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).