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Part 4: Gleanings From the Book of Acts

“WITNESS UNTO ME BOTH IN JERUSALEM, AND IN ALL JUDEA, AND IN SAMARIA, AND UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH.” Acts 1:8

“I SAY THEN, HAVE THEY STUMBLED THAT THEY SHOULD FALL? GOD FORBID; BUT RATHER THROUGH THEIR FALL SALVATION IS COME UNTO THE GENTILES FOR TO PROVOKE THEM TO JEALOUSY.” Romans 11:11.

This Greek word translated “earth” is translated in Acts 7:3 and in 40 other Scriptures, “land”. Therefore, there are some Bible expositors who translate the Greek in Acts 1:8; “unto the uttermost limits of the land”, referring to the land of the Jews. We might agree that it is possible that such a translation was intended by the Holy Spirit, but then we might add that it is not probable.

One reason why these “expositors” have changed the reading from that in the authorized version, is because it is stated in Acts 8:1, that the twelve apostles remained in Jerusalem, and in all of the twenty-eight chapters of Acts there is no record that any of the Twelve preached beyond the limits of Israel’s land. In Peter’s Epistle, written after the “Acts” period, he had been in Babylon.

The Lord Jesus appeared in a vision to Saul of Tarsus in the Jerusalem temple and told him to get out of Jerusalem and to go far hence to the Gentiles. Acts 22:17 and 21. As we travel with Paul in the Book of Acts, we learn that as he journeyed through Asia Minor, Asia, Europe and the Islands, that his custom was to go first into the synagogues of the Jews and testify that Jesus was Messiah. Acts 13:26 to 30; Acts 17:3 and Acts 18:5. And then he would turn to the Gentiles. Acts 13:46 and Acts 18:6.

We must not be too dogmatic in our conclusions when our proof is by the silences in the Scriptures concerning certain facts; but we must admit that it seems rather significant that the first and only Gentile to receive a kingdom blessing from Jesus on earth was a Roman official, that the first and only Gentile (with his household) to receive a message of salvation from the twelve apostles was a Roman official (Cornelius), and that the first Gentile to receive a message of salvation from Paul on his first missionary journey, was a Roman official, (Sergius Paulus). Acts 13:6 to 12.

We recently offered to our radio hearers a book, as a reward for the correct Scriptural answer to this question “Who was the first Gentile to whom salvation came to provoke Israel to jealousy?” This fact is declared by Paul, in Romans 11:11, about 60 A.D., or about 33 years after Christ died and told the Eleven to “disciple all nations”. Matthew 28:19 and 20. Here is the statement: “Salvation is come unto the Gentiles to provoke them (Israel) to jealousy.” Perhaps, in the light of the Great Commission, we have thought and questioned, and still are uncertain, as to why it is stated that Paul turned to the Gentiles because of Israel’s attitude toward his testimony concerning the resurrected Christ, or that salvation was sent to the Gentiles to provoke jealousy. Perhaps we have tried to reconcile Paul’s declaration in Acts 13:46 with the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:33 to 39. Why was it necessarily to Israel first when the Lord Jesus called them serpents and vipers and said “your house is left unto you desolate”? There is not the slightest suggestion, or hint, that provoking Israel to jealousy was in the mind of the Lord when He commissioned His apostles to disciple all nations. Nor will there be jealousy with Israel when that Great Commission is carried out in the age to come, when the Gospel of the Kingdom will again be the King’s message.

Well, it was interesting to read the different responses as to the Gentiles to whom salvation was sent to provoke Israel to jealousy. Some, of course, think that the woman at the well was a Gentile, and that the sinners of her village whom she brought to Jesus were Gentiles. But Matthew 10:5 teaches us that there was a difference between Gentiles and Samaritans and the woman’s statements in John 4:12, John 4:20 and John 4:25, should convince any student of the Word that she was not a Gentile. Others think the Syrophoenician woman of Matthew 15:21 to 28 is the correct answer. Where does it say she was saved? Where is the Scriptural proof that any Gentile was saved while the Lord Jesus was on earth? If a Gentile had been saved while Jesus of Nazareth was witnessing to Israel, under the law, as the Minister of the circumcision, would that saved Gentile have become a member of the Body of Christ, or a proselyte, that is, a Jew by religion? Acts 2:22. Romans 15:8. Galatians 4:4. Remember, Jesus and His Twelve were under the law, obedient to the faith and practice of the true Jewish religion, while He was on earth. Luke 2:21 to 24. Luke 4:16. John 7:10. Luke 22:7 and 8. Let us be careful of what we mean when we speak of following Jesus.

If the Roman centurion, of Luke 7:1 to 8 and Matthew 8:1 to 12, was saved, he did not receive salvation to provoke Israel to jealousy. He received the answer to his petition and response to his great faith, by the intercession of Israel. Luke 7:3 to 5. Israel helped him to secure the blessing.

Others said that the message of Peter and the Eleven on the day of Pentecost was for both Israel and the Gentiles, because Peter declared, “this promise is unto you, and to all that are afar off.” Acts 2:39. There are several reasons why this answer is Scripturally incorrect. One reason is, if we are included in the “afar off” Gentiles, the promise has not been fulfilled, and moreover no true messenger of the Lord preaches to Gentiles, or Jews, today, Acts 2:38, as God’s message of salvation. It is inconceivable that Peter had the Gentiles in mind in 33 A.D. when he specifically declared, in 40 A.D., that it was unlawful for him to come to a Gentile. Acts 10:28. It was after that vision of Peter, recorded in Acts 10:1 to 28, that we hear the words of the apostles rejoicing over God’s acceptance of the Gentiles. Acts 11:18. All that Peter and the Eleven were preaching was in fulfillment of Israel’s prophecies. Acts 1:16; Acts 2:16; Acts 2:30; Acts 3:21 and 24; Acts 10: 43; Acts 15:13 to 17. The “afar off” Israelites of Acts 2:39 are the “afar off” Israelites of Daniel 9:7. They were not Gentiles.

We do greatly err when we open the door of salvation for the Gentiles before God opened that door. In Acts 15:7 we have the record as to when God opened a door in the land of the Jews, by Peter’s mouth; and in Acts 14:27 we have the record as to when God opened the door for Gentiles by Barnabas and Saul. Now the details concerning the first open door are given in Acts 10:1 to 47; and the door opened by Paul in Acts 13:6 to Acts 14:1.

This should convince us that the Scriptures mean exactly what they say in Acts 11:19. “preaching the Word to none but Jews only.” This should be the final word that the Ethiopian eunuch was a Jew by religion. This should convince us that the people in the city of Samaria, to whom Philip preached, were not Gentiles. Acts 8:5 to 17. Here is an important suggestion All Scripture should be studied as to whether it applied, as to time, before or after the statement of Acts 14:27.

Of course, the greatest number of guesses was, that Cornelius was the first Gentile to whom salvation was sent to provoke Israel to jealousy. But is that answer Scripturally correct? From the Record it seems that he and his household were the first Gentiles to whom any one of the Twelve preached and also the last Gentile, so far as we can learn by reading the Book of Acts. But it did not provoke Israel to jealousy after Peter had explained that Cornelius acknowledged that Israel had the only true God, the only true religion, that Cornelius feared God, prayed to Him, stood well with Israel, and gave alms to Israel. Acts 10:1 to 3; Acts 10:22. Peter preached to Cornelius the Word which God sent to Israel. Acts 10:36. Peter declared, in the name of Israel’s God, that Cornelius would be accepted because he feared God and worked righteousness. Acts 10:34. Doubtless Cornelius was an uncircumcised proselyte. It was Israel’s prophets who foretold this salvation through Israel’s Messiah. Acts 10:43. And the Israelites rejoiced over the salvation of Cornelius. Acts 11:18.

It is well to remember that Peter with the Eleven had the keys to the kingdom of heaven, that the Twelve are yet to judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel; and that the Twelve Apostles and the Twelve Tribes are linked together in the New Jerusalem. Matthew 16:16 to 18; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21:12 to 14.

THE TWELVE AND PAUL

Does it not seem somewhat inconsistent that our Premillenarian Bible teachers so vigorously protest against confusing Israel with the Church and yet most of them teach that Paul carried right on with the Twelve, working under the commission of Matthew 28:19 and 20 the keys of the kingdom of because of the number “twelve” and because Matthias had to be chosen in fulfillment of Scripture to maintain the “twelve”, because the twelve apostles kept together in Israel’s land until Cornelius was saved, and because thereafter it was ordered by the Holy Spirit that the Twelve, represented by the pillars, were to go to Israel with Israel’s Gospel and turn over to Paul the responsibility of going to the Gentiles with different messages which he received in different revelations from the risen Christ. Galatians 2:7 to 9; Galatians 1:11 to 17; Ephesians 3:1 to 11; Colossians 1:24 to 28; II Timothy 1:9 to 11; I Timothy 2:5 to 7.

In Acts 15:7 we have recorded the words of Peter, that God chose him to represent the Twelve in preaching to the Gentiles. And now, you and I have some questions in our minds. How do we reconcile Acts 15:7 with Galatians 2:9; that Peter was God’s choice to preach to the Gentiles and yet he was to confine his preaching to Israel? What need was there for Paul, if Peter was God’s choice for the Gentiles and if Peter continued preaching to Gentiles and Paul perpetuated the ministry and message of the Twelve under the Great Commission? Think prayerfully and diligently in your attempt to answer this question. Where will Paul be when the Twelve shall sit on twelve thrones with the Son of man judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel? Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30. Why was it that Israel accepted Peter’s explanation as to why he preached to the Gentiles and when Paul gave his authority for going to them they wanted to tear him to pieces? Acts 11:1 to 18; Acts 22:21 to 30. If Paul was acting under the general instructions of Matthew 28:19 and 20, why did he need a special revelation to preach a different message to the heathen, and why did he declare that Gentiles obtained mercy through Israel’s unbelief? Galatians 1:11 to 18; Romans 11:30. and why Acts 13:46 and Acts 18:6 and Acts 28:28? Good why’s, answer them.

If we will carefully, prayerfully, spiritually and studiously compare Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:25 to 28, with Galatians 1:11 to 18; Romans 11:11; Romans 11:30 and Ephesians 3:8 and 9, we shall certainly be persuaded that the Apostle Paul had a ministry of revelation, as well as a ministry of confirmation; that he had a ministry which more than supplemented the ministry of the Twelve, one that superseded that ministry. In order that we might understand Paul’s ministry during the “Acts” period, we must understand his two-fold program as declared by him in I Corinthians 9:20 to 22, “as one under the law” and “as one not under the law”.

Quite a number of our radio friends wrote in that in the Thirteenth of Acts we find the first Divine Record of Gentiles being saved to provoke Israel to jealousy. And perhaps they are Scripturally correct. Let us read Acts 13:47 to Acts 14:5 and see that we find there the first record of the salvation of Greeks; and that salvation stirred the Jews to more than jealousy. Let us not confuse the Grecians of Acts 6:1 and Acts 11:20 with the Greeks of Acts 14:1. The Grecians were Jews. The Greeks were Gentiles.

Let us turn to Acts 13:6 to 12 and read that very interesting and symbolic lesson. Here we have the story of BarJesus, the disobedient, gainsaying Israelite, blind for a season, and Sergius Paulus who “when he saw what was done, believed.” Paulus was astounded at the doctrine of the Lord. All Gentiles should be. Because of Israel’s blindness for a season, because of Israel’s unbelief, the Gentiles have obtained mercy and salvation. Read it in Romans 11:6 to 32. Great story! BarJesus means the child of Jehovah-Saviour. Israel is so called in the Scriptures. The individual Gentile, Sergius Paulus, and the individual Jew, BarJesus, are representative and symbolic. With the close of Acts 13, we have a group of Jews provoked and judged and a group of Gentiles saved. “All day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” Romans 10:21. Israel the people. How long is “all day long”, until Matthew 23:39 or until Acts 28:25 to 28? Write down your answer.

Now read carefully Acts 13:40 and ponder it in your mind and heart and do not follow in the steps of so-called Bible teachers who have made the serious blunder of having Israel judged and set aside with Matthew 23:31 to 39. “Beware lest it come”. It had not yet come. The blindness and Divine judgment, pictured in Romans 11:3 to 32, fell upon the Nation with the quotation from Isaiah 6:6 to 9. Read it in Acts 28:25 to 28. And read Matthew 23:31 to 38 with Luke 21:20 and Matthew 22:8, and know that God’s judgment, pronounced by Christ while on earth, was postponed until after the “Acts” period closed. Then it was that God sent His army. But He is to send another army. It was then (about 69 or 70 A.D.) that Jerusalem was compassed with armies and their desolation nigh. Jerusalem will again be compassed with armies. Compare Matthew 13:14 and 15; John 12:40 and 41, Acts 28:25 to 28 with Isaiah 6:6 to 10.