Israel in Acts
There are two dominant views of how God chose to deal with Israel in response to her rejection of Jesus Christ. Probably the majority view of modern evangelical Christianity is that because of the Jewish rejection of Jesus, God postponed his kingdom purposes for Israel and inserted a “church age” that was nowhere foretold in the Old Testament scriptures. According to this view, He will someday resume His dealing with Israel at the “end” of this present “church age.” Another prominent view is that God ended His relationship with Israel at the cross or shortly thereafter and transferred His promises to the church never to deal with Israel again (see Matthew 21:43). Some have called this a replacement theology in that the church apparently replaces Israel in God’s plans. Obviously, both of these views cannot be correct and in fact it is entirely possible that both may be incorrect. Since I am aware of no passages in the New Testament that explicitly state that God postponed His purposes for Israel, there must be other evidence that would point us in that direction if this position is true. Likewise, if God indeed rejected Israel at the cross we would expect to find scriptural confirmation for that as well.
Rather than doing a complete survey of all the New Testament at this time, I think it is reasonable to take a fairly detailed look at the book of Acts to see to whom the message of the early church was directed and what was the nature of that message. At the opening of this book we find that the kingdom of God was the primary focus of Jesus’ teaching after His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection (Acts 1:3). This was simply a continuation of the essential message of His pre-crucifixion ministry and helps us establish that the Jewish rejection did not alter the central theme of His teaching. We also find that Paul continued to preach on the subject of the kingdom of God right up to the very last verse of Luke’s historical narrative. If the kingdom had been postponed or the offer of the kingdom taken away because of the Jewish rejection, why did Jesus’ disciples ask Him in Acts 1:6 if the kingdom would at that time be restored to Israel? Again, this was a post crucifixion/resurrection incident. If the rejection of Christ had delayed or postponed the establishment of the kingdom, the disciples would certainly have known that. This is especially true considering the stated fact that Jesus had spent the previous forty days speaking to them of things concerning the kingdom of God. Surely their Lord would have made it quite clear to them this very important fact if it was indeed true. To the contrary however, it appears that what He taught lead His disciples to believe that the kingdom was to be established in short order. Although not giving them a specific time, Jesus in His response to their question gave them every reason to believe since they were to receive the promised Holy Spirit “not many days from now” that the kingdom was indeed at hand. It would seem, therefore, that it had not been postponed.
There are other questions that should come to mind if we can look at the text with fresh eyes not allowing our preconceived notions to cloud our vision. If God postponed His dealings with Israel, why is it that everywhere Paul traveled he went directly to the Jewish synagogues? The same question applies if we say that God was through with Israel at the cross. If the kingdom was postponed, why did Paul continue to the end preaching things concerning the kingdom of God? If the church was found nowhere in the Old Testament, why did Jesus’ disciples continually quote the prophets and state explicitly that they were being fulfilled in the church?
Over and over Jesus’ disciples pointed to the Old Testament scriptures and quoted from them. They claimed that they were being fulfilled through the establishment of the church in Judea and its subsequent expansion among the nations. There is no indication whatsoever that the Jewish rejection of their Messiah thwarted or changed in any way God’s intended purposes for Israel. The cross was not an accident or an indication of the failure of God’s plan to establish His kingdom. Jesus knew precisely what was ahead for Him. Not only is this seen as He struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane, but in Luke 18 we find Him preparing His disciples for what was about to take place. “Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again’” (vv.31-33). The prophets foretold the coming events and according to Peter his Lord was, “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23, see also 4:28). In fact, the message of the disciples as well as Jesus Himself, was that His passion was the indispensable element in God’s determinative purpose to restore His relationship with Israel (without which the kingdom of God could never have been established) and then to bring the Gentiles into the one true people of God.
According to the inspired New Testament writers, the promise God made to Israel that “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) was being fulfilled in the church. Rather than replacement theology, this perspective could well be termed fulfillment theology. Peter told his readers, “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9). This was not accomplished by postponing God’s promises to Israel or by rejecting (or replacing) her. As Paul clearly stated, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Indeed, after outlining God’s wondrous plan of redemption for Israel Paul concluded: “And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). How all this was to be come to pass was a source of wonder to the apostle who in utter amazement cried out in the pages of his letter: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (11:33).
It is clear as one reads through the book of Acts that God had not abandoned Israel but was bringing in a faithful remnant who in reality were the ones to whom the promises had truly been made. (“It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea” Isaiah 11:11. “For thus says the LORD: ‘Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O LORD, save Your people, the remnant of Israel!’” Jeremiah 31:7.) After all, as Paul informed the Roman Christians, “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). In Matthew 23 Jesus condemned the Jews who would not hear him and who would persecute his followers during the subsequent generation up to the destruction of Jerusalem. The plain teaching of the book of Acts is that while many rejected their Messiah, many others (even a significant number who had earlier called for His death) heeded the words of Jesus and His disciples. For some time after its inception, the early church consisted exclusively of Israelites. In Isaiah 65 God spoke of a time when He would draw a distinction betwee
n those who did evil before His eyes and those He calls “His servants”. “Therefore I will number you for the sword, and you shall all bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear, but did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be ashamed; behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but you shall cry for sorrow of heart, and wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord GOD will slay you, and call His servants by another name” (vv.12-15; see also 62:2). God was not going to reject Israel in toto, only those who did not answer when He called, who did not hear when He spoke, who did evil before His eyes, and who chose that in which He did not delight. How better to describe the evil and adulterous generation of Jesus’ day? His servants, however, would be called by another name and would be wonderfully blessed. Could this be “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”?
Read through the passages supplied below and see for yourself how God was faithful to Israel. Yes, those who rejected their Messiah would be rejected by God, but those who heard the message of the gospel and believed that Jesus was Israel’s Christ would be saved. And yes, the Old Covenant was passing away (Hebrews 8:13) and would be replaced by the new covenant God had promised to make with Judah and Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). It was through this new covenant that God would deal with Israel’s sin and restore relationship with her. In Acts 3 Peter spoke to “men of Israel” and explained to them that, “To you first (Israel), God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (v.26). Let us recall a very familiar statement made by Paul in the opening chapter of Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (v.16). We must never forget that his gospel came from the “prophetic scriptures” (Romans 16:26). It was to go to the Jew first, but as God had made very plain in the Old Testament scriptures, it was for the “Greek” (all nations) as well. Hear again Peter’s words to the men of Israel. “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Acts 3:25). Without a doubt, this concept was a mystery that was not unwound until Jesus fully revealed it to His followers, but it was God’s stated purpose all along. The marvelous details may not always be clear to us and a lifetime of study may not completely resolve all of our questions, but there are many plain statements that can be used to guide us. I urge you to begin (but certainly not end) your study with the passages that follow.
1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 11:19; Joel 2:28-32
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.
Psalm 69:25; 109:8
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘ And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ 29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 11:19; Joel 2:28-32; Psalm 16:8-11; Psalm 132:11; Psalm 68:18; Psalm 110:1; Deuteronomy 32:5,20
11 Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed. 12 So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 17 “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. 25 You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19; Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ.’ 27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” 34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Phi
lip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
Psalm 19:4; Hosea 6:1-2; Jeremiah 31:34; Jeremiah 36:3
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.
Acts 13:14-41, 44
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 to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” 16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. 18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. 20 “After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— 24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.’ 26 “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’ 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ 36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: 41 ‘Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you.’”. . . 43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 55:3; Psalm 16:10; Jeremiah 31:34; Isaiah 53:11; Habakkuk 1:5
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Isaiah 42:6; 49:6
1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. . . . 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
6 Now the apostles and elders
came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” 12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16 ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does all these things.’
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
Acts 18:1-8, 19
1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. 3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. . . 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
Acts 20:17-21, 25-28, 32
17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. . . .25 “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. . . 32 “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify
, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? 9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. 21 For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” 21 Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” 23 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; 27for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”’ 28 “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. 30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
Isaiah 6:9-10; Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2; Isaiah 42:1,6; Isaiah 49:6
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” 3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.’”
13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. 17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” 18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.
25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
If we are willing, it can be seen that from the beginning of Mark’s gospel to the end of Luke’s the things that happened in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry were predicted by the Old Testament prophets. According to Luke’s account it was necessary that the Christ would suffer these things in order to enter into His glory. In other words, the Jewish rejection was a critical element in God’s plan for establishing the kingdom of God. God was not caught off guard nor was He surprised when many Jews, especially the religious leaders, rejected their Messiah.
As is evident fr
om the many passages above, the message throughout the book of Acts was one of fulfillment. The fact that in Acts 4 the disciples quoted Psalm 2 in response to opposition they were experiencing against their ministry is tremendously significant and revealing. Many modern readers see only the portion of this Psalm recorded in Luke’s account and fail to place it in the context of the entire Psalm. Even the verse quoted asks why “the people plot a vain thing?” implying that whatever the people intended to do was futile with regard to God’s intended purposes. Verses 4-6 of this Psalm give God’s response to the opposition of the rulers who would take counsel together: “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.’”
If we stop and think, we will certainly remember and understand that “our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). As the disciples continued their prayer, it is apparent that they fully understood this powerful concept (one that seems to have eluded many Christians today): “Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27-28). Despite the difficulties facing them, they were tremendously excited about what God was doing in fulfillment of His word (the word of the prophets) and they prayed that He would grant them boldness to speak that very word. They realized that what was happening to them was all in accordance with God’s plan. They also saw God stretching out His hand to heal and do signs and wonders just as He had promised in the prophets. The very fact that God had poured out His Spirit (Acts 2) absolutely confirmed that God’s purposes for Israel were moving forward unabated.
Let us briefly look at one final passage that is often overlooked and certainly under-appreciated. There is an overlap between the final verses of Luke’s gospel and the early verses of the book of Acts. Recalling that Jesus had “opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45) and that He had spent the forty days prior to His ascension teaching His disciples about the kingdom (Acts 1:3), it is fascinating then to see their state of mind as Jesus parted from them and was carried up into heaven. “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:50-53). Based on this report, we must ask this simple question: if God’s kingdom promises had been postponed indefinitely or if God had or intended to end His relationship with Israel, why were these Jewish disciples continually praising and blessing God? They were Jews who had heard many times the message that the kingdom of heaven (God) was “at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). If their expectation of the imminent presence of God’s kingdom had just been dashed, how is it that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy? The same question must be answered if Jesus had taught His disciples that as Jews the kingdom promises were no longer theirs.
Both of the two common explanations of God’s response to the Jewish rejection of Christ seem to clearly contradict the evidence found throughout the book of Acts. I think it is a common perception today that the disciples were holed up in the upper room, cowering in fear of being found out during the days leading up to Pentecost. Luke 24:52 puts that notion to rest. The disciples were anxiously awaiting the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “not many days from now. . . you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:5,8). They had the grand privilege to be the ones to go forth with the glorious message of the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). Where were they to take this message? Were they to bypass Israel and exclude them from the kingdom blessings? Not according to Acts 1:8. The promise that God made to Abraham almost two thousand years earlier was now being fulfilled! “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3:25-26). Nothing was postponed and none of God’s purposes were altered. His words are forever “faithful and true” (Revelation 22:6).
If this little exercise has piqued your interest in this subject, I would strongly encourage you to obtain Don Preston’s series of lessons on Acts. It is much more in-depth than this brief study and contains a wealth of information that brings new light to this subject. It was an eye opener for me and I highly recommend it to anyone desiring to further their studies in this area. It is available in MP3 format. Contact Don at eschatology.org for information on purchasing this set of studies.
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