Friday, December 7, 2018

 

Here's a real treat for us!  Another guest article by David Nottingham:


THE AGE OF UNSEARCHABLE RICHES

       In order to obey Ephesians 4:3, it would seem necessary to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit even when those around us do not seem interested.  On most occasions, debating beliefs is futile because pride always inhibits the truth.   The arrogance of men causes them to attempt to save face even when the evidence is overwhelming that they are wrong.  Rather than enter into a debate which may likely lead to hard feelings, I have found it more productive to simply write it as I see it, and then those who may disagree with my beliefs may do so without my knowledge.  They are free to tear down or to build upon whatever portions of this exegesis that they feel satisfies their spiritual man.
       If a Bible student understands 2 Timothy 2:15, then he understands that scripture must be divided in order to be properly understood.  Dividing scripture between that which is for the nation of Israel and that which is for the church, which is his Body, is the paramount division.  The division of prophecy and mystery, heaven and earth, etc., is fully explained in one’s understanding that God is fixing both heaven and earth.  He is using Israel for the earth, but he is using the Church to make known the manifold wisdom of God in the heavens.  Ephesians 3:10.
     As a student goes about this way in finding the divisions, he must first consider the King James Version as the true word of God.  All other versions have been translated by those who have sought to dispel the divisions that we have come to see in scripture.  Because they do not understand the twofold purpose of God, they seek to rid the scriptures of these divisions, which they see as contradictions.  In short, the divisions are harder to see in modern translations, if not impossible; although they are the greatest key to truly knowing the character, plan, and will of the Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and as we will see, not only the will of the Father, but the mystery of it.  Ephesians 1:9
     So, let’s establish what in the Bible is written about the nation of Israel.  God's purpose through Abraham begins in chapter 12 of Genesis.  It is solely an earthly promise to reconcile the world back to God from its fallen state.  This promise continues on until the Jews in Rome reject the New Covenant in Acts chapter 28.  Throughout the entire history of the nation of Israel, God’s plan for the world becomes more and more elaborate as God reveals more and more of himself to us through his written word.  He tells of how, through Israel, there will be a Kingdom and a King who is a Prophet and a Priest as well.  He tells how that through this nation, that all the other nations of the earth will be blessed.  When God speaks in the Old Testament scriptures, he does so by speaking through the prophets.  Hebrews 1:1.  By looking and studying what these prophets spoke, we can begin to see and understand where the division between Israel and the Church needs to be made.  One of the foundational beliefs in any corner of dispensational theology is to make our division between prophecy and mystery.  In other words, what did the prophets know and speak of, and what was hidden from them?
     Let’s look closely at Ephesians 3 and Colossians 1, and then at 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2,  Ephesians 6:19, and Colossians 4:3.  If a thing is a mystery, then it was previously unrevealed.  Jesus held the Pharisees accountable for not reading their scriptures by asking numerous times, "Have ye not read?"  He called the two disciples on the Emmaus Road “fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”  He was referring to the same thing Peter tells Israel in Acts 3:18 and in his epistle, 1 Peter 1:11, that the glory was to follow the suffering.  Paul explains the same thing to the Jews at Thessolonica, Acts 17:3 and again at Berea, Acts 17:11.  The glory and the suffering were both prophesied.  Both can be found in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.  The previously untold mystery that is revealed to the Apostle Paul is that unforeseen, un-prophesied period of time between the suffering and the glory.  Any Old Testament scholar could read and expect the millennial reign of Jesus Christ as King to begin immediately.  In fact, Luke tells us that some expected it even before or without the suffering.  Luke 19:11.  But we know the things promised to Israel have not yet come to pass.  One may ask what promises are still to come for Israel.  Look in Isaiah 61.  Jesus only quoted half the verse in Luke 4:21 because only part had been fulfilled.
     Let’s again look closely at Ephesians 3 and Colossians 1.   Ephesians 3:5 says this mystery was “not made known,” and verse 9 says it was “hid in God” from the beginning of the world.  Colossians 1:26 says it was “hid from ages and generations.”   In comparison, Luke tells us in Luke 1:70 that the prophets have spoken concerning Israel's promises since the world began.  Again, in Acts 3:21, God's word declares the same.  Something spoken of is something revealed.  Although the Jews were not able to perceive it yet, it was there in the scriptures.  The Dispensation of the Grace of God was not hid in the scriptures.  It was hid in God!
       So with the groundwork laid, in what parts of the Bible was Israel's promise of the Kingdom still being offered?  This is a dividing line in itself among dispensationalists.  It’s unfortunate and detrimental to Ephesians 4:3, that Christians, who before understanding the deeper truths of God's will, might have enjoyed one another’s company, but after disagreeing on when the Grace Dispensation began, they decide their differences are not reconcilable.  While some strive and debate, I sincerely wish the Body could have unity; however, a big portion of God's people today are aligning themselves with a different body, with different functions, from a different time, from a dispensation that has passed away.  
       The battleground has been, and consistently seems to be, the Book of Acts.  While some think the church begins with Matthew, or with Jesus' earthly ministry, most people recognize a new beginning in Acts, chapter 2.  Without comprehending the place of Pentecost in the narrative, they stick with and try to resurrect the gifts and signs given to Israel to try and signify the start of the New Covenant.  Remember that this was spoken by the prophet Joel.  Then there are those who, with a deeper understanding, see that there certainly was a separated gospel of God preached to the Gentiles during the Acts period.  Those who hold the position that the Dispensation of the Grace of God began here in the middle of Acts have built the entire premise of their theology on the error of believing the Acts period is the transition between the New Covenant and the Mystery.  Hebrews 8:13, in its present context, stated that, "Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”  When Hebrews was written, the writer is making plain that the old had not vanished from the scene yet.  To make the case that the Old Covenant, the New Covenant, and the Mystery Dispensation existed all at the same time in the Acts period is poor theology.  When comparing Acts, chapters 8 through 28, with the Old Testament, we find Gentiles now included in the New Covenant, but with the Jews in Jerusalem having preeminence.  This is the basic premise of the narrative of scripture, all of which Moses, the Psalms and the prophets foretold.   Even those who are not dispensationalists can see and believe that grace was bestowed upon the Gentiles, and they think we are still under the New Covenant.  To think that the mystery, given to Paul, which was hid in God before the foundation of the world, began in Acts 9, or 13, is just as wrong as those who ignore it completely and think they are still a branch on a tree.   Romans 11.
      One of the most simplistic rules of dispensational thought is that you cannot have prophecy where there is mystery.  By believing the Mystery begins in Acts 9, a Bible student fashions the noose by which they will strangle their own theology.  Mid Acts Dispensationalists will spend their entire ministry trying to explain away Acts 8-28, while ignoring a 40 year wandering of Israel, all the signs and wonders, the baptisms, and most of all the undeniable massive amount of prophecy. 
For those who are honest with themselves and sincere enough to just ask questions without fear of ridicule from their peers, and who value truth over status, I have meticulously gone through the chapters of Acts after the stoning of Stephen and compiled a list of questions for those who are “on the fence” about when the Mystery Dispensation began.   The key to understanding anything is always to listen deep down and ask the right question.  As you read these questions, you can go to any Mid Acts source to get the explanation that bolsters their position.  Trust me, they have spent many, many hours striving to explain these things away.  Also, as you read, I would hope to further the understanding that all of the following questions need no explanation at all from the Acts 28 position.  They can all be answered by one simple phrase (which will follow), and they can be left alone to say exactly what they say.
       If the offer of the Kingdom ended at the stoning of Stephen:
1.  Was his prayer unanswered?
2.  What did Philip preach in Samaria?
3.  Why did Peter and John have to confirm the disciples in Samaria?
4.  Acts 8:25:  What gospel?
5.  Acts 8:26:  Angels speaking?
6.  What gospel was Philip preaching between Azotus and Caesarea?
7.  If God isn't dealing with nations in the Mystery Dispensation, then why did Jesus say he (Paul) would bear his name before kings in Acts 9:15?
8.  Acts 9:20:  What is Paul preaching and where?
9.  Acts 9:26-31 says that Paul sought to attach himself with the other disciples and that the church in Judea, Samaria and Galilee was resting, edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord. Where is the church of Jew and Gentile?  Where is the mystery hid in God?
10.  Acts 10:36:  What exactly did Peter preach at the house of Cornelius?
11.  Acts 11:1:  What word had the Gentiles heard again??
12.  Acts 11:19:  Who was preaching? To whom were they preaching?  What was their message?
13.  Acts 11:27:  Are prophets found in the Mystery Dispensation?
14.  Acts 12:  Angels and miracles performed for the Kingdom “key holder”?
15.  Acts 13:1:  More prophets?
16.  Acts 13:2:  What did Jesus say about fasting in Luke 5: 33-35?  What separate ministry?
17.  Acts 13:5:  After being separated for a special ministry, Paul still goes to Jews first.  Why?
18.  Acts 13:16:  Men of who?
19.  Acts 13:17-26:  What salvation?
20.   Acts 13:32:  Promise made to who?
21.  Acts 13:40-41:  Prophecy?  Habakuk 1:5?
22.  Acts 13:47:  A command from Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6?  Is this an offer of the New Covenant?
23.  Acts 14:3:  Is the message of today’s grace witnessed by signs and wonders?
24.  Acts 14:22:  Much tribulation before entering the Kingdom?  What hope is this?
25.  Acts  14:27:  Is the door of faith being opened to the Gentiles the same thing as the mystery hid in God?
26.  The entire 15th chapter:  Does this sound like a transition between the New Covenant and the Dispensation of Grace?
27.  Acts 15:12-17:  Prophecy from Isaiah and Amos? 
28.  Acts 15:20:  Do you order your steak well done?
29.  Acts 15:32:  Prophets still confirming?
30.  Acts 16:3:  Should an adult male be circumcised today in order to win some Jews?
31.  Acts 16:17:  Did the way of salvation include the baptism performed in verse 15?
32.  Acts 17:3:  This is the same message Jesus spoke in Luke 24:26 and what Peter teaches in 1 Peter 1:11. 
33.  Acts 17:5:  Jews are envious?  Was that prophesied?
34.  Acts 17:11:  Why is Paul teaching the same thing Jesus and Peter taught everywhere he goes if the Mystery Dispensation began in chapter 9?
35.  Acts 18:8:  Explaining away baptism?
36.  Acts 18:21:  Keeping a feast?
37.  Acts 18:28:  Shewing by the scriptures?  No mystery hid in God here..
38.  Acts 19:6:  Tongues and prophecy? 
39.  Acts 19:8:  Things concerning the Kingdom?  Should I ask MAD if I should generalize the meaning of this rendering of “kingdom of God”?  Does it differ from Acts 1:3 and 1:6?
40.   Acts 19:11:  Special miracles?
41.  Acts 19:23:  Is “that way,” the same as the “this way” of Acts 9:2?
42.  Acts 20:6:  Still observing times?
43.  Acts 20:16:  Observing Pentecost?
44.  Acts 20:24-25:  Preaching the Kingdom?
45.  Acts 21:20:  If a Jew is saved in the Mystery Dispensation, does he have to be zealous of the law?
46.  Acts 21:24:  Purify thyself?
47.  Acts 21:28:  Holy place?
48.  Acts  22:16:  Did Paul need to be baptized to wash his sins away?
49.  Acts 23:5:  Still observing the law by apologizing to the high priest?
50.  Acts 23:11:  Was Jesus telling Paul to testify the mystery in this verse?
51.  Acts 24:14:  Before Felix – Would an unbelieving Jew under the Old Covenant call believers under the New Covenant, “heretics”?
52.  Acts  26:6-7:  The hope and promise made unto the fathers?
53.  Acts  26:16-18:  Jesus’ commission to Paul here is quoted from Isaiah 35 and 42.??
54.  Acts 26:20:  Gentiles doing works meet for repentance??
55.  Acts 26:21:  What causes?
56.  Acts 26:22:  None other things than Moses and the prophets did say would come.  Did Moses and the prophets know about the mystery?
57.  Acts 26:23:  Same message as Luke 24, Acts 3, and 1 Peter????
58.  Acts 28:3-5:  Mark 16:18
59.  Acts  28:17:  Why did Paul call for the chief Jews and not the church which is his Body????
60.  Acts 28:20:  What hope was Paul bound for?
61.  Acts 28:23:  Testified the Kingdom of God from Moses and the Prophets???
62.  Acts 28:25-28:  The pronouncement from Isaiah 6.  ??
       The answer to all of these questions is very simple:  The Mystery hid in God, kept secret from ages and generations, was not revealed until the Acts period closed.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Great Commision Revisited by David Nottingham

David Nottingham, an Acts 28 Right Divider in Kentucky, sent me this guest article for the blog:

THE GREAT COMMISSION,  REVISITED

Matthew 28:20

by David Nottingham

We have been by tradition convinced that Matthew 28:19-20 is our great commission from the Lord Jesus to go out and evangelize the world.  If you are reading from a study Bible of almost any publisher or any school of theology, you probably have in the margin that this particular passage is indeed our "Great Commission."  Much in the same way, our study Bibles proclaim to us that the entry of Christ on the foal of an ass into Jerusalem is a "triumphal entry," but wouldn't the fulfillment of Zechariah 14:4 qualify as a more triumphant entry than the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9?   Certainly the Lord Jesus Christ knew he was not entering Jerusalem at that time to fulfill the prophecies concerning his Kingship, but rather to fulfill the prophecies concerning the lowly suffering servant who would die for the people.
In much the same way that traditions have formed our opinions on this passage of scripture (Matthew 21; Mark 11).  I am even more strongly opposed to the teaching that Christ was talking to the church, which is his body, on the day he addressed those twelve Jewish men and told them to, " Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

Understanding what God was accomplishing through the nation of Israel is key to understanding much of the Bible.  Any intelligent student of scripture must grasp the narrative of God's plan and that God reveals himself as the scripture unfolds.  Too many times, the human mind says, "I'm done learning now," while God says, "I'm not done teaching you."

In order for the Church in the present dispensation to apply the "red letter" words of the Lord Jesus, so much has to be taken as non-literal.  An example would be that because a person gives money to the Gideons in order for Bibles to be distributed worldwide, this relieves the conscience and satisfies the sincere believer in that he has followed these instructions of the Lord; however, this is a private interpretation of scripture.  Once a person believes that scripture is best translated as non-literal, the door is wide open for any and all interpretations to the point that no one is right and no one will ever be able to establish sound doctrine or truth.  So what is the literal interpretation of the words Christ spoke to the twelve just before his ascension?

First, as always, we must interpret in light of the context.  Let's consider what Christ came to do.  We know now that Christ died for the sins of the world (2 Cor. 5:15).  We also know that if we are saved today, it is through the blood of his cross by which we are reconciled (Col. 1:20).  We glory in the cross (Gal. 6:14).  We are justified by grace (Titus 3:7), and by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) – and that not of ourselves.  Not in our faith do we trust, but it is in his faithfulness to endure the cross (Gal. 2:20; 1 Tim. 2:6); and not only this, but that the earnest of our inheritance is that we are sealed by his Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14), and baptized into his death (Rom. 6:3) into the body (1 Cor. 12:13), and raised in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).   None of the above-mentioned things that had yet been spoken of by the Lord when he told the disciples to "Go...and teach..."   In fact, none of the disciples ever wrote about the above-mentioned truths.  The only epistles that contain these blessed grace doctrines are the ones written by the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul.  The only time the word, "cross," is used in any epistle at all outside of Paul's epistles is in the letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 12:2), and there is plenary evidence to indicate that Paul authored this epistle as well.

What conclusion do we come to from this?   The question remains then, "For what was the Lord commissioning the twelve apostles of Israel?"   Let's look at the surrounding context to get a better grasp of what the Lord was telling them.  Acts, chapter one, will give us lots of insight into what exactly the Lord told them – and had been telling them for forty days since his resurrection.  Verse three of Acts chapter one tells the reader plainly that the Lord spoke to them "things pertaining to the kingdom of God."  Verse six tells us that after three years of ministry consisting of signs and miracles, a brutal death on the cross, and a resurrection from the dead (of all things!), the disciples had a chance to ask one more question in haste as the cloud from verse nine probably was already forming to receive him out of their sight:  "Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6)

A parallel scripture to Matthew 28:20 is Mark 16:15-20.  I find it puzzling that no one labels this passage of scripture as, "the Great Commission," although it concerns the same event.   Instead, the footnotes in most modern Bible versions say that this passage should not even be in the Bible and some delete it entirely.  Why?  Because it's easy to say that giving money to put Bibles in foreign countries fulfills the Christian's duty to obey Matthew 28:20, , but coming up with a non-literal interpretation of Mark 16 is not so easy.  Only a literal interpretation will do.   Look closely at verse twenty:  "...and THEY [emphasis mine] went forth.  THEY were those to whom that commission was given, and all the signs that the Lord said would follow them did follow them; and it was all about the prophesied kingdom that had been promised – to THEM.

After forty days of instruction, the Apostle Peter, to whom were given the keys to this kingdom, stood up and declared in Acts 2:14, "Ye men of JUDAEA [emphasis mine] and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem;" and verse sixteen, "...this is that which was spoken..."

Let's stop here.  Ultimately, what Peter would tell them to do was "repent," verse thirty-eight.  That is also what he told them in Acts chapter three, verse nineteen.   Repentance by the nation of Israel for killing their King was the one condition that was stipulated to bring about the return of Christ as King seated upon the throne, the answer to the question of Acts 1:6.  As we read through the Book of Acts and see Paul's separated Gospel of God go out to the Jew first and also the Greek (Romans 1:2, 16).  This gospel of God's grace was the last measure God would take with Israel.  The prophets declared that the Jews would become jealous of the believing Gentiles and yet they still rejected  the kingdom being offered to them (Deut. 32:21).

As the book of Acts comes to a close, we see the final signs and miracles being done by the Apostle Paul in order to convince the Jews as far away as Rome.  He called for "the chief of the Jews" in Acts 28:17.  Paul told them that for "the hope of Israel, I am bound with this chain..."

As Paul finished the Acts ministry given to him by the risen Saviour, every Jew in the known world had had an opportunity to hear the Gospel of God; and, as a nation, they rejected the kingdom.  Acts 28:25-28 is the moment that the gospel would no longer go to "the Jew first."  Their opportunity to hear and understand and see and perceive (Acts 28:26) was finally over, pulled from the table, set on shelf, and held in abeyance.  But, what of Peter and of the twelve, and their commission to go into all the world?  The prophets declared that Israel was to become a nation of priests and kings (Isaiah 61:6) and that they were to teach all nations.  If you have followed the narrative thus far, then you know that the comprehensive reader looks at Acts 28:28 and says, "What now?"  

What Jesus commissioned the twelve to go and do was one hundred percent spoken of in the prophets; but let's look at a much overlooked commission given to the Apostle Paul to give to the Body of Christ in a dispensation of grace where the Jew and his signs and prophets are not found.  Ephesians 3:1-11 and Colossians 1:24-27 are uncharted territory.  Paul tells us that this dispensation was a mystery hid in God.   The "church, which is his body," was not spiritual Israel carrying out the orders and prophecies of that chosen nation.  The mystery was not spoken of by the prophets because God never made it known.  It was God's secret.   He made it known to the Apostle Paul by revelation (Eph. 3:3), to fulfill the word of God (Col. 1:25)!   Our commission is to make ALL men see what is the fellowship of the mystery (Eph. 3:9).


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Message Did Paul Preach in a Typical Jewish Synagogue?

I know you'll enjoy and be edified by this guest article by Brother Ivan Burgener (contact information at end of article):

DID YOU EVER WONDER...

What message Paul preached in a typical Jewish synagogue? For my part I had become so focused on Paul’s ministry as God’s Apostle of the Gentiles that I had failed to give proper attention to his ministry to Jews. His visiting synagogues seemed paramount at every city. Even in Philippi he sought a gathering of Jewish ladies when, apparently, there was no synagogue.

Paul surely visited far more synagogues than are named in the Acts and his epistles. Yet we need not guess at the content or focus of his ministry there. We have an inspired example, namely his first recorded message in Acts 13:14-52 wherein he tells how “they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, ‘Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on’ ” (13:14-15).

Being Gentiles and strangers to synagogue practice, many of us fail to realize that Paul had seated himself in the place reserved for visiting rabbis so as to be called upon if invited. The invitation received, “Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, ‘Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it’ ” (Acts 13:16-17).

What an entre! He began where God had begun to make good His 400 year old promise to Abraham, for in Genesis 15 :13-14 God had said, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs (Egypt), and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance” (Acts 13:16-17). The Exodus!

Paul had skipped over their flight from Pharaoh’s army and the crossing the Red Sea where their enemies drowned. He also skipped telling anything of their year-long encampment at Mt. Sinai during which time Moses’s seven escapades up and down the mount had concluded in Israel signing on to a covenant written by the hand of God. Paul did not “rub their noses” in their breaking that Covenant within 40 days. He also skipped completely over all the negotiations which concluded in their refusal to make the thirteen day journey directly to the promised land.

He went directly to their wilderness journey and their many provocations of God therein.

“And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.”  (13:18-21).
 


How interesting, that forty years began it and forty years concluded this period yet Paul also swiftly passed over the centuries of their wilderness wanderings to the removal of King Saul!

“And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, “Whom think ye that I am? ‘I am not he’ (We remember John’s denial of being Elijah or the Messiah). But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose” (13:22-25).

Paul deftly brought them to Luke 16:16 where, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” The message from God through John was upgraded by the Messiah Himself, Jesus of Nazareth, and it ran headlong into stiff opposition as many other verses confirm. Yet Paul pled:

“Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you fears God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead: And He was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people” (13:26-31).

Paul applied this message to himself and to his synagogue audience for “we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, (to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again (in resurrection); as it is also written in the second psalm, ‘Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.’ And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’

Wherefore He saith also in another psalm, ‘Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: (Peter said in Acts 2:29, ‘let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.’) But here Paul continued: “But He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (13:32-39).

What in the world is all this but the New Covenant as promised in Jeremiah 31:34, when, “saith the Lord... I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Prophesied by Jeremiah indeed, but ably ministered now by Paul according to 2 Corinthians 3:6, “able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit...” But Paul continued,

“Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

“And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.   But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

“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” (13:40-46).

The Lord’s words of Paul’s commission (given to Ananias), that Paul was God’s chosen vessel to bear His name to “Gentiles... kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15) seemed to suggest that Gentiles would be in first place. But Israel clearly enjoyed first priority throughout the entire book of Acts! Only after the Jews had rejected his message in the synagogue that Paul was free to extend God’s blessings to Gentiles. Paul respected that priority and always went to them first. This “Jew first” policy continued through his Romans epistle but did not continue beyond the book of Acts.

I cannot forget my own awakening to this fact. I had been reading Romans wherein Paul had written in Romans 1:11-13 “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you...” And again in Romans 15:32. “That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.”

How disappointed I was to read in Acts 28, that within a few days of his arrival in Rome, he did not call for a meeting of the church, as I hoped and expected! He called for the leaders of the synagogues of Rome. He spent several days with them going over with them his “able ministry of the New Covenant,” just as he had done in every synagogue. Right up to the end of Acts was God making good His promise of the New Covenant, and they were making a big mistake if they refused.

“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. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (13:47-52).

Was there any other issue, half so appropriate, as Paul offering “the New Covenant to Jews scattered outside the land” just as Peter had done “to Jews within the land”? See how Peter’s message concluded, “... it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (Acts 3:23-25). This is the only place where we find the word “covenant” in Peter’s mouth or pen!

It seems clear that just as Peter did all he could to bring Israel to repentance and that his ministry was that of offering the New Covenant within the promised land, we find the Apostle Paul, throughout his Acts ministry, including all his epistles written during that period, offering the same New Covenant to the hosts of Israel scattered throughout the Gentile world.

Paul’s New Covenant epistles are listed below in, we believe, the order of their writing:

Galatians; written between Acts 14 & 15. It does not seem possible he could have written it after Acts 15 and failed to mention it in his letter to the Galatian churches. Circumcision was the issue in the Galatian epistle, the very issue which was resolved at the Acts 15 Jerusalem Conference.

1 & 2 Thessalonians; written after his visit in Acts 17

1 & 2 Corinthians; written after his visit in Acts 19

Romans, the last letter; written before his imprisonment in Acts 21:26-37.

That Hebrews was written during this same period covered by the book of Acts seems beyond doubt. Hebrews is God’s glorious message offering the New Covenant to Israel. It is equally without question that whoever wrote it must have been a very “able minister of the New Covenant”!   Hebrews uses the word “covenant” 17 times, more times than all the rest of the NT books combined.

Many mid-Acts dispensationalists are persuaded that the competing messages throughout the book of Acts were the Gospel of the Kingdom giving way to the Gospel of Grace. We suggest that the competing messages were the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant, versus the New Covenant (a ministry of grace) as ministered by Peter in Acts 1-12 and by Paul in Acts 13-28. The finale of this competition was Paul’s confrontation with the synagogue leadership of Rome in Acts 28. When Israel stubbornly rejected Paul’s final presentation of the New Covenant, God’s salvation went to Gentiles, not through Israel, but in spite of them. Israel’s priority was not mentioned thereafter.

Let us consider all of the 33 NT appearances of the Greek word for covenant. We find it translated “testament” 13 times and “covenant” 20 times. For our purpose we will consider it to be “covenant” all 33 times and list them below.

It appears 1 X in Matthew and Mark, and 2 X in Luke, (once early before the birth of Christ and a second time with Matthew and Mark at the Last Supper). In John it does not appear. We can understand the Lord using the word covenant only once, just before His assumption of the role of  “...the mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).

It appears 2 X in Acts, 3:27 and 7:8, (the covenant of circumcision).

It appears 1 X in Revelation 11:19 when the Ark of the Testament (Covenant) is seen.

It appears 17 X in Hebrews

It appears 9 X in Paul’s epistles, 8 X in his Acts epistles and 1 X in the prison epistles, Eph 2 where

Gentiles are strangers from the covenants.

This collected evidence suggests that Paul, who labels himself, an “able minister of a New Covenant” is the writer of Hebrews.  Others have suggested that the Greek language and grammar are by Luke but the theology is that of Paul.

For sure only Paul gave us two of the three comparisons of two covenants.

1. Galatians 4:24-31, by Paul

2. 2 Corinthians 3:6-18 by Paul

3. Hebrews 12:18-28, by the ablest minster ever of the New Covenant. (Who could that be?)

“Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember Jesus Christ of the seed of David risen from the dead according to my gospel: wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound” (2 Tim 2:7-9).
 

Address all questions, compliments, and complaints to Ivan L. Burgener, 618-344-6741; cell: 618-792- 6462, iburgener@aol.com or to 401 Willowbrook Lane, Collinsville, IL 62234.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Baptism and How It Relates to this Post-Acts Dispensation





Dear Friends,
 

Water baptism is an accepted form of worship or obedience in most of the Christian denominational systems. If we include water baptism of infants, then those who do not practice any form of water baptism are definitely in the minority.

It is universally accepted that water baptism, either immersion or sprinkling, does not save anyone. We won’t canvass the authenticity of either form of water baptism but focus rather on the ordinance itself and its place in God's purposes.

Water baptism has been so long a Christian tradition that it goes unquestioned as being valid in today’s present dispensation of the Grace of God. A casual reading of the Gospels will show water baptism prevalent in the ministry of John the Baptist, the Disciples of Christ, and the ministries recorded in the Book of Acts. Water baptisms or washings were embedded from the beginning of Israeli history in the Levitical, Temple services, in the daily lives of the people and is featured in prophesy. This Israeli highlight of everyday life continued right through the Gospel and Acts periods. Old Testament or New, water baptism can be found and thus by sheer weight of presence its place in today’s orders of service is affirmed for many.

In the modern Christian era, water baptism is understood as a demonstration of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and is a public confession of an inward act of faith in Him. It is positioned after the confession of faith in Christ for the modern believer. For many, undergoing water baptism is a unifying statement that they are a child of God and is an essential part of denominational (church) membership. It is widely seen as an obedience issue rather than one essential for salvation. As sincere students of the Word we need to know if these rationales are scripturally valid.

As with all Bible topics, the Bible study rules must be observed if we are to fully understand the place and significance of water baptism today. The questions of who, what, when, where and why are important in our examination of water baptism. Likewise we need to note its contexts and of course the wide comparison of Scripture with Scripture are other essential basics to a prudent study. These are all essentials of rightly dividing water baptism; we do not want to be unapproved and ashamed before our Lord on any subject.

We begin our research by first observing the cultural setting of the Gospels and Acts period. What was everyday life like in Israel when the interregnum period closed, that is the 400 years approximately between Malachi and Matthew? What was Israeli culture when John stepped center stage to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand? We begin by taking a passage from John. Once news of his prophetic preaching reached the leadership in Jerusalem, a deputation was sent to make inquiries;
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
Joh 1:19-31  

The first question posed to John was concerning his identity, “who are you?” Not once did the delegation ask anything as to water baptism itself as if it were some new and strange feature of public witness. Water baptism was very well known to them, it was an integral part of their religious and social life when John appeared. But even more, they knew that water baptism was to accompany the witness of Messiah, (Ez.36), Elijah (Mal.4:5) and “that prophet” (Deut.18:15-18).

Water baptism was part of Israeli life and accompanied the expectation of Messiah. It spoke to Israel of God's glorious future plans for them. Water baptism in its opening context is in relation to the prophetic coming of Israel’s Messiah and it was seen in the ministry of John the Baptist who heralded that coming Kingdom of Glory. This is confirmed by the questions of the delegation and by John’s first and later explanation;
He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. (Isaiah 40) Joh 1:23  And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. Joh 1:19-31
Water baptism in an opening context, relates to the coming of Israel’s Messiah to Israel. It was part of Israel’s history, social life and expectation of the coming Kingdom out of heaven on earth.

I add my blessings to Eph.1:3 for you,
Brian Kelson


To receive this study in its entirety – all seven lessons (13 pages) – please send me an email at deborah.kuzenski@gmail.com and ask me to send you the pdf version!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

GUEST ARTICLE by former Mid Acts Blogger





Hi, Fellow Students of the word!

The following comment on one of the articles here is too meaty and encouraging not to post it as a guest article.  Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us, De!   I heartily recommend that you stop by De's forum site:  Koffi-Time, for more thoughts on our heavenly calling in Christ according to the rightly divided word.


"I'm NOT one for labels, but until a year or so ago those who do label would consider me "mid-acts"...

I truly love to study... as I studied I began to pray that the eyes of my understanding would be enlightened... the same prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians.

One evening as I studied I SAW and I UNDERSTOOD with CLARITY and PURE UNADULTERATED KNOWLEDGE... God blessing Gentiles THROUGH Israel and then God blessing Gentiles WITH Israel under the blessings of covenants of promise. But Now... in this present dispensation God is blessing Gentiles APART from Israel according to His Sacred Secret. That is to say I KNOW first hand that which God had hidden in Himself... LIFE in the LIGHT for Gentiles according to THE Mystery... and I joyfully crossed the dispensational border with my Father.

The moment I saw with the clear eyes of my heart, I remember saying out loud, "I'll be darned, what Debbie believes really is true."

I have never for one moment doubted that my Father heard my prayer and answered it... for I have had this wonderful PEACE that passes all human knowledge and understanding... and the clarity of the word of TRUTH just gets clearer and more solid daily.

I said all of that to say this... crossing the border at my Father's dividing line has caused me to KNOW the REALITY of my RIGHTFUL PLACE, i.e. I'm seated with Jesus Christ who is even now seated in His RIGHTFUL PLACE... far above ALL heavens... far above ALL principalities and powers!

If you do NOT yet see our Father's dispensational border, pray the prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesians (Eph. 1:16-23)... I'll be holding out HOPE for you... I can hardly wait to hear of the next Saint who rightly divides the word of TRUTH, RIGHTLY. Praise His Holy Name!"

Monday, February 22, 2016

Romans - A Nugget of Truth

I love these words from Brother Brian Kelson's latest newsletter, although they might cause some discomfort to those that want to cling to a Mid Acts position:

"Christ confirmed the Promises made to the fathers, Paul wrote of the promises made to the Fathers in Romans and Paul held the hope of the promises made to the Fathers after Romans was written. Romans has redemption truths rich for today, but the dispensational truths of Romans are not for today. It is wrong division of the uttermost confusion to insert into Romans anything other than Moses, the Law, the Prophets, Covenants and Promises. Our hope is found in Paul's letters written after Acts 28."

Monday, July 20, 2015

PAUL'S HOPE DURING ACTS

From Brian Kelson's latest newsletter:

Dear Friends,
 

As we arrive at the closing chapters of Acts we find the same themes, the same dispensational settings and the same opposition from the Israeli leaders and populace. The Kingdom and the call to it have gone out to Israel in the Land, outside the Land and now back inside the Land. Despite the recorded witness being outside the Land since Acts 13, there have been thousands of witnesses inside the Land as James mentions in 21:20. Yet the resistance to the truth remains.

Paul walked orderly; he constantly observed and guarded the Law during those times and because Christianity has failed to separate the Gospels and Acts from our calling today, the rise of Law observance among Christians is astounding. We are not to observe Sabbaths or abstain from any foods today, these things belong to Israel which was set aside at Acts 28 and those observances were set aside with her;

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Col 2:16-17

Acts 23 is yet another opportunity for the rulers of Israel to hear the message. Paul addresses the Sanhedrin just as Peter and Stephen had done back in Acts 4-6. The book of Acts is cyclic; It started in Jerusalem and comes back there towards the close. How true it is that during Acts, God had “all day long stretched forth (his) hands to a disobeying and gainsaying people”. Not only were they contradicting, but they began to plot to kill Paul just as they plotted to kill the Lord many years before; no change, no repentance, no submission of heart and mind to the words of the Lord.

The Kingdom and the call to it was given one more time to these rulers of Israel, but the moment they plot to kill Paul, the Romans are instrumental in transferring him to Rome for the final witness to the Jews of the dispersion. Multiple times during Acts, Christ was presented to the Israelis in the land and outside. From Jerusalem Paul was taken under guard to Caesarea where Felix was to hear trumped up charges against him.




In these later chapters of Acts It is important to recognize the basis of Paul’s faith given by his own testimony. Before Felix, Paul stated he believed all things declared in the O.T. Scriptures;
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:  Acts 24:14

This emphatic statement that Paul’s faith and hope was based upon the O.T. scriptures is repeated before King Agrippa just a few years later and remains the instrument of Paul’s final witness in Rome;
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come Acts 26:22

King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.   Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.   Acts 26:27-28 
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.   Acts 28:23

Paul was able to present the faith to Agrippa directly from the OT Scriptures; the Prophets spoke of Christ and justification by faith and Agrippa knew the scriptures. Paul is not preaching to Agrippa the Mystery truths revealed after Acts 28. Neither is Paul aware of them either, since they were still hidden in God when he made the statement in 26:22. Paul was a Christian during Acts but his hope and inheritance was that promised in the O.T.Scriptures. He was a Christian after Acts but with a completely new and previously unknown hope and inheritance.
 

Further evidence that Paul was not preaching the heavenly places of Ephesians and the one new man of our present calling in Acts is found in his statements regarding the orthodox Israeli position which he had not offended;
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.   Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.   Acts 24:17-18 
While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.   Acts 25:8

Paul was found purified in Israel’s Temple, he had not offended the Law or the Temple but was walking in a godly manner which included the observance of the Law, and this is not the faithfulness of Paul after Acts 28.  Christianity of the Acts period included faith in Christ the offered substitute, righteousness reckoned but the inheritance; the hope, was the hope of the Law and the Prophets which is not the case today. Look at Paul again: 
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.   Acts 26:15-18 
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come.   Acts 26:22

The truths of redemption and the consequences of those who believed in the Lord back in the Acts are “no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said was going to happen”. Moses and the Prophets spoke of the wonderful redemptive truths we love but the “inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ” they spoke about, and which Paul held at that time, is not the inheritance we have received today, after Acts 28. The redemptive truths continued across the Acts 28 boundary, but the inheritance truths were set aside with Israel.

In Acts, Paul’s hope was identical to that of the orthodox Israelis, in other words it was the hope of the prophets and Moses, this is not our hope today;

And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers:

Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.   Acts 26:6-7

Paul’s hope during Acts was exactly the same hope proclaimed by Peter in Acts 3; the return of Messiah to rule the world in righteousness, just as the prophets and Moses said he would do. Paul’s hope after Acts 28 was to be seated with Christ in our inheritance in the heavenly places.

Praise the Lord many Christians can see these beautiful differences.

I add my blessings to Ephesians 1:3,
Brian