SEED & BREAD
THE ACTS DISPENSATION
It is my conviction that ninety percent of all the confusion and
contradictions that exist in Christendom are the result of ignoring the
true character of that thirty-three year period of which the book of
Acts is the history. Some are trying to live in this time as if the same
administration and divine purpose p revailed today. Others are trying to
live with it and spend much of their time denying its true character.
And some are assiduously studying the revealed facts in order to know
its distinctive character, and thus by contrast know more of God's will
and purpose in the present dispensation.
Those who never make a penetrating study of the Word of God will never
have any problems, questions, or difficulties in regard to it. They can
exist for a lifetime on the few things they learned before they were ten
years of age, and they do not want to add anything to the very little
they already know. However, the constant reader and diligent student of
the Bible who takes to heart what he finds there will discover that he
is faced with numerous problems, questions, difficulties, and apparent
contradictions. He then will yearn and even pray for the discovery of
some major truth that will resolve all of these.
Familiarity with the Bible, a working knowledge of its pages, the
ability to turn to any verse that comes to mind, is one of the greatest
assets that can be possessed by the believer in Christ Jesus. I give
thanks unto God for those circumstances in my life that could hardly
produce anything else but a solid acquaintance with the inspired
Scriptures. From this I know how precious to the Bible student are those
great truths which do so much to make the Word of God a simple
revelation of God's truth to His people. After gaining a good degree of
familiarity with the New Testament and experiencing great frustration
because of inability to find answers to questions, to solve problems,
and to resolve the apparent contradictions that increased in number with
every reading, I came upon one great idea that did more to make the
Bible a living and relevant book than anything I had ever discovered
before. This was the recognition of the true character of the Acts
period, and of the distinct program and purpose of God during that time.
Related to this and in collocation with it is the great truth that
Paul's declaration in Acts 28:28 marks a definite change in God's method
of dealing with men and that his words there mark an administrational
(dispensational) boundary line.
Failure to recognise this great truth makes it impossible to properly
understand many portions of the New Testament. This is especially true
of the six epistles written by Paul during this period. These are First
and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, and
Romans. All these take on the character of the time in which they were
written. They contain many eternal truths which are not subject to
change, and every word in them is beneficial for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), but
they also contain dispensational truths which changed when that
dispensation came to an end. For example see 1 Cor. 1:7; 5:5; 5:8; 6:4;
7:8, 27; Romans 1:16 (last clause); Rom. 3:1, 2; Rom. 15:27.
The foundation of the Acts dispensation was laid down by the Lord Jesus
in Mark 16:15-18.
* And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel
to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but
he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them
that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak
with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any
deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick,
and they shall recover.
These are the words that set the character for the Acts period. They
were fulfilled to the letter during that time and they describe the
normal, daily experiences of those who believed. This is demonstrated by
Mark's final words: "And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the
Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following"
It is a constant trick of exposition to cast doubt upon these passages
by saying that they are not found in the two most ancient manuscripts.
This is only about one percent of the information available concerning
this passage. The same is also true of John 8:1-11 and the entire book
of Revelation. Before anyone casts a shred of doubt upon this portion of
the Word of God, let them read with care Dean Burgon's monumental work
The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, (recently reprinted by The Religious
Book Discount House).
The chief characteristic of the Acts dispensation was that
God-commissioned men went forth at His direction speaking a God-inspired
message, each word of which was given to them each time they spoke it (1
Thess. 2:13), and which was always given in the mother tongue of those
for whom it was intended. The word they spoke was always confirmed by
signs that followed (Heb. 2:4), and when anyone believed his faith was
accredited and confirmed by miraculous signs (Mark 16:17). This was the
unvarying pattern of the Acts period. It was entirely different from
God's method of dealing with men today.
About 650 years before the birth of Christ the prophet Habakkuk,
anticipating the dispersion of Israel "among the nations" declared that
a time would come when God would work a work of such incredible nature
among the dispersed ones that his hearers would not believe it even if
he told them of it (Hab. 1:5). His prophecy still awaits its final and
definitive fulfilment , yet there can be no doubt but that there was a
precursory fulfilment in the Acts period. The words of Paul are proof of
Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the
prophets; Behold, ye despisers and wonder and perish: for I work a work
in your days, a work in which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man
declare it unto you. Acts 13:40, 41.
The Israelites who lived in the Acts period, those in Palestine as well
as those scattered among the nations, not only heard what God was doing,
they saw what He was doing (Acts 2:33). They were the objects of and the
witnesses of a work of God that is unparalleled in human history. Thus
that thirty-three year period stands apart and is different from all
other periods of divine activity. In view of this the most careful study
needs to be given to the divine purposes and activities that made it so
unique. This is a sorely neglected study.
It has ever been the practice of theologians to minimise, depreciate,
and stultify the truth concerning the work that God was doing in the
Acts period. This has been done both wittingly and unwittingly. The
actual divine history of this time has been re-written by commentators
on the book of Acts. They are determined to see nothing in this period
of time except the founding and development of what they call "the
Christian church." They read this into every passage, they interpret it
into every event, and they even translate so it will be found throughout
this period. They actually minimise everything that belongs to this
period of time, then they magnify everything in Christendom today so
that both might meet on a common level and one be a continuation of the
other. Thus, they insist that it was "the church" that began at
Pentecost; then they make the organised religious establishments of
today to be "the church" that began there -- the outgrowth of what began
They make the ecclEsia of God (the outcalled ones) of the Acts period to
be nothing more than church members; then they make the church members
of today to be the outcalled of God. The divinely commissioned and
inspired heralds of that time are made to be preachers and pastors; then
the preachers and pastors of today are made to be divinely called and
commissioned servants of God. Thus past positions are deflated and
present positions are inflated so that they will appear to be the same.
An apostle, such as Paul, is made to be a "missionary" and his travels
are made to be missionary journeys. The divinely-inspired proclamations
of the apostles are made to be "sermons," and the chief purpose of these
men is said to have been "the founding of churches." We are further told
that all the great miracles that these men performed could also be
performed by us if only we had sufficient faith. Yes, we are now being
told that the God-given ability to speak in a foreign language was only
an ecstatic and unintelligible babble, and that the head-jerking,
eye-rolling, unintelligible uttering of meaningless sounds experienced
today is the Biblical gift of tongues. Thus it is that the past is
deflated and the present inflated, God's highest is made to be man's
lowest and man's lowest is made to be God's highest, so that everything
that happened in the Acts period is made to be the same as
denominational programs today.
Even Dr. C. I. Scofield fell into this trap, giving in his reference
Bible such paragraph headings in the Book of Acts as "The first Church,"
"Peter's second Sermon," "The first missionaries," "Elders appointed in
every church,"Founding of the church at Thessolonica," and "Founding of
the church at Corinth." Thus a modern denominational and organized
religious program is stamped upon every page of the Book of Acts when in
reality it cannot be found there.
In the years that I have given to the study of the history of the Acts
period I have sought to saturate myself with the life and spirit of that
time. These studies have brought the conviction that certain great
truths related to this period stand out like mountain peaks and these
need to be recognized and emphasized by all who would deal honestly with
the history recorded in the Book of Acts and with the epistles that were
written during this time. These mountain peaks of truth must not be
At the close of the Acts period God had accomplished everything that He
set out to do. No purpose is left unfinished, no project is incomplete.
The message has gone forth to the ends of the earth, all Israel has
heard, the remnant has been established, a company for His name has been
called from among the Gentiles. The blade stage and the ear stage of the
kingdom of God have run their course (Mark 4:28). The next stage of "the
full grain in the ear," the manifest kingdom of God is ready to burst
upon mankind. But it did not come.
God's kingdom purposes are held in suspension while He accomplishes a
purpose which had never before been revealed. He will take time to write
into the history of His long dealings with mankind a complete record of
the grace that is inherent in His character. This is now being done in a
dispensation of absolute grace. The truths that were applicable in the
Acts period may or may not be applicable today. As Paul tells us in
Philippians 1:10, we must be testing the things that carry though (See
Greek). We must study "rightly to divide the word of truth" (2 Tim.
Issue no. 007