Are the Jewish Epistles for the Body of Christ?

by Jerry Shugart

What it Takes to be a Member of the Body of Christ

Pastor Paul Sadler, the President of the Berean Bible Society, teaches that those who received the Jewish epistles were not members of the Body of Christ. He gives the following criteria for determining exactly who belongs to the Body of Christ and who doesn't:

"The company of saints who make up Christ's Body consists of 'only' those who are saved from the conversation of the Apstle Paul until the sound of the trump at the Rapture (I Tim. 1:15,16; I Cor. 12:27; I Thess. 4:13-18). 'Only those who have been saved under the terms of salvation found in Paul's epistles make up the true church of this dispensation (I Cor.15:1-4)'" (Paul M. Sadler, Exploring the Unsearchable Riches of Christ [Germantown, WI: Worzalla Publishing, 1993], 103).

First of all, Pastor Sadler gives no evidence from the Scriptures to support his assertion. Next, let us see if those who received Peter's epistles were saved according to the terms of salvation found in Paul's epistles. Here we can see that the salvation of their souls came as a result of their faith:

"Obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet.1:9; NASB).

According to Peter those who received this epistle had already obtained the salvation of their souls and that salvation was the result of their faith. That certainly matches the terms of salvation found in Paul's epistles, as witnessed by what is said here:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Ro.1:16).

In the same chapter Peter says that those who had received his epistles had been "born again" by the words of the gospel:

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God...and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Pet.1:23,25).

The Greek word translated "this" in verse 25 is touto and here "it refers to a subject immediately preceding, the one just named" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

The "word" by which the gospel was preached to them can be found here:

"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Certainly this is the same gospel which is found in Paul's epistles. J.C. O'Hair wrote the following:

"Believers are saved by the gospel set forth by Paul in I Corinthians 15:1 to 4. But in my judgment there is no more definite, true statement of the gospel, in any of Paul's messages, than we have in I Peter 3:18. This is one of my favorite verses in preaching to sinners. Then think of I Peter 2:24 and I Peter 1:18 to 20. In these verses we learn that we are redeemed by the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, because the Lord Jesus bare our sins in His own body on the tree" [emphasis mine] (J.C. O'Hair, Did Peter and Paul Preach Different Gospels?).

Despite the fact that the "context" plainly indicates that the gospel by which these Jewish believers were born again was the same gospel which Paul preached to the Gentiles Pastor Sadler says that it was the kingdom gospel by which they were born again:

" 'And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you,' Peter says. Clearly the context of chapter one leaves us with little doubt that the gospel they had heard preached and readily received was the kingdom gospel" [emphasis mine] (Sadler, "The Life and Letters of the Apostle Peter; Part VI," The Berean Searchlight, August, 2000, 12).

The purpose of the Cross, which includes the fact that sinners are "redeemed" by the blood of the Lord Jesus, was never a part of the kingdom gospel so Pastor Sadler is in error. The word of the gospel which was preached to those who received Peter's epistles was "the preaching of the Cross," a message which was not preached until Paul was converted. Cornelius Stam wrote:

"Until the conversion of Paul the crucifixion had been pointed out as something to be ashamed of and repented of. But henceforth the 'glory' of the cross is to be increasingly unfolded. The apostle looks back upon it and cries: 'He loved me and gave Himself for me!' He proclaims it as the ground of redemption and offers salvation through it. He 'boasts' in it. Thus to Paul was first committed what is properly called 'the preaching of the cross' (1 Cor.1:17,18)" [emphasis mine] (Cornelius Stam, Acts: Dispensationally Considered; Vol. II [Stevens Point, WI: Worzalla Publishing Co., 1983], 32).

Pastor Sadler himself recognizes that the facts concerning redemption by blood was not preached until the conversion of Paul:

"You see it was given to Paul to explain the significance of Calvary. He was the first to reveal that Christ is the mediator between God and man, the first to teach that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, the first to show that we have redemption through Christ's shed blood, even the forgiveness of sins, the first to make known that Christ died for all, the first to reveal that Christ was the propitiation for the remission of sins that are past (prophetic saints), through the forbearance of God" [emphasis added] (Sadler, "Christ and Him Crucified; The Preaching of the Cross," The Berean Searchlight, January, 2002, 9).

Despite the clear fact that "redemption" by the blood of the Lord Jesus is the heart and soul of Paul's gospel and had nothing to do with the kingdom gospel Pastor Sadler insists that Paul's gospel was not preached to those who received Peter's first epistle:

"But simply because Peter freely uses Pauline terms like 'grace' and 'peace' under the direction of the Holy Spirit, in no way implies that he was preaching Paul's gospel. While Peter acknowledged Paul's apostleship and openly confirmed his message, he did not proclaim it as truth for his hearers to obey" (Sadler, "The Life and Letters of the Apostle Peter; Part II," The Berean Searchlight, February, 2000, 10).

Again, Pastor Sadler is in error. Even by his own criteria as to who belongs to the Body of Christ we can know that those who received Peter's epistles were members of the Body of Christ. They were 1.) saved after Paul's conversion and 2.) they were saved under the terms of salvation found in Paul's epistles.

Apollos

Now let us look at Apollos and see if Pastor Sadler is correct when he limits those who are in the Body of Christ to those who were saved after Paul's conversion. At one time Apollos was a believer "knowing only the baptism of John":

"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John" (Acts 18:24-25).

But later, after Aquila and Priscilla had "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (v.26) we see Paul saying that Apollos watered what he had planted and they are both "one":

"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one" (1 Cor.3:5-8).

Apollos was watering what Paul had planted because both were members of the Body of Christ and both were ministering to those in the Body of Christ. It is inconceivable that Apollos was not a member of the Body of Christ since Paul says that "he that planteth and he that watereth are one." In the following passage Paul speaks about that oneness:

"For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace. And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Eph. 2:14-16).

Here we see the Apostle Paul speaking about the Jews and Gentiles being made "one" and reconciled in one Body. It is inconceivable that Paul would say that both he and Apollos were "one" but yet they were not "one" because Paul belongs within the Body of Christ but Apollos did not.

Pastor Sadler's assertion that no one who was saved before the conversion of Paul became members of the Body of Christ is in error. Not only that, but we have already seen that those who received Peter's epistles met all of the qualifications for being in the Body of Christ which Pastor Sadler himself set forth.