In Hebrews 2:3 we find these words, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great Salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” and immediately we ask the question, “With what kind of ministry did the Lord Jesus begin?” In Romans 15:8 Paul supplies the answer, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” So we see from the Word of God that Jesus Christ’s beginning ministry was a ministry of confirmation.
Turning to Matthew 4:17 we find these words, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” This gives to us the message of Jesus’ ministry, and in verse 23, its dispensational characteristics.
“AND JESUS WENT ABOUT ALL GALILEE, TEACHING IN THEIR SYNAGOGUES, AND PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM, AND HEALING ALL MANNER OF SICKNESS AND ALL MANNER OF DISEASE AMONG THE PEOPLE” Then again in Matthew 10:5 to 8, the commission that Jesus gave to the twelve apostles agreed with His own message and ministry, “These twelve Jesus sent forth and commanded them, saying:
“GO NOT INTO THE WAY OF THE GENTILES, AND INTO ANY CITY OF THE SAMARITANS ENTER YE NOT: BUT GO RATHER TO THE LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. AND AS YE GO, PREACH, SAYING, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND. HEAL THE SICK, CLEANSE THE LEPERS, RAISE THE DEAD, CAST OUT DEVILS: FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.”
The mission of the Lord Jesus while on this earth was exclusively Jewish. He came to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and the key to His earthly ministry can only be understood in the light of His own expression found in Matthew 15:24.
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Therefore, we come to this conclusion, The Lord Jesus began his ministry among the lost sheep of the house of Israel, preaching the gospel of the kingdom with signs following, and the apostles began with the same ministry, Hebrews 2:4, “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and. wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.”
The gospel of the kingdom was not an unexpected message to the Jews, for were they not looking forward to the coming of the King who would bring the realization of their Kingdom hopes? The message of the kingdom had been the last word of revelation in the Old Testament, and then after 400 years of silence God spoke again to the same people to whom the prophets had spoken for centuries, and concerning the same land, city, temple and law, etc.
The only difference is this, in the prophets the message is that Christ shall come, and in Matthew the Christ has come. Hebrews 1:1 and 2: “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”.
Jesus came to His own people, but they received Him not. They rejected and crucified the Lord of Glory. It certainly was true that they knew not the day of their visitation. Luke 19:44.
When Jesus explained His beginning ministry in Luke 4:16 to 19; He quoted from Isaiah, chapter 61:1 and 2, and closed the quotation with the significant expression found in verse 19. He came “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” In verse 21 He said “this day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” and truly He might have said to His listeners, “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” The kingdom, long promised, was indeed “at hand”. But Israel would not have this man to reign over then. A little later we hear their cry, “crucify Him.” John 19:14 and 15. But Jesus loved “his own”. He wept over His people and the city of the Great King. In His dying hour, “He made intercession for the transgressors,” (Isaiah 53:12), praying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Luke 23:34.
When we open the Book of Acts and read the first verse we find that instead of the beginning of something new we have a continuation of something already made known. Acts 1:1 “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach.” Jesus began as a minister of the circumcision. Here in the Book of Acts we find the risen Christ continuing His ministry, and His message is still related to the Abrahamic and Davidic promises, hopes, and people. After forty days of instruction the disciples ask Jesus a direct question, Acts 1:6, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” When Jesus replied He did not tell them that they had misunderstood Him and that He was then going to call out “the Church which is His Body”. No, that Church had nothing to do with a confirmation ministry. The Body was not a subject of which the prophets wrote. They were silent and ignorant of that mystery which had been hid for ages and generations, Colossians 1:26. He told them that it was not for them “to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.” Acts 1:7. They were to be witnesses for Him. Witnesses to what? we might ask. Read Acts 2:36—Acts 5:31 and 32 for the answer.
Before we go any further it might be well to inquire why did the disciples ask such a question in reference to the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel? Had Jesus given any reason at all to suspect that such a thing might take place? I think so, for the disciples did not ask the question until Jesus had mentioned the Spirit Baptism in Acts 1:5 “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence,” and this would naturally bring the thought of kingdom restoration to the disciples. Notice with me, Isaiah 32:1 “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment. . . (Isaiah 32:13) upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers . . . (Isaiah 32:15) until the spirit be poured upon us from on high . . . (Isaiah 32:16) then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed and my blessing upon thine offspring.” When the Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel as an explanation of what had taken place. Acts 2:16 and 17. “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” . . . . Therefore, the disciples asked a proper question in reference to Israel’s restoration at the time Jesus mentioned the baptism with the Holy Ghost. Jesus said unto them, ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses. Again we ask the question, witnesses to what? Was Jesus telling them the baptism of the Holy Spirit would make them members of His Body?
Peter on the day of Pentecost made the astounding declaration that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead to sit on the throne of David. Acts 2:30. In chapter 3:19 to 21 he made a national appeal to the Jewish people, declaring that national repentance would bring national deliverance and the restoration promised to Israel through the prophets. In verse 24 the Word of God is very definite, “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” Therein was the answer to their question, “wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” What did that have to do with Jew and Gentile in the Body?
In summing up, I am sure you will agree with me that the risen ministry of Jesus, witnessed to by the disciples was a ministry of confirmation. Acts 5:29 to 32: “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.” The language in this 32nd verse is very specific, we are His witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Ghost. So if the Holy Ghost is giving this message through the apostles, criticism is a very serious thing. Let us turn to Acts 3:24 again, where “these days” were the subject of prophecy and compare with the “these days” in Ephesians 3:9, “which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” This ministry of the Apostle Paul was called the mystery, “hid from ages and generations.” Colossians 1:26.
If Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost is not the same as Paul’s message as given in Ephesians and Colossians, why do Christians insist on disregarding the injunction of Philippians 1:10 where we are told to distinguish between the things that differ? Why do Fundamentalist Bible teachers, in the face of these Scriptural distinctions, tell us that the Church, which is His Body, began on the day of Pentecost? Peter’s message was a message of confirmation. Paul’s mystery message was one of revelation.
In Paul’s first Epistles he confirmed to Israel many things which the prophets had foretold and that which Christ and the Twelve had confirmed. But after Israel’s judgment pronounced by Paul in Acts 28:25 to 28, that apostle to the Gentiles declared many new and glorious truths unknown to the Old Testament prophets or the New Testament apostles. He wants you to obey and pass on to others Ephesians 3:9. What are you doing about it?