Saturday, February 22, 2020

Acts Study, Session 3

In lieu of a live study since I am traveling, we discuss the absolute necessity of learning to view the book of Acts as a transitional book.


Teaching Notes
After years of teaching ministry, I have come to believe that we are simply interpreting the book of Acts incorrectly. I am not alone in that assumption. Many before me have come to this conclusion as well. So, I am not out on a limb by myself here. Those who embrace this view are often called Mid-Acts and Hyper Dispensationalists. These terms are oftentimes used in derision. However, make no mistake; they are dispensationalists who have just concluded, after comparing Scripture with Scripture that many of the things that we have been taught in regards to Progressive Dispensationalism are simply incorrect and current assumptions need to be questioned. Why? We are taking the things that belong to the Nation of Israel and misapplying them to the Gentile Church. In my opinion, it is just soft Replacement Theology. The result has led to constant attempts to overcome seemingly glaring contradictions that exist between the message of the twelve and that of Paul. This need not be. The contradictions disappear once the preset filter is removed. Rule number one in Biblical interpretation is that the Bible must be rightly divided in order for it to make sense and never contradict.

First, it must be understood that God’s initial plan was to reach the Gentiles through the nation of Israel after their restoration which prophetically should have happened with the first advent of Christ. Isaiah 42:1 says, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” He also said in Isaiah 49:6, “And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” And also in Isaiah 60:1-3, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Also in Zechariah 8:23, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Of course, there are many more verses that show this, but in the end, the nation rejected their Messiah and his Kingdom offer, and the result was the postponement of said Kingdom, and the mystery of the Church being revealed to the Apostle Paul (Romans 11:25; 16:25; 1Co 2:7; 15:51; Eph 3:3; 3:4; 3:9; 5:32; 6:19; Col 1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3).

Therefore, the book must be viewed as a transition from Peter to Paul, the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gospel of Grace, and from Jerusalem to Antioch. The first examples that I offer are from the book itself. Compare the first part of the book in regards to Peter to the last part of the book in regards to Paul.

In Acts 2:37 we see after Peter finished his first sermon to the Jewish people about how they had killed their Messiah, it says that the people were “pricked in their heart and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was simply, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Is that what we would tell someone today? That they need to repent and be baptized to be saved? No. Only those who have incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures in this regard would teach the necessity of baptism to be saved, i.e., baptismal regeneration. Later in the book, Paul was asked almost the same question by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30 when he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul’s response we simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." My friends, that answer is totally different than the one that Peter gave. There is no way around it. Peter’s required the work of baptism while Paul’s did not. Something happened. A transition was taking place.

Also, compare Acts 2:45 with Acts 11:29. In the first part of the book, we see the Jerusalem church selling everything that they had and “parting them to all men, as every man had need.” Why did they do this? They were expecting the Lord to return and establish his Kingdom! Also, the Lord had previously told them in Matthew 19:21, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” They wanted to be obedient. We don’t tell or expect people to do this today! By the time we teach the eleventh chapter of the book, the Church at Antioch was making collections to send “relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea.” Why? - The Church in Jerusalem was expecting something that did not happen. Why? - National rejection of their Messiah and Kingdom offer. Also, compare Acts 12:11 with Acts 26:32 where Peter was supernaturally freed from prison by angels and yet Paul was imprisoned and headed for an appeal to Caesar.

A transition was taking place. Peter was losing prominence and Paul was being raised. The Gospel of the Kingdom (repent and be baptized) was being replaced with the Gospel of Grace (believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved).

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Acts Study, Session 2

Today, we continue looking at the book of Acts by reviewing some fundamentals of interpretation and defining Acts 2 Dispensationalism versus Mid-Acts Dispensationalism.


Teaching Notes
Dispensationalism
Now, with all of that being said, I believe that the apostles were dispensational in the way that they viewed the Scriptures and should we be. To them it was simple. The Messiah had come, and as per the Old Testament prophecies, he was going to restore the kingdom, and fulfill the Davidic and Abrahamic Covenants just as God had promised. No, they did not see the cross. This is evidenced both by their increased questioning as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom and Peter's rebuke of Christ for even suggesting his purpose for returning to Jerusalem. 

However, eventually, the cross did come and they were demoralized, but after the resurrection, and some obvious clarification laid out by Christ during the forty days before his ascension in Acts 1:9, they were re-energized because the purpose of the cross had apparently been made clear. 

Moving forward, their focus stayed the same in that they were still looking for the restoration of the promised kingdom (Act_1:6). This is evidenced by the fact that their message never changed. It still remained as it was in the Gospels; repent and be baptized (Act_2:37-38).

Sadly, their message was ultimately rejected by the nation of Israel and God raised up the Apostle Paul to start what would become the church age in Acts 9. Yes, initially, Paul did preach the same Kingdom Gospel that the apostles preached, however, at some point between his departure and return to Jerusalem fourteen years later (Gal_2:1), the mystery of the church had been revealed to him and he was now preaching a different gospel: the Gospel of Grace. 

No doubt, Peter and the others, realized that something was changing, e.g., Cornelius (Acts 10:1), but did not fully understand it until the Counsel in Jerusalem (Acts 15) when Paul returned and explained it more thoroughly. It was at that point that Paul's gospel was confirmed by the twelve (Gal_2:2) and they parted: the twelve still remained with the Jews in Jerusalem still looking for the kingdom and preaching the Kingdom Gospel and Paul went to the Gentiles preaching the Grace Gospel. Again, they are not the same. The first is still under the Law and the other is under the new dispensation of grace.   

Unchanged Timeline
It must be understood also that the timeline never changed for the apostles. As per Daniel's prophecy and many others in the Old Testament, their expectation and hope was that Israel would eventually repent nationally, the Tribulation (Daniel's Seventieth Week) (Dan_9:24; Mat_24:15) would commence, and would culminate with the Christ's Second Coming, the establishment of the kingdom, and them sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel just as they were promised (Mat_19:28). This is reflected in all of their writings without exception. This apparently remained a hope until the eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the death of John, the last apostle. One would do well to remember this when they are reading anything between Hebrews and Revelation in the  New Testament. They were always addressing the believing Jews and preparing them for the tribulation that they fully expected would come. 

Paul, on the other hand, had turned to the Gentils and the establishment of the church: the Body of Christ. As such, the apostles were teaching the Gospel of the Kingdom that required repentance and baptism, while Paul was teaching the Gospel of Grace that required only belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As stated earlier, failure to see this transition is the reason for so much confusion in the church today, e.g., baptismal regeneration, amillennialism, postmillennialism, Preterism, Replacement Theology, much of the Pentecostal movement, the loss of salvation, etc. In my opinion, it is only through the lens of the dispensational view that this can be seen clearly.

Conclusion
Unfortunately, it is clear from the writings of Paul that most, if not all, of the churches that he had founded or mentored eventually turned away from the Gospel of Grace that he preached and placed themselves back under the Law or Gospel of the Kingdom (Gal_1:6) and have quite frankly done so ever since, e.g., finding the church in the Gospels and the other writings of the apostles.

Sadly, with that in mind, and the fact that the kingdom never came, in their ignorance, following the writings of Augustine, specifically, his work, The City of God, early 5th century, they began to spiritualize and allegorize the texts to make it say what they wanted it to say. As a result, the church became Israel, we are now living in the kingdom, the pope is Christ's vicar on earth, and Rome is the Holy City, i.e., amillennialism. 

Unfortunately, the Protestant Reformation did little to change this theology other than to reject the authority of the pope and gravitate from amillennialism to postmillennialism. Neither interpreted the Bible literally and both led to preterism. Dispensationalism was not lost but purposefully left.

It would not be until Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney on the edge of the Second Great Awakening that progressive revelation was revisited, wrongly so, as they waited for the kingdom that would apparently begin in America as a result of Joel 2 and Acts 2 being fulfilled. Yes, America was going to be that great "city on a hill" spoke of in Mat_5:14 that they were waiting for. Unfortunately, the reality of the Civil War shattered any thoughts of that happening anytime soon.

Full Circle
Dispensationalism did not come full circle again until a fellow by the name of John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in Great Britain began what would come to be called The Dispensational Era. Darby's teaching was popularized in the United States by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield via the Scofield Study Bible and the subsequent rise of fundamentalism between 1857 to around 1956 which sadly came to an end with the advent of Evangelicalism which is another topic for another day. 

The bottom line is that Dispensationalism is not some new contrived invention as some would suggest. We are merely returning to a literal interpretation of Scripture, and if we consistently interpret is literally, it results in a dispensational interpretation. These and other studies that I have done such as, More Than One Church, More Than One Gospel, and Back to Antioch, have all made me take a fresh look at the Book of Acts. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Another Gospel

After having studied Replacement Theology, Covenant Theology, Acts 2 Dispensationalism (the Body of Christ was born in Acts 2), and Mid-Acts Dispensationalism (the Body fo Christ was not born in Acts 2 but with the revelation of the mystery as given to Paul). What now? How does it apply to my faith and walk with God? For starters, I can now classify books that we read, the churches that I attend, the people I listen to, etc. Now that I know that there is a difference, it is easy to spot which of the above they subscribe to. They are either teaching the Gospel of Grace, the Gospel of the Kingdom, or a mixture of both. There is no doubt that both the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace are true gospels, but they are different in that the first is exclusively for the Nation of Israel while the second is exclusively for the Body of Christ. According to the Apostle of Paul, mixing them is no gospel at all. He warned the Galatians in Galatians 1:6-7, I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. You see, you can mix Grace with Law and not lose much, but if you mix Law with Grace, you lose everything. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Acts Introduction and Background

Today is our first study together before we continue into the Book of Acts. I thought that it would be a good idea to just rehearse the road that I have traveled to this study with you.


Teaching Notes 
About a year ago, I did a study called, Fundamentals of Bible Interpretation. I changed me forever. The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:19-20 that we have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. Notice, that last part of these verses where it says, no prophecy of scripture is subject to private interpretation.

Many today struggle, especially in a culture that denies absolute truth; that the Bible says what it means and means what it says, period. Not a very popular idea for sure. However, when it comes to biblical interpretation, we can both be wrong, but we can't both be right. I suggest to you today that the main reason for incorrect Bible interpretation, other than just sheer ignorance and a desire to twist the scriptures to mean something they do not, is inconsistency and a failure to adhere to the fundamentals of biblical interpretation.

Right Division
The Bible must be rightly divided in order for it to make sense and never contradict. Paul told young Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The very fact that Paul said this presupposes that there are divisions in the Bible and they must be properly recognized or, at best, they will not make any sense, or at worst, there will appear to be contradictions in the text.

One example of many comes to mind: the Law of the Kingdom as given by our Lord in Matthew 5. It was obviously not part of the Mosaic Law, but a future kingdom that Christ came to offer exclusively to the nation of Israel. Remember that the first words out of both John the Baptist and our Lord's mouths were, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. 

This is the message that they and the apostles proclaimed throughout their earthly ministries. Sadly, in the end, that kingdom was rejected by the Jewish nation, therefore postponed, and the church that was the hidden mystery was born as revealed through the Apostle Paul. Therein lies the confusion which leads to all kinds of wild interpretations, various heretical doctrines, and the cause of untold denominations.

No Law for Us
You and I are not under the Law of Moses, never have been, never will be. Neither was the rejected and postponed Kingdom ever offered to the church. At this point at least, we have no part of the Kingdom they spoke of. We are not in it and we are not building it, and yet, how many times do we hear things like, "we are a kingdom church, we are building the kingdom, we are enlarging the kingdom, we are bringing in the kingdom, we are doing kingdom work", etc. Why? - A failure to understand that the Kingdom was not offered to the church. As a matter of fact, little, if anything, that was spoken in the gospels in their entirety has anything to do with you and me today.

Results of Bad Doctrine
Think about the things that are taught today in regards to losing one's salvation, the need to stay faithful until the end, baptism as a requirement for salvation (baptismal regeneration), works to be saved, the church is now Israel (replacement theology), amillennialism, and postmillennialism. Where do these teachings come from? The Gospels! Again, the Gospels were about a Jewish Messiah that came to a Jewish people to proclaim that a Jewish Kingdom was at hand! See the problem? No, I have not always understood these things so clearly, and many around me may disagree. However, I believe that a failure to understand leads only to misinterpretation and contradiction.

Distinctiveness of Paul
Another thing in regards to interpreting the Bible to remember is the distinctiveness of Paul's revelation about the hidden mystery or the Church. As such, his thirteen epistles, Romans through Philemon, are of supreme importance during this dispensation of the Church or grace. 

We must understand that Jesus and his apostles ministered to the House of Israel with a message of an offered kingdom if the nation would collectively repent. It was not contingent upon individual repentance, but national. There were at least five thousand Jews, maybe eight thousand, depending how you interpret the response to Peter's second sermon, that we know of that repented in the book of Acts (Act 2:41; Act 4:4), but the nation itself never did repent, and thus, rejected their Messiah and his kingdom offer. Therefore, the kingdom was postponed, not be offered again until the Tribulation Period or what is called Daniel's Seventieth Week (Dan 9:27). As such, God raised up the Apostle Paul with a new message to take to the Gentiles.

New Testament Beginnings
Another thing that many fail to see is that the New Testament does not start in Matthew, chapter 1, in spite of the fact that all of our Bibles have a page marked New Testament between Malachi and Matthew. As a matter of fact, it could not have started until after the crucifixion, and I would contend, the resurrection of Christ (Cf. Heb 9:16-17). In other words, there can be no testament without the death of the one making it, i.e., Jesus. Remember, that our Last Will and Testaments are not enforced until after we die.

That means that all of the Gospels are Old Testament. The New Testament could not have begun until at least Matthew 27:51 when Christ died. To rightly interpret the Bible is to understand this. Do not be tempted as so many, including me once, to pull the teachings in the Gospels into the Church! If you do, you will end up with confusion that we just discussed.

Church Doctrine
With that said, the epistles of Paul are of supreme importance to you and me today. They alone are where the Church gets its doctrine. Also, they shed tremendous light on the Old Testament by revealing things that we never would have or could have known without them.

Paul's Gospel was Different
This also means that the gospel that Paul received from God himself was different than the gospel which Jesus and the apostles taught in the Gospels and even well into the book of Acts. Now, before you become a bit unhinged, remember that the apostles had no clue that Jesus was going to be crucified; even when he told them directly because the Bible says that it was hidden from them (Luk 18:31-34). 

Bear in mind, this was right after he had commissioned them to go out and preach the kingdom of God (we call this the Gospel of the Kingdom) in Luk 9:1-2. The apostles were not preaching the Gospel of Grace that Paul preached. Paul's gospel was different in that it included the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It also required only belief as compared to the Kingdom Gospel that required repentance and baptism.

Exclusive Gospel
All throughout Paul's epistles, he says that this gospel was exclusively delivered to him (Cf. Gal 1:11-12;  Eph 3:2-4; Rom 2:16; Rom 16:25; Gal 1:15-17; and Gal 2:2). The bottom line is that the gospel that Paul preached was different from the gospel that the other apostles taught.

Conclusion
The conclusion is that when interpreting the Bible, we must remember that Paul's gospel is unique to the Church. Only Paul received the revelation of the mystery that had been hidden from ages and from generations but now is made manifest to his saints (Col 1:26).

Friday, February 7, 2020

New Bible Study Announcement

Starting this Sunday, February 9th, I am going to start a Sunday morning Bible Study live on my Directional Ministries Facebook page at 8:00 a.m. EST. I would love to have you with us.