A straw man is not a real man. It scares the birds away because to them it looks like a real man. If you burn down a straw man, you have not hurt anyone. If you think you have, you’re a bird brain.
There are many straw men that constantly get burned in opposition to mid-Acts Pauline dispensational right division. It is a shame when strangers walk into our field and think they are talking about the real issue, when they are not.
Unfortunately, it is often Pauline practitioners and preachers that are to be blamed for setting up these straw men to be burned in the first place. Here are a few things grace preachers say that create straw men.
When you hear these things, know that this is a man of straw that is easily burned. Your message needs clarified.
“Romans through Philemon is to us”
Paul wrote thirteen epistles and they are the books from Romans to Philemon, but finding your instructions is not as cut and dry as picking certain books. The sentiment behind this oversimplification is to communicate the exclusively Pauline location of mystery truth in the Bible.
However, there are places in Paul’s epistles where Paul is not writing about us. Consider Rom 2:17 where he speaks to a Jew resting in the law, or Rom 9-11 where he speaks about a remnant of Israel according to prophecy.
The tools of dispensational context need be applied just as much to Paul’s thirteen epistles as to the rest of the Bible. It is true that in Paul’s thirteen epistles we find our doctrine, but it is not true that everything in Romans through Philemon is our doctrine. That straw man is tinder.
“Twelve apostles for Israel, one apostle for the Body of Christ”
This contrast has the good intention of showing the uniqueness of Paul’s apostleship, and rightly so. There were a specific number of apostolic offices for Israel to correspond to the number of their tribes: twelve (Matt 19:28).
That Paul was singularly called in the beginning to be the apostle of the Gentiles speaks to the unity of Jew and Gentile in one body (Paul being both Jew and Roman – Rom 11:13). There are no tribes in the body of Christ (James 1:1 misses this mystery).
However, it is easy to light a fire on this straw man. It is clear that there was more than one apostle in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:28; 1 Thess 2:6; Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 4:9). Others were called by the Spirit so to be after Paul.
When you make the only apostle in the body the apostle Paul, then passages such as Eph 3:5 must wrongly include the twelve apostles. Best not build this straw man.
“Paul didn’t preach the kingdom”
This straw man suffers from being an incomplete thought. Paul teaches the kingdom in over a dozen places in his writings (yes, even after Acts 28).
He stayed in Rome two whole years “preaching the kingdom of God” (Acts 28:31). He spends ample time explaining to the Corinthians how sin does not belong in the kingdom of God (1 Cor 4:20; 1 Cor 6:9-10). All saved members of the body have been translated into the “kingdom of his dear Son” and are “called unto his kingdom and glory” (Col 1:13; 1 Thess 2:12).
While Paul did preach the kingdom of God (God’s universal dominion over all things in the Lord Jesus Christ – Eph 1:10), he did not preach the gospel of the kingdom as the twelve apostles taught before him. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news that Israel’s Davidic earthly prophesied literal kingdom is at hand (Mark 1:14). Paul was not sent to preach that message.
When this straw man is burned, people dance in the streets thinking dispensationalism is dead not knowing their brainless victim’s true identity.
“There are two gospels in the Bible”
This is an attempt to combat the notion that there is only one gospel message through the entire scripture, but it does not go far enough.
In the Bible there are many gospels (yes, and only one way by which men are saved). There is a gospel of the kingdom (explained above), gospel of grace, gospel of circumcision, an everlasting gospel (Rev 14:6), and a few others.
The gospel message God sends corresponds to what God is doing, and how men ought to respond. Unless God only changed what he was doing once, then there are more than two gospels. This man of straw is destined to burn in effigial glory.
“Peter went to Jews, Paul to Gentiles”
Many straw men are created by oversimplification. This one will burn for a long time.
Obviously, Peter went to gentile Cornelius in Acts 10. (Although he was sent after Paul got saved.) Obviously, Paul went to Jews in synagogues (as well as Gentiles) throughout the book of Acts.
It was always God’s purpose to bless Jew and Gentile. The key is that the message Peter and Paul spoke to these men was different. Peter was to bless gentiles only after Israel’s rise (Acts 11:19; Luke 24:47). Paul went to Jews out of a desire to see them saved by God’s grace without Israel or their law.
Due to the changing dispensation from God, Peter limited his commission to existing circumcision in Gal 2:9, whereas Paul was a chosen vessel to go to all unbelievers: Jew or Gentile (Acts 9:15).
There are many other straw men that people try to shoot down, while the real issues stand a distance away unscathed. Don’t be fooled by the gunfire, look at what they are shooting.
A failure to communicate will lead to a failure for men to see the fellowship of Christ in a mystery (Eph 3:9).
If you thought any of these straw men was the heart of dispensational truth, then perhaps you need to study these issues out. Your faith is flammable.
If we are ever to make progress in making all men see, we must make clear what it means to be mid-Acts Pauline dispensational. It must be made clear so that people can attack the right target and see if it withstands the fire.
If it stands, then it is true. What should be burned up is the chaff of oversimplification and poor workmanship that creates these straw men.