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It will be seen that the Acts opens with the Lord Jesus giving instructions to the
apostles concerning the kingdom of God. In answer to their enquiry as to the restoration
of the kingdom to Israel, He bids them tarry at Jerusalem until they be endued with power
from on high. The closing section reveals Paul as a prisoner at Rome, the final witness to
Israel being given, Isaiah 6: 10 quoted for the last time, the door of the kingdom shut to
Israel, and the present dispensation of the mystery ushered in.
It is not our purpose in this article to consider the book of the Acts, so we will
consider without further introduction the ministry of the apostle, and its bearing upon
dispensational truth. The apostle Paul is first introduced upon page of Scripture at the
time of the death of Stephen. Stephen seems to have anticipated the teaching given to
Paul. The accusation made against him was:--
"This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the
law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and
shall change the customs which Moses delivered us" (Acts 6: 14).
This same charge was preferred against Paul in after years:--
"They are informed of these that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the
Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither
to walk after the customs" (Acts 21: 21).
The infuriated Jews who stoned Stephen for his faithfulness found a champion for
their traditions in the young man Saul of Tarsus:--
"The witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul; and
they stoned Stephen. . . . and Saul was consenting unto his death" (Acts 7: 58 - 8: 1).
What sort of man was this who would consent to the death of such a saint? The secret
of his blind, ignorant cruelty was "a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."
Many of the Pharisees knew that Jesus was the Christ. They had said, "This is the heir,
come let us kill him." Paul, however, tells us that what he did, he did it "ignorantly and
in unbelief" (I Tim. 1: 13).
To the English reader, separated by centuries from the period of the Gospels, the term
"Pharisee" has taken upon itself a colouring more or less traditional. All Pharisees were
not alike, however, even as all Scribes or all Priests were not alike in their zeal or
character. The Talmud tells us of seven classes of Pharisees. It speaks of the Shechemite
Pharisee, who obeyed for self interest; the tumbling Pharisee (nifki), who paraded
humility; the bleeding Pharisee (kinai), who, rather than risk outraging his modesty by
seeing a woman, risked a broken skull by walking with his eyes shut; the mortar Pharisee
(medukia), who covered his eyes, as with a mortar, for similar reasons; the timid Pharisee,
who was actuated by motives of fear; the tell-me-another-duty-and-I-will-do-it Pharisee;
and the seventh class, the Pharisee from love. Saul of Tarsus was of the sixth order
enumerated above, for in Gal. 1: 14 we read:--