SEED & BREAD
THE IMPORTANCE OF ACTS 28:28
Great and complex truths cannot be said to be known until we have known
and worked with them for a long time. It was in 1934 that I tentatively
embraced the idea that Acts 28:28 marks a dispensational boundary line
Since then I have never ceased to search for a fuller and more complete
understanding of the truth declared in this passage, to relate it to all
that happened in the thirty-three years of the Acts period and to all
that is now true since this declaration was made. Paul's words in this
passage, spoken and recorded by inspiration of God, mark the close of
the Acts period and the beginning of the Dispensation of Grace.
We hear much today about commitments, and no professing Christian should
be without them. Some commitments are made with reservations and are
subject to change. Others are made without reservations and can undergo
no alteration. I believe that God will accept and watch over a true and
proper commitment made by one of His own.
I will not attempt to set forth all the steps that led me to commit
myself to the Lord Jesus as a perpetual and progressive student of the
written word of God. It is sufficient to say that such a commitment was
made long ago, that it was without reservations, and is, therefore, not
subject to any change. Perpetual and progressive Bible study is my
service unto and before the Lord. It has a single goal -- to find for
myself God's truth in the words He has given. In this I will be judged
alone before my Lord and Master. I stand or fall before Him.
My conviction in regard to the Old and the New Testament is that they
are the verbally inspired Word of God, that they are without error in
their original writings, that they are of supreme and final authority in
regard to all matters of faith. By verbal inspiration, I mean that
supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which, without setting aside the
personalities and literary abilities of the human instrument, He
constituted the words of the Bible in its entirety as His written word
to you and to me. I believe that every word of scripture was produced
under the guidance of God's Spirit, that "holy men of God spake as they
were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). This conviction has stood
the test of more than a half century of personal Bible research and
When one is led to devote himself to some task that is related to the
service of the Lord, he should never dwell upon his capabilities or his
shortcomings, his knowledge or the lack of it, his educated or his
uneducated state. All these things are known to God, Who does not
consider them when He leads a man into the study of His word. We serve
the God to Whom belongs all power, wisdom, and knowledge. All thoughts
of our capabilities or incapabilities are meaningless in view of this.
It is to Him we must turn if we would be successful in our studies in
His Word and a help to others who may desire to know His truth. The
things of men we can know because of the spirit of man which is in us,
but the things of God no man can know but by the Spirit of God (1 Cor.
A good share of my own Bible study efforts over many years have been
applied to discovering the true character of the Acts dispensation and
to finding the distinctive truths that apply in the present Dispensation
of Grace. The difference between these two periods turns upon Paul's
declaration in Acts 28:28, so to the assiduous study of this passage I
return again and again. My understanding of this declaration has
progressed and changed somewhat over the years, but my conviction has
grown that these words do mark a dispensational boundary line.
I am not able to say who was the first to suggest that Acts 28:28 marks
a dispensational change. I came upon this in 1929 in the book, The
Silence of God, by Sir Robert Anderson, in which he says, "The
Pentecostal dispensation is brought to a close by the promulgation of
the solemn decree, 'The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles.'"
(page 56). This book was written in 1897, and it could be that this is
one of the earliest references to this illuminating idea.
There is no evidence that Sir Robert Anderson ever followed this idea
out to all its logical conclusions. In his writings he made no
distinction between those epistles written before Acts 28:28 and those
written after. He treated them as though they had all been written under
one divine administration, which they were not. First and Second
Thessalonians, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans were
written before the dispensational change, and in many passages set forth
the distinct truths that prevailed only in the Acts period. Philippians,
Colossians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy, and Philemon were
written after the dispensational change and they take on the character
of the time in which they were written.
Dr. E. W. Bullinger made the same mistake as Sir Robert Anderson, not
correcting it until five years before his death, a fact that does not
show in most of his writings. Others have declared for Acts 28:28 and
then withdrew from the field of battle. A. E. Knoch declared, "It was
not until the end of the Acts era that the salvation of God is sent
directly to the nations (Acts 28:28)." (Concordant Version notes on
In regards to Acts 28:28 one cardinal fact needs to be faced and
admitted. If Paul's words in this passage mark the dispensational
boundary line, if they mark a new method of divine dealing with mankind,
then the change that took place, or at least the most important feature
of that change, must be epitomised in these words. In this passage there
has to be a declaration of something that was not true before, but
became true from that moment on. In Paul's words we must find summed up
the answer to the question, What was the change that took place at Acts
All through secular history there have been great declarations that
brought about great changes. In all these pronouncements the change has
always been clearly stated. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was one
of these. The force of and the change declared in his powerful words
cannot be missed. "All persons held as slaves within any State . . .
shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." These words proclaimed
a great administrational change in the United States government, setting
free those who were slaves and settling the question of human slavery in
Even so it is with the divine decree announced by Paul in Acts 28:28.
The major feature of the change it brought about must be declared by its
words. It is a succinct statement, compressing a great truth into the
fewest possible words. In studying it we must discover exactly what it
says and then what is meant by what is said. The first of these has to
do with translation and the second with interpretation. The translation
must be correct from the literary and grammatical standpoint. The
interpretation must be correct from the historical aspect.
At the close of that all-day meeting with the chief of the Jews in Rome,
Paul declared in his final words to them, as we find it in the King
James Version: "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of
God is sent to the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."
This statement is either important or unimportant. It either declares
something that had long been true, as many say, or it declares something
that became true from this point onward. My own position is that these
words are of the utmost importance, that they say much in one brief
statement, and that they declare a new overarching truth.
There are four important words in this statement that must be examined.
These are salvation, sent, Gentiles, and hear. It is obvious that these
words need to be considered in their Greek originals.
I have exhaustively studied the word soterion which here is translated
"salvation", and have come to the conclusion that this adjective means
salvation-bringing. See Issue No. 8 for all details. Supplying the noun
from the context I would render this "the salvation-bringing message."
The word translated "sent" is apostello, which since it is used here of
an inanimate thing should be translated "authorised", in the sense of
being made freely available. See Issue No. 5 for all details.
The word translated "Gentiles" in Acts 28:28 is ethnos. It is preceded
by the definite article. All scholars, lexicographers, and commentators
agree that ethnos means "nation", even though they think that at times
it signifies those who are not of Israel and should in such places be
translated "Gentile." However, all such renderings are interpretations
and not translations. There are passages where the term "the nations"
includes the nation of Israel, and to translate it "the Gentiles" would
exclude that nation. See Matt. 12:18, 21 and Eph. 3:6 for example of
this. In Acts 28:28 the words tois ethnesin, being dative, plural,
neuter, should be translated "to the nations." But since it is evident
from Acts 10:36 and 13:26 that God's salvation-bringing word had been
authorised to Israel from the day of Pentecost, this nation is not
particularly in view in this pronouncement.
The word translated "hear" in Acts 28:28 is akouo. That this word means
"to hear" cannot be questioned. But if each one of the 437 occurrences
of this word is considered we soon get the feeling that this word often
means getting through to a person. An example of this is seen in Matt.
18:15, "if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." While, as
a rule, hearing is related to the ear, yet one can be said to have heard
that which he has read. In this passage "they will hear it" means it
will get through to them for their benefit. This is God's guarantee made
by His spokesman Paul.
Thus an honest, grammatical, and literal translation of Acts 28:28
* Let it then be known unto you, that the salvation-bringing message of
God has been authorised to the nations, and they will hear it.
The words "has been authorised" declare an accomplished fact. The words
"they will hear it" declare a future result. In the first statement the
tense is the second aorist, and in the second it is future. This is the
way it should be.
Issue no. 011