By Charles H. Welch
The reader is directed to articles entitled ACTS,
LO-AMMI, and ISAIAH 6:9,10. The structure
of Acts 28 and the commentary on this section are intended to prove that
Acts 28 is indeed of the utmost dispensational importance to the believer
to-day. It marks a frontier.
23. Chief of the Jews come to Paul's lodging.
30. All come to Paul's hired house.
THE DISPENSATIONAL BOUNDARY
"He expounded and testified the kingdom of God" (Acts 28: 23). The record given in Acts 1:3 is a summary of what is written at large in Luke 24, where "Moses and the Prophets" are "expounded" by the Lord "concerning Himself". In Acts 28 Paul persuaded the Jews "concerning Jesus" both out of the law of "Moses" and out of the "Prophets". The parallel is intentional.
in both is "concerning Himself"; "concerning Jesus".
In addition, we have such parallels as the use of the word bradus "slow" (Luke 24:25) and "dull" bareos (Acts 28:27). While the eyes of the two in Luke 24 were "opened", the eyes of Israel were "closed" (Acts 28:27).
In. neither Luke 24, Acts 1 nor Acts 28 have we yet discovered the slightest allusion to the high calling of the church of the Mystery. We are on the verge of its revelation, but not until Israel became Lo-ammi "not My people" could that calling of the Gentiles that goes back for its inception to "before the foundation of the world", be made known.
The testimony of the Apostle on that memorable day was twofold. It was concerning "the kingdom of God" and "concerning Jesus", and it was found entirely in the testimony of the Old Testament. For the difference between "the kingdom of God", "the kingdom of Heaven" and "The Church" see KINGDOM.
It is evident that "the restoration of the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6). arose as a direct result of the Lord's testimony "pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3), and Paul in Acts 26:22 declared that up to that point he had declared "none other than Moses and the Prophets did say should come". So, here, in his testimony to the Elders of the Jews the teaching of the O.T. scriptures that impinged on "the hope of Israel" set the limits to his message. When one remembers the scrupulous care with which the Apostle speaks of his Lord in his epistles; rarely calling Him "Jesus", but nearly always giving Him His title "Lord" or "Jesus (the) Christ", it is a matter of importance to observe that to the Jews he spoke "concerning Jesus".
When the dismissal of the Jew was over, and the salvation of God sent to the Gentile, a change is observed. He now speaks "concerning the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31). Not only so, the omission of any reference to the O.T. scriptures is eloquent.
In his early epistles Paul makes constant appeal to the Old Testament. The Gospel which he preached had been "promised afore in the holy scriptures" (Rom. 1:2); the doctrine of Justification by Faith is confirmed by the words "as it is written" (Rom. 1:17); indeed "What saith the Scriptures?" (Rom. 4:3) might well be cited as typical of Paul's attitude during his early ministry (see TWOFOLD MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLE PAUL). In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul makes it clear that to the very end he unhesitatingly believed that "All scripture was given by inspiration of God"-and yet the moment we cross the boundary line of Acts 28 into his "Prison Epistles" that moment we come into the light of a new revelation, something that had been hid in God from the ages, and something not found in the O.T. writings, something indeed that was a Mystery, or a Secret as the word means. "It is written" occurs some forty times in Paul's early epistles, the phrase is never again employed by him after Acts 28. Not one quotation of Scripture meets us in Ephesians 1, until we come to the reference to Psalm 8 in Ephesians 1:21-23.
We read on through Chapters two and three right into the practical section Chapter four, before we meet the next reference to the O.T. namely Ephesians 4:8. There is no direct quotation of O.T. scripture in Philippians or Colossians and but one in 2 Timothy 2:9, an allusion to Numbers 16:5 and 26.
In the seven later epistles, there are not more than eight references to the O.T. and of this number not one can be said to teach the peculiar doctrine that was entrusted to Paul to make known. We have already reminded the reader that the word "depart" apoluo (Acts 28:25) indicates Israel's "divorcement" and the words "they agreed not" (assumphonos) are used of the marriage relationship also (1 Cor. 7:5).
The failure of Israel and the consequent blessing of the Gentile, was foreshadowed in Paul's opening ministry as recorded in Acts 13. The doom there threatened, now falls. Here is the de facto execution of the sentence that was pronounced de jure in Matthew 23:38, "Your house is left unto you desolate". Since the call of Abraham, the Scriptures contain no record of a Gentile being saved independently of Israel. "Salvation is of the Jews" was the testimony of the Lord Himself to the woman of Samaria.
Acts 28 ends with the Apostle dwelling for two years in his own hired house preaching and teaching "no man forbidding him". During Paul's early ministry, the Jew had consistently opposed the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, and this, said the Apostle, was their climax sin.
They "killed the Lord Jesus" but forgiveness was given and a new opportunity to believe and repent was granted. They had earlier "killed their own prophets" and had more recently "persecuted" the Apostle and his helpers "forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved", reaching however a climax "To FILL Up their sins always for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thess. 2:15,16).
"To the bitter end," reads Moffatt. "In its severest form," reads Weymouth. This same word "forbidding" found in 1 Thessalonians 2:16 is the word used by Paul, "No man forbidding him"-Israel, the opposer, had gone. They had filled up their measure of sin to the brim, and the very Gentiles that they had "forbidden" now entered into blessings hitherto unrevealed. (See THREE SPHERES OF BLESSING.)