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Part 6: Gleanings From the Book of Acts

WHAT GOD DETERMINED BEFORE HAND CONCERNING CHRIST AND ISRAEL:

“THE KINGS OF THE EARTH STOOD UP, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD, AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.

“FOR OF A TRUTH AGAINST THY HOLY CHILD JESUS, WHOM THOU HAST ANOINTED, BOTH HEROD, AND PONTIUS PILATE, WITH THE GENTILES, AND THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, WERE GATHERED TOGETHER, “FOR TO DO WHATSOEVER THY HAND AND THY COUNSEL DETERMINED BEFORE TO BE DONE.” Acts 4:26 to 28.

“AND WHEN THEY HAD FULFILLED ALL THAT WAS WRITTEN OF HIM, THEY TOOK HIM DOWN FROM THE TREE, AND LAID HIM IN A SEPULCHRE. “BUT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.” Acts 13:29 and 30.

When Christ died at the wicked hands of Israel it was according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God: Acts 2:22 and 23. Before His death Christ said, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him”. Matthew 26:24. When He came to the time of His death Christ said: “for this cause came I unto this hour”. John 12:27 and 28. Christ was made to die. Hebrews 2:9 and 14 and 17 and Hebrews 9:26.

Christ said to His twelve apostles “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished . . . they shall put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again.” Luke 18:31 to 34.

The rejection of Jesus Christ, His death on the tree, His burial in the rich man’s grave, and His resurrection, had to be; that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. When they had fulfilled all that written of Him, they took Him the tree and laid Him in the sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead. Christ had to die at a set time and in a manner determined beforehand.

They did whatsoever God’s hand and counsel determined before to be done. Acts 4:28.

Because of this “before-hand” determination and foreknowledge of God and because of Christ’s prayer on the cross, God was willing to fully pardon Israel’s great sin, “killing the Prince of life”, “crucifying the Lord of glory.” Perhaps these facts will help us to better understand the words of John 12:37 to 40:—“But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him; that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”

With these verses we should carefully study Matthew 12:15 to 21. Israel could not believe? This, of course, brings this question to our minds, “did God arbitrarily cause Israel to reject His holy Son, as King and Messiah, that He might go to the cross to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself before He should come as the Son of man in the clouds, with power and great glory, to be accepted of Israel; in fulfillment of many Scriptures?”

If Israel could not believe and rejected the Son of man who had to go, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, did that not minimize the guilt of Israel? Were they not the foreordained human instruments of God accomplishing the foreordained purpose of God? Our first answer is, that God’s foreknowledge of Israel’s guilt, although God used their guilty and wicked deeds to provide salvation for the sins of the whole world, did not relieve Israel from their responsibility or in any way make them guiltless. There was forgiveness for them, had they repented at the preaching of Peter in Acts 3:14 to 26. Our other answer is Romans 11:33 and 34:

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor?” This outcry of the Apostle Paul followed the Lord’s announcement of Israel’s judgment for the benefit of the uncovenanted Gentiles who were by nature the wild olive tree. As Israel had to reject their Messiah and King and do whatsoever God’s hand and God’s counsel determined beforehand to be done and with wicked hands crucify Him, some years after that crucifixion Israel must fall, that salvation be sent to Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. Romans 11:11.

In spite of this inevitable fall of Israel, that Nation was solemnly warned; “beware lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets.” Acts 13:40. Because they killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets and persecuted Christ’s apostles and pleased not God, trying to prevent the salvation of the Gentiles, but were determined to fill up their sin away, the wrath came upon them to the uttermost. I Thessalonians 2:14 and 15. Something of that “uttermost” wrath is declared in Romans 11:17 to 25, in Acts 28:25 to 28, Matthew 22:7 and Luke 21:20 to 24. The uttermost wrath of God fell when Rome destroyed Jerusalem about 69 or 70 A.D..

But again to Romans 11:19; did the Gentile tell the truth when he said, “The natural branches were broken off that I might be graffed in?” Hear the message which the Lord gave to Paul:

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:46. “And when. they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6.

“Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” Acts 28:28.

In the first chapter of Romans we are told how the Gentiles were cut off, given up by God. In Ephesians 4:18 we are told that they were alienated, from the life of God. But in Romans 11:15 we are told that the casting away of Israel meant the reconciling of the world. Hear these words of God to Gentiles:

“FOR AS YE IN TIMES PAST HAVE NOT BELIEVED GOD, YET HAVE NOW OBTAINED MERCY THROUGH THEIR UNBELIEF.” Romans 11:30. There is a most interesting and significant story recorded in Acts 13:6 to 12. We quote these verses:

“And when they had gone through the isle of Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus:

“Which was with the deputy of the country Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the Word of God.

“But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

“Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, “And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

“Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.”

Paulus, the Gentile, was astonished at the Lord’s doings, and believed when he saw what was done to the Jew. Every Gentile in the world who has given serious thought to God’s dealings with the Jew should be astonished and believe. Just carefully read the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, and then study the history of Israel to see how the judgments, the punishments, the curses of that chapter have happened to that chosen race. “The Gentile shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.” (Deuteronomy 28:44). “These curses shall come upon thee—they shall be upon thee for a sign—because thou servedst not the Lord thy God—thou shalt serve thine enemies the Lord shall bring a nation against thee—He shall besiege thee in. all thy gates—and thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters—and ye shall be left few in number—because thou wouldst not obey the voice of the Lord thy God—and the Lord will scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other— among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the soles of thy feet have rest but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. (Deuteronomy 28:45 to 68). “Thou shalt become an astonishment, and a Sheniynah (shenee)-naw) among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:37).

God created Israel for His own glory. He sanctified that nation and that holy nation was His peculiar treasure in the earth to witness to the other nations concerning the holiness, majesty, sovereignty, righteousness, justice and goodness of the one true and living God. Exodus 19:5 and 6—Isaiah 43:1— Isaiah 41:8 and 9— Isaiah 43:7 to 10— Isaiah 43:15.

Israel was the child of Jehovah-Saviour (Barjesus); but as a nation they were a disobedient and gainsaying people, to whom God stretched forth His hands all day long. Romans 10:21. “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted: and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers?” Acts 7:51 and 52.

The miraculous supernatural preservation of Israel, scattered all over the earth down through the centuries, following that terrible judgment which fell upon them about 70 A.D. under the hand of Titus, in fulfillment of Christ’s words in Matthew 22:7 and Luke 21:20 to 24, should cause every one to be astonished at the doctrine of the Lord, believe in the inspiration and infallibility of the Word of God, and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as the Divine Saviour.

Bar-jesus, in Acts 13:6 to 12, typical of Israel, was blind for a season, not seeing the sun, because he tried to keep Sergius Paulus from hearing and believing Paul’s testimony concerning Israel’s Messiah, rejected and crucified by Israel. Because of Barjesus’ blindness, Paulus believed. The disciple Saul became the Apostle Paulus.

This is the message of the eleventh of Romans. Israel’s blindness is only for a season. Some day Israel will see the Sun; for the Sun of righteousness is to arise with healing in His wings and Israel will look upon the One they pierced. Then Israel shall be saved. Malachi 4:2—Zechariah 12:10—Romans 11:25 and 26. Because of Israel’s blindness salvation was sent to the Gentiles. Because of Israel’s unbelief the Gentiles obtained mercy. Romans 11:11 and 11:30.

In the light of judgments which Christ on earth promised Luke 21:20 to 24, Matthew 23:33 to 39, Matthew 21:43, Matthew 22:7, perhaps it seems strange that to that wicked nation, the Lord directed Peter to tenderly and affectionately address them as brethren and children, and say to the murderers of the Son of God “unto you first” Acts 3:26—Acts 3:12 to 25.

In the light of Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:28, and Romans 11:11 and Romans 11:30, it is difficult to believe that the Great Commission was Paul’s Divine authority for preaching the Gospel of grace to Gentiles.