GONE TO THE DOG'S
by Frank Stigall
In some regards, it is a hard call to what Peter was to preach. Does he preach what was in John 14-17 or does he preach what Jesus said in his last forty days on earth? Peter had only recently been filled with the Holy Spirit. Does that mean he suddenly understands what has taken some of us fifty years to understand? This side of things require a revelation to understand, and no where does Peter demonstrate he ever received a revelation of Christ abiding in him. Well, it is quite obvious he went with the great commission, which Jesus had instructed him on five different occasions. Did God suddenly cut his people off? It says nothing about it if he did. In fact, he had just taken their sin to the cross. Perhaps the “all things” the Holy Spirit wanted to teach were to inform the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. Peter preached the kingdom message, and the kingdom message is only to and for the Jews. The kingdom offer is still on the table—Peter said this was the Lord and Christ. In other words this is the supreme authority. Christ in the Greek is Christos, which means the Anointed One and Messiah. By offering Jesus as the Messiah was the same as offering the kingdom. The Messiah has long been the hope of Israel. Christ is not the Messiah to the church, he is saviour. “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only” (Acts11:19).
This kingdom message to the Jews was preached for a period of about 13 years. Furthermore, Peter and many others lived their life as though the kingdom had come. When Peter and others prayed for the sick he had 100% success, at least we have no reports of any failures (Acts 5:16). Even when Peter’s shadow fell on the sick they were healed (Acts 5:15). He was living a charmed life. Even prison gates opened of there own accord to him, and he freely walked out. Three thousand were saved and then five thousand, what an outpouring of God’s Grace this was. Acts 9 is another turning point in the plan of God. Jesus called the chief of sinners whose name was Saul (Paul) and revealed to him the mystery of Christ living in earthen vessels as their life. It is John 14:17 coming to life in Paul. After Acts 9, the kingdom message began to diminish, and the grace message began to rapidly expand. Acts is mainly about the diminishing of the kingdom message. Luke, the writer of Acts, does not say one thing about the mystery message even though he followed Paul around and heard him minister the message. Jesus called Paul to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. Yes, he will be an apostle to the first race of people that God himself rejected.
They will be given a chance to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, for the second race (Jews) has rejected their Messiah. Not only that, but also the Jews that rejected God are given a chance to accept the mystery pro- gram and become part of the new creation race. God broke down the middle wall of partition that separated Jew and Gentile. No longer does circumcision, or uncircumcision matter. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal 6:15). “And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4). How did Paul get to be in Rome under arrest with a Roman centurion to guard him? The story starts back in Acts 21. Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem, even though he was instructed by the Holy Spirit not to go on several occasions.
Paul did not obey this instruction, and went to Jerusalem anyway. There he met with James the half-brother of Jesus, who persuaded Paul to participate in a Jewish ritual. “Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law” (Acts 21:23-24). Later Paul was being asked to pay the expenses involved in the offerings required at the completion of the Nazarite vow which these four men had taken (Num. 6:13-21). He was being urged by James to take these actions. This would indicate that he was, after all, a “middle-of-the-road”Jewish-Christian (Acts 21:26).
However, Paul was quickly discovered as one who had betrayed Judaism, and then the riot began. They wanted to kill Paul, but the Roman guards stepped in and saved him. One should note that James, the half brother of Jesus, who was the head of this Jerusalem synagogue, did not lift a hand to save Paul. “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). What started out bad for Paul as he disobeyed the Holy Spirit has now been turned to good, as all things work together for good to them that love the Lord. In the years of Paul’s ministry the Lord has appeared to Paul four times: at his conversion (Acts 9:5), in Corinth (Acts 18:9-10), on his first visit to Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-18), and here (Acts 23:11) during his last visit to Jerusalem.
Paul from here was sent from prison to prison and from Roman hands, to the hands of the Sanhedrin, then back to Roman hands. Finally, Paul was taken to Rome and put under house arrest. Here he was safe from those in Jerusalem that wanted to kill him. Therefore, he could speak freely without fear of being stoned by the Jews, as he was under the protection of a Roman guard. This bondage of Paul’s was brought about by the mercy of God for the last hope of Israel to accept Jesus as Messiah. It looks as though the Father had Paul on a mission of mercy, just for Israel. Is this the final offer for the nation to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah? “For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20). “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).
Most think the great division in the Bible is between the Old Testament and the New Testament, but it is not. God’s purpose concerning the earth and the reign of Christ upon it is the subject of “prophecy” (2 Peter 1:16-19). His purpose concerning heaven and our exaltation there with Christ is the subject of “the mystery” (Eph. 2:4-10, 3:1-4). Unto these two great subjects the scriptures are basically divided. Also notice an important fact that Paul spoke all day long out of Moses and the prophets to the Sanhedrin. If Paul spoke only of Moses and the prophets, then the mystery would not have been included because it is not found in Moses or the prophets. So this conference should be called the last effort to convince Israel that Jesus was their Messiah. It appears the last offer is on the table for the kingdom. If they had accepted it all Israel could have moved into the kingdom, and the new covenant to Israel would have come into effect (Ezekiel 36:26-28).
Remember, the Sanhedrin are the highest court in Israel. As we have pointed out before Israel is a Theocracy and the Sanhedrin are the judicial branch in Israel. In our society they compare to the Senate, and the House of Representatives. They are the lawmakers and we follow what they legislate. If they say Jesus is Messiah then all Israel would have followed since they are Israel’s spiritual leaders. Salvation for Israel is a corporate, which means all Israel could be saved at one time (Rom. 11:26). It only took one sacrifice on the Day of Atonement to apply to all Israel for salvation. The sacrifice to end all sacrifice was Christ the Lamb of God. However, I am sure Paul knew there was no use in preaching justification without the law to them. They would not have listened to it, but the apostle Paul being a Jew, a Hebrew, and a Pharisee knew very well how the Jewish mind worked. He understood what the Jews would listen to, and what they would not listen to. It would be better for them to know Jesus was their Messiah and let them accept him on that level than not at all. The Jew at that time was still under the umbrella of the promises to Abraham. Remember the theme of Acts is about the diminishing of the kingdom message and the failure of Is- rael to respond to the beckoning of the Holy Spirit.
Over and over again Paul brings proof to Israel that Jesus is the Messiah and they still reject it. Some of the chiefs in Israel were convinced and some were not, so they argued among themselves like good politicians do, and began to depart. However, before they left Paul pronounced on them an indictment by the Holy Spirit. “For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves” (Acts 28:27-29). This indictment Paul delivered to the Jews says this in general: All opportunity is withdrawn at this time for Israel to enter the earthly kingdom, and it will not be until after the Church has been raptured that the offer will be opened again to Israel. The mystery message has been sent to the Gentiles, “gone to the dogs”, and the kingdom message is no longer on the table. Even the apostle Peter has trouble handling the message being given to the Gentiles (Acts 10). This then is the purpose of God for rejection of Israel. “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (Rom. 11:11) . Paul has determined there was no use in talking to people that will not hear, see, or understand. Was this the end of salvation for the Jews? No, this was the end of the offer of the kingdom to the Jews. (See Figure 6 below).
From this point on the message is only about the mystery and both Jews and Gentiles can be born again and become part of the new creation race. “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:15). The cross has made all races into one new man. There is no longer a division between the circumcised or uncircumcised. Some Things Are Different If you have been reading carefully, you might be drawing a conclusion that God had two plans in mind, one for the Jew’s and one for the birthed sons of God. Birthed sons can be either Jews or Gentiles. It is our duty to rightly divide these scriptures, so as not to give what belongs to the Jews to the birthed sons of God and vise-versa.
This is a challenge because four-fifths of the entire Bible belong to the Jews. That leaves only one-fifth for the birthed sons, or the Church. Even in the New Testament there are many passages for the Jews only. Yes, even among Paul’s epistles there are statements only for the Jews. If one does not know these things exist, then the Gospel becomes defiled, and the trumpet does not give a pure sound. Many stand in confusion today because of the mixing of New and Old Testaments. Purity of the Gospel is almost non existent. The Pentecostal group that I was once part of loved the book of Acts, and accepted it as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We tried in vain to work the miracles found in the first eight chapters, and believed if we had enough faith and did not doubt in our heart all these things could be ours. Somehow, we felt our works generated faith. We felt to have faith we must read the Bible and pray. Our thinking was, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, if it was read or taught. Then if all that did not work it was time to fast and pray. (We all felt that this put God in a hammerlock, making him cry uncle). This had to work, but it did not. Disappointment and hunger were the only reward for our works. Today I look at Acts differently and understand there was something else going on that did not include the Church, but Israel. There was no way we were able to duplicate those things. Lord knows we tried, and we confessed healing while we limped around with our physical problems.
We were in denial with a positive confession. This too had little or no effect. Have we ever stopped to think just maybe these things were not given to the body of Christ to perform? These miracles worked well for the Jews, even Peter had one hundred percent success when he prayed for the sick. We learn that Christ lives in us, and he is our preventive medicine. He always knows what you have need of. Without any fanfare he quietly heals us and gives us strength to face the day. We may go through physical trials, but the feeling of our infirmities always touches him. I have learned to receive healing any way it comes: faith, doctors, or medicine. These sources are not of the devil, but God’s gift to the world. We need to know what the intent of God was, and what his plans are for the Jews. His intent dates as far back as Exodus. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6). The relationship specified in the covenant was that of Israel’s being God’s peculiar (special) treasure, a kingdom whose citizens were all priests with access to God, and a holy nation, separated from all other nations and devoted only to God. Now, we have to ask ourselves, who were all these priests going to minister to, as there was between three and four million Israelites. Peter has this to say: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). These are great words, but they are not for the Church. The reason why is we are not a priesthood.
This is the same kind of a statement as in Exodus 19:5-6. We are not a nation, we are birthed sons of God. A nation is earthly, we are heavenly, and our citizenship is in heaven. I don’t want to get off the track with this but it was God’s intent to use his chosen people as priests. In Acts we see the beginning of that intent starting to be worked out. It is a passing glimmer of what could have happened if lsrael had accepted Jesus as their Messiah. I believe the Jews would have carried the kingdom message to the ends of the earth, and the ones to whom the message was directed would have been the Gentiles. Most students of the Bible know that in order for a Gentile to convert to Judaism, he must be circumcised in order to become a proselyte Jew (e.g. Mat.23:15). In effect this would make Gentiles part of the chosen race, just as Jews who are born again today become part of the new creation race.
On the other hand, the born again have an entirely different message to deliver than Israel did. It is the message of reconciliation. In Romans 1:24-26, God has made it very clear that he gave up on the Gentile nations, and gave them over to a reprobate mind, and then created the Jewish nation. However, because of the cross, God has reversed himself, and he has given this reconciliation ministry to us who are born again. ‘’And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5: 18). The book of Acts is about the decline of the kingdom message, and it was cut completely off at Acts 28:28. Along with the kingdom message we have at the same time, the beginning of the grace message. The kingdom message dwindled away, and the grace message became dominant. It would be a good idea to keep this in mind as you read. Acts can give the reader a lot of historical background, including how Paul was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles.
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