GONE TO THE DOG'S
by Frank Stigall
Part IV and Final Part:
Did you know that Israel declared war on God? Acts, Chapter 8 tells us that Saul had received whata mounts to a decoration of war from the Sanhedrin, and he used it to its limit. “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). Made havock means “to ravage like a wild beast,” describing the intensity of Saul’s hatred of Christians.
But if you want to get the real meat of the Acts period for the Christians, then you must read the epistles of Paul which were written at the time of the book of Acts. In them is the meat for the Christian. Paul has the only revelation for the Church, or the unfolding of the mystery, that was hidden from before the Acts 28 foundation of the earth. Acts is a little like reading between the lines. The Acts epistles should be read to fully understand what was going on. These epistles of Paul written during the Acts period contain the message for the new creation race. They are Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans and Hebrews. Now, if you can place these epistles in the right time period in the book of Acts you will surely come up with a much better understanding of scriptures than most preachers. Acts is a historical book about a time of transition from the king dom message to the grace message. Transition is not something that is accomplished in a moment of time but over several years. The knowl edge that there are two messages in Acts can keep you from losing sight of which road to travel, and help you make the right application of the scripture.
Let us point out some more differences between Israel and the body of Christ. As we have said Israel is a theocracy, they are not a democra cy, and they are not a republic. God is their head, and He rules supreme, He has others under Him that are able to give His voice to the nations. This cannot be the church for one simple reason. The church is a family, and God is our Father, and the only way to be in this family is to be born into it.
ISRAEL, THE CHURCH, AND THE MESSAGE
Acts is a history book about Israel. The book of Acts opens with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Jewish nation and closes with the rejection of Christ as Israels Messiah (Acts 28:28). “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart” (2 Cor. 3:14-15). The Kingdom Message is no longer sent to Israel, as they are now in total darkness with a veil over their face, which means they do not understand any of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. As long as Israel considers the law as permanent for salvation the veil shall remain. However, in Christ the veil is taken away, and revelation can flood in if they ever turn to Christ. Therefore, the book of Acts ends the dealing of Israel as a nation until after the church is called out. They no longer have a history with God until the Church age ends, so there is nothing more to write about concerning Israel. One might say they are dead in trespasses and sin. A most difficult hurdle for the most of us will be to understand the book of Acts. We have been taught that those things in Acts was the New Testament church at work, so we claim those miracles for our self without ever understanding God was still calling Israel out to complete his covenant plan with them.
The apostles in the Acts period were carrying out the great commission that Jesus gave them after the resurrection. They were commanded to go into all the world, preach to every creature, heal the sick, and speak with a new tongue (Mark 16: 15-18). We need to see the Lord did not cast away the Jews because they cru cified him. Quite the contrary, His death was always emanate. In fact he was born to die, and his death was in the plan of God. “Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people” (John 18:14). Caiaphas the high priest could hardly realize the full meaning of his own words. He was simply expressing the thought of a political collaborator with Rome; and yet those words express the central doctrine of the Christian faith—the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
WAS ISRAEL CAST A WAY?
‘’I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Rom 11:1-2a). “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Rom 11 :7). We have a twofold problem with the chosen people that we must address in order to divide truth. First, there are Jews that flat out reject Christ as their Messiah and they were the ones that were blinded spiritually. This group never did obtain what they sought—their Messiah. The others have obtained to the election are the minority of Jews who are being saved today.
Paul gives us a little illustration on this subject using Elijah as an example. Elijah complained that he was the only one left that believed in God, but God told him He had seven thousand hid in a cave that he knew nothing about. In other words God has a remnant of the Jews reserved. This immediate crowd of reserve Jews are the born again ones, that have turned from darkness, unto the marvellous light of Jesus Christ. These Jews are protected from the wrath of God that is to come during the days of tribulation. We need to ask ourselves if there is a difference in the doctrine that Peter and Paul used in delivering their messages. I think we can find a very big difference. The Kingdom message knows nothing of the Mystery message. But they both have something in common and that is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
PETER AND HIS MESSAGE
Peter preached his gospel this way: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Nothing wrong with this you say, then you are right if you are living in 33 AD. This is part of the kingdom message which says in order to be saved you must repent, be baptized in water and the prize is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nothing is said about being baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit. It leads me to believe that Peter believed the Holy Spirit was the power in ones life to do the miracles. Jesus said in Luke 12:50, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with.”These words went over their heads; the only knowledge they have about baptism was in water. However, Jesus was talking about his death. Paul tells us in Romans 6 :3, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? So you see this is the difference in preaching between Peter and Paul. Baptism with the Holy Spirit joins the believer to Christ, separating the believer him from his old life and associating him with the new. We are no longer “in Adam” but “in Christ.” Water baptism can not do this. Forgiveness is through faith in Christ, not through the act of baptism. The Holy Spirit is a gift to all that believe—not a reward for works.“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27). Baptized into Christ. Not water baptism but Spirit baptism is what brings believers into a living oneness with Christ, having put on Christ. That is clothing oneself with Christ, is a responsible act of appropriating all that Jesus Christ is. “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30).
Paul on the other hand never emphasizes water baptism and re-pentance as a means to salvation. Here is Paul’s message for salvation. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9). It is simple and straightforward. It fact it is too simple for many religious organizations, they always have to add some works to it. They leave the new convert full of confusion, which he never gets rid of but incorporates it in his life long experience of being a child of God. The new convert has broken off the bands of the world, only to become bound with religious things.
"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). This is another point in Paul's message “reconciliation.” It involves a changed relationship because our trespasses are not counted against us. We are restored to favor with God. A Bible example of this is Joseph who was cast into prison but was pardoned and set free. He was made ruler over all the land in Egypt; he was restored to favor. We are now to announce to others this message of God's grace, we are no longer in Satan's bondage but have been reconciled, just believe it and be restored to God. We don't haveto live in bondage any more. We are free indeed by the new birth.
“'And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). A startling statement: What the law could not do (justify a person, or declare him righteous) Jesus Christ can do. This is something Peter's message did not have in it “justification without law.” In Acts, Peter still preached law especially when it came to circumcision, the eating of clean and unclean food. He had to be worked over pretty good before he would deliver his message to the Cornelius Gentiles. And even after that experience he was careful about being caught by other Jews fraternizing with Gentiles.
OUR HOPE— A HOME IN HEAVEN
“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven. . .” (Col. 1:5). You will only hear this word from Paul. Peter on the other hand offered a kingdom on the earth. This hope is reserved for those who trust Christ now in this age of His rejection. It is because the King along with His kingdom have been refused that God in grace has given believers today something better, a heavenly position. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you” (Acts 3: 19-20). Be converted and turn around. That is, turn from sin to God by reversing their decision about Jesus and confessing Him as the Messiah. Then there will be the times of refreshing and the times of restitution of all thing, which refer to the millennial kingdom. This is one of the great differences between the kingdom message and the grace message. The kingdom message is about the Davidic covenant. God offers a king and a throne on this earth to rule from, and that king will be Jesus, thus we call it the kingdom message. Paul offers believers to become jointers with Jesus Christ, and citizenship in heaven.
PETER THE APOSTLE
I would not want to leave you thinking that Peter never came to understand the message of the mystery, he did but it was late in life. In fact, he gives us some great scriptures such as “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever “ ( 1 Pet 1 :23).However, a close study of the scriptures will reveal he mainly ministered to the Jews. 1 Peter, is a mixture of things about the mystery and at other times he is writing about things that could only be for the Jews, for example, 1 Peter 2:9-10. His second epistle points more to the born again. Peter quickly fades to the background after Paul came along, and little is said about him after the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15: 6-19; Gal. 2:11-21). It is quite obvious that the kingdom message gradually faded to the background and the mystery message was now the message of the hour. However, Peter was a great man of God. He wrote his two epistles in about 63-66 AD and was martyred in 67 AD around the same time as Paul was martyred.
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