In part 1 and part 2 of this study, we have come to realize that indeed Jesus (God) came for His people, the Israelite/Jewish nation, and through the Apostles, his Gospel was preached to the Jews only. But later, due to the final rejection of the Gospel by the Jewish people, lastly when they stoned Stephen in Acts 8 the transition was made clear.
Paul in Acts 13:46 finally declared that his mission and Gospel message would no longer be to the Jews, but to the Gentile Bride of Christ. While the lost sheep of Israel rejected Christ as Messiah, the door is open for us as fellow-heirs to be adopted through his message of Grace.
At the end of part 2 of this lesson, we reached the Jewish council in Acts 11 where Peter as questioned for eating and preaching to the Gentiles. His time with Cornelius in Acts 10 was an exciting turning point! It was here that the church elders in Acts 11:18 understood that God was calling the Gentile church and made way for church progress.
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
Later, in v21 the Scripture tells us ‘a great number believed and turned unto the Lord’. Then, Barnabus was dispatched to meet with Saul in Tarsus and from there, hold a revival in Antioch. For a year they stayed here until famine reached the lands.
By Acts 12 Herod has taken the place of Saul in persecuting the Church. He has James the brother of John beheaded and then Peter imprisoned. Once Herod saw how pleased the Jews were with John’s death he had to go on. However, Peter was again miraculously delivered from prison and was a sign to the local people. From here, Herod suffers a horrid death at the end of the chapter.
Rehearsing this book chapter by chapter is necessary to lay the groundwork for why, how and when the Gospel transitioned to the Gentile church. It is critical to understand how the transition took place to really grasp what it means for the message. Up to this point, everything was about the Jewish audience but from here on out, things are about to change.
Paul and Barnabas Ordained
In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are ordained – not by Church elders, other pastors, deacons…but by God himself through the Holy Ghost.
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. – Acts 13:1-4 KJV
Straightway, as Paul had done before, he went to the synagogues of the Jews to preach. After this, in v9 we see the name change from Saul to Paul and being full of the Holy Ghost he blinds the sorcerer Elymas as a sign to the people.
By v15 Paul repeats his propensity and returns to the synagogue of the Jews and preaches Jesus, the Messiah and the savings message of justification by faith alone.
And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. – Acts 13:39 KJV
This is an important highlight because Paul is directly attacking the Jewish system and the Gentiles are asking for more! By v42 the Gentiles asked that Paul would come to teach again. When word spread and the multitudes began assembling to hear Paul, the Jews were filled with envy and began railing and contradicting the message and thus, brings us to the culmination of this transition from Jewish Gospel to Gentile Gospel.
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. – Acts 13:46-48 KJV
I want to declare here that the Gospel didn’t leave the Jews! In chapter 14 we see Jews believing alongside Gentiles, but beforehand, especially before chapter 11 of the Book of Acts, it was unspeakable to think the message of Messiah was for anyone but the Jews.
By the end of chapter 14, Paul had been stoned by the Jews but survived and ended his first missionary journey by returning to Antioch and confirmed the workings of the Gospel among the gentiles.
The end of ‘Unless you do this, you cannot be saved!’
Chapter 15 of the book of Acts brings us to the first strife of the Church – do we still obey the ceremonial law of Moses. The Bible says certain men from Judea taught that unless you are circumcised in the Law of Moses, you can not be saved. This, of course, stirred Paul and Barnabas who just preached the Gospel to the uncircumcised and witnessed their salvation, without external deeds of the law. Thus, they were sent back to Jerusalem to confer with the church governance. Interestingly, as all things work together for good, to them that love God, they passed through Samaria, a land and people who were hated by the Jews and preached the good news of the Gospel!
After much contention, Peter stood among the Apostles and elders and declared the Gospel was unto the uncircumcised every bit as much as to the circumcised, rehearsing Acts 10 and the house of Cornelius being saved. Peter, of course, was the preacher of Acts 2 and this has significance for me, coming from the Oneness Pentecostal background because it is taught that Acts 2:38 is the only way to be saved. You must do those works + other external works of holiness (separation), etc to be and remain saved. And yet, in full dispute of legalism, Peter declares the faith message that Paul will carry on.
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.– Acts 15:7-11 KJV
The decree of this council as written and dispersed among the churches that any who come teaching that the keeping of the law was required for salvation was not approved or sent by the Church Fathers. Rather, they went on to say that the Holy Ghost caused them to see there is no greater burden than a few necessary things;
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. – Acts 15:28,29 KJV
What Must I Do To Be Saved
As we further transition into the Book of Acts, chapter 16 I want to hearken back to part 2 of this series briefly. The United Pentecostal Church Intl. (UPCI) and the Oneness Pentecostal movement from whence I came taught so strongly that Acts 2:38 was the only Salvation message found in the Bible, that all those who did not adhere to this new revelation from circa 1906-1945 were lost. Insomuch that they taught that when the Jews asked Peter the question, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ (Acts 2:37) what they had really asked was What Must I Do To Be Saved.
Unfortunately, this requires ignoring the rest of the Bible! Which they (UPCI) practically teach their members to do. (See Christianity without the Cross on the early formation of the UPCI) As noted in part 2 of this lesson, it is taught that any reference to ‘believe and be saved’ later in Acts or the Epistles is simply a reference back to Acts 2:38, believing is obeying Acts 2:38. Or that because Paul was only talking to ‘already saved people’, his ‘how to be saved’ messages in his Epistles weren’t really ‘how to get saved’, it was ‘how to stay saved’. These are giant leaps, especially when the Bible has so many examples contrary to that teaching.
Enter the Paul & Silas in Prison episode that every Sunday School child sings about! In Acts chapter 16 Paul has a vision of a man in Macedonia pleading for help and straightway they endeavor to reach Macedonia. After arriving, they meet Lydia and her and her household converts to the new Christian faith. And after this, they meet a damsel possessed with a spirit of divination. Miraculously, Paul casts out the demon in the name of Jesus Christ and it flees. But this upset those who made money by this witchcraft and the multitudes caused Paul and Silas to be arrested and imprisoned.
As happened in times before, during their imprisonment God intervenes in a miraculous way and causes an earthquake great enough to loose the prisoner’s bonds. The guardsman, being woken up and realizing that his prisoners had escaped took his sword to kill himself, knowing that losing prisoners was a capital offense. However, Paul hearkened to him so he would not harm himself what transpires is truly miraculous and the real reason God intervened.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? – Acts 16:29,30 KJV
Here is the question and here is the answer. Had Paul carried on the Acts 2:38 founding message of the Oneness Pentecostal movement claims? Certainly, the question was direct enough, there was no mystery what was being asked here. Unlike in Acts 2:37, the question wasn’t ‘what shall we do’, it was what must I do to be saved.
The Transition of the Gospel
We are coming to the end of this lesson so I must be brief. As an ex-Pentecostal, this is a hard but rewarding journey of Faith. Studying for and writing this lesson has opened up so many new avenues of exploring God’s Word, of linking Grace, Faith, and Justification to His true Gospel Purpose. Never before have I seen so much of His Word opened before me. As a 4.0GPA graduate of Texas Bible College, I have studied Scripture much but was blind to it. I was ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of Truth! (2 Timothy 3:7)
Now, through Grace, I have seen the real light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel that is repeated over and over again, hundreds of times in Scripture, that have been ignored by my previous brethren. I hope and pray that some of them may stumble upon this lesson and with inspiration, prayer and sincerity open the Word and see it for themselves.
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. – Acts 16:31
The word believe is found in the King James Bible 143 times in 131 verses. And like many of my other studies, I like to look at the root of the word to find its meaning. The word believe is from the Greek work pist-yoo’-o which has the following meaning and can be found in the Strong Greek & Hebrew Definitions, reference #G4100
to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ): – believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
The root if pist-yoo’-o is pis’-tis which is found in the Strong Greek & Hebrew Definitions, reference #G4102 which is a positively attractive definition.
persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation;
We are reliant of Jesus Christ for salvation! And I wonder aloud as I type this, how many times did Jesus Christ say, ‘Believe in me’? In Mark 1:15 Jesus said, ‘Believe the Gospel’. In Mark 5:36 Jesus told the synagogue leaders, ‘only believe’. In Mark 16 Jesus said signs follow ‘them that believe’.
Further on in Luke 8:12 He said, ‘they should believe and be saved’. John 1:12 declares that we receive power to become sons of God by believing on His name. In John 9:35 He asks, ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ John 20:31 declares we have life through believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
In Acts 13:39 the Word says ‘And by Him, all they that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses‘.
Acts 15:11 declares ‘But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.‘
Has Scripture ever been more clear? My previous belief system would be shouting ‘easy believism!’ We mocked this idea that believing is ultimately what draws a New Testament Christian into God’s Grace. But believing is having faith in Christ, in His Blood and that He died for our sins. Faith is committing oneself to Christ and through his Word and Spirit, an internal transformation would take place. We would eschew evil (1 Peter 3:11) by the unction of the Spirit, not ‘believing and sinning’ as Paul declared that of no effect. (Romans 6:15)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: – Ephesians 2:8 KJV
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 KJV
Paul declared the Gospel message to the Gentiles, that through faith in Christ we are saved. Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) There is nothing we can do in our mortal bodies that creates the miracle of salvation. We can’t wash enough times, shout loud enough, pray often enough, rattle our tongues, witness to x amount of people, etc. Works are the natural outflow of a life turned to Christ, as the Scripture declares ‘Faith without works is dead’. James 2:18, 2:20
Thus we end the lesson, knowing there are many more explanations, examples, and Scriptures to find showing that the Love of God that came to us by Jesus Christ is such that he did away with the works of the Law and gave us Grace by Faith!