Due to the transitional nature of dispensational overlapping it can sometimes be difficult to tell where one age ends and another begins. This is especially true of the book of Acts. The book of Acts is very well named because it is a dynamic book where things are changing rapidly and often without a great deal of detail. The book of Acts can be roughly divided between the diminishing of the nation of Israel as God’s agent for salvation and the grafting in of the Gentiles.
In other words Israel is set aside in the book of Acts and the Gentiles receive “favored nation status”. Gentile salvation would now come through the church the body of Christ and not through Israel.
However this transition did not happen overnight but covered as much as fourteen years.
When Paul is converted he begins going “to the Jew first” to “provoke” them to “emulation and jealousy”. This Jew first provocation ministry is sometimes seen as Paul preaching the “gospel of the Kingdom” to Israel and the “gospel of grace” to the Gentiles. We will see in this study that Paul never preached any other message than the gospel of the grace of God to Jew and Gentile.
Paul and the Kingdom Gospel
Before we begin we better give a few brief (very brief for me) definitions.
Definition: Gospel of the kingdom = The message preached first by John Baptist, then the Lord Jesus Christ, then the 12 apostles. The basic details of this gospel include:
- Water baptism for entrance into the kingdom
- Repentance i.e. change their thinking about who the Lord Jesus Christ was
- A future, literal, visible, earthly, Davidic Kingdom with Christ sitting on the his throne in Jerusalem.
- The fulfillment of the promises made unto the patriarchal fathers
- This is a works oriented, short account, Mosaic law system
References: Mark 1:4-5; John 1:31, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19-26, Gen 15:5 &ff., Mat 19:28 & ff., Mat 25:31-34, Luke 1:32… etc., etc,. etc..
Definition: Gospel of the grace of God = The message given to the apostle Paul the apostle to the Gentiles in the dispensation of the grace of God, kept secret until revealed by the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
The basic details of this gospel include:
- Salvation apart from Israel
- Salvation apart from the law of Moses
- Salvation apart from works of any kind
- Water baptism is not a part of the message of grace
- Justification is …
- Based in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ
- In his death, burial and resurrection
REFERENCES: 1 Cor.1:17, Eph. 2:8,9, Romans 11, Romans 4:5, Romans 3, Eph.1:13-14 etc., etc,. etc..
The point we intend to defend here is Paul never preached the gospel of the kingdom as is contended by some.
Now the study …
Paul gets saved in Acts 9
In Acts 9:20-22 Paul preaches “immediately” in the synagogues – but what does he teach?
Acts 9:20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
Acts 9:22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
Christ is the Son of God – This is information that any Old Testament Christ rejecting Jew would need to hear before he could be given any gospel… we will see more of this in chapter 13 when we get there. This is not information exclusive to the kingdom gospel.
He confounds the jews – How? By proving Christ is the son of God. Again this in NOT kingdom exclusive information but information that any Old Testament Christ rejecting Jew would need to hear before he could be given any gospel – kingdom or grace.
Proving that this is very christ – Same comments as above.
Paul goes to Jerusalem next
Acts 9:26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
In the name of the Lord Jesus – We are still not on Kingdom only ground.
The first indication of the content of what Paul preaches in the synagogues.
VERSE: Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
COMMENT: Paul goes to Antioch in Pisida and into the synagogue.
VERSE: Acts 13:16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. 17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. 18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. 20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
COMMENT: Paul, as Stephen did in Acts 7, recounts Israel’s history for them – pointing out their pattern of unbelief.
VERSE: Acts 13:23Of this man’s seed (David’s) hath God according to his promise raised unto Israela Saviour, Jesus:
COMMENT: Paul now begins his argument of proving “the messiahship” of Jesus Christ. Again this is information that a Jew, during this period, must receive before he can be saved – under either gospel.
VERSE: Acts 13:24When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.
COMMENT: Paul appeals to John Baptist – a man most of Israel, religious or not, feared as a prophet. John Baptist points out the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah.
VERSE: Acts 13:26Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
COMMENT: Paul now appeals to kinship and Abraham (his faith) and the fear of God as an argument for a hearing – but still no kingdom gospel is given.
VERSE: Acts 13:27For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. 28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
COMMENT: Paul recommends the word of God to them. Do not make the same mistake as your fathers. Jesus is VERY Christ.
VERSE: Acts 13:30But God raised him from the dead:
COMMENT: 2 Tim 2:8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: – Paul’s perspective of the resurrection is different than Peter’s. Rom 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Peter would say Christ was raised to sit on David’s throne… But Paul does not take the kingdom route here… just wait and see.
VERSE: Acts 13:31And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galileeto Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. :32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
COMMENT: Watch closely now… Paul has just quoted the same passage that Peter quotes in Acts 2 but Paul draws a different conclusion – a salvation by grace conclusion NOT a kingdom conclusion. Notice the verses to follow.
VERSE: Acts 13:38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
COMMENT: This is not a kingdom message… this is the message of GRACE! GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE! Under the kingdom gospel Israel cannot have their sins forgiven until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to set up his kingdom… But Paul here is offering “the forgiveness of sins…” NOW according to the tense of the next verse!
VERSE: Acts 13:39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
COMMENT: Not only is Paul offering “real time” forgiveness but also liberty from the law of Moses!!! This is not kingdom ground!! This is grace ground.
VERSE: Acts 13:40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; 41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
COMMENT: You missed him when he spoke on Earth you Jews… do not miss him again as he speaks from heaven!
VERSE: Acts 13:42And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
COMMENT: When the Jews were gone… Here we see the final steps towards the ending of the earthly ministry of Christ and the full weight of the gospel of the grace of God coming to full power. Paul later says… Acts 28:25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, 26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
VERSE: Acts 13:43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
COMMENT: Want to know what Paul preached to the Jews in the synagogues? He preached two issues.
The Lord Jesus Christ – whom you killed and God raised – is MESSIAH
Salvation by grace
It is not a safe practice to build doctrine based on the book of Acts alone because it is a transitional book. It is better to zoom out – so to speak – and view the big picture. Paul was – is – the apostle to the Gentiles. He preached the gospel of the grace of God. He did not preach the gospel of the kingdom. When Paul preached to the Jews he “proved” to them first of all that the Lord Jesus Christ was Messiah. He did not offer them the kingdom but did offer them real time salvation and freedom from the law. Paul did have a ministry of provocation to Israel but he never offered them the kingdom.
Did Paul ever preach a kingdom gospel – unequivocally NO. Paul preached grace in the dispensation of the grace of God.