introduces the one and only true gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of grace:
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, TO ALL and ON ALL who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all (both Jew and Gentile) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:21-24).
So, the good news for all, including both Jew and Gentile, is the gospel of free justification by grace apart from the works of the Law. If a supposed gospel includes works, then it is not a gospel at all, because it cannot save anyone – not even a Jew. There can be no two gospels.
One of the main reasons why there are so few Jews being saved in this present time is because they still seek to establish their own righteousness by the Law and reject the only true gospel of justification by grace through faith alone. Paul said concerning the Jews of this time:
“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to EVERYONE who believes.” (Rom 10:2-4)
“Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Rom 11:5-6)
So, it is abundantly clear that the Jews must be saved by the same gospel of grace apart from works, rather than by a different gospel. It becomes even more evident that Paul did not see Peter’s gospel as being different from his as we continue reading in Galatians chapter two. Right after saying that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto him, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter, Paul relates an incident in which he confronted Peter and others of the circumcision because they were not living “according to the truth of the gospel (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, sing.)” (Gal 2:14-16). Included in his reproach he reminded them that “according to the gospel” they as Jews knew that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ.”
If indeed there were two distinct gospels, Paul would not have reproached Peter for not living according to “the gospel” (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). If Peter’s gospel were different from Paul’s gospel he wouldn’t have said “the gospel” with the definite article. He would have said that Peter wasn’t living according to his own gospel. However, if indeed Peter’s gospel required that the Jews live as a Jew, as the two-gospel advocates claim, then Peter would have actually been living according to his circumcision gospel by separating from the Gentile believers.
Two Gospels, or the Progressive Unveiling of the One and Only True Gospel?
The two-gospel advocates note differences between the Gospel of the kingdom of God presented by Jesus and the twelve Apostles in the Synoptic Gospels and conclude from that there must be two different gospels. Prior to the cross, the Jews were called upon to repent and believe the gospel, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Mark 1:15; Matt 10:5-7). However, after the resurrection the gospel also included the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1Cor 15:3; Acts 2:23-24; 10:39-40).
Rather than two gospels, what is progressively presented to us in the New Testament is the unveiling of the one and only true gospel; from its seed form during the life and ministry of Christ; to His burial as a seed falls into the ground, and then to its full bloom through Christ’s resurrection from the dead victorious over sin and death as our Last Adam.
The two-gospel advocates argue that there was the gospel of the kingdom, which was for the Jews only, and then there was the gospel of Christ’s death burial and resurrection, which Paul preached to the Gentiles. It is true that the gospel was first preached to the Jew, but it is the same gospel that saves both the Jew and the Gentile. As Paul said:
“For I am not ashamed of THE GOSPEL of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the JEW FIRST and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Rom 1:16-17)
So, while it is true that the gospel of Christ was first preached to the Jew, and only afterwards to the non-Jews, it was the same gospel of grace and not another. The gospel of Christ is the same gospel which was first proclaimed to the shepherds the night Jesus was born in a manger. We can see the universal reach of this one and only true gospel from its very beginnings in the Angel’s proclamation:
“Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to ALL PEOPLE… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:10, 13-14)
The gospel of Jesus Christ never changed into another gospel – it simply blossomed into the full-blown gospel, expanding to include all people, both Jews and non-Jews, just as it was finally revealed to the Apostle Paul.
The Correct Rendering of Galatians 2:7
With this understanding concerning the one and only true gospel of Christ, we can now turn our attention to the one verse from which the two-gospel doctrine found its origin, Galatians 2:7. The word “gospel” only appears once in the phrase, “the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.” It literally reads “I was entrusted with the gospel of/to the incircuncisión just as Peter of/to the circumcision.” Some translations favor the Authorized Version’s rendering “gospel of the circumcision,” but the majority of recent translations, taking into account the context, render it as “the gospel to the circumcision.”
The two-gospel advocates insist that the only correct rendering is “of the circumcision,” saying that it must mean “of” and not “to” because it is in the genitive case in Greek, rather than the dative (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας καθὼς Πέτρος τῆς περιτομῆς). However, insisting that the genitive must always be rendered “of” shows a lack of understanding concerning the diverse uses of the genitive case. 
One of the uses of the genitive case is referred to by the Greek Scholar A.T. Robertson as the objective genitive. This usage would read as “to” or “towards” in English.  For example, in 1 Peter 2:19, it speaks of a good conscience “toward” God (διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ), while Luke 6:12 also is an objective genitive, and is properly rendered prayer “to” God (ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ). It is too simplistic to force the meaning “of” upon every genitive without due regard for its actual use in the context. Considering the context of Galatians 2:7, it becomes very clear that the correct rendering is “I was entrusted with the gospel to the incircuncisión just as Peter to the circumcision.”
It is the same gospel message, but Paul presented it in such a way as to be understood and received by a Gentile, whereas Peter presented it in a manner that would be more readily received by a Jew. As Paul said:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, sing.), that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Cor 9:19-23)
Paul only saw one gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ. But in order that he might win and save all, he became all to all people in his presentation of it. Here in 1Corinthians 8 thru 9, as well as in Romans 14 thru 15, Paul instructs Gentile believers who know the truth concerning our liberty under the New Covenant as to how we are to relate to those who have a legalistic background. He says that we are not to flaunt our liberty in Christ before those who feel that they must live under the dietary restrictions and ceremonial observances such as the Sabbath. However, while his presentation of the gospel differed depending upon his audience, the gospel remained the same and not another.
The two-gospel advocates rightly point out that Paul received greater revelation as to the mystery of the gospel. In fact, to him were revealed mysteries as to no other Apostle. However, the mystery of the gospel was not that there were two gospels. To him was revealed the mystery that God had always planned to unite Jews and Gentiles, forming one body. He said:
“if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, sing.).” (Eph 3:2-6)
Here we see that the mystery revealed to Paul was not that of two people groups with two gospels, but one gospel and only one people – His body, the Church. The revelation given to Paul did not produce division but oneness. Two gospel advocates cite Paul’s reference to the gospel which he preached, referring to it as “my gospel” as evidence that it was exclusive to him. Paul said:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.” (Rom 16:25-26)
In the first place, it only needs to be pointed out that, for him to say that the gospel is “his gospel” in no way makes it exclusive to him. For example, when I say, “my faith,” “my God,” or “according to my Bible,” etc., it is obvious that I don’t mean to say that they are exclusive to me or that they originated with me. Also, Paul always sought to preach the gospel where it was as yet unknown (Rom 15:20). Therefore, it is to be anticipated that he would have become accustomed to referring to the gospel as his good news since no one in the region would have previously heard of it. While Paul as no other received revelation of all aspects included in the gospel of Jesus Christ, he clearly did not present another gospel.
If the two-gospel advocates simply emphasized the gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone as Paul proclaimed it, it would be an error of little consequence, since that is the true gospel of Jesus Christ which we must believe in order to be saved. However, along with the two-gospel doctrine they further claim that only Paul’s epistles are applicable to us today. The rest of the New Testament, according to them, only had application to the Jewish believers. This has given place to a denial of many fundamental truths of Scripture, such as the reality of sin and the need for repentance and the new birth, saying that they are not applicable to the Church, since, according to them, these truths were not taught in Paul’s epistles. In the next blog I will be considering some of the more damaging doctrinal errors which have resulted from the two-gospel doctrine that began with the misinterpretation of just one solitary verse in Galatians.
 For a chart demonstrating the many uses of the genitive case see:
 Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Objective Genitive.