The Two Revelators
by Glenn Conjurske
Thirty years ago, as a student at a Fundamentalist Bible institute, I was taught that “there are two great revelators
—-Moses and Paul.” Moses was without doubt the first great revelator, who wrote the first five books of the Bible. And ere he departed this life he wrote, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deut. 18:15). This Prophet has generally been understood to be the Messiah. The Jews did not find the fulfillment of this prophecy in Joshua, nor Samuel, nor David, nor Isaiah, nor Ezekiel, nor any of the rest of their clan. Prophets they were, but not the Prophet of whom Moses spoke. Moses spoke of a Prophet “like unto me,” a great revelator, and the Jews never saw the fulfillment of that prophecy in any of their prophets. They looked for another, a greater, a great revelator, like unto Moses. Many centuries after Moses died, when John the Baptist appeared, the nation was yet in expectation of the fulfillment of this prophecy, and they asked John, “Art thou that prophet?” (John 1:21) —-that prophet, namely, of whom Moses spoke. Their questionings indicate that they may not have certainly understood that “that prophet” was in fact the Messiah —-for they say “Why baptizest thou, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?” —-yet they remained in expectation that “that prophet” was yet to come.
“That Prophet” came, and the apostles and prophets of the New Testament era plainly preached that “that Prophet” was Jesus Christ. Peter said therefore, “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” (Acts 3:22-25). Not that Peter meant “these church days.” No, but “these gospel days,” “these days” of grace and salvation, “these days” of blessing, “in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Verse 26). But all this, I suppose, must be labeled as “Peter’s Blunder” (as a prominent Fundamentalist once entitled the second chapter of Acts), for “the gospel of the grace of God” did not yet exist.
I do not stay long to dispute with such folks. Suffice it to say that I hold as a thing surely to be believed that the discourses of the apostles which are delivered to us in the book of Acts by inspiration of the Holy Ghost are not put there so that we may discover how far astray the apostles were, but that we might learn the truth from them. The prophet like unto Moses, then, the second great revelator, is Christ. John therefore writes, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (Jn. 1:17).
Not that anyone really doubts that Christ is “that prophet.” No, but some have labored with the most subtle sophistry to evade the implications of it. He is, and he isn’t, “that prophet.” He is that prophet, but he is not the second great revelator. He is that prophet, but then it is not “him” which we are to “hear.” His message has in fact been displaced by Paul’s.
Cornelius R. Stam published a book in 1956 entitled, Moses and Paul, and subtitled, “The Dispensers of Law and Grace.” This title alone shows us how far John’s plain statement is believed or heeded by these folks who have gone to seed with dispensationalism. The apostle John says, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and it must be understood that it pertained to Christ, as the “prophet” whom we are to “hear,” not only to provide that grace, but also to give us the message of grace. “Grace and truth” is a message, not merely a provision.
But to continue, years ago I was reading this Moses and Paul by Mr. Stam, and found on page 45 this remarkable statement: “First, it should be clearly understood that `the law was given by Moses’ (John 1:17) while to Paul was committed ‘the gospel of the grace of God’ (Acts 20:24). I immediately wrote in the margin, “What of Jesus Christ?” I then read on, and soon found that Mr. Stam had anticipated my question, for he continues, “We can almost hear some reader object that we have quoted only part of John 1:17; that it goes on to say: `but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,’ not by Paul. A moment’s reflection, however, will reveal the weakness of this objection.
“The `law was given by Moses,’ to be sure, but not at the time of his birth, nor forty years later, when he fled from Pharaoh, nor even forty years after that, when he returned to deliver Israel. It was not until the Passover lamb had been slain and Israel had crossed the Red Sea that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the law from the hands of God. Just so `grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,’ but not at the time of His birth, nor later, during His earthly ministry, nor even when He died and rose again. It was not until after His death, resurrection, and ascension that grace (consistent with truth) came by Jesus Christ
—-and He committed the dispensation of it to Paul.”
Well, this is at any rate plain speaking. “A moment’s reflection,” however, has failed to convince me of the truth of it. So likewise has twenty years’ reflection. Methinks, rather, that to quote such sophistry is to refute it. We may say at the outset that an interpretation so far-fetched simply cannot be the truth. That is really all the refutation that such a statement requires, or deserves. Can it be supposed that the apostle John
—-nay, the Spirit of God —-could give us a statement which was sure to be taken by everyone otherwise than he meant it, and yet give us neither hint nor clue that it was not to be taken in its plain and obvious sense? The only way any normal mind, with no preconceived notions to support, would ever take this statement is that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ during his own life and ministry, precisely as the law came by Moses. Mr. Stam is determined we shall not find the doctrine or the message of grace in the earthly ministry of Christ, and therefore “grace and truth” must be reduced to “grace (consistent with truth)” —-whatever that may mean. But no: John says “grace and truth,” and he is certainly referring to the ministry of Christ, and not merely to the provision of his death. But three verses prior to this he had said, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” This refers to his ministry among men, while he “dwelt among us.”
But these hyperdispensational notions set aside the obvious import not only of John 1:17, but also of almost everything which precedes it in John’s first chapter. “In him was LIFE, and the life was the LIGHT OF MEN. And the light SHINETH IN DARKNESS, and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:4-5). All of this before Paul was ever heard of, while Jesus himself walked the earth.
But further: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of THE LIGHT, that all men through him might BELIEVE. He was not that light, but was sent to BEAR WITNESS OF THAT LIGHT. That was the TRUE LIGHT, which LIGHTETH EVERY MAN that cometh into the world.” (Verses 6-9). All of this is too plain to be mistaken
—-too plain to require any comment —-and all of it before Paul was ever heard of.
At this point I will mention, though I will not insist upon it, that “coming into the world” may be construed with either “every man” or “the true light.” Which way it is taken is purely a matter of interpretation. The word order seems to favor applying it to “every man,” while other considerations favor its application to Christ. Commentators are divided. Suffice it to say, if the true interpretation is, “the true light, which coming into the world lighteneth every man,” the matter is settled, and not another word is needed. But I leave it undecided, for it is my way never to interpret the Scriptures merely to gain a theological advantage, but to insist only upon that which is clear and unmistakable, at least to my own mind. No doubt “my own mind” may have a doctrinal prejudice in favor of a particular interpretation, but if I am aware of it, that prejudice works rather against my adopting of that interpretation, for I am determined not to adopt any interpretation merely because it aids my cause. Such interpretation is dishonest, and I seek truth, not victory. The position for which I contend does not stand or fall with a particular interpretation of this verse, for the obvious import of the entire portion establishes my position beyond cavil.
But before proceeding to the remainder of the introduction to John’s Gospel, I must point out what John records elsewhere concerning this “TRUE LIGHT.” In John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that FOLLOWETH ME shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the LIGHT OF LIFE.” “He that followeth me”
—-now, while I walk among you, and not only when I have left the world. Again, in 12:35 & 36, “Yet a little while is THE LIGHT with you. Walk WHILE YE HAVE THE LIGHT, lest darkness come upon you. … While ye have the light, BELIEVE in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” They had the light while he walked among them. And again at the end of the same chapter, “I am come a LIGHT into the world, that whosoever BELIEVETH on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man HEAR MY WORDS, and believe not, I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world, but to SAVE the world. He that rejecteth me, and RECEIVETH NOT MY WORDS, hath one that judgeth him: the WORD THAT I HAVE SPOKEN, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me, he gave me a COMMANDMENT, WHAT I SHOULD SAY and WHAT I SHOULD SPEAK. And I know that his COMMANDMENT is LIFE EVERLASTING.” He that could dream of thrusting the ministry of Paul into these passages must be out of his senses, and yet it is certainly as legitimate to thrust Paul in here as in John 1:17. Nothing could be more obvious than that these are the words of the second great Revelator. His words are grace and gospel —-not the commandment graven in stone, which was death, but the commandment of the Father which is life everlasting. What he says and what he speaks is life everlasting. “The WORDS THAT I SPEAK UNTO YOU” —-so he said while he walked this earth —-“they are SPIRIT, and they are LIFE.” (John 6:63). And in the face of all this —-and much more of the same sort which could be rehearsed —-men will tell us that he preached the law, or some half-breed gospel, and that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ only after his ascension to glory, and only by the pen of Paul! And let none object that all of my arguments are taken from the Gospel of John. The objection is foolish. Those who heard Christ speak thus of HIS WORDS could only apply it to ALL of his words. They knew nothing of which words would be recorded twenty or thirty years hence by John, and which by Matthew. Nor does it matter. Despite differences in scope and emphasis, the same Savior, grace, gospel, and Revelator are found in all the Gospels. Or have we been mistaken all these centuries to call them “Gospels”? Must it now be “the Law according to Matthew,” and “the Gospel according to John”?
But to return to the first chapter of John, he writes further, “He CAME unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as RECEIVED HIM, to them gave he power to become the SONS OF GOD, even to them that BELIEVE on his name.” (Verses 11-12). This is all grace and gospel, all before Paul was ever heard of, and all leading directly to the statements immediately following, that “the word was MADE FLESH, and DWELT AMONG US … FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. …And of his FULNESS have all we RECEIVED, and GRACE FOR GRACE. For the law was given by Moses, but GRACE AND TRUTH CAME BY JESUS CHRIST.” To thrust the ministry of Paul into this passage, in the place of the earthly ministry of Christ, is as unconscionable as it is unreasonable.
But to return to the prophecy of Deuteronomy, we may say with absolute certainty that all of those Jews who first heard the prophecy of Moses, as well as all of those who read it for centuries afterwards
—-all of those who paid heed to Moses’ words, “unto him shall ye hearken” —-most certainly expected to hearken to “that prophet” WHILE HE LIVED, not merely after he died. This goes without saying. Moreover, those disciples of Christ who actually received him as “that prophet” most certainly also made it their business to HEAR HIM, while he dwelt among them and taught them. This also goes without saying. Nor were they mistaken in this. God the Father gave them the most unmistakable confirmation of this, rending the heavens to speak in the ears of men, and saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: HEAR YE HIM.” “Hear ye him” indeed, and why? Because in a few short years his precious words are to be obsolete —-superseded by the message of Paul? “Hear him” for a grand total of about three and a half years. “Hear him” who spake as never man spake! —-“hear him” for this precious little span of years in which your ignorance is bliss!! —-for beyond that ye must exercise your wits for 2000 years to endeavor to determine wherein ye may yet “hear him,” and wherein his words will lead you astray from the gospel of the grace of God!
Let him believe it who can. ‘Tis really no wonder that it took the church nineteen centuries to discover a doctrine so impossible as this.
But more. That they made no mistake to “HEAR HIM”
—-to hear him as for life, and to treasure up his every word for all of life and all future time —-the Lord himself bears the most unequivocal testimony, upon more than one occasion.
In the first place, after his death on the cross had terminated the reign of law, after the veil in the temple was rent in twain, he commanded his disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:19-20). And now, in the teeth of this strong language of the Lord, some there are who tell us that the message of Christ has been set aside
—-superseded —-by that of the apostle Paul. What is this, if not unbelief?
But it is worse than unbelief. We know very well the reason for this unbelief. It is antinomianism. For those who do not relish that term, it is false doctrine. It is a false doctrine of grace
—-a doctrine which destroys human responsibility and makes void the word of God, making holiness optional, and calling it a serious error to preach repentance —-a serious error, that is to preach what Christ himself commanded the apostles to preach to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. It preaches faith! faith! faith! while it disbelieves the very doctrine of the gospel of Christ. It disbelieves the doctrines of Paul also, for it would find the same terms of salvation in Paul’s epistles as it does in the preaching of Christ, if it would but look for them. The dispensational arguments are only dragged in by the tail, to support the antinomian doctrines already held, but the dispensational arguments are just as false as the antinomianism.
To return to the words of Christ. “Teaching them,” he says, “ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.” All things, that is, which I have commanded you during the whole time that I dwelt among you and taught you. This has nothing to do with anything committed to Paul after his ascension. “Teaching them TO OBSERVE” all of those things
—-and not for a little while at the beginning of the age, nor for a little while at the end of it, but “ALWAYS,” throughout all time, even “unto the end of the age.”
But why do I waste my words?
—-for certain dispensationalists have determined for us that this “great commission” does not apply to the church at all. It is “kingdom” —-“earthly” —-“Jewish.” When the Lord said to his apostles just a little before his death, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. … I go [to heaven] to prepare a place for you,” (John 14:2) —-with what delight they must have exercised their prescience, while they thought —-“These words will one day be written in the Gospel of John. We may therefore freely take them to ourselves.” But when he said just after his death, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations,” their same unerring prescience said —-“`We’ are not `ye’. These words will have the misfortune to be recorded by Matthew, and therefore they have nothing to do with us.” What? You think they had no such prescience? Then how will you acquit the Lord of purposely misleading them? He spoke with all authority, and never gave them a hint that some of his words were to apply now, and some later. Neither did Paul ever give a hint of any such thing, but just the contrary.
But let me tell my readers a little secret: there is a great host of faithful dispensationalists who freely take Christ’s “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” to themselves, who have never yet once observed that in the same breath he commands them to teach them to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them. So wonderful is their ability to see what suits them in the Scriptures, while they remain blissfully oblivious to the rest, though it be in the same sentence. (Not that dispensationalists are the only ones who possess this power. Calvinists have a very large share of it also, and so do the adherents of most every false doctrine.)
But once more. On another occasion the Lord said to his apostles, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, WHATSOEVER I HAVE SAID UNTO YOU.” (John 14:26). Strange talk, this
—-very strange —-if the Savior certainly knew that when the Holy Ghost was come, he would, by the mouth of Paul, set aside and supersede “whatsoever” the Lord had “said” unto them. For what purpose was it to be brought to their remembrance? Men have commonly supposed that this was so that it might be written down in the Scriptures, but for what end? It was all shortly to be superseded by Paul. To have it constantly recalled by the very Spirit of God, to have it written down in the very Scriptures of truth, and that after Paul’s message was given to the church, and without a hint that the words of Christ were no longer in force —-this could only deceive and mislead. Indeed, it has done so, centuries on end —-if we may credit the assertions of a certain sort of dispensationalism.
But come away from all of this sophistry and unbelief and false doctrine, and return to “that prophet,” and “hear ye him.” Not that I would suggest for a moment that we must turn away, or turn back, from the doctrine of Paul, in order to adhere to the doctrine of Christ. Though Paul added some revelations concerning “the mystery,” there is not one breath of contradiction between the gospel which Christ preached, and that which was preached by Paul
—-and indeed, by all the apostles. These notions that Christ preached the law, while Paul preached grace, are false, and foolish to boot. “GRACE AND TRUTH CAME BY JESUS CHRIST.” Christ preached the gospel as surely as Paul did —-and the same gospel that Paul preached —-the gospel of salvation, of the forgiveness of sins, of eternal life, and HEAVEN. To find all of this in the epistles of Paul, and not in the words of Christ, we must willfully close our eyes. In the very Sermon on the Mount, which we are so confidently told is “the law of the (earthly) kingdom,” the Lord admonishes us to “lay up treasures in heaven.” But hear Paul on this theme: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great SALVATION, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3). Observe, this “salvation” which was preached by Christ was not set aside or superseded by those who heard him, but confirmed. What he “began,” they continued.
And least of all did Paul suppose his own words to set aside or supersede the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. “If any man teach otherwise,” he says, “and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing.” (I Tim. 6:3-4). “The words of our Lord Jesus Christ”
—-that is, we suppose, the epistles of Paul! Again, let him believe it who can. But these words of Paul are ignored by those who hold Paul as the second great revelator.
Yet understand, I have no desire to deal any otherwise than gently with those who hold these false doctrines, though I deal as peremptorily as I know how with the doctrines themselves. I once held them myself
—-not because my heart was perverse, but because I was taught them, when I was young and ignorant and impressionable. Moreover, I was taught them by good men, whom I loved and trusted. Thousands of others are in the same position today. They are good men, and beloved brethren, but for all that these hyperdispensational doctrines are evil. They undermine the very “gospel of Christ,” and “the doctrine which is according to godliness.”
For my own part, with what delight do I sit at the feet of him who spake as never man spake! With what unfeigned confidence do I “hear him”! How the heart burns in the presence of his words of wisdom and grace! Not that I would pretend that I never feel a doctrinal difficulty with the words of Christ. To be sure I do
—-and would if Paul did not exist. There are difficulties in all Scripture. Those difficulties have exercised the wit of the best men in the church for centuries. But now we have found an easier way. We eliminate the difficulties by eliminating the scriptures which present them. Thus does Lewis Sperry Chafer “eliminate” the scriptures which enjoin repentance upon the Jews —-by denying their application to anyone else. “When entering,” he says, “upon this phase of this study, it is FIRST necessary to ELIMINATE all portions of the New Testament which introduce the word repentance in its relation to covenant people.”2 And when Paul preaches repentance to the Gentiles, Chafer makes it a mere change of mind, or a synonym for believing!!3 Such wresting of Scripture has its condemnation written on its face. This is theology made easy, to be sure, but it is also theology made false. We know that there are difficulties in the words of Christ, but, taking all of his doctrine together, they are not such as will lead us astray from “grace and truth.” For that we may sit at his feet with all confidence, and hear his word. This is that “good part” which Mary chose —-and chose it during the earthly ministry of Christ. No doubt, did she live so long, she would have delighted also in after years to sit at the feet of Paul, and hear his word. Yet we may be sure she would not have done so, had Paul begun to set aside the words of Christ, as the habit of so many is today. Indeed, I have no doubt that many who are ensnared in the hyperdispensational doctrines of men like Cornelius R. Stam and Lewis Sperry Chafer would delight to hear Christ’s words as Mary did, were it not for the scruples with which their doctrines beset their path. Their spiritual instincts are where Mary’s were. Those spiritual instincts are true. Those doctrines are false.