I. In Philippians 1:10, students of God’s Word are instructed to “test the things that differ.” (R. V.) Even the babe in Christ knows there is a difference between the Old Covenant and New Covenant, between law and grace, between inheriting the earth and going to heaven, between Christ the Head of the Church which is His Body and Christ the King of Israel, between the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church of God. I Corinthians 10:32. Let us observe a few other things that differ. Compare Genesis 17:14 with Galatians 5:3; Galatians 6:12; Galatians 6:15 and Galatians 5:12 and observe that in 1900 B. C. those who refused circumcision were to be cut off, whereas, in 57 A.D., those who taught circumcision were to be cut off. Answer: Different dispensations. The Lord Jesus was circumcised and lived in a “circumcision” dispensation. We do not. Compare Exodus 31:12 to 17 with Colossians 2:14 to 17 and observe that God’s people, in 1495 B.C., were judged with respect to the Sabbath, even unto death; and in 66 A.D. they were not to be judged with respect to the Sabbath. Christ spent His days on the earth “under the law;” the Holy Spirit tells Christians “ye are not under the law”. Galatians 4:4. Romans 6:14. With respect to the law, how are we to follow Jesus?
II. In John 13:15 Jesus said to His disciples, “if ye love me, keep my commandments.” How many of these commandments of Jesus should we keep?
1. “Sell all that ye have and give alms.” Luke 12:32.
2. “Leave there thy gift before the altar.” Matthew 5:24
3. “Agree with thine adversary quickly.” Matthew 5:25.
4. “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out.” Matthew 5:29.
5. “Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.”
Matthew 5:41 to 47.
6. “Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
7. Pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. If ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:12 and 15.
8. “When thou fastest anoint thine head.” Matthew 6:17.
9. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow.” Matthew 6:34.
10. “Shew thyself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded.” Matthew 8:4.
11. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Provide no script for your journey. No gold or silver in your purse.” Matthew 10:7 to 9.
12. “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13.
13. “Take nothing for your journey . . . neither bread . . . neither two coats.” Luke 9:3.
14. “Strive (agonize) to enter in at the straight gate.” Luke 13:24.
15. “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14.
16. “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:49.
17. “Wait for the promise.” Acts 1:4.
If members of the Body of Christ are not keeping these commandments, do they love the Lord Jesus? Why disregard, or disobey, these commandments and say the commandments of Matthew 28:19 and 20 and Mark 16:14 to 18 are binding upon members of the Body of Christ? Are members of the Body of Christ to observe all things which Jesus commanded His disciples and nation?
III. In Mark 16:15 to 18 we have the commission of the resurrected Christ to the “Eleven”: their message and program, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved:” miracles, signs, healings were to follow. This commission was not given to Paul. I Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 1:11 to 17. Galatians 2:7 to 9. Paul’s message of grace is our message for today; not, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” not miraculous signs for members of the Body of Christ.
CONCERNING THE SIGNS OF MARK 16:16 to 18
We are all aware of the fact that the grace preachers who cling to water baptism preach, “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” This is not the order of Mark 16:15 and 16. Where are the signs? They are found only in the counterfeit. Explained away. 1. Uninspired. 2. Unintended. 3. Unbelief. 4. Undispensational.
1. Uninspired. Certain teachers declare that Mark 16:17 and 18, the “sign” verses, are not found in four of the original manuscripts. The fact is, that most of them include these verses. We refuse this explanation.
2. Unintended. Certain teachers declare that signs were intended for the Apostles only. But this is refuted by Acts 6:8; Acts 8:6 and I Corinthians 12:8 to 11. We refuse this explanation.
3. Unbelief. Certain Christians who are endeavoring to bring back the signs of Mark 16:17 and 18, declare they are absent because of unbelief. This is nonsense. Note the unbelief in the early Church. Acts 12:5 and 15. We refuse this explanation.
4. Undispensational. This is the intelligent Scriptural explanation of the absence of signs in the Body of Christ today. I Corinthians 13:8. I Timothy 5:23. II Timothy 4:20. The most carnal church of the days of the apostles had all of the “sign” gifts. I Corinthians 3:3; I Corinthians 6:7 and 8; I Corinthians 13:8 to 11. Whereas, the most spiritual saints today have none of these “sign” gifts. They are not for this dispensation. With the full revelation of the “mystery” after Acts 28:31, sign passed away. We accept this explanation.
IV Christ dealt with two Gentiles while on earth, a Greek woman and a Roman officer. There are two records of each. His dealings with the Gentile woman are recorded in Matthew 15:21 to 28 and Mark 7:24 to 27. His dealings with the Gentile man are recorded in Matthew 8:1 to 13 and Luke 7:1 to 10. You will find these stories very interesting. You will learn that both of these Gentiles had, “great faith”. Matthew 15:28; Matthew 8:10; Luke 7:9. To the woman, Christ said, “Let the children (Israel) first be filled.” Luke 7:27. To the man Christ said, “The children (Israel) shall be cast into outer darkness.” Matthew 8:12. As we travel with Israel through the Book of Acts, we learn that they are first being filled. Acts 3:26; Acts 13:46. And as we come to the close of the Book of Acts, we find that those who refused, to be, filled were cast into outer darkness. Acts 28:25 to 28. Then this question: If Israel was set aside in Matthew 23:33 to 40, when the Lord called them “serpents”, and if the dispensation of the mystery” began on the day of Pentecost, why did Israel have first chance during the “Acts” period?
V. Concerning water baptism, its significance is declared in John 1:31; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38, unto repentance for the remission of sins to present Israel’s Messiah to Israel:” and in Mark 16:14 to 16, baptism is coupled with belief as the factors in salvation. Some Bible teachers, who may consider themselves expert exegetes, tell us that water baptism was for Israel while Christ was on earth as a minister of the circumcision. Acts 2:22. Romans 15:8; Acts 13:24. They declare that that water baptism was not “Christian” baptism but “kingdom” baptism; that “Christian” water baptism began with the resurrection of Christ, when the significance of the water ceremony was changed in the mind of the Holy Spirit. As to its changed significance, there are about as many theories as there are denominations. But we are Bereans. What saith the Scriptures? Read Acts 2:38; Acts 8:5 to 16; and Acts 19:1 to 8 and what do we learn? Do we learn, as one zealous immersionist has declared, that water baptism was the obedience and expression of the grateful hearts of Christians who had already received the Holy Spirit, who had already become members of the Body of Christ? Positively not. In each case water baptism was the prerequisite; water baptism in each case was meritorious, efficacious and obligatory preceding the receiving of the Holy Spirit. If Peter intended to tell the 3000, on the day of Pentecost, that they had already received the Holy Spirit and were already members of the Body of Christ and they should receive Christian baptism as an expression of gratitude, he made an awful botch of the job; for he told them nothing of the kind. Acts 2:38. They would have told Peter to practice for himself what he preached to them: for he received no Christian water baptism after Christ’s resurrection. The apostles were baptized several years before Christ’s death baptism on the cross.
VI. Concerning the “Acts” Church program we have several interesting and important questions to ask. First: Should our slogan and policy be “back to Jesus and His gospel program on earth” or back to Pentecost and the first Chapters of Acts” for our gospel message, for our church creed, and for our Scriptural guide for our daily ministry and practice; or should we rather say, “travel with Paul; beginning with his first revelation from Christ in heaven for Gentiles; on to his last message in II Timothy?” Perhaps we have been prejudiced by the Red lettered New Testament, placing special emphasis for Christians on the words of Jesus, many of which were spoken to Israel on earth, or by believing that the Body of Christ, of which we are members, had its birth on the day of Pentecost and that that being the first Church in all its purity and power, we should turn back to that ideal Church for our ideal program. Perhaps we have overlooked the significance of the words of Acts 14:27, telling when the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles; and Galatians 2:7 to 9 and I Corinthians 9:20 to 25. Here are two of the most important facts, altogether essential for intelligent Bible study: first, all Scripture must be studied, interpreted and applied as to whether it covered. God’s program for His people before or after Acts 14:27. Second, all of Paul’s messages must be studied, interpreted and applied as to whether they were written before, or after, God’s declaration in Acts 28:25 to 28; when Israel was set aside. Before that climax, Paul wrote Thessalonians, Galatians, Corinthians and Romans. After the “Acts” period he wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon, Titus, Timothy.
Some of the things that accompany salvation in Paul’s earlier Epistles do not accompany salvation in Paul’s last Epistles. There is no change in the message of redemption clearly stated in Romans 3:24 to 28; Ephesians 2:8 to 10; Titus 3:5 to 7; II Timothy 1:9 and 10, for all emphasize salvation by pure and unadulterated grace apart from works; “without the law”, “without works”, “without a cause”, “unto good works”. Is Acts 2:38 our message for today. Is Acts 8:5 to 15 our program today?
There are about fifty religious ceremonies, signs, gifts and religious practices which were God’s order and program during the “Acts” period, but today have been dropped arbitrarily and without Scriptural explanation by virtually every Fundamentalist assembly and preacher of the grace gospel in the land. Why is there such a change in the “Acts” program and the program of the assemblies of those Fundamentalists who teach that they are members of the Body of Christ which began on the day of Pentecost? Which of them observe the order of Acts 19:1 to 10 or practice the gifts of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11?