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Dispensational Difficulties.

The dispensational place of the Gentiles during the Acts.

Our only means of knowing the purpose of God is the teaching of the Word of God. We cannot argue the point as to whether there may have been some Gentiles gathered with the disciples on the day of Pentecost, all we know is that there are none in the Scripture record. None but Jews, or Israel, either believing or unbelieving, figure in Acts i., ii., iii., iv., v., vi. and vii. We earnestly invite our readers to write to us if they disagree on this, not to debate, but to supply us with chapter and verse. Chapter viii. records the widening of the witness :

" Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ " (viii. 5).

Here the third sphere of testimony is reached, " Jerusalem and in all Judaea and in Samaria " (i. 8). Toward the close of the chapter an Ethiopian is introduced, to whom Philip preaches " Jesus " (viii. 35). Philip passes through Azotus (in Judaea) and preaches in all the cities until he comes to Caesarea, some 30 miles north-west of Samaria. Chapter ix. finds the preaching of Christ extended as far as Damascus, some 140 miles north of Jerusalem. This section is concluded by the words of ix. 3 1 :

"Then had the churches rest throughout Judaea and Galilee and Samaria."

The conversion of Cornelius is next recorded. Here Peter makes the statement that he is still "a man that is a JEW," and that he had been bound until that moment to observe the law which forbade such to keep company or come unto one of " another nation." Till then all Gentiles, even though they might be "devout," and even though they "feared God with all their house," "gave alms" and" prayed to God alway " (x. 2), were reckoned as " common or unclean " 10:28). It needed a thrice repeated vision to convince Peter otherwise, AND YET WE ARE TAUGHT that the church BEGAN AT PENTECOST ! This attitude exhibited by Peter was not something personal to himself, it was shared by " the Apostles and brethren in Judaea" who contended with Peter for going in to men uncircumcised and for eat with them (xi. 2). How could a Gentile have "continued steadfsatly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in break ing of bread . . . and have all things common . . . and eat meat with gladness"? There would have been an uproar instead of fellowship had a Gentile been included.

After the rehearsal of the case of Cornelius by Peter, who concludes by saying " What was I, that I could withstand God?" we find:

" When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life " (xi. 18).

This admission is immediately followed by the statement that they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the Word TO NONE JEWS ONLY.

Acts xiii. commences the second and larger half of` Acts. Barnabas and Saul are separated by the Holy Spirit unto a special service. This is somewhat parallel with the baptism of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. As a result a Jew is blinded and Sergius Paulus, a Gentile, is saved. This foreshadows the new turn of events.

The Synagogue witness at Antioch shows the Gentile ward trend by the concluding words (xiii. 40-48) :

" Lo, we turn to the Gentiles . . . . I have set thee to be a light to the Gentiles."

It is, we trust, abundantly evident that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and it was his commission and ministry that gathered the Gentiles to Christ, and founded churches in the heathen cities of Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi,  Ephesus, etc. It will be from his epistles therefore that we shall learn the place of the Gentile during the Acts.

Galatians teaches that both Gentile as well as Jewish believers were " All the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," they were " All one in Christ Jesus," and argues, if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. iii. 26-29). They were by virtue of being " in Christ Jesus " a new creation (Gal. vi. I5).

The first epistle to the Thessalonians shews that the Gentiles converted from heathendom were "waiting for His (God's) Son from heaven" (i. 10; iv. 14-18). They had been called unto His Kingdom and glory" (ii. I2), they had not been appointed to wrath, "but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 9). The second epistle to the Thessalonians reveals that the Gentiles who believed during the Acts period formed part of a company that will be on earth during the last days, during the rise and dominion of the man of sin, and the time of tribulation (i. 5-12; ii. 1-12).

The 1st Epistle to the Corinthians shews us that the Gentile believer at that time came behind in no gift "waiting for the revelation (apocalypse) of our Lord Jesus Christ," which is parallel with 1 and 2 Thessalonians. These spiritual gifts, which so mark the times of the Acts, were for a purpose :

" In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people: and yet for all that will they not hear Me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign " (1 Cor, 14. 21, 22).

With this passage should be read Rom. x. 19, xi. 11-14, where the place of the Gentile and the object of his inclusion before the Millennium is explained:

,, But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will PROVOKE you to jealously by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you."

" Salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to PROVOKE them to jealously . . If by any means I may PROVOKE to jealousy them which are my flesh, and might save some of them."

Here is light upon the inclusion of the Gentile. It had the provocation of blinded Israel in view. Like the Apostle to the Gentiles, they were " born out of due time."

The figure whereby the Apostle enforces and illustrates this position of the Gentile is next given. The Gentile is likened to a "wild olive" graft (contrary to nature) into the true olive tree. This is not a case of ordinary grafting, for it is usual to graft the choice variety on to the wild stock. At this present moment, and for the identical reason, slips of one variety of dessert pear are being grafted into another, not that the graft shall bear fruit, but that it may " provoke " the flagging tree into more fruitfulness. The Gentile was included during the Acts for Israel's sake to stir up, if it were possible, that people fast falling into a deadly slumber. It was of no avail. The day at length came when Israel were "dismissed" and the secret purpose of God for the Gentiles in the interim made known.

If we allow a place to the testimony of I Cor. xiv. and Rom. x., xi. in our views of Gentile blessing, we shall see how utterly impossible it is to try to make the teaching of Ephesians fit in with the earlier teaching of the pre-prison epistles.