There is no more interesting study in all of the Bible than the study of the Book of Acts, generally called the Acts of the Apostles. While there is much that can be gleaned by even a superficial study of that Book, yet it is one of the most difficult portions of the inspired Word of God to understand.
When the student has read the first two chapters of Acts he has been taught that something new has begun with the resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon and into the disciples gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. With the close of the second chapter, the student also has learned that the Lord has added to the little company of believers, three thousand. In the closing verse of the fifth chapter there is recorded concerning the leaders, “daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” In the meantime, in addition to the three thousand, it is recorded in Acts 4:4 that “many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” Thus we see that within a few months the new movement was well under way. Now the question arises, what was the new movement? In Galatians 1:13 is recorded the confession of the Apostle Paul, whose name was Saul, at the time he was converted. His confession was, “I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.” He wrote a similar confession to the Corinthians “am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” I Corinthians 15:9.
In the light of this confession of the Apostle Paul, no one can prove Scripturally that the new movement was not the Church of God. Even those who insist that the Church of God existed before the Day of Pentecost must acknowledge that that Church had a new beginning on the Day of Pentecost after the Holy Spirit came down from heaven.
Now we ask this question to provoke the student to prayerful, serious, thoughtful study: granted that the Bible teaches clearly that there was a new beginning of the Church of God on the Day of Pentecost, with the opening of the Book of Acts, can we not state with Scriptural authority that there was a new beginning of the Church of God with the close of the Book of Acts?
I am sure that every serious intelligent and faithful Christian is more concerned as to what God has to say than with man’s comments, and yet we do thank God for the light on His Word which we have received from the helpful ministry of every able human teacher. In my own Bible study, I know of no one man whose teaching has meant more to me in the understanding of the Bible than the beloved Dr. C. I. Scofield, who departed several years ago to be with the Lord, after a most faithful and fruitful ministry.
Not long before Dr. Scofield was called to meet the Lord, he commended, without reservation, this statement of one of his co-laborers:
“After repeated study of the Epistles written after Paul’s arrival at Rome, I am convinced that in them is found a curative teaching for all of the present-day delusions and fanaticisms found among many of the most sincere saints in the Church.”
That statement is found on page 5 of a little booklet, (Copyist’s note: A copy of A. E. Bishop’s book, “Tongues, Signs and Visions” can be found on this CD.) containing the message of a faithful servant of the Lord, A. E. Bishop. On that same page the writer stated that those who contend that the sign gifts are still in the Church are deceived by Satan. We quote six other statements in the same printed message, all endorsed, without reservation, by Dr. Scofield:
“From Romans 9 to 11, it is evident that Israel was set aside nationally before the close of the Acts. That the Jew is in the forefront right down to the end of the Acts cannot be disproved.”
On page 12 the writer stated,
“Jewish rites, vows and ceremonies were in vogue among the truly regenerated even down to the close of the Book of the Acts period. But the Epistles unfold grace, and reveal light for the elimination from the Church of the last vestige of Judaism.”
On page 15 the writer stated that the sign gifts of I Corinthians 12 were “operative only during the Book of the Acts period.”
On page 17 he stated,
“There is no foundation in the Word of God for the prevailing popular doctrine of divine healing.”,
On page 19 he stated,
“A careful study of the Epistles, especially of the latest Epistles of Paul, which give the normal course of the Church during the present dispensation, would dismount all from their hobbies, eliminate the last vestige of Judaism from their lives.”
On page 21 the writer stated,
“After this clear revelation of the mystery hid in God from all ages, removing the Jew from the position of superiority . . . . which kept the Jew in the forefront right on to the close of the Book of the Acts.”
These facts are not true either because they were written by Mr. Bishop, or heartily endorsed by Dr. Scofield. Both of these men were very humble and able servants of the Lord, and neither claimed any monopoly of the Holy Spirit, or special revelation as to the interpretation of any special Scripture. Neither of them would want any child of God to believe his statements unless they could stand the Berean Scriptural test. We repeat one of the statements; “that the Jew is in the forefront right down to the end of the Acts”, cannot be disproved.
With whom does the Book of Acts begin? It begins with a company of Galilaean Jews. These Jews had been with Jesus of Nazareth before His death and were now waiting for the advent of the Holy Spirit They spoke to Jews on a Jewish feast day. “There were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” Acts 2:5.
How does the Book of Acts close, thirty years later? We quote Acts 28:17, “And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together; and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” 28:23—“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” 28:29— “And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.”
Thus we see that the Book of Acts opened with a message from Peter and the Eleven to a company of Jews in Jerusalem; and closed with a message from the Apostle Paul to a company of Jews in Rome. The events recorded in the second chapter of Acts took place in 33 A.D. The message of Paul in Rome was delivered in 63 A.D. So the Book of Acts period covered about thirty years. It was in the year 45 A.D. that the Apostle Paul spoke these words; in a Jewish synagogue in Asia, to the Jews “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge your selves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:46. Several years after that declaration, Paul was in the City of Corinth, in Europe, again preaching, to Jews, in a Jewish Synagogue, and in the year 54 A.D. spoke these words: “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. It is apparent; however, to anyone who will carefully read the last ten chapters of the Book of Acts that even after both of Paul’s pronouncements the Jew was kept in the forefront right on to the close of the Book of the Acts. Referring to the statement quoted above from the pamphlet, “Jewish rites, vows, and ceremonies were in vogue among the truly regenerated even down to the close of the Book of the Acts period;” how true that is. We call your attention to the many references in the Book of Acts to things Jewish. In the Book of Acts, the word Abraham occurs 8 times; Moses occurs 19 times; Isaac occurs 4 times; Jacob occurs 7 times; the fathers occurs 28 times; the sabbath occurs 9 times; Israel occurs 21 times; Jerusalem occurs 60 times; Judaea occurs 13 times; the temple occurs 24 times; synagogue occurs 23 times; circumcision occurs 9 times; the law occurs 22 times; David occurs 11 times; vision occurs 12 times; miracle occurs 8 times; priest occurs 27 times; tongues occurs 5 times, and signs 8 times. According to Acts 11:19, during the first years after Pentecost, the preaching was to Jews exclusively. Up to the year 41 A.D., according to Peter’s testimony, recorded in Acts 10:28, it was unlawful for come unto a Gentile. However, in that year the Lord caused the disciples, in spite of the Jews’ prejudice, to glorify Him, for granting repentance unto a respectable, Godfearing, Jew-loving, religious Gentile who lived in their land. In the year 41 A. D. the household of Cornelius heard the message of Christ and they were saved. It was because Cornelius feared God and worked righteousness. Acts 10:35.
Eighteen years after the conversion of these Gentiles the Apostle Paul said to a company of disciples in Ephesus, “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem.” Then some months later this same Apostle Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin in the presence of Israel’s highpriest. We quote here Acts 23:1 to 5: “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God unto this day. And the high-priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high-priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high-priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.”
Carefully consider these words concerning the high-priest in the light of Paul’s statement written in his Epistle to the Romans the same year: “Ye are not under the law.” Romans 6:14. Was Paul guilty of duplicity? Why did he apologize, on the basis of the law, to the high priest? Was the high-priest the servant of God, in spite of the fact he did not believe that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, twenty-seven years after the death of the Saviour? Did God recognize highpriest after the veil in the temple rent when Christ died on the Cross?
Now this most important question “Were all of the twelve apostles, and the Apostle Paul, and all of the elders and disciples out of the will of God because they carried the law and a part of Israel’s program on through the Book of Acts?”
And another question: “Is the program of the Book of Acts the program of Church of God for today?” If not all program of Acts, how much of the program of Acts? Who has the wisdom or discernment to select or reject certain parts of that program for the practice of the members of the Body Christ? If the Book of Acts was the program of the Church, and is not now, why?
A conscientious, earnest Christian said a few days ago; “My, but I’m mixed up, and I don’t want to reject anything that the Lord has for me, but it is so difficult to know what to accept and what to reject in the program of the Church for that period covered by the Book of Acts; and so few Fundamentalist Bible teachers can give me any light.”
The Book of Acts is truly a book of signs and wonders. There are the cloven tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost, followed by the speaking with tongues. In the third chapter is recorded the miraculous healing of the man lame from his mother’s womb; and in the 28th chapter is recorded the miraculous escape of Paul from the venom of the serpent, followed by the miraculous healing of Publius. Acts 28:8. Between the second chapter and the twenty-eighth chapter are recorded many miracles and signs, including visions, supernatural judgments, jail deliverances, raising the dead, earthquakes, and divine manifestations and Visitations, revelations and tongues. 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.”
Was not the whole program of the Book of Acts in accordance with the commission of Christ as recorded in Mark 16:15 to 18? Hear it: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”
All during the Book of Acts period signs and divers miracles followed. During that thirty-year period Paul wrote I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, Galatians, I Corinthians, II Corinthians and Romans. In Romans 15:19 he referred to signs. He called those signs the signs of an apostle. II Corinthians 12:12. He thanked God that he spake in tongues. I Corinthians 14:18. In that same Epistle, I Corinthians, he included tongues, healing and miracles among the signs that followed believers. I Corinthians 12:4 to 9. So most assuredly signs followed.
Now, this question: What process of elimination is the Christian to employ today to separate the “signs following” from water baptism. Certainly the Lord joined them together. And He joined them both with the Gospel of the Kingdom. Let us read of the Lord upbraiding the Eleven with their unbelief and the hardness of their heart when He commissioned them, according to Mark 16:14, to 18, and then consider thoughtfully their command to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” Compare these words with Acts 20:24, concerning the gospel of the grace of God, twenty years later. Do you think the Eleven knew anything about the Gospel of Grace when they preached to none but Jews only? Acts 11:9. And surely, they did not preach the Gospel of the Grace of God; in its purity to Cornelius. And if they were preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, then while they were preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, would not the “Kingdom” prayer have been in order, “thy kingdom come?” How can any man claim to be an intelligent exegete of the Word of God, and eliminate from the program of the Body of Christ, the so-called Lord’s prayer, on the basis that it was a Kingdom prayer, and retain water baptism, although acknowledging that it was a Kingdom ordinance?
Here is a most proper question: “If the program of signs and supernatural visitations and demonstrations, found in the four Gospels and all during the Book of Acts period, including the Pauline Epistles of that period, did not cease with the close of the Book of Acts period, are there any true Christians today?” We must admit that there are none with those “sign” credentials; none who witness their salvation with gifts from above similar to those that accompanied salvation during the period covered by the Book of Acts. What a sad and pitiable spectacle one can behold today among poor ignorant, deluded, sincere believers here and there who are futilely endeavoring to perpetuate the signs of Christ’s and His first disciples. Their delusion is one of Satan’s instruments to wreck Fundamentalism.
Today, as never before, Christians are thoughtfully seeking for the Scriptural curative for this fanaticism, but when they learn the cure, they are as afraid of the cure as they are of the disease, because they are the victims of the traditions of men and fettered by the religious ceremonies imposed by historic Christianity. They are afraid to sail out into the beautiful stream of pure and unadulterated Grace, and Body truth for this age. Many are finding the antidote in the Messages of the Lord given to and through the Apostle Paul after he reached Rome, in which Messages there is a marked absence of signs and miracles and Jewish ceremonies; and much about the revelation of the Mystery which was hid in God, hidden from men, not made known to any of Israel’s prophets, or any other prophets before Paul reached Rome, after the Book of Acts was closed. Truly there is just as much Scriptural authority for saying that Church of God had a new beginning with the close of the Book of Acts period as to say that it had a new beginning with the opening of the Book of Acts.
The Fundamentalists who say that the company of saved Gentiles, to whom Peter and James, in the presence of Paul and Barnabas, referred in Acts 15:14 and 17, gathered into the same Church of God, as were the company of saved Gentiles, to whom Paul referred in Ephesians 3:1 to 9, are charging the Holy Spirit with contradiction. Peter and James said of the former company that their salvation into the Church, to which they were gathered, was the subject of Prophecy; that they were being called out with a company of elect Jews, in accordance with the ninth chapter of Amos. Acts 15:14 and 17. Whereas Paul plainly declared that the position of the saved Gentiles, mentioned in Ephesians 3:6, was wholly unknown to Amos or any other Prophet of Israel. What about the contradiction? Did Paul contradict Peter, or are the great majority of Fundamentalists mistaken? The latter, we may be sure, is a fact.
If we insist that Peter and Paul spoke of the same Church of saved Gentiles there is a plain, undeniable contradiction in God’s Word. And no Christian believes that there are contradictions when the Word of Truth is rightly divided.
If the Church of God today, the Body of Christ, is to be delivered from “fanaticism”; if Fundamentalism is not to be wrecked by Pentecostalism and similar counterfeit movements and delusions, the Fundamentalists must wake up and apply the one and only curative to rid the Body of Christ of the so-called tongues and signs and visions which are so prevalent, by teaching that the program of the Church today, concerning signs and gifts, must be found this side of the twenty-eighth chapter of Acts and that all truth must be studied in the light of Body Truth.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
It should be obvious that there can be no unity to keep so long as some members of the one Body insist on the sign gifts of the Book of Acts period while other members of the same Body ignore them, without giving a good and sufficient Scriptural reason for so doing. And truly those members who cling to the sign gifts and water baptism are more consistent than those members who cling to the water without the signs; for in the Book of Acts there are two baptisms with the signs, and after the Book of Acts, one baptism and no signs.
Any intelligent student of the Word of God knows that Body truth is not to be found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John There are many truths in those four Record: that can and should be applied to the life of the individual member of the Body of Christ. But the subject of those four Records is the King and the Kingdom rather than the Head and the Body. Those four Records are at least 98 per cent Jewish, yes more than 98 per cent. Is not the Book of ‘‘ Acts 80 per cent, or more, Jewish? Is not the subject of the King and the Kingdom carried through the Book of Acts rather than the truth concerning the Head and the Body? Most assuredly there is as much Scriptural evidence that the same Kingdom truth, that is the subject of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, is carried through the Book of Acts as that the same Church of God that is dealt with in the Book of Acts, is the subject of the Apostle Paul in his messages written after he reached Rome.
If the Body of Christ, dealt with in those closing Epistles, is identical with the Church which began on the day of Pentecost, where can be found the Scriptural explanation of that most radical change that took place in the program of the Church of God after the period covered by the Book of Acts ceased?
It is our Christian duty to join with the Pentecostalist, in an earnest endeavor to recover for the Church today the entire “Book of Acts” Church program, or recover for the Church today the “Body” truth that has been lost since the close of the first century; for it is in that revealed Mystery that the risen Lord has given, with the dispensation of the Grace of God, the only intelligent Scriptural explanation of the cessation of signs, and “that which is in part,” which was God’s order during the Transition period covered by the Book of Acts, in which Book we have learned there were nearly 400 Jewish expressions. Why the absence of those things Jewish in Paul’s closing epistles?
Who authorized any preacher or teacher of the Word to select from the Book of Acts period that part of the early Church program that may please the particular assembly or group of Christians with which he is identified and wholly ignore the signs; ceremonies and gifts that may seem to them objectionable or unnecessary? A strange process of elimination this. Such arbitrary rejection or selection of God’s established order will be practiced only by the sheeplike, who do their thinking by proxy. True Bereans will submit the entire program of the Pentecostal, or Book of Acts, Church to the test of the final truth revealed by the risen Christ to and through the Apostle Paul.
Little wonder that some have believed that the Red-letter New Testament is a work of Satan to hinder Christians from going on with the risen Christ and Paul to perfection rather than going back to Jesus under the law. And on to perfection means beyond the twenty-eighth chapter of Acts; for although Christ by His death on the cross made provision for the abolition of the law dispensation, there was an overlapping of the law and kingdom all through the Book of Acts.
Perhaps you are among those who have elected to drop tongues, healings, visions, casting out demons and other signs and miracles and just hold on to water baptism. Be sure you have Scriptural authority for putting asunder that which God hath joined together. Surely the Lord is trying to get the ear of Fundamentalists today to recover for the Church, Body truth; and more and more. He will use the rod of fanaticism to bring them to their senses. Let’s wake up before it is too late. There are many preachers who know the truth for this age, but their desire for popularity or doors opened by men, that is, some personal advantage, keeps them silent. In the meantime behold the wreck going steadily on .
Shall we suffer with Paul? In Ephesians 6:19 and 20 and Colossians 4:3 we learn that Paul was in jail for this truth; so we can afford to suffer, if we can only get it to God’s people.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.