In Part 1 of this study, The Gospel Transition from Jews to Gentiles – Part 1 – Explanation we spoke about using Hermeneutics and the difference between pulling the meaning out of Scripture or attempting to force our views into Scripture. We got an example of using Scripture for our denominations purposes, but in doing so we have to learn (or be taught) to ignore the rest of Scripture.
We also learned how Jesus sent his Apostles only to Jews and that our study is focused on when and how did the Gospel transition from Jews to Gentiles? And did it?
Well, in short, Yes, it did! All throughout the Scripture, we know that the Jewish people are God’s chosen, His original people. The entire Old Testament is a history book of all the times the Lord delivered a backslidden and adulteress nation, leading them back into fellowship with Him. Moreover, Christ promised that he would return for the Jews again but because they rejected Christ as Messiah, the New Testament Church of Grace was handed over to the Gentiles.
Was the Gospel to the Jews?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. – Romans 1:16,17 KJV
Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. – Romans 2:9,11 KJV
It is important to highlight that the Jews require signs and wonders, and Jesus and the early Church was all about signs and wonders. As you’ll see in this progression however, the Gentile Gospel of Grace transitioned to ‘salvation to every one that believeth’. Romans 3:28 declares ‘a man is justified by faith’.
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. – Matthew 10:5,6 KJV
The Gospel came FOR the Jews, not the Gentiles. You and I are now fellow-heirs because of the rejection of the Jewish people to their Messiah. Prophetically, the story of Jacob and Esau is a foreshadow of this transition. While Esau was the firstborn and chosen (Jew), he rejected his birthright and Jacob (Gentile) was able to take it for himself. The second and final coming of Christ will be the last sign for the Jews. He will take his Gentile bride from the earth and there deal with the Jews again – this time coming as an earthly King as they had originally anticipated.
Take for example the beginning of the book of Acts – when the fulfillment of the outpouring of His Spirit has come, it came to Jews. This is notably known as the formation of the New Testament Church in Acts 1-2.
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. – Acts 1:4,5 KJV
It is important to highlight that up to this time, the promised transition to Spirit baptism was still a promise, it had not been fulfilled. However, the Apostles and Jewish disciples were commanded to tarry and wait for it.
The Day of Pentecost – a Jewish Feast
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. – Acts 2:1-5 KJV
This is a rich portion of Scripture that has too many topics to abbreviate. However, this was the first transition into the Spirit Baptism and initially, it included, as several later accounts show, included Speaking in Tongues. Our highlight here, however, is v5, ‘And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven”.
First and foremost, Pentecost was/is a Jewish feast and pilgrimage was made to Jerusalem for it. It is known that non-Jews were allowed in the outer court of the Temple but the primary audience here was the Jewish people, and what better timing than when they all congregated to Jerusalem?
v7-12 highlights how this sign of Speaking in Tongues was heard by the aforementioned Jews and men out of every nation. Importantly, speaking in tongues was not muttering da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, as vain babbling, or other learned rapid talk, rather, it was spirit-filled people speaking in languages that ARE known to the hearer, but is unknown to the speaker. This is also referred to at times as Unknown Tongues because the language was unknown to the speaker.
v13-36 is the accounting of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophesies, the defense of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, rejected by the Jewish audience. How do we know it was a Jewish audience, above and beyond what has already been said? Verse 37.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? – Acts 2:37 KJV
If this audience had been Gentiles, who had nothing to do with the crucifixion of Christ, what would they be pricked in the heart for? Rather, the Jewish audience, being convinced of Peter’s spirit-filled preaching realized they were complicit to the death of their Messiah. Their question was one of perplexity…what do we do now? We can’t take it back, how do we go forward?
Church Foundation – the Apostles Doctrine
Peter’s response to Jewish people was in-line with the message of John the Baptist, who came to Jews claiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” but was now added to the Spirit!
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. – Acts 2:38 KJV
Finally, in verse 42 we hear the first mention of the Apostles Doctrine,
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. – Acts 2:42 KJV
Knowing that the Gospel and early works of the Church were focused on Jews only, let’s attempt to understand what the Apostles Doctrine was. First, this verse declares that those who in v41 gladly received the word and were baptized continued steadfastly in the Apostles teaching. I have read studies on this verse that attempt to make a much larger statement that it really is. In the ISV, it reads a little cleaner;
The believers continued to devote themselves to what the apostles were teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer. – Acts 2:42 ISV
Note: There are no more Apostles! Paul declared himself to be the final Apostle, and his doctrine was very different than Peter’s and what we will see is the Apostles Doctrine. Galatians 1:11-24.
In Acts 1:3 Christ showed himself to his disciples and taught them for 40 days all things concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. We make the assumption that this was the definitive training of the Apostles whereby they received their doctrine. However, we have some obvious examples in the gospels that help fill in the gaps. From my understanding, the basis of the Apostles doctrine is thus;
- Water Baptism, Brings the Spirit Baptism
- Signs, Wonders, and Miracles
- Communal Living, Sharing of Resources
- Praising God in the Temple (Jews only could do this)
In Mark’s rendition of Christ’s ascension and the giving of what we call today in non-biblical terms The Great Commission, the list of Signs and Wonders is given;
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. – Mark 16:14-18 KJV
Now – we know first and foremost that the Jews require a sign (I Corinthians 1:22) and they asked Jesus for signs many times, even ‘show us the Father’. We also know that the Gospel is universal and multiple times, in Mathew 28:19, here in Mark and in Acts 1 Jesus declared the Gospel would be for Gentiles as well. However, as we progress in this study we will see the signs were meant for the Jews, initially. Likewise, they faded away during Paul’s apostleship, where the emphasis becomes ‘faith’. Jesus foreshadowed this many times when He said, ‘thy Faith has made the whole’.
If that were not true, then why do we not handle snakes and come away unharmed (modern Pentecostal fringe-edge movements), or drink poison to no effect (Jim Jones Cult)? Why do we not congregate to every hospital and lay hands on every sick person and they are recovered, or raise the dead from every morgue? Is it because we have no Faith?
Simply because the Signs and Wonders of the Apostles doctrine was for a sign to the Jews, and it was the Apostles who performed those miracles. Take this timeline of the first portion of the Book of Acts as an example:
Acts 2: Peter preached water baptism to the Jews, continuing the message of John the Baptist.
Acts 3: Peter and John go to the Jewish temple and begin the signs healing the lame man.
Acts 4: Peter and John imprisoned by Jewish leaders for their signs and wonders and for preaching Jesus.
Acts 5: Fear is brought through the Apostles Doctrine (communal living, failing to give one’s possessions and lying to the Spirit) and in v15-16 multitudes were healed at once.
Acts 6: Apostles choose deacons to administer aid to the needy and we first see Stephen enter the scene.
Acts 7: Stephen defends Christ before the Sanhedrin council and is stoned, seeing a vision of Christ standing beside the Throne of Heaven. This is the final Jewish rejection of Christ and also when Saul enters the story.
When do the Jews lose the ‘Us Only Gospel’?
Stephen’s preaching to the Sanhedrin council in Acts chapter 7 marks the final turning point of the Gospel to open the way to the Gentile bride. While the next eight chapters still primarily deal with the Jews, and even Paul attempted to target the Jews early in his ministry, we can see this as the absolute turning point.
Why? Because in Acts 9 we see the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the great Jewish leader who concentrated on attacking the Church in Acts 8. Saul stood there watching as Stephen was stoned, and in Acts 8 we see him imprisoning women, children and as many followers of Christ as he could find. But miraculously, and by revelation, Saul becomes Paul in Acts 9, though he isn’t renamed until Acts 13:9.
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. – Acts 9:4-6 KJV
By verse 18 and after, he was healed of his blindness, baptized, fed and began preaching the message of Christ in the synagogues – to the Jews. Paul was a Jew, so he time and time again attempted to preach to the Jews but he later gave up and in Acts 13:46 said he would now turn to the Gentiles.
Acts 9 then transitions back to Peter for many signs and wonders to Jews and prepares him for the Gentile Awakening.
In Acts 10 which will be spoken of more in Part 3, Cornelius the Gentile calls for Peter by the revelation of God, and God works on Peter’s Jewish heart to strip himself of his national prejudice.
Here, by revelation, God calls Peter to Cornelius’ house to preach the word and in doing so, the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius just as it had in Acts 1 at the Day of Pentecost.This was miraculous as it happened just as before, by prayer and belief the Holy Ghost fell, and they heard (understood) them speaking in Tongues. Afterward, as was Peter’s (Apostles) doctrine, they were baptized in water.
In Acts 11, Peter is questioned, the other Jewish ‘Us Only’ leaders were incensed that Peter would preach to Gentiles – this was unheard of, even had been forbidden by Christ (Matthew 10:5). Yet Peter rehearsed the visions he and Cornelius had, exclaimed the reception of the Holy Ghost and then remembered the words of Christ in Acts 1;
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. – Acts 1:5 KJV
Acts 11:18 is precisely when the Jews lost the ‘Us Only’ Gospel and the Church turned their eyes to the Gentile bride!
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. – Acts 11:18 KJV
From here we see the ordaining of Paul (Saul of Tarsus) and the transition to the message of Grace, justification by faith, not signs, wonders and physical actions (Law).
In Part 3 we will show the Gospel’s metamorphosis under Paul’s ministry. In Part 1 I recounted a Bible college mate who declared, ‘If Jesus said A and Paul said B, I’m picking B!” and until I completed this study on my own his stand confused me. Now it makes absolute sense. The Word of God, under the words of Jesus Christ, called Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles and indeed, gave him the last and final revelation of Salvation.
See you in Part 3!