Skip to comments.The Acts of the Apostles Considered Historically and Dispensationally
Posted on 03/24/2011 12:03:01 AM PDT by John Leland 1789
No. 223., January, 1913., Vol. XIX., No. 1., pp. 7-9.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES CONSIDERED HISTORICALLY AND DISPENSATIONALLY. (Reprinted from Vol. XIII., Feb., 1907)
THE writings of Professor Ramsey re-affirm and emphasize the genuineness and authenticity of this important and unique Book of Scripture, and the more recent references to it in professor Harnack's New Testament Chronology, interesting as they are from the point of view of Modern Criticism, will be of even greater service to theologians generally if they help to draw attention to what is as yet a strange and widely prevalent misconception as to the real purpose of the Acts of the Apostles, the last of the historical books of Scripture.
In the Four Gospels we have, portrayed in plain and strikingly solemn language, the rejection and crucifixion the One who was and is the true King of Israel, the true Servant and Prophet of Jehovah, the lowly and yet glorious Son of Man: and the One who was and is the Eternal Son of the Living GOD.
This rejection as set forth in order, and by a number of historical incidents, in the Synoptic Gospels; while, at the commencement of St. John's Gospel we are told what the solemn and tragic result of His Incarnation was; namely, that He came unto His own and His own received Him not. (1.11).
Regarded from the historical standpoint, we see that the Four Gospels have a very deep significance if we would rightly apprehend the full force of the expression, "the Gospel of the Grace of God." This expression is not met with in the Word of God until we come to the Twentieth Chapter of the Acts, verse twenty-four. Indeed the word "grace" does not once occur in the first two Gospels, while in Luke and John it is referred to only to show what it was that man rejected when he rejected Christ. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
The well-beloved Son of GOD came and tabernacled among us, but they hated both Himself and the Father Who sent Him in love and grace.
The Four Gospels mainly set forth Christ's good news about GOD, whereas in the Epistles we have, for this present interval, GOD'S good news about Christ, that is, "the Gospel of the grace of GOD" concerning His Son.
So, too, with the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, regarded from this same historical standpoint. It is not only the coming of the Holy Spirit to Israel with the "signs following," as in Joel, but we have the solemn record of the rejection of the Spirit, and of the offer, made with accompanying miraculous signs, of the Return or Parousia, to introduce the Kingdom of the Risen Christ, those "times of refreshing" which cannot come to Israel and the world generally, so long as the "blindness" is upon the chosen earthly People.
"Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost," was the witness of Stephen; "as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before the coming of the Just One; of Whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers." (Acts 7.51, 52).
Let us notice some things recorded in the Acts which ceased when the period of thirty-three years was over: a unique interval in or between the "age-times;" the special character of which has not been sufficiently emphasized.
Just as Christ was offered to Israel and was deliberately refused, being a stone of stumbling to "both the houses of Israel," so too, was the offer made by the Holy Spirit, through Peter, that if there was a national repentance on the part of the Jews of Judaea and of Israel in the Dispersion, those "times of refreshing" would come, and GOD would send back the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 3.19-21, R.V.).
Stephen saw Him "standing" at the right hand of GOD (Acts 7.56). For, not as yet had He sat down to wait "until His enemies should be made His footstool" (Heb. 10.12).
It was first of all to the synagogues of the Jews that the Apostles Paul and Barnabas went. The Greek word for "synagogue" occurs 20 times in the book of the Acts----not once in the Epistles of Paul.
The sentence of national blindness, foretold in Isaiah 6. seven hundred years before this critical point in Israelitish history, was impending over the favoured nation.
The Lord Himself had twice referred to this solemn sentence of judicial blindness; but it was left to the Apostle Paul to follow in the steps of Isaiah and to say, "Here am I, send me" (to deliver this solemn message).
When at Rome, as recorded in Acts 28, he addressed the Jews for the last time as a corporate body at the close of his ministry, so far as going to them in their synagogues was concerned; he quoted that "one word"----that solemn sentence of blindness which now for nearly two thousand years has darkened the eyes and hardened the hearts of that still rebellious and unbelieving People.
The Apostle had already warned them in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13.46). "Since ye judge your selves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles."* It was then that they were being provoked to jealousy by them which were no people and made angry by a foolish nation, who asked that they might on the following Jewish Sabbath have the privilege of hearing for themselves those good tidings of the proffered return of Christ, and of the coming of that time when it was foretold that not only would the tabernacle of David be restored, but the Gentiles also should share in the blessings; as it is written, "Rejoice ye Gentiles with His people" (Deuteronomy 32.19-21, 43).
--------------------------- *This was only local, not national, as may be seen from 14.1. Compare 18.6 with 18.19. Note the contrast----in 28.28. ---------------------------
"The prisoner of the Lord for you Gentiles," after he had pronounced the sentence of blindness of Isaiah 6, was sustained in his prison in Rome; and he was soon afterward inspired to write the most profound of all the sacred writings----the Epistles to the Ephesians, the Philippians and Colossians, oracles of GOD which contained the deepest truth concerning Christ and the Church, the Mystery hidden during and from "the age-times," to which there is no allusion in the Acts of the Apostles.
The transitional and unique period of time----"the generation"----recorded in the Acts, was concluded before the Epistles of the Captivity were written, and so, when it is affirmed that "the Church began at Pentecost," we must remember that Pentecost had its Jewish application first, as in Leviticus 23.15; and must not allow this partial truth to carry with it a wrong application.
We must also bear in mind that the revelation of the Mystery "hid in GOD" was not set forth until "the age-times" were over;* and the period covered by the Acts formed the closing epoch of those age-times before the present interval of grace began----Christ, "the Hope of Glory." This mystery among the Gentiles contains a deeper and fuller revelation of "the Gospel of the glory," than is revealed in the Acts.
After the glorious translation of the Church of the Mystery according to Philippians 3.11, 14, 20, 21, when these bodies of our humiliation will be transfigured into the likeness of the body of His glory, then, it may be, the broken-off events which commenced at Pentecost with the miraculous speaking with tongues and "special signs," will again begin to run their course, to be followed by the remaining portion of the unfinished prophecy of Joel:
"And I will show signs in heaven above and in the "Earth beneath, blood and fire and pillars of smoke. "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon "into blood, before that great and terrible day of the "Lord come. And it shall come to pass that whosoever "shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be "delivered."
Yes, for when GOD'S judgments are going on in the world the people of the earth will learn righteousness. But the Mystery, which ran its course during the break in "the age-times," as plainly revealed in the Ephesians and Colossians, will have been "preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up in glory" (1 Tim. 3.16).
--------------------------------------------------------------- *the Epistle to the Romans was written in A.D. 58, but the postscript (ch. 16.25, 27) in which the Mystery is mentioned was written later, of course by the same writer. Compare this postscript with the very similar words in Ephesians 3.20, 21. This postscript has long puzzled transcribers and textual critics; and, not being understood, has led to putting out verse 24, as in the R.V. ---------------------------------------------------------------
Again, this recognition of the peculiar and unique nature of the thirty-three years history recorded in the Acts leads to a very important question as to the dispensational teaching of the Chronological order of the Pauline epistles.
The earlier Epistles, especially 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, were written before the close of the historical period covered by the Acts, when the Parousia, or return and Kingdom of Christ, was still being offered to Israel and the nations.
Have we not here an answer to the insinuation that Paul was mistaken in hoping that the Parousia might occur even while some of those who were then waiting for GOD'S Son from heaven were still alive, and who might therefore be actually "preserved in spirit, soul and body," till the day of His then expected Parousia (1 Thess. 5.23)?
So long as the offer was being made, within the period covered by the Acts, of the possible immediate return of Christ, is it not natural to suppose that those earlier Epistles of Paul, written before that offer was definitely refused by Israel (both by the Nation in Jerusalem and the Dispersion in Rome), and containing special allusions to the Parousia, would be, in their scope, in accordance with the then distinct offer and dispensational dealing of GOD?
It is remarkable that it is only in these earlier Epistles written before his imprisonment of Rome, and during the course of that period covered by the Acts, that the Parousia is mentioned. The word "Parousia" does not once occur in Ephesians or Colossians; and the translation referred to in Philippians 3 is in connection with the "Calling on high," and the Prize which was connected with the great mystery of Christ and the Church. This mystery, or secret purpose of GOD, was not declared while the Parousia, which would more immediately precede the Kingdom, was then offered to faith.
To His faithful and beloved servant when in prison in Rome, GOD fully revealed this wondrous glory of Christ as the future head of the Universe, with the Church as His fullness (pleroma). This deeper and more exalted truth followed that rejection of the Parousia, and of the Kingdom of 1 Thess. 4 that was now indefinitely postponed; possibly to be taken up again as a distinct offer, only when the Mystery, hid in GOD (to which there is no allusion in Thessalonians), should have been consummated, or "received up in glory."
That Parousia will surely come, notwithstanding the long postponement; for none of GOD'S words scan fall to the ground: but may not the "blessed Hope," as in Phil. 3 and in 1 Tim. 1, and Titus 2., Be fulfilled even before that more public Parousia comes?
It will also be evident, when the foregoing historical aspect of the Book of Acts is recognized, that the miracles and "powers of the world to come," which were so distinct a feature of that exceptional period, naturally ceased when the testimony of the Holy Spirit which they were intended to emphasize, was finally rejected by Israel, as Christ Himself had been.
To pray now (though doubtless with pious intent), for a renewal of Pentecostal gifts while the Mystery is still being preached among the Gentiles, is surely not according to knowledge: for, may not the "blood and fire and pillars of smoke," and other celestial and terrestrial terrors soon follow that renewal of Joel's prophecy, which is only in abeyance so long as this wondrous Day of Grace is yet "preached among the Gentiles"?
You wasted a lot of words by not informing your audience of readers . These Gospels are canonical and were approved at the Council of Trent. There are many other gospels and also epistles that are not in wide circulation.
It’s a shame isn’t it?