Acts of the Apostles (!)

By Charles H. Welch

The Acts of the Apostles is the battleground of Dispensational Truth. To mistake our path here leads to lack of discrimination in the epistles. To believe that ‘The Church began at Pentecost’ blinds the eyes of the understanding to the high calling of the Mystery. To teach that Gentiles were baptized together with Jews on the day of Pentecost, into one body, is to affirm something that is diametrically opposed to what is actually revealed, and to nullify the statement that the door for the Gentiles opened consequent upon the first great mission of Paul (Acts 14:27). The Acts of the Apostles is divided first of all into two main subdivisions:

A 1:1-14. The former treatise. All that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach.
A 1:15 to 28:31. The subsequent record of all that the Risen Lord CONTINUED to do and to teach, particularly through the ministries of Peter and Paul.

The ‘Acts’ proper therefore begins at Acts 1:15. The first fourteen verses are a summary of the last chapter of Luke’s ‘former treatise’ (Luke 24). See LUKE, The Beloved Physician. The main section of the Acts is largely occupied with the ministry of two men, Peter the apostle of the Circumcision (Gal. 2:7-8) and Paul the apostle of the Gentiles (2 Tim. 1:11). That there is an intended comparison between the ministry of Peter and that of Paul, the following table will show:

The Parallel between Peter and Paul
Peter received a new name (John 1:42).
Paul was named Saul at the first (Acts 13).
Peter was baptized by the Spirit (Acts 2).
Paul was separated by the Spirit (13).
Peter was thought to be drunk (2).
Paul was thought to be mad (26).
Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2 is like
Paul’s first sermon in Acts 13.
Peter heals a lame man (3).
Paul heals a lame man (14).
Peter strikes with death (5).
Paul strikes with blindness (13).
Peter’s first miracle has dispensational foreshadowing (3).
Paul’s first miracle has dispensational foreshadowing (13).
Peter repudiates silver and gold (3).
Paul repudiates silver and gold (20).
Peter is arrested (4).
Paul is arrested (21).
Peter stands before the Council (4).
Paul stands before the Council (23).
Peter’s action produces fear (5).
Paul’s action produces fear (19).
Peter’s shadow had healing virtue (5).
Paul’s body gave even handkerchiefs healing virtue (19).
Peter benefits from the liberal Gamaliel (5).
Paul benefits from the liberal Gallio (18).
Peter communicates holy spirit by laying on of hands (8).
Paul communicates holy spirit by laying on of hands (19).
Peter condemns Simon Magus (8).
Paul condemns Bar-Jesus (13).
Peter raises Dorcas from the dead (9).
Paul raises Eutychus from the dead (20).
Peter’s first Gentile convert had a Latin name (10).
Paul’s first Gentile convert had a Latin name (13).
Peter at mid-day has a vision and hears a voice (10).
Paul at mid-day has a vision and hears a voice (9).
Peter is almost worshipped by Cornelius (10).
Paul is almost worshipped by Lycaonians (14).
Peter is delivered from prison by an angel (12).
Paul is delivered from prison by an earthquake (16).
Peter goes immediately to the house of Mary (12).
Paul goes immediately to the house of Lydia (16).
Peter said he was ready for prison and death for the Lord’s sake (Luke 22:33).
Paul said he was ready for prison and death for the Lord’s sake (21:13).
Peter was not taught by flesh and blood (Matt. 16).
Paul conferred not with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16).
Peter goes to Babylon (1 Pet. 5:13).
Paul goes to Rome (Acts 28:16).

This set of comparisons, when taken together with the teaching of the epistles on the subject, provides irresistible evidence that the writer of the Acts, Luke, Paul’s valued helper, intended to settle the question of the absolute equality and independent apostleship of Paul once for all. (For a further comparison of the life and words of Paul with those of his Lord, see The Apostle of the Reconciliation, chapter 3).

Peter dominates the first twelve chapters of the Acts, and then ‘goes to another place’ (12:17) reappearing mainly to confirm the call and commission of Paul.

Paul enters the arena in Acts 8 (being converted and commissioned in Acts 9), and his ministry is the theme of the greater half of the book. The disposition of the subject matter of the Acts, and a clear index of the dispensational changes that take place within its bounds, can be rendered visible by the employment of one or two aids to interpretation.

(1) The Geographical Aid.
When we are dealing with the kingdom of Israel, or with any developments of teaching that are connected with Israel, we must expect to find that geographical terms provide an index. Jerusalem is the city of the Great King, and covers the first twelve chapters. The scene then moves to Antioch, a city midway between Jerusalem and the great Gentile world, and in the last chapter, on the frontier of a new revelation, Paul arrives at Rome. We can therefore indicate the dispensational movement of the Acts thus:

1 to 12
13 to 14

(2) The Ethnographical Aid.
People are associated with lands and cities, and these as they appear in the Acts provide an index too.

Acts 2,3. Peter addresses ‘Men of Judah’, ‘Men of Israel’, ‘House of Israel’.
Acts 13. Paul addresses ‘Men, brethren and ye that fear God’. ‘Gentiles’.
Acts 28. Paul turns to the ‘Gentiles’.

We can therefore exhibit this dispensational trend thus:

1 to 12
13 to 14
(cf. 11:19)

(3) The Alliterative Key-word Aid.
Three key-words can be allied with this racial and geographical sub-division: Restoration; Reconciliation; Rejection.


‘When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6).

It will be noted, that this was a concerted action ‘when they were come together’, it was a logical consequence of the forty days’ Bible teaching received from the Lord, ‘When therefore’. It was recognized by the Lord as a legitimate inquiry; He did not say, ‘O fools and slow of heart to believe’ or rebuke them for not speaking about the Church, He only told them that the ‘time’ could not be made known. It will be further observed that the apostles were concerned, not with something new, but with something old, ‘wilt Thou restore again’. This theme is taken up in Acts 3, where Peter speaks of ‘the times of refreshing’ and ‘the times of restitution’ which had been the burden of all the prophets. If the ‘restoration’ of the kingdom to Israel be the true burden of Acts 1 and 3, the Church in which there is neither Jew nor Greek could not have come into existence in Acts 2. PENTECOST is dealt with as a theme in itself.

Seeing that the Saviour began at Moses and the Prophets and expounded these Scriptures to the disciples during the last forty days, He must have dealt with such passages as Isaiah 40:1,2; 43:5,6; Jeremiah 1:12; 31:28,35,36; 33:14-26; Daniel 12:1. Small wonder that the apostles were eager to know whether the time of Israel’s restoration had come, small wonder that the ‘Church’ as we know it never entered into their calculations. (For a fuller analysis of the prophecies concerning Israel’s restoration, see the booklet, The Burden of Prophecy, and the volume entitled From Pentecost to Prison).

With the ministry of Paul, a change comes over the Acts, for the Gentile now comes into a place of blessing. (For an examination of Peter’s attitude toward Cornelius, see article CORNELIUS). No longer is the gospel addressed to ‘Ye men of Israel’, no longer do they that preach restrict the message to ‘Jews only’. The door of faith is opened to the Gentile (Acts 14:27); ‘all men everywhere’ are called upon to repent (Acts 17:24-30). The reconciliation of the Gentile hinged upon the rejection of the Jew (Rom. 11:11-15). Paul is the only apostle to use the word reconciliation, for he alone was the apostle of the Gentiles. For a fuller account of this subject in its several phases, the reader is referred to RECONCILIATION .

Miraculous gifts, the hope of Israel, and the position ‘The Jew first’ are maintained right to the end of the Acts (28:3-9,17,20). The apostle spent a whole day expounding and testifying the kingdom of God, but when the Jews at Rome refused his testimony, he quoted Isaiah 6:9,10 for the last time in the New Testament and Israel passed out into their present blindness. With their dismissal, the prophetic clock stopped, miraculous gifts ceased, the hope of Israel was suspended, Israel became lo-ammi, the dispensation of the Mystery began, Paul became the Prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles, and the revelation of the nature and calling of the present parenthetical dispensation was committed to writing in what are called ‘The Prison Epistles’.

The reader is referred to the following articles as supplementing these themes: LO-AMMI; ACTS 28, THE DISPENSATIONAL BOUNDARY p. 26; the Seven pre-prison Epistles; the Seven post-prison Epistles; and Isaiah 6:9,10 and its cumulative fulfilment.

One more feature must be brought into line, to demonstrate the movement of the Acts of the Apostles from Jerusalem to Rome, from the Jew to the Gentile and that is the insistence of both Peter and Paul, that the message each had to deliver was ‘sent’ to a specific people.

Peter.- To Israel.
‘Unto you first God ... SENT Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities’ (Acts 3:26). ‘The word which God SENT unto the children of Israel’ (Acts 10:36).

Paul.- To Jew and Gentile.
‘Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, TO YOU is the word of this salvation SENT’ (Acts 13:26). ‘It was necessary that the word of God should FIRST have been spoken to you (Jews); but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the GENTILES’ (Acts 13:46).

Paul.- To the Gentile only.
‘Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is SENT unto the GENTILES, and that they will hear it’ (Acts 28:28). The present dispensational boundary is not at Pentecost, not in Acts 13, but at that crucial point in the apostle’s ministry when Israel were ‘dismissed’ (‘departed’, Acts 28:25,29 is too tame a word, it means ‘divorced’, see Matthew 1:19; 5:31,32). The recognition of this one fact solves the problem of the discontinuance of Pentecostal gifts, and illuminates the prophecy of Daniel 9. (See SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL NINE 9 ).

The analysis of the Acts here presented is necessarily limited, and must be supplemented by the studies presented on the many side issues already referred to. For our present purpose we conclude this analysis by repeating the geographical, the racial and the alliterative, followed by the literary structure of Acts as a whole.

Acts 1 to 12
Acts 13,14
Acts 28
Jews only
Jew and Gentile
Gentile only
Unto you first ... sent.
To you is ... sent.
Sent to the Gentiles.


Structure of the Acts
The Present Treatise
Acts 1:15 to 28:31


A 1:15 to 2:13. JERUSALEM. Holy Spirit. The Twelve.

B 2:14 to 8:1. Peter and others. Israel. Jerusalem.

C 8:1 to 11:30. Peter and others. One Message to a Gentile.

D 12:1-23. Jerusalem. Prison. Close of ministry.


A 12:24 to 13:3. ANTIOCH. Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas.

B 13:4 to 14:28. Paul and others. Independently of the twelve.

C 15:1 to 19:20. Paul and others. Associated with the twelve. Seven epistles to believers. One of which is to Hebrews.

D 19:21 to 28:31. Rome. Prison. Close of one ministry, and commencement of the present ‘dispensation of the mystery’.

An Alphabetical Analysis

| About LW | Site Map | LW Publications | Search
Developed by © Levend Water All rights reserved