SEED & BREAD
TRUTHS CONCERNING ACTS
Truth is that which accords with the facts. Divine facts are declared in
the Word of God, and what we believe must be in harmony with them.
Seventeen facts representing the same number of truths will be set forth
in this study. These can be accepted or rejected. What will the reader
do with them? A request is made for honest consideration.
1. The 120 that assembled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:15) were
without exception Jews who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the
Messiah and the Son of God. This fact and truth had been generated in
them by the Father in heaven (Matt. 16:17). They were the result of the
personal ministry of Jesus Christ, whose words and works had led them to
this belief. They did not cease to be Jews because of this new-found
faith. As Sir Robert Anderson has so well said: "The divine religion of
Judaism in every part of it, both in the spirit and the letter, pointed
to the coming of a promised Messiah; and to maintain that a man ceased
to be a Jew because he cherished that hope, and accepted the Messiah
when He came -- this is a position absolutely grotesque in its
absurdity. (The Silence of God, page 85).
2. Those who heard the Word on that memorable day of Pentecost were
"Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5). They had
been of the diaspora but had returned to the land of their fathers. The
3000 who became believers on that day (Acts 2:41) were without exception
"Jews, devout men." They remained such after they believed (Acts 2:46).
3. The salvation-bringing message of God was authorised to everyone in
Israel from the day of Pentecost onward (Acts 2:39, 10:36, 13:26). This
message centred in the fact that the man Christ Jesus was the
long-awaited Messiah (the Christ) and the Son of God. He was presented
as an object for personal faith, offered to Israelites as a personal
Saviour. Forgiveness of sins was promised to all who believed in Him
(Acts 2:21, 36, 38). This salvation-bringing message could be heralded
by any believing Israelite who was commissioned of God to do so. This
commission consisted of the Word of God coming to a man as a message
intended for another. See Luke 3:2 for an example of this. It seems that
every believing Jew in the Acts period had the blessing of this
experience. The message may have come to them for only one person, but
there could be no proclamation apart from such a commission (Rom.
4. In the eight years that elapsed between Pentecost and Peter's visit
to the house of Cornelius the gospel was to the Jew only. Every believer
during that time was a Jew, a man of Israel. No one was authorised to
speak the salvation-bringing message to anyone else. Even if a Gentile
overheard it as it was being proclaimed, as Cornelius certainly had
(Acts 10:37), it was still not for him.
5. The thrice-repeated vision which Peter saw while on the housetop
(Acts 10:9-16) was a special commission and authorisation for him to go
to the house of Cornelius, a God-fearing, devout Gentile. This
proclamation of Jesus Christ to the household of one Roman centurion
represents Peter's entire ministry to the Gentiles. He had no commission
to any others outside Israel. He was not God's commissioned one to the
Gentiles. This was Paul's prerogative (Rom. 11:13). This one act of
Peter served to prepare the believers in Israel for the ministry of Paul
among the Gentiles, which began six years later.
6. Cornelius did not become a herald of the salvation-bringing message
to the Gentiles. He did not abandon his military position and return to
Rome to herald the Gospel. He may have wished to do this but could not
do so without a divine commission. If he had such a commission it would
have made him, and not Paul, God's commissioned one to the Gentiles.
7. It was God's purpose and program in the Acts period that every
responsible person in Israel should hear the salvation-bringing gospel
and have one clear-cut opportunity to receive the Lord Jesus as the
Messiah and to believe in Him as a personal Saviour (Rom. 15:21). This
witness was made to every Israelite in the land and to the uttermost
parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).
8. God's purpose in this period was accomplished. Every Israelite was
covered (Rom. 10:18, Rom. 15:23). Those outside the land lived in tight
pockets and could easily be reached by the herald going to the synagogue
in that locality (Acts 17:1-3).
9. In the Acts period the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ was
always done by God-commissioned men (Rom. 10:15), the message they
heralded was always spoken by divine inspiration (1 Cor. 2:13), every
word of it was the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13), it was always absolute
truth (2 Cor. 13:3), it was not written, it was not memorised and
repeated over and over, and it was always fresh from God each time it
was spoken. It was varied each time to meet the exact needs of those who
heard it, but these variations were inspired by God and were not made by
the heralds. One man could proclaim it as well as another. Ignorant
fishermen spoke it as well as the educated statesmen.
10. In order to avoid all delays, all misunderstandings, and any need
for translation, the gospel of God was always spoken in the mother
tongue of the one for whom it was intended. The gift of tongues was a
meaningful reality in the Acts period (Acts 2:6, 8, 11). See Issue No.
11. In the Acts dispensation the proclamation of the gospel was always
confirmed to the hearers by evidential miracles (Mark 16:20; John 14:12;
Acts 2:43; Acts 5:12; Rom. 15:18, 19; 1 Cor.1:6; Heb. 2:4). These might
precede the proclamation, accompany it, or follow it, but they were
always there. No one was asked to believe without seeing. Physical
evidence was always a part of the proclamation (1 Thess. 1:5).
12. Under the divine administration that prevailed in the Acts period a
man was given only one opportunity to hear and believe the gospel (Acts
13:46). The heralds of the gospel never spoke it twice to the same
people. A herald did not go over ground that had already been covered
(Rom. 15:20, 21). The message was at once either a "savour of life" or a
"savour of death" to all who heard it (2 Cor. 2:16). If a man could not
immediately believe the testimony of a God-commissioned man speaking a
divinely-inspired message, the truth of which was confirmed by signs
following, there was nothing more that God would do. All who heard were
enlightened, they tasted of the heavenly gift, they were partakers of
the Holy Spirit, they had tasted the good Word of God, and experienced
the powers of the coming eon (Heb. 6:4, 5). If after all this they fell
away it was impossible to bring them back again to the place of
submission (Heb. 6:6-7).
13. In the Acts dispensation the faith of a believer was always publicly
accredited and confirmed by God. "These signs shall follow them that
believe," was the promise of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:17). And they did (1
Cor. 1:6, 7). A man's relationship to God was a manifest thing. There
were no secret believers. The life of an Acts period believer was not
"hid with Christ in God," as ours is today (Col. 8:3).
14. After Peter's visit to the house of Cornelius, Paul was the only man
commissioned by God to herald His salvation-bringing message to the
Gentiles. This ministry began in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:46, 47).
Nevertheless, Paul's ministry even after Acts 13 was always to the Jew
first and to the Jew primarily (Acts 13:46; Rom. 1:16; Acts 17: 1, 2).
He would go straight through a city without stopping if there were no
company of Jews in it (Acts 17:1). The true, Biblical picture of the
Acts period is one of thousands of heralds carrying the
salvation-bringing message of God to every Israelite (Acts 11:19), but
only one herald taking it to the Gentiles, and this only after he had
fulfilled every obligation to his own people, Israel. This may not be
the picture that people want to see, but it is the true Biblical one
15. In the Acts period the children of Israel are likened to being "as
the sand of the sea" (Rom. 9:27). It was God's purpose in this
thirty-three years to sift through and test every grain of sand that
made up this company. Among these were many true gems that would shine
forth the moment they heard the message and saw its confirmation. These
gems would have a special place and perform a special service in the day
when He makes up His jewels (Mal. 3:17). These become in truth "the
Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16).
16. At the close of the Acts period God had accomplished everything He
set out to do. He had finished the work, He had cut it short in
righteousness. A conclusive and concise work had been done on earth
(Rom. 9:28). Israel had heard the word and saw the works of God (Rom.
10:18). The Israel of God had been discovered (Gal. 6:16). The remnant
had been established (Rom. 11:5). A definite company from among the
Gentiles had been called for His name (Acts 15:14). Everything was ready
for the full establishment of the manifest kingdom of God upon the earth
(Rom. 13:11, 12). But it did not come. At the close of the Acts period
all of God's kingdom purposes were suspended while He accomplishes a
purpose that had never before been revealed.
17. The end of the Acts dispensation is marked by Paul's pronouncement
in Acts 28:28. The Bible student must discover when he comes to this
declaration what things come to an end, what things carry through, and
what new circumstances and conditions prevail. That the circumstances
and conditions set forth above came to an end is obvious. That a new
dispensation began is evident. The words of Acts 28:28 are of the utmost
importance. Understanding that the word translated "salvation" (sOtErion)
is an adjective, and that no adjective ever stands alone in a sentence
(see Issue No. 8); knowing also that the word "sent" is apostellO, and
since it is used as an inanimate thing it means authorised, or, made
freely available (see Issue No. 5), I would accurately translate this
passage as follows: "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.
Issue no. 009