WHAT IS RIGHT DIVISION?
2 Timothy 2:15
The following is taken from an old note book, written many years ago.
This is Paul's last writing. He is winding up his affairs. And Timothy is the one to take over and continue the ministry of the dispensation of the mystery. So from the human standpoint alone, we would not expect any trifling, but some very serious things.
In the verse in question, it is not addressed to the student, as so many think, but to the workman. And Timothy was one of Paul's workers.
Study. We have this word in Ephesians 4:3 and it there means endeavoring. It has the idea of putting forth some effort. That is work.
Approved. Has to do with testing, as of metal. The works of believers will be reviewed in judgment and either approved, or disapproved. Some get a reward, and some find their works burned up. In 2 Timothy 3:8 the word reprobate is disapproved. So then all believers are either just or unjust.
Of course Timothy would be used to the LXX and would find the principle of right division in Proverbs 3:5,6. If we acknowledge Him, He will then rightly divide our paths. Even direct has the idea of dividing and right. So we take the right highway on a trip and watch the signs along the way.
There is an example of right division in Luke 4:16-21. The Lord read from the Scriptures and stopped at where we have a comma in our versions. He was practicing right division. If He had read on, He could not have said that these things were being fulfilled there and then. He was reading from Isaiah 61:1,2. The day of vengeance was then in the future and still is. So the Lord practiced right division. Mr. Welch said once that when the Lord sat down, the people must have sat up! And well they could, for here was something new to them, even tho from an old book. That comma has now stretched to about 2,000 years. It probably is the 2 days mentioned in Hosea 6:2. For the vengeance, see Luke 21:24.
All of us practice right division in many areas of our lives, why not do so with the Word?
Read 2 Timothy 2 thru and see if you can find some examples of right division in it.
Notice the use of right division in verses 11-13. There is a difference between living with Him and reigning with Him. You also might read chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians. There are the just and the unjust, believers, but divided as to rewards. And some have no reward at all, and so are saved as by fire. Loss of reward.
In verses 17 & 18, a couple of men have said that the resurrection is past already at that time, but they had divided the Word wrongly.
And in verses 20,21 there is a division of vessels. They should not be mixed or one confused with the other. In other words, do not mix the bread in the garbage pail!
The Lord practiced Right Division; so should we.
Thru the ages there has been much confusion about the way of salvation just because most folks did not know what salvation was. they did not make any distinction between salvation, reward, entering the kingdom, or being a member of the church which is the body of Christ. Examples:
The dying malefactor (Luke 23:39-43). He was not asking about the way of salvation. He already was a believer. See his testimony. He was asking to be remembered in the kingdom.
The rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23). This one was asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Now salvation does not come by doing something, neither does it come as an inheritance. Like the malefactor, this man was asking about a place, an inheritance in the kingdom. He was already a believer.
Nicodemus (John 3:1-12). Nicodemus was already a believer, but evidently wanted to know about the kingdom, for the Lord answered the unasked question by saying that for a believer to enter the kingdom, he must be born again or from above.
In the ministry of John. His message was, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. John is not telling them to get saved. He says nothing about salvation. He is preaching to Israel, God's chosen people, those who worshiped at the temple and synagogue and believed in the God of Abraham. All these were to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. No need for a salvation message here.
The ministry of the 12. During the time of the gospels they were to preach a message identical to that of John. We do not find one instance of them preaching to people who need salvation. Peter preached in the house of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, but the group there were believers already. They were added to the kingdom.
The case of Cornelius. In addition to the above, it was noted by the Christians in Jerusalem that God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life when Peter reported to them. At first that one would say that this was about salvation, but actually they were saying that God had granted to the Gentile believers in the synagogues the same right as the Jews to find a place in the kingdom of heaven. They were grafted in.
The commission of Mark 16. At first glance one would say that these apostles were to go to all the heathen world and proclaim a message of salvation as we think of it. It says that they did obey this command and that the signs followed. But as we said above, we find no instance of them preaching to any but Jews only (except Peter to Cornelius). So the salvation they proclaimed was an entrance into the kingdom. Water baptism was required for this, but never for everlasting life as we find it presented in John's gospel. So we find that ofttimes salvation speaks of entrance into the kingdom. We must watch the context and rightly divide the Scriptures.
These few examples of right division should put the reader on guard to be very careful of what he believes.
Not so many years ago the Bible was not very well known (and is not much better known today), there being mostly hand written copies in the hands of the rich or in some monasteries. Some few were chained to the pulpits in the churches. It was recognized as the Word of God in most quarters, but they had little idea of how to apply it to the present time and its particular problems.
So without any regard to the time, or the people addressed, any verse in the Bible was likely to be quoted and made to apply to the present time. A few exceptions could be mentioned. For instance, Genesis 17: 10, every man child among you shall be circumcised. Even among the several denominations and sects which think they are Jews, we do not know of any who cling to this rite today.
About the first verse that is quoted in evangelistic efforts today is a part of Matthew 1:21, Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His People from their sins. There are about 2 errors made in connection with this passage. His People are the Jews. In chapter 10 He told the disciples not to go to Samaritans or Gentiles, and in verse 6 He says, But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And later in 15:24 He said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then this is not about giving of eternal life, but saving those who were His from their sins. His People had been chosen to be a channel of blessing to the nations. But from the making of the golden calf to Acts 28:28 Israel could not fulfill her mission because of her own sins. So the Lord came to deliver Israel from her sins so she could be a blessing to the nations of the earth.
Matthew is about the King and the kingdom, not the giving of eternal life as in John 3:16. There is nothing in Matthew about Gentile salvation or the Gentiles gaining everlasting life.
A much quoted verse is Matthew 3:2, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent is also the theme of the Lord later, as well as of the 12 and also the 70. And it is always in connection with the kingdom and it being near or at hand. The word repent is not used after Acts 28:28. It is not used in connection with gaining everlasting life. It is not found in John's gospel at all. And now for 1900 years the kingdom has not been offered, at hand, or near. Everlasting life or the church, are the themes for today, not the kingdom.
There is a great deal of preaching today about wrath to come and such passages as Matthew 3:7,10,12; S:22,29,30 and many others are quoted to prove it. But again, we must remember that Matthew is writing about the kingdom, not the church. With the end times of the kingdom there is wrath promised, such as the bowls of wrath in the Revelation which are poured out on the kingdom of the beast. Even Job knew that in the last days there would be wrath (Job 14:13) and prays that God will hide him in hell till the wrath is over. The word wrath is used in the prison epistles as to individuals, but the church does not look for a day of wrath to come.
The Magna Charta of the kingdom of heaven is the sermon on the mount, which is found in Matthew 5,6,7. It is best to leave it to the kingdom of heaven and not to try to apply it to the church. Read it slowly and note all the conditions and promises. This is a kingdom which will be here on the earth and ruled over by a King who is coming down from heaven some day. His capital will be Jerusalem. He will be the King of the Jews, and much more. He will rule over all the nations of the earth with a rod of iron. Read Psalms 2 in this connection. This Jerusalem will have a city dump (Isaiah 66:24) just as Jerusalem in the Lord's time had its Gehenna or hell as mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount. It was a place where the refuse of the city was burned, along with dead animals and the bodies of executed criminals. Hence the warnings in this sermon about breaking the law and being cast into the city dump after execution.
But back to the Sermon on the Mount. If you were to give and lend to just anybody today as taught in this sermon, you would soon be bankrupt. This practice will not work in the society we find ourselves in today. But in a Jewish community in the kingdom, these things can and will be practiced.
However, in general, you will find a lot of good advice in this sermon which might be applied to some of our actions today.
In this connection, we must note that the Lord did His works and miracles in fulfillment of prophecy. This was a sign to His people, Israel. They should have recognized Him as their Messiah without having to be told. But in their blindness and unbelief, they missed the day of their visitation. Their Messiah has come and gone and they knew it not.
In Matthew 8:11 we are told that many shall come from the east and the west and sit down with the fathers in the kingdom of heaven. This is on the earth. The fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never had any promise of going to heaven.
Matthew 8:17 is often quoted out of context. It does not apply to us Gentiles today, nor ever to the church. Esaias was a prophet to the Jews, not to the Gentiles. And to the Jews he says, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. Many a person has taken the promises for Israel to himself, only to be bitterly disappointed. Right division avoids this.
In Matthew 9:35, as in many other places, it says that the Lord went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom (not the church), and in connection with that gospel were healings of all kinds as well as casting out demons. This was a foretaste of the age to come. And note that those who would turn back after coming into contact with this great kingdom message and the miracles could never find a place of repentance. It is like Esau who could not undo what he had done. But this is kingdom truth.
It is interesting to see in chapter 10 of Matthew the equipping of the 12 to go out and preach. They were to make no provision whatsoever for the journey, but were simply to preach the kingdom and at the same time heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out devils. Israel is not doing that today!
There are times when men make fools of themselves by failing to obey the Word in the matter of right division. For example, take Matthew 10:18-20. There the 12 are told that in certain circumstances they are to take no that of what they shall say, but that the Spirit will speak thru them. That was for the 12 and under certain circumstances. For a lazy preacher or teacher to try to do that today for his regular service is going to end in disaster. His mouth is very likely to utter foolishness. There is a place for study and work in the ministry.
He that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matthew 10:22. How often we hear this quoted by those who think you can be saved one moment and lost the next. Of course they mean having life and not having life. Salvation is a different matter. Of course the supposition is that one must endure to the end of his life. But that is not the subject. The tribulation is in view. That is for the Jews, the time of Jacob's trouble. There is no indication that a single Gentile will take part in this great tribulation. But the Jew that endures to the end of the tribulation shall be saved.
Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28. Here is a fearsome verse in the hands of those who do not know right division. The kingdom is in view here. Before it comes the tribulation. In this tribulation many will be killed (not destroyed) and they will have a life in resurrection. So their life is not killed. But in the kingdom times, the ungodly will be executed and thrown into the city dump, Gehenna or hell, as it is called here. Those will have no resurrection, so then both body and soul (life) will be destroyed. No hope of a resurrection. See the very last verse of Isaiah. Since no one has the hope of the kingdom and this particular resurrection today, we should seek what is truth for us.
Verses 37-39 of Matthew 10 should not be made to mean that one should love his family less, but that one should love the Lord more. Verse 39 tells us that in the kingdom administration those who find their lives shall lose them. If a man lives his life to suit himself, like the man who buried his talent so as not to be bothered with it, he will get what he wanted; but life in the kingdom will be denied him. That has to do with reward and inheritance. But the man, who forgets himself and his desires in order to serve the Lord, will find life, that is, a reward in the kingdom. Probably there is a parallel to this today.
He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (John the Baptist). Matthew 11:11. This verse has been greatly misunderstood. Note in the following verses that prophets and the law were until John. Also that from the days of John the kingdom suffered violence. So John must indeed be included in the kingdom. Even the law made it plain that the husbandman should partake of the fruits of his labors. To exclude John from the kingdom would violate all the rules. But Jesus of Nazareth was that by the rulers to be least of all in the kingdom. But He was greater than John. Simple, isn't it?
Acts 6-9In Ac 6:3 there was an appointment of 7 men to take over the business of distribution of goods and food to the poor. Only Stephen and Philip are heard of again. Tradition says that these 7 men were deacons, but the word deacon is not used in Acts.
In these early days of the Pentecostal administration, we must rightly distinguish between temple and synagogue. The temple was a place of worship. The synagogue was a place of instruction from the Scriptures and also a court to settle disputes and keep heresy out. Today, God has not designated any place for worship. The temple is gone. Our Lord said that worship should be in spirit and in truth, not in some building and with rituals and a priesthood. Worship is a scarce word in the epistles to us Gentiles. Maybe we should look into this.
Acts 7:2-53 contains Stephen's sermon. It is a history of the nation of Israel from Abraham up to the time they crucified their Messiah and were now rejecting the testimony concerning Him. It is a sermon made up of condemnation and with no offer of mercy or salvation. This testimony to the truth of them and their fathers cost Stephen his life.
But remember this, thus far there is nothing said about Gentile believers among all these thousands in Jerusalem who had taken to the Way.
Chapter 8 tells us that Saul was consenting to the death of Stephen. In 7:58 we are told that he took care of the garments of those who stoned Stephen. Again we must say that this was strictly a Jewish affair, no Gentiles being involved; no, not even the Roman guard. That a church began at Pentecost made up of Jews and Gentiles is pare fiction, a myth.
Saul began persecuting the Christian Jews. Thus came about the dispersion of the believers from Jerusalem. But the apostles remained.
Acts 8:26-39 tells of Philip preaching to a man from Ethiopia, a eunuch and a man of authority in the court of the queen. Again we must read carefully and use our right division. It does not say that this eunuch was an Ethiopian. He does have the prophecy of Isaiah. Certainly then, he was a Jew, a slave and a man of authority like Daniel was in Babylon and later in Medo-Persia. This was no Gentile.
Saul was a devout Jew, a Pharisee, a teacher of the law, a member of the Sanhedrin, a believer in the Jehovah of Israel and looked for the coming Messiah. There is no doubt about his having life as we find it offered in John 3:16 and as Peter speaks of such in Acts 10:43. But Saul had not accepted the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was the King long looked for. So Saul could have no part in the first resurrection nor enter into the kingdom. So Saul had life, but was not saved. Hence the necessity of his experience on the road to Damascus.
Do not make a mistake here. Saul was learning about the King and the kingdom, not the church. And immediately Saul began to preach what he had seen Stephen and the other apostles preaching (Acts 26:16). If at this time Saul proclaimed the dispensation of the mystery, then the 12 were preaching the same. Come now, just how do you read it?
Acts 10 marks one of the important turning points in history. The date was about 38, or 9 years after Pentecost in chapter 2. No Gentiles had any part in the happenings at Pentecost. The apostles were still preaching Christ as the King of the Jews. Even as late as Acts 11:19 we are told that upon the scattering abroad because of the persecution and death of Stephen, they preached the Word unto none but unto the Jews only. So Peter was the first to preach a message unto Gentile believers.
This is brought out in Acts 15:7 where Peter declares that God made a choice of him to proclaim the gospel to Gentiles. James takes it up in verse 14 and tells how that in the house of Cornelius the gospel was first preached to Gentiles.
Now read chapter 10 very carefully and see how that God had to prepare Peter to go and speak to a Gentile believer. Peter had never done such a thing before. Note also in verse 43 that the word whosoever is used. This is very significant.
Nothing more is said of any of the 12 ever going to Gentiles with a gospel after this one event in Acts 10. After Acts is over and the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, then John writes his gospel and it is to Gentiles.
About 8 years after the events of Acts 10, we find Paul in Antioch in Pisidia along with Barnabas. He there turns from the Jews to the Gentile believers and preaches to them the kingdom.
There is a reason why that Peter and then Paul preached to Gentiles during Acts. It was something out of time. This commission of preaching to the Gentile nations was not to be done by the 12 till the time of the millennium as given in Matthew 28:18-20. But it had been foretold, and Paul reviews the Scriptures about it in Romans 11. It was done to provoke Israel to jealousy so they would bear fruit. When there was a rejection of the Messiah in Jerusalem and Judea, Peter went to the Gentiles. When Israel outside the land rejected, then Paul turned to the Gentiles. This was no mystery. Moses had foretold it. So this is not the beginning of the mystery.
No one yet has found the church of the dispensation of the mystery in Acts 9,10 or 13. The whole time of Acts is still a part of the 70 weeks (490 years) reckoned from the dedication of the temple in 405 B.C. The salvation of God was never sent to the Gentiles till Ac 28:28. Up till that time, salvation was still of the Jews John 4:22). The Jew was first (Romans 2:9,10). The kingdom was in view (Acts 1:6).
Chapter 11 of Acts shows plainly that Peter had done something very much out of the ordinary. He was called in question before the rest of the apostles. He had a hard time explaining why he spoke to Gentiles about the kingdom of God. But he had witnesses who said that the Holy Ghost came there as it had at the first at Pentecost, and so the apostles were reconciled to the idea of Gentiles coming into the hope and blessings of the kingdom by grace.
Paul was told in his Damascus vision that he would be sent far hence unto the Gentiles (Acts 22:21). So his efforts failed in both Damascus and Jerusalem.
Perhaps many have not noticed the great similarity between the experience of Peter in Acts 10 and that of Paul in Acts 13. In each instance the Jews were not believing and bearing fruit, as an olive tree should. Both had a heavenly vision to prod them on to minister to Gentiles. In each instance Gentile believers received gifts of the Spirit which proved that they had entered into the blessings of the kingdom. The reader may find other likenesses in these incidents.
Right division immediately places these events in their rightful places. The church of the dispensation of the mystery is not in evidence in either. The Jew is first in each instance and there is no mystery, Scripture being quoted to prove that this had been prophesied. The reader must beware of any claims made for any church beginning at any time before Israel is set aside and Lo-Ammi.
That Paul and Barnabas should turn to the Gentile believers in Acts 13:46 is not in any way unique. They went to the Synagogue at the first town they visited after this. Both Jews and Gentiles believed. And many times after that the same procedure was done over and over. And when called to account for these actions at the council in Acts 15, Peter came to their defense and said that he had done it first.
Another thing that must be noted in these chapters in Acts was the fact that Paul was in no way going out to evangelize the heathen who had no contact with the good news. He went only to Synagogues or the equivalent (as at Philippi) and only incidentally did he ever come into contact with raw heathen. When he did so, he preached to them God as Creator, and not his gospel of the grace of God. Search and see.
Now let us look at Acts 15 for a while. This chapter has been interpreted in a great variety of ways. A council is called at Jerusalem and Paul appears before it to defend himself against certain charges. He was not charged with beginning the church of the dispensation of the mystery. No doctrinal question is involved. Paul has been preaching the same gospel he was told to preach in the beginning and it is the same gospel that the 12 had been preaching. But the difference was not in the doctrine preached, but to whom they preached. This was the whole problem.
Just once Peter had preached to Gentiles. He faced the council (Acts 11) and was exonerated of any blame for obeying God and the vision that was given. Now Paul and Barnabas have been preaching the same gospel of the kingdom to Gentiles again. What have they to say for themselves?
After they had rehearsed what wonders God had done among the Gentile believers in the Synagogues, and Peter reminded them that he had once done the same thing, the right hand of fellowship was given to Paul and Barnabas and they were encouraged to proceed in their work among the Gentile believers.
There was one catch in this, however. There were 4 things they were to tell the Gentile believers. They were to abstain from pollution of idols, fornication, things strangled, and from blood.
Now if the church began at Acts 13, then these things should be highly stressed in the church today!
Acts 15 & 16
When Paul and Barnabas turned to the Gentiles in the Synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, and preached to them the coming King and kingdom, they started something. It was not long till news reached Jerusalem and the apostles there that Paul and Barnabas were offering the kingdom to Gentiles on the basis of grace and not according to the law. When we say Gentiles here, we mean the Gentile believers who attended the Synagogue and were not yet circumcised as the law demanded. So there was uproar in Jerusalem.
The council that met later in Jerusalem was to settle this difficulty and dispute once for all. It is recorded in Acts 15.
Now if the church began at Acts 13 or even any point earlier, the decision of the council would be of importance to it. We must keep in mind that there were no doctrinal differences in this council. It was whether or not Paul and Barnabas were justified in offering the kingdom to Gentiles on the basis of grace rather than law.
The decision was that Paul and Barnabas were doing the will of God, even as did Peter when he preached the kingdom to Gentiles in Cornelius' house.
Now mark this: the Gentile believers were not obligated to keep any of the law in any way. They need not be circumcised, keep any of the feasts (Passover or Lord's supper, Feast of Tabernacles, and the like. Not even Pentecost), nor was there any provision for their worship except that they do as usual, go to the Synagogue each Sabbath (not Sunday) and hear Moses and the prophets.
But, they were to observe 4 things which would keep them from being an offense to the Jews with whom they would associate at the Synagogue;
1. Abstain from pollution of idols
2. Abstain from fornication
3. Abstain from things strangled
4. Abstain from (eating) blood.
Now if the church did begin at Acts 13, as many claim, these 4 things should first of all be proclaimed in such assemblies. Do they do it?
A halfway obedience in these things is like unto Saul and his disobedience in the case of the Amalekites and king Agag. In fact, a halfway obedience may be worse than no obedience at all. Too few are willing to go all the way with God. If we are going to rightly divide the Word of truth, let us do it right, and not according to our own wishes and taste. Just as many at that time were troubling the church with such questions, even so today there are those who trouble the church with their compromise and disobedience to the will of God.
In Acts 16 we have the story of the Roman jailer. Right division is in order. This is a time when Paul preached neither the kingdom gospel nor the dispensation of the mystery. This man, unlike Cornelius, had heard nothing of the true faith. In verse 31 we are not warranted in pushing the word save any further than preserve. The jailer was much interested in preserving his own skin and that of his family. He was preserved, as also his family. But there was also much more and there was great rejoicing.
Acts 17 is a chapter that calls for right division, if any do. Here Paul had another experience with unbelieving Gentiles, as he did in the chapter before at Philippi. So we must watch the context as we proceed with the study.
After Philippi, the first stop that is recorded is at Thessalonica. There Paul spoke in the synagogue of the Jews 3 Sabbaths, using the Scriptures. Not yet had he received the gospel of the dispensation of the mystery, for it could not have been preached from the Scriptures that they had. The mystery was something that had been hid in God and from ages and generations until made known to Paul.
Paul then went to Berea and likewise there he preached in the synagogue of the Jews. Again we can see that it was evident that he was not telling them about the mystery, for they looked up his subject in the Scriptures daily to see if he were preaching them the truth. The mystery could not be checked by their copies of the Scriptures.
Now there are a few highlights that we should not miss in connection with Thessalonica and Berea. In both instances Paul went to the synagogues of the Jews. That is final proof that his turning to the Gentiles in chapter 13 was only local and for those few days. Until the end of Acts, the Jew was first in the gospel Paul preached. In every city he went, he attended the synagogue on the Sabbaths until he left or was thrown out. In the two cities we are now studying he went to the synagogues, but it also mentions the fact that some Greeks (Gentiles) also believed. So Paul's preaching was to the Jew first, and not to the Jew only.
Paul's hearers understood enough of his message that they understood that he preached another King than Caesar (v 7). This makes it plain that he was not yet preaching Christ as Head of the church.
Then Paul went to Athens. Again he went to the synagogue. This was on the Sabbaths. He also met in the market with Jews and Gentiles from the synagogue. This was on the other days of the week. And he was teaching them of the kingdom of God.
While in this market place he also met with some of the philosophers of the day. And they had some questions to ask. These were, we must remember, unbelieving Gentiles, worshipers of idols and knew very little of the Jewish religion.
These philosophers heard two things from Paul which they on the main, could not accept. First they heard of a resurrection that had happened some years before. Secondly they heard that the One Who was resurrected would soon come and judge the nations of the world. Note that Paul spoke to these unbelieving Gentiles about judgment, not the gospel of the grace of God. Why?
Before there could be blessing and hope connected with the coming kingdom, there must first of all be the recognition of a great God and Creator. This Paul proclaimed in every instance he met with raw heathen. And so it was here.
And even today, the salvation of Ephesians 2:8-10 must be gotten via John 3:16. There is a parallel.
Acts 18 & 19
When we come to chapter 18 of Acts we find Paul still going to the Synagogue every Sabbath. And his audience is made up of Jews and Greeks (Gentiles).
Note the particular emphasis upon the word persuade. This word is never used in connection with the preaching of the dispensation of the mystery. To persuade one is to give him an argument. The argument must be based on facts that are known to both parties. So in preaching the kingdom during Acts, Paul and the 12 argued from the Scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah of Israel. Now that is exactly what Paul was doing here at Corinth in the presence of Silas and Timothy (v 5).
Again when they opposed and blasphemed, he said that he would turn to the Gentiles, just as he had said in Acts 13:46 in Antioch. If his turning to the Gentiles at Antioch was the end of the kingdom and the beginning of the mystery, why should he repeat it here in Corinth? But this statement made here was not final. You do not find that final statement till you come to the last chapter of Acts.
Now you will notice in verse 13 that a charge was made that Paul was preaching a worship of God contrary to the Jewish law. Do we need to remind you that after Acts, when Paul was proclaiming the mystery, that no such charges were ever brat against him? There is no record that Paul ever set foot in a Synagogue after he began to tell about the mystery. In present times, who knowing the mystery, has any business going into so-called churches who profess to be preaching the kingdom?
Now notice verse 18. Paul has taken a vow and shaved his head. Can you find anything in the mystery that would allow such procedure? Even tho Paul preached the gospel of the grace of God to Gentiles during Acts, yet here is the proof that he as a Jew was still under the law. Paul the Jew could not enjoy the liberty of the gospel of grace that he pro~ claimed to Gentiles. That is because the church of the dispensation of the mystery had not yet been revealed to Paul or anybody else.
In verse 21 Paul makes it known that he must by all means attend the feast at Jerusalem. Again this shows that he was still under the law and that the church had not yet come into being. Contrast this with Colossians 2:16 where he puts away the rituals of the Jews and warns against them.
In this same chapter we find Apollos preaching according to the baptism of John, that is, telling his hearers to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Aquila and Priscilla took him home with them and told him how that the King had both come and gone, and the kingdom was not yet. When he was thus instructed, he was powerful in preaching that Jesus was Christ (the Messiah), not the Head of the church. So Apollos did not preach the mystery.
In chapter 19 Paul found some disciples that like Apollos had heard only the baptism of John. They did not know of the baptism of the Holy Ghost or the outpouring of power from on high. Paul laid hands on them and they received the power. But no such power is mentioned with the mystery.
Acts 19 & 20
In Acts 19:21, Paul firmly resolved to make a last visit thru Macedonia and Achaia and then visit Jerusalem. Then he said, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome."
Some folks may be a little perplexed by the note in the Companion Bible on this verse, which states that this is the last that Paul proclaims the kingdom. This would put the dispensational frontier at Acts 19. But remember that Dr. Bullinger's old notes were used in compiling this portion and this does not represent his later knowledge of the truth. You only have to read his book, Foundations of Dispensational Truth, to see the advance he had made.
We mention this especially due to the fact that when Paul finally reached Rome, he spent a whole day with the Jewish leaders 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 (Acts 28:23). He expounded their Scriptures to them. If he were proclaiming the mystery, then he would have had no Scriptures to expound it, for it was hid from ages and generations. The theme of Moses and the prophets was the coming King and kingdom, and that was what Paul preached till the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles, which happened on that very day. Paul never had any occasion to go to Jerusalem after he received the revelation of the dispensation of the mystery. It was concerning Gentiles, not Jews.
Now take notice of 20:7 in Acts. This is on the first of the weeks (day is not in the Greek) from which the count of 7 weeks was made till Pentecost. So Paul observed the Passover at Troas (Troy) and then managed to get to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost, 50 days later. And this first of the weeks was the time Paul had appointed for the bringing in of gifts for the poor saints at Jerusalem. And these poor saints were those who were waiting for the kingdom. They knew nothing of the church of the mystery.
Paul preached that night at Troas fill midnight, and Eutichus fell asleep and fell out of the window. Eutichus was revived and Paul talked yet till break of day. The fact that Paul still had the power from on high and brat the dead to life proves again that this was under kingdom administration with its gifts of the Spirit.
Now since the church of the dispensation of the mystery does not observe Sabbaths, holidays, feasts, and any other rituals and ceremonies of the law, it would be strange that if Paul was by this time proclaiming the mystery, that he should observe Pentecost, a Jewish thanksgiving feast. Such facts as this are easily overlooked by those who refuse to rightly divide the Word of truth.
Acts 20:17. What elders of what church? Did Paul ever get to see these Ephesians again? Note in verse 24 that he desires to continue to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Peter began this gospel in Acts 10. It was a good news that Gentile believers could partake or be grafted into Israel's dispensational blessings and privileges. This has nothing to do with the dispensation of the mystery.
The title of this chapter might be, "From Ephesus to Jerusalem." But some unbelievers have called it, "Paul's Blunder." They err not knowing the Word.
In verse 13 Paul makes his decision clear that he is going to Jerusalem. That this decision was right is evidenced by the words of the Lord to him in 23:11, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. These words are of far more import than the prattlings of some over wise theologians. It pays to study the Scriptures carefully.
When Paul was come to Jerusalem, he met with the elders of the church, some of the same men who had been at the council there about 7 years before (See Acts 15 and Galatians 2). And note how that they remember the decision about the Gentiles that believed, As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication (verse 25).
But a lie had been spread about Paul. That lie persists even yet today in some circles. Up to this time Paul had been subject to the law of Moses, and had spoken well of the law, e.g. Romans 3:31; 7:12-16. It was very necessary that Paul should uphold the law, for law was a part of the kingdom which he was proclaiming in those days.
But the lie that was being spread was this, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe (Christians); and they all are zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. You will note that they were not telling that Paul had been preaching the dispensation of the mystery, as they say today, for those people had not yet heard of it. But Paul's gospel, the gospel of the grace of God, had been distorted till they had it that it was to Jews instead of Gentiles. Now it was true that he taught the Gentiles not to observe Moses, and to that the council in Jerusalem had agreed. But at that time there had been no accusation that he had said this to the Jewish believers.
So the elders at Jerusalem advise Paul to go to the temple with some others, making a vow and going thru the ceremonies at the temple to show that the stories told about him were false, that he was still subject to the law.
Since Paul was preaching the kingdom all this time from Acts 13 to both Jewish and Gentile believers, and being a Jew was still subject to the law, he found no objection at all to this proposal and he proceeded to do it. Not knowing the facts, many of the modern critics say that Paul was all wrong.
Unless one understands that Paul was still preaching the hope of Israel, for which he was in chains about 3 years later (Acts 28:20), the meaning of this chapter is lost. Like the thousands of Jews of that day, so now, men will rather blame Paul and find fault than to believe what the Word says.
It is patent that Paul was not yet preaching the dispensation of the mystery in chapter 21, for he was in the temple when arrested. If he knew the mystery, he would not be found worshiping in the temple, but rather worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:23; Philippians 3:3). There is no record that Paul ever went into a synagogue or the temple after he received the revelation of the mystery.
Note that in his defense in chapter 22 he speaks in the Hebrew tongue. He has not yet left Judaism nor its language. It is well to read carefully this defense Paul made and note especially the very last word he said. To orthodox Jews, Paul's preaching the kingdom to Gentiles was a great crime. They would listen no farther.
Notice in chapter 23, verse 11, that the Lord stands by Paul and cheers him up. It is evident that Paul had made no mistake in going back to Jerusalem, and also he is going to get to go to Rome, a thing which he had desired to do. Paul is not making any mistakes here, as some charge.
Chapter 24 tells us that Paul was in prison at Caesarea for 2 years.
Finally in chapter 25, Paul appeals to Caesar. The trip to Rome will not be delayed much longer.
In chapter 26, Paul speaks before Agrippa. He divides his Acts ministry into 2 parts;
1. He was to preach what he had seen (Acts 7).
2. He was to preach what the Lord would later reveal unto him (Acts 22:17).
And Paul claimed that he had been faithful in this ministry; that he had preached both these messages. It takes very little searching to see that Paul first preached to Jews only and the subject was the kingdom, the same as the 12 preached. His second message was also concerning the kingdom, but it was proclaimed to Gentiles. So both messages were about the kingdom and coming King. But the difference between them was just this; the Jews were to stay put under the law, and the Gentile believers were not to observe the law, but walk by grace. This is what brat up the great dispute at the council in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. Paul's grace gospel of the kingdom to Gentiles was approved by the council. But what sect or denomination today abides by that decision? Name just one if you can!
As in Romans, Paul in chapter 28 goes to the Jews first. There is still a fleshly distinction between Jew and Gentile which has never been found in the church of the dispensation of the mystery.
Paul's testimony still was, I have committed nothing against the People (Israel), or customs of our fathers (Acts 28:17). There is no possibility that he had preached the church up to this time, or he could not have made this statement.
Then in verse 20 he states that he is bound with a chain, not for the mystery, but for the hope of Israel. Now what was the hope of Israel? Was it to be blest with all spiritual blessings in the highest heavens? Were they all to be joint-heirs and members without any rulers or distinctions? And is Paul about to proclaim to them the mystery?
Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
Up to the time of the tower of Babel and the call of Abram from Ur of the Chaldees, there were just nations, or Gentiles as later called. They had the knowledge of God, but exchanged it for the lie of Satan and were given up. This was close to a 2,000 year period. Thru Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob there came a chosen people, Israel, to be a channel of blessing and to convert these nations again to the true God of heaven. After almost 2,000 years Israel failed and rejected their Messiah here at Acts 28:28. Salvation had been of the Jews (John 4:22).
But here at Acts 28:28 the salvation of God is no longer of the Jews. The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles. The Jewish leaders who listened to Paul would have no doubt as to what was meant by Gentiles in this context. They were the Gentiles who attended the Synagogues and believed on Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel.
The salvation of Israel could be summed up in a Person, their Messiah, and their relationship to Him, the King of Israel. Also we can say that the salvation of Israel was to culminate in a grand and glorious kingdom in the which they would finally be able to evangelize the nations and be that channel of blessing that God intended them to be.
In a nutshell that gives us some idea of what the salvation of God was in relation to the nation of Israel. But when the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles, just what would it be? Does it mean that the promises are taken from the Jew and given to the Gentile? Does it mean that the law is now given to Gentiles, to whom it never before applied? Does it mean that the ritualistic services, the offerings and the like were now transferred to the Gentiles? And finally, does it mean that the New Covenant which has been made with the house of Judah and the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31) was now for the Gentiles, and the Jews forever cast off?
Even tho the Gentiles who had been far off in relation to all these things were made nigh by the blood of Christ, they were forever aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:11-13).
During Acts, Gentile believers walked by grace, not by the law (Romans 2:14). That Gentiles today do not observe Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16) is proof that the law was not transferred to the Gentiles.
The rituals and ordinances of the Jews were set aside with that Nation and now the church does not have part in such observances (Colossians 2:16-23).
There is not the slightest evidence that the New Covenant has ever been in operation or valid yet. The very nature of it makes it mandatory that it be in force in resurrection of the People, Israel. It is strictly for the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Much of Christendom has tried to steal the sole property of the Jews and so out of that has come the confusion we see today. Christendom never learned right division, and what that salvation is.
Conclusion - Questions
Now the reader can go back over the lesson and maybe get some clues to the answers to the following questions.
1. Why did the apostles never make any attempt to go out and teach all nations? Matthew 28:19.
2. Why did the apostles never baptize in the triune name as commanded? Matthew 28:19.
3. There was a commission in Matthew 16:15-18. Why is it indicated that they finished this work? Why is it not going on yet today? Verse 20.
4. Why is it that the 12 never went out to any heathen unbelievers and teach them, but stuck with the synagogues and the temple?
5. Paul had a vision in the temple and was told that he was to go far hence unto the Gentiles. Why was it that he never sought to establish a church except in a synagogue or the equivalent?
6. If Paul was to be an apostle to the nations, why did he never visit the teeming millions in India and China? Or the vast colonies of North Africa? Or Britain and other parts of Europe besides Italy and Greece? What Gentiles were to be in his ministry?
7. And that brings up the question; Who were these Gentiles mentioned in Acts 28:28? All of them?
8. In view of the great commission of Matthew 28:19, why did Peter have to answer to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem for going into the house of a Gentile?
9. Paul grafted a great number of Gentiles into the hope of Israel by his ministry. But why was it that every one of these was already a believer and attending the Jewish Synagogue?
10. Why did not Paul try to establish a church on Malta while he was there?
11. Asia, where Paul labored, is not much more than ½ the size of Texas. Why did he visit so little of it? Why confine his ministry there?
12. Israel were chosen in Abraham to be a blessing to the nations. Have they been so since Acts? Or were they so before Acts? Why?
13. Is there any indication that the church was to take the place of Israel in evangelizing the whole earth, and all the nations in it?
14. What is the commission of the church, if any?
15. As an individual, what can I do today that will be of any help or benefit to God's plan and purpose of the ages?
16. Where was the church established in Philippi; at the riverside, in Lydia's house, or in the town jail? Be careful with this one.
17. Why did not the apostles and Paul strike out against slavery, the corrupt government of Rome, and the moral degeneracy of their day?
18. Has God ever established or even approved any place of worship outside of the tabernacle and the temple of the Jews?
19. Can any part or the whole of organized Christendom today justify its existence by the Word?
20. Does the Word even suggest any apostolic succession besides that indicated in 2 Timothy 2:2?
21. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Have you heard the mystery? Do you believe what you heard? Is Christ your Head?