The Development of Christianity
I shall never forget the light, help and blessing that came to my soul when, after having read several times the interesting Bible accounts of these three Roman officials, I began to understand the doctrinal significance attached to each of the records. Two of the Roman Gentiles were centurions. The third Roman Gentile was “the deputy of the country.”
The first of these Roman officials was the first Gentile man to whom the Lord Jesus ministered while He was here among His people. The second of the Roman officials was the first Gentile man to whom Peter ministered seven or eight years after Christ’s death and resurrection. The third of these Roman officials was the first Gentile man to whom Saul of Tarsus ministered (so far as there is any Bible record) about twelve years after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“AND WHEN HE HEARD OF JESUS, HE SENT UNTO HIM THE ELDER’S OF THE JEWS, BESEECHING HIM THAT HE WOULD COME AND HEAL HIS SERVANT. AND WHEN THEY CAME TO JESUS, THEY BESOUGHT HIM INSTANTLY, SAYING, THAT HE WAS WORTHY FOR WHOM HE SHOULD DO THIS: FOR HE LOVETH OUR NATION, AND HE HATH BUILT US A SYNAGOGUE.” “WHEN JESUS HEARD THESE THINGS, HE MARVELED AT HIM, AND TURNED HIM ABOUT, AND SAID UNTO THE PEOPLE THAT FOLLOWED HIM, I SAY UNTO YOU, I HAVE NOT FOUND SO GREAT FAITH, NO, NOT IN ISRAEL.” Luke 7:3 to 5 and 9.
“THERE WAS A CERTAIN MAN IN CAESAREA CALLED CORNELIUS, A CENTURION OF THE BAND CALLED THE ITALIAN BAND, A DEVOUT MAN, AND ONE THAT FEARETH GOD WITH ALL HIS HOUSE, WHICH GAVE MUCH ALMS TO THE PEOPLE, AND PRAYED TO GOD ALWAY.” “AND THEY SAID, CORNELIUS THE CENTURION, A JUST MAN, AND ONE THAT FEARETH GOD, AND OF GOOD REPORT AMONG ALL THE NATION OF THE JEWS, WAS WARNED FROM GOD BY AN HOLY ANGEL TO SEND FOR THEE INTO HIS HOUSE, AND TO HEAR WORDS OF THEE.” Acts 10:1, 2 and 22.
“THE DEPUTY OF THE COUNTRY, SERGIUS PAULUS, A PRUDENT MAN, WHO CALLED FOR BARNABAS AND SAUL AND DESIRED TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD.” Acts 13:7.
Surely the account of a prudent politician who desires to hear the Word of God is not an ordinary story. In fact, when you have carefully scanned the stories of these three gentlemen under consideration, you will agree with me that they were Gentiles who were different from the average run of Gentiles who lived in the days of Christ and His apostles.
To the person who loves the Lord Jesus and wants to understand the Bible, surely the development of Christianity as taught by the experiences of Christ and His apostles with these three Roman officials should be of unusual interest. So we present the full stories.
“Now when He had ended all His sayings in the audience of the people, He entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the elders of the Jews, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus they besought Him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom He should do this; For he loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when He was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying unto Him, Lord, trouble not Thyself; for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.” Luke 7:1 to 10.
“When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:10 to 12.
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band. A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on Him he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And He said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter.” “Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius, and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek; what is the cause wherefore ye are come?” “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation: but God hath spewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the Word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.” “When they heard these things they held their Peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 10:1 to 5— Acts 10:21 and 25 to 28— Acts 10:34 and 35— Acts 10:44 and 45— Acts 11:18.
“And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: 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 Spirit, 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.”
“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. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:6 to 12 and 46 to 48.
By carefully studying the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we shall learn that this Roman centurion was not only the first Gentile man to whom Christ ministered, so far as the Bible Record is concerned, but that he was the only Gentile man who received a blessing in connection with the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus. This was then an unusual case, and the case of an unusual Gentile.
Christ did bless another unusual Gentile, a Greek woman. Like the centurion she was a Gentile of great faith. The story is related in Mark 7:24 to 30 and Matthew 15:22 to 28. To that Gentile woman Christ made two significant statements.
“Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled; for it is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it unto the dogs.” Mark 7:27.
“He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24.
Yes, these statements are full of meaning for the student of the Scriptures. “Let the children first be filled.” Gentiles were not children. The Jews were the children.
About fourteen years after Christ uttered these words, Paul said 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 yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:46.
Later on we shall endeavor to show the full import of these most interesting and significant words, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” But remember the words of the Lord Jesus to the Gentile woman, “let the Jews first be filled.”
Then note the words of the Lord Jesus to the Gentile man concerning the children: “BUT THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM SHALL BE CAST OUT INTO OUTER DARKNESS; THERE SHALL BE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH.” Matthew 8:12.
This meant that Divine judgment was in store for the children. The Jews were headed for trouble. This trouble for the Jews meant blessing for the Gentiles. Then about twenty-eight years later the Holy Spirit directed this statement to Gentiles:
“FOR AS YE IN TIMES PAST HAVE NOT BELIEVED GOD; YET HAVE NOW OBTAINED MERCY THROUGH THEIR. UNBELIEF.” Romans 11:30.
All through the Book of Acts, in the development of Christianity, God’s program was suggested by Christ’s experience and words with the only two Gentiles who received a kingdom blessing from Him while He was here on earth.
“LET THE CHILDREN FIRST BE FILLED.” “THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM SHALL BE, CAST INTO OUTER DARKNESS.” All through the Book of Acts period God’s order was, “to the Jew first.” At the close of the period God’s terrible judgment was pronounced upon the Jews. Read the awful judgment of darkness in Acts 28:25 to 28.
“And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Spirit by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive; For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” Acts 28:25 to 28.
But now for the other statement: “But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24.
Note also Matthew 10:5 to 7 and 10:23:
“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.” Matthew 10:5 to 7.
“And when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” Matthew 10:23.
Then note why the publican received a blessing from the Lord Jesus: “And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as, he also is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:9.
Now we see why the case of the centurion was an unusual case. He was not a son of Abraham. He was not numbered among the lost sheep of Israel. He knew his place. But he loved the Jews and had paid for their religious house of worship. He did not presume to approach Jesus of Nazareth. He acknowledged himself to be an unworthy Gentile. He asked the Jews to go to their Messiah for him. They did and they told their Messiah that the centurion was worthy. He was of great faith. He received the unusual from Israel’s Messiah. Let us remember the words of Romans 15:8:
“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.”
Compare this with another verse in the same chapter:
“THAT I SHOULD BE THE MINISTER OF JESUS CHRIST TO THE GENTILES, MINISTERING THE GOSPEL OF GOD, THAT THE OFFERING UP OF THE GENTILES MIGHT BE ACCEPTABLE, BEING SANCTIFIED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.” Romans 15:16.
Now once again think of the words of the Lord Jesus on earth and compare them with Paul’s word, nearly fifteen years later. “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”
Why did they turn? Because the Jews put it from them.
If any man ever deserved to be saved, surely Cornelius did; for he feared God, and prayed to God; he was just and devout and was in good standing with God’s nation Israel. But he was uncircumcised. Unto Peter was committed the gospel of the circumcision. Galatians 2:7. By a wonderful vision God sent Peter to preach to Cornelius.
It is interesting to compare the two statements of Peter in Acts 10:28 and in Acts 10:34 and 35. In Acts 10:28 Peter declared that it was an unlawful thing for a man that was a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation. But God, in a vision, told Peter that He was now ready to depart from the old order; so Peter said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” Acts 10:34 and 35. This was the Word which God sent to Israel in Judaea. Acts 10:36 and 37.
Later on, God sent a different word to the Gentiles, by Paul: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:4 and 5.
Quite different words from Acts 10:34 and 35.
Note the reaction on the part of the other apostles and Jewish brethren, when they heard that Peter had preached to Cornelius, the God-fearing, Jew-loving Gentile: “And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the Word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” Acts 11:1 to 3.
They did not approve of the new Divine movement toward the Gentiles. But after Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, we read these words “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18.
We emphasize “then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” When? About seven or eight years after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
In the light of these Scriptures, and the fact stated in Acts 11:19, we learn that during the first nine chapters of Acts, God’s order was the same as during the years of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, “to the Jew only.” After Saul became Paul, and thereafter throughout the Book of Acts, God’s order was “to the Jew first” and “also to the Gentile.” But this order ceased after Paul, in Rome, became the prisoner of Jesus Christ for Gentiles.
“FOR THIS CAUSE, I PAUL, THE PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST FOR YOU GENTILES, IF YE HAVE HEARD OF THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH IS GIVEN ME TO YOU-WARD: HOW THAT BY REVELATION HE MADE KNOWN UNTO ME THE MYSTERY.” Ephesians 3:1 to 3.
It is quite interesting to compare Peter’s statement in Acts 15:7 with the statement concerning Peter’s ministry in Galatians 2:9:
“AND WHEN THERE HAD BEEN MUCH DISPUTING, PETER ROSE UP, AND SAID UNTO THEM, MEN AND BRETHREN, YE KNOW HOW THAT A GOOD WHILE AGO GOD MADE CHOICE AMONG US, THAT THE GENTILES BY MY MOUTH SHOULD HEAR THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL AND BELIEVE.” Acts 15:7.
“AND WHEN JAMES, PETER AND JOHN, WHO SEEMED TO BE PILLARS, PERCEIVED THE GRACE THAT WAS GIVEN UNTO ME, THEY GAVE TO ME AND BARNABAS THE RIGHT HANDS OF FELLOWSHIP; THAT WE SHOULD GO UNTO THE HEATHEN, AND THEY UNTO THE CIRCUMCISION.” Galatians 2:9.
After God selected Peter to preach to the household of Cornelius He decided that Peter should confine his testimony to the Jews. The only time that Peter was out of the land of the Jews, according to the “Acts” record, he certainly proved that he was not the man of God to preach to Gentiles
“For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.” Galatians 2:12.
Let us keep in mind the fact that Peter and the Eleven remained in Jerusalem. Acts 8:1 and Acts 15:2. Christ promised them twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28. The Twelve were to go over the cities of Israel. Matthew 10:23. They preached to devout Jews out of every nation under heaven. Acts 2:5. But it was Paul who assumed the responsibility of preaching to the Gentiles, the gospel of the uncircumcision and the unsearchable riches of Christ. Galatians 2:7—Romans 15:16—Ephesians 3:8—II Timothy 1:11—I Timothy 2:6 and 7—Romans 11:13. It was Paul who declared that under his supervision and God-given authority, the gospel had been preached all over the world, to every creature under heaven. Colossians 1:5 to 7 and Colossians 1:23.
Twelve apostles stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached to the twelve tribes of Israel. Acts 2:14 and 2:36. One of the Twelve was killed in Jerusalem, James, the brother of John. Acts 12:1 and 2. That murder occurred several years after Cornelius was saved.
Now, consider two interesting facts. First, there is no record in the Book of Acts, after the death of James, concerning the activities of the Twelve, only as Peter and James and the other nine apostles had dealings with the. Apostle Paul. And again: There is no record in the Book of Acts that any of the Twelve preached outside of the land of the Jews, or that any of them, (except Peter’s message to Cornelius) preached to any other Gentile during the “Acts” period. They agreed to go to the Jews. Galatians 2:9. Twelve apostles to twelve tribes. One apostle of the Gentiles. Romans 11:13. The Twelve are to have a ministry to the twelve tribes in the future. Matthew 19:28—Revelation 21:12 to 14.
Now note the statement of James and Peter concerning the salvation of the household of Cornelius:
“AND AFTER THEY HAD HELD THEIR PEACE. JAMES ANSWERED, SAYING, MEN AND BRETHREN, HEARKEN UNTO ME: SIMEON HATH DECLARED HOW GOD AT THE FIRST DID VISIT THE GENTILES, TO TAKE OUT OF THEM A PEOPLE FOR HIS NAME. AND TO THIS AGREE THE WORDS OF THE PROPHETS; AS IT IS WRITTEN, AFTER THIS I WILL RETURN, AND WILL BUILD AGAIN THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID, WHICH IS FALLEN DOWN: AND I WILL BUILD AGAIN THE RUINS THEREOF. AND I WILL SET IT UP: THAT THE RESIDUE OF MEN MIGHT SEEK AFTER THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES UPON WHOM MY NAME IS CALLED, SAITH THE LORD. WHO DOETH ALL THESE THINGS. KNOWN UNTO GOD ARE ALL HIS WORKS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD.” Acts 15:13 to 18.
God visited Cornelius in agreement with Amos’ Prophecy. Read Amos 9:11 to 15. Amos’ prophecy concerning Gentile salvation was quite different from the unsearchable (unprophesied) riches of Christ which Paul preached to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8) concerning the Joint-Body of Ephesians 3:6. “Same Body” should be translated “JointBody.” This “Joint-Body” may be called in Ephesians, “the Church of the Mystery,” “the dispensation of the mystery which was hid in God.” Ephesians 3:9
It was one thing for God to visit the Gentiles to take out from them a people for His name It is quite a different thing for God to make of Jew and Gentile the Joint-Body of Ephesians 3:6, “the One New Man” of Ephesians 2:15. We must he careful not to confuse the prophesied Gentile program of Acts 15:13 to 18 with the unprophesied Gentile program of Ephesians 2:15 to 3:11.
The kingdom program of the Lord, under the Twelve, recorded in Acts, chapters two to eleven, was something of a pattern of what is going to take place on this earth after God has finished His eternal purpose concerning “the dispensation of the mystery.”
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship (dispensation) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God. Who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:9 to 11.
Note God’s purpose in this age:
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11 to 13.
Note in Acts 2:16 to 18—Acts 2:27 to 35—Acts 3:19 to 25—and Acts 15:13 to 18, that Peter presented God’s prophesied kingdom program, with Christ on David’s throne. Joel’s Prophecy fulfilled, the times of the restitution of all things prophesied by prophets.
“Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many is have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” Acts 3:24.
Peter preached concerning Israel’s kingdom days and Israel’s prophets spoke concerning these days.
Israel’s prophets did not speak concerning these days, concerning the Body of Christ. the Church of the Mystery. We must know the difference between God’s prophesied kingdom and the unprophesied Body of Christ.
This surely was an important distinction in the mind of the Holy Spirit when He dictated the words of II Timothy 2:15:
“STUDY TO SHEW THYSELF APPROVED UNTO GOD, A WORKMAN THAT NEEDETH NOT TO BE ASHAMED, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.”
Perhaps we sometimes want to give a hearty “Amen” to Peter’s words concerning the profound truth which the Lord revealed to Paul:
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” II Peter 3:15 and 16.
Let us not follow the blind leaders who insist that there is no difference between the “gospel of the circumcision,” which was committed to Peter and “the gospel of the uncircumcision,” which was committed unto Paul. Galatians 2:7. But let us understand that the word “gospel” covers many phases of Divine Truth, and that both Peter and Paul, and all the other saved Jews and Gentiles, have been saved by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Two serious blunders have been made by the majority of Bible teachers, by even those who are recognized leaders among Fundamentalists. They erroneously have the Old Testament (Covenant) begin with the first part of Genesis instead of with the twentieth chapter of Exodus, 2500 years later. “The law was added.” Galatians 3:19. “The law entered.” Romans 5:20. The Old Testament was added 2500 years after Adam sinned.
Another serious blunder that is responsible for confusion, controversies, and fanaticism among God’s redeemed people, is the erroneous teaching that the “dispensation of the mystery” began with Peter and Pentecost instead of with Saul after his name was changed to Paul. Acts 15:13 and Ephesians 2:15 are two different programs.
One champion of this faulty dispensationalism, who is a recognized leader among Fundamentalists, writes that the new dispensation of the mystery began with Peter. Then he writes in another message: “A dispensation then is a period of time in which God is dealing with men in some way in which He has not dealt with them before. Moreover there may be degrees of revelation.” “Only when a new revelation from God is given, does a dispensation change.” “The whole counsel of God was not made known until Paul received this revelation of the mystery.” “It was a special revelation given not to the Twelve, but to him as the apostle of the new dispensation.“
In spite of these statements, this man of God teaches that the new dispensation began with Peter on the day of Pentecost before he received the housetop vision. Contradiction as well as blunder.
In the thirteenth chapter of Acts is recorded one of the most interesting and significant stories in the Bible, including what some one has called, “a dispensational miracle.” Here we have the story of two Jews and a Gentile, “Barjesus,” “Saul” and “Paulus.” Bar-jesus was an unbelieving Jew, filled with all subtilty (guile). He tried to turn the Gentile away from the faith. Saul was a believing Jew, filled with the Holy Spirit. He tried to turn the Gentile unto the faith. But Saul himself had been a blaspheming, unbelieving Jew. Note his own testimony: “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” I Timothy 1:13. Bar-jesus then was not one whit worse than Saul. Both Bar-jesus and Saul were blind spiritually, and both of them were visited with physical blindness and had to be led about by another.
Note concerning Saul: “they led him by the hand … and he was three days without sight.” Acts 9:8 and 9.
Note concerning Bar-jesus: “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” Acts 13:11. Note what happened to Paulus, the Gentile, because of the unbelief and blindness of Barjesus
“THEN THE DEPUTY, WHEN HE SAW WHAT WAS DONE, BELIEVED, BEING ASTONISHED AT THE DOCTRINE OF THE LORD.” Acts 13:12.
Here we have the very same Divine Truth that we have in Romans 11:7 to 11 and Romans 11:25 to 30. Concerning Israel, God gave them eyes that they should not see: “Let their eyes be darkened.” “The rest were blinded.” “A blindness to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” “For ye (Gentiles) in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief.”
When God sent blindness upon Israel, He cast away Israel, and that meant reconciliation for the Gentiles. That caused Paul to exclaim: “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!” Romans 11:33.
Note again Acts 13:12: “Then the deputy, when he saw what was done. believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” Then note Acts 14:27:
“AND WHEN THEY WERE COME AND HAD GATHERED THE CHURCH TOGETHER, THEY REHEARSED ALL, THAT GOD HAD DONE WITH THEM, AND HOW HE HAD OPENED THE DOOR OF FAITH UNTO THE GENTILES.”
Perhaps we can now sec why the Divine judgment (blindness) upon Barjesus, has been called “a dispensational miracle,” for it marked one of the most radical dispensational changes in all of God’s dealings with the human race.
When Paulus beheld the miracle. he was astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. and believed unto salvation. Saul became “Paulus” the apostle to the Gentiles. Romans 11:13. He took the name of the Gentile convert, This was most significant. It is in the thirteenth chapter of Acts, following; the salvation of Paulus, that we find the apostle’s significant statement, “lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Note why he said this in Acts 13:45 and 46. It was because the unbelieving Jews blasphemed. Then followed the important news of Acts 14:27, that God had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
The doctrine of the Lord, in connection with Israel, and their blindness. which has continued unto this day, should cause every Gentile to believe God and His Word, and to take advantage of God’s gracious offer of reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10.
“And all things are of God, Who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” II Corinthians 5:18.
Note the contrast between two Jews, Nathanael and Bar-jesus. Concerning Nathanael, Jesus Christ said, “behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” John 1:47. Christ saw Nathanael under the fig tree. Nathanael replied: “Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.” John 1:48 and 49. Nathanael means “the rift of God.” Concerning the future salvation of Israel, the Scriptures declare: “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Romans 11:27 to 29. The fig tree in the Bible speaks of the nation Israel. In the coming Kingdom age, under the guaranty of the New Covenant. God is going to take all guile out of Israel. and “they will look on Him Whom they pierced.” They too shall say, “Thou art the King of Israel.”
The Son of God is yet to be the King of Israel, and He will plant His people in their own land and no one shall ever pluck them up again. Amos 9:11 to 15. Note Ezekiel 36:25 and 37:25:
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever; and My servant David shall be their prince for ever.”
Bar-jesus had an excellent name, but he was a “child of the devil,” “the enemy of all righteousness.” He was full of guile. Acts 13:10. He was exactly what Nathanael was not. But he was what Israel, in her blindness and rebellion, now is. Nathanael was what Israel is to be in the coming golden age on earth. “Bar-jesus” means “tile child of Jehovah Saviour.” What a splendid name! That was the place and responsibility of Israel. Israel was the child of Jehovah Saviour, chosen to turn Gentiles unto faith. Isaiah 43:1, 7 and 10. But like Bar-jesus, they turned them away from the faith.
In almost every city where Paul went preaching the Word of God. the unbelieving Jews, did all in their power to keep the Gentiles from believing. Note the general charge against them in I Thessalonians 2:14 and 15: “Ye also have suffered like things of your countrymen, even as they have of the Jews; who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God. and are contrary to all men.”
Remember that Bar-Jesus, the child of Jehovah, was to be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. This is Israel’s predicament. Blind, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. Romans 11:25. And then Malachi 4:2 will be fulfilled. “But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” Then note the blessed condition of Israel as told in Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:11: “And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest.”
Surely this should cause us to diligently study the eleventh chapter of Romans as never before and know that it is one of God’s dispensational chapters, one of His great dispensational chapters, the truth of which was foretold in the dispensational miracle of Acts 13, the story, of a blind Jew, whose blindness caused the Gentile to turn to the Lord for salvation.
But we know that the Gentiles were also blind; they were in spiritual darkness. The blindness of the Gentiles is told in Romans also: “Because that. when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21. The corruption of the Gentiles is told in Romans 1:18 to 32. Note Romans 1:29: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers.” God gave them up. When God gave up the Gentiles, centuries before Jesus Christ came from heaven, then He created a new thing for His glory, the nation Israel: “Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable.” Hebrews 11:12. God cut off all nations but Israel. Gentiles had to come under the covenant of circumcision. and become affiliated with Israel, to receive God’s blessing. God dealt with all nations through one elect nation.
With the Gentiles given up and Israel set aside, what would happen to the human race? Would God bring an end to the human race, or bring in the reign of grace? The answer is Titus 2:11 to 13—Ephesians 2:7—Romans 5:21—and Romans 5:1 and 2.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” “That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Now I sincerely trust the reader sees the dispensational truth taught in the experiences of these three Roman officials, and that the beginning of this present dispensation of grace marked God’s changed attitude toward Gentiles who can have God’s special favor, righteousness, and eternal glory, without religion, yea, even “without a cause.” The word “freely” in Romans 3:24, is “dorian” and means literally “without a cause.” But let us also by faith appropriate the necessary grace for every test, trial and task, remembering II Corinthians 9:5:
“And God is also able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.