Part 7: Gleanings From the Book of Acts

by Pastor J. C. O'Hair

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.

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1. The Book of Acts was written by Luke, the beloved physician. He must have joined Paul when he received the call to Macedonia: for Luke uses “we” the first time in Acts 16:10, about the year 52 A.D. The beloved physician was with Paul, sailing to Rome, when the ship went to pieces and the passengers and crew reached land on pieces of the broken vessel. Acts 28:2. Among the last written words of Paul are these “only Luke is with me.” II Timothy 4:11. This will give us some idea of the unwavering faith, the unfailing fellowship and the undaunted fortitude of this beloved comrade of Paul, the human author of “Acts”.

2. The last words of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 24:53, concerning the apostles are: “they worshipped Christ, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” In Acts 5:42 it is recorded concerning them that “daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” In Acts 8:1, it is recorded when the great persecution arose and many Christians were scattered, the Twelve Apostles remained in Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that Jerusalem is mentioned sixty times in Acts from Acts 1:4 to Acts 28:17 and the Jerusalem temple is mentioned twenty-four times in Acts. Jerusalem continued to be the headquarters for the Twelve throughout the Book of Acts: and so far as the “Acts” record is concerned, not one of the Twelve preached the gospel outside of Israel’s land. In spite of the judgment of Christ, pronounced upon Israel’s temple and Jerusalem (Matthew 23:31 to 39), that Nation never received greater favor from Rome than they did during the period covered by the Book of Acts: during which time the temple stood and both believing and unbelieving Jews had access to it.

3. Aside from the statement: “Peter with the Eleven”, in Acts 2:14, only three of the twelve apostles are mentioned by name from the day of Pentecost, throughout the Book of Acts, except eleven words concerning the death of James, the brother of John, in Acts 12:2. The three apostles mentioned are Peter, John and James. These three are mentioned together in Galatians 2:7 to 9, as pillars of the church. After the council at Jerusalem, (Acts 15:1 to 19), only one short reference is made to one of these in the last half of the Book of Acts. This reference is to James, when Paul visited Jerusalem about 59 or 60 A.D. Acts 21:18 to 28. By all means use Acts 15:19, and Acts 21:18 to 25, and Galatians 2:7 to 9 as the key to James’ Epistle to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. And by all means study the ministry of Peter, James and John, in the Book of Acts in the light of Galatians 2:7 to 9, where the statement is made in the clearest, plainest language possible, that these three representatives of the Twelve, preached the “circumcision” gospel to the “circumcision” people.

4. The ministry of the Twelve Apostles, in the Book of Acts, was a ministry of confirmation witnessed by signs and miracles. Hebrews 2:2 to 4. The messages which they proclaimed were concerning events foretold by Israel’s prophets. Acts 1:16; Acts 1:20; Acts 2:16; Acts 2:25; Acts 2:30 and 31; Acts 3:22 and 24; Acts 4:11; 4:25 and 26; Acts 7:1 to 50; Acts 8:32 and 33; Acts 10:43; Acts 15:13 to 18. All of this should be studied in the light of Colossians 1:24 to 28 and Ephesians 3:8 and 9: for in these writings of Paul we are plainly told that the “dispensation of the mystery”, “the mystery among the Gentiles”, the peculiar place of blessing of Gentiles in the Body of Christ, was unknown to Israel’s prophets.

5. One thousand years before Christ came from heaven, the Holy Spirit prophesied that a successor would be chosen to take the place of Judas, who would lose his bishopric, in fulfillment of prophecy. Acts 1:16 and 30. That successor had to be a fellow-companion of the Eleven, who, with the Eleven, had been several years in company with Jesus of Nazareth; and an eye witness of His resurrection. Acts 1:21 and 22. This would exclude Saul of Tarsus as ineligible to succeed Judas. I Corinthians 15:5. It would also disprove the claim of some that Paul succeeded Judas as one of the Twelve.

6. Although the resurrected Christ gave his commission to the Eleven, He required twelve men for the ministry and message to “all the house of Israel”, on the day of Pentecost. Mark 16:14. Matthew 28:19 and 20. Acts 1:8. Acts 2:14. The fact that they were all together with one accord is proof of God’s approval of the selection of Matthias. After repentance of life was granted unto the household of Cornelius, the God-fearing Gentile, the Lord was not concerned about having twelve apostles; for no successor was chosen to take the place of James, whose death is recorded in Acts 12:2. This should be studiously and spiritually considered: that is, the fact that the Lord required twelve apostles during the first eleven chapters of Acts. Why?

7. The “far off” people of Acts 2:39 were Israelites and not Gentiles. Acts 10:28 and Daniel 9:7. Not one word, in the early chapters of Acts was spoken to Gentiles. No messenger of the Lord today has Divine authority to proclaim the messages and the religious programs and Divine orders of those chapters to any Gentile today, except preaching Christ. Paul never preached “baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins” unto Gentiles.

8. There are four classes of Jews mentioned in the first eleven chapters of Acts: “Hebrew Jews”, “Grecians (Greek Jews)”, “Strangers or visiting Jews from Rome” (Acts 2:10), and “Proselytes”. The Grecians of Acts 6:1; Acts 9:29 and Acts 11:20, are not to be confused with the Greeks (Gentiles) of Acts 14:1; Acts 16:1 and 3; Acts 17:4; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:17; Acts 19:10; Acts 19:17; Acts 20:21; Acts 2:28. Also there was a difference between many of the religious Greeks and the idolatrous Gentiles. Many of the Greeks were interested in the Jews’ religion. Acts 13:43; Acts 13:48; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:4.

9. Peter and his associates were sent by Christ to Israel only, with a kingdom message and kingdom signs, according to Matthew 10:5 to 7. To them the keys of the kingdom of heaven were committed. To Peter and his associates the great commission was given. To the Eleven Christ said, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” To them the gospel of the circumcision for the circumcision was given. Matthew 16:18 to 19. Matthew 28:19 to 20. Mark 16:14 to 18. Galatians 2:7 to 9. Paul received his commission, ministry, message and program from Christ by revelation. Galatians 1:11 to 19. Ephesians 3:1 to 11.

10. During the Book of Acts Israel was committing the unpardonable sin; sinning against the Holy Spirit, or blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Read Matthew 12:31 and 32. Christ said to Israel, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men”. Israel sinned against the Son of man. They put Him to death. But on the cross He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. God was willing. Acts 3:14 to 18. He sent the Holy Spirit to witness that He had raised Christ from the dead, exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins unto Israel. Acts 5:29 to 32. Stephen was filled with that Holy Spirit and saw the Son of man standing in heaven. He accused them of killing the Son of man and resisting the Holy Spirit. They committed the unpardonable sin. Paul went to Israel’s synagogues to testify that Jesus was Messiah. He was a watchman to the house of Israel. Ezekiel 3:16 to 20. Israel blasphemed. Acts 13:45; Acts 18:6. They committed the unpardonable sin. Paul turned to the Gentiles. Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:28.

11. Beginning with the preaching of John the Baptist, whose message was for Israel, (Luke 1:16; Luke 1:80; Acts 13:24), during the several years of the earthly ministry of Christ, with His Twelve Apostles, which was exclusively for Israel (Matthew 15:24; Romans 15:8; Matthew 10:5 to 7), and for seven or eight years after Pentecost, the gospel was not sent to Gentiles. Jesus of Nazareth was a man approved of God in the midst of Israel. He responded to the appeal of two Gentiles of “great faith”, by healing their loved ones. Matthew 8:1 to 12; Matthew 15:20 to 28; Luke 7:1 to 10; Mark 7:27 to 37. The one and only Gentile man, to whom Christ in blessing, ministered on earth, as far as the Gospels record, was this Roman official who had built Israel a synagogue. This Roman reached Christ through elders of Israel. Luke 7:3 and 5. The first and only Gentile to whom the Twelve Apostles preached, as far as the Book of Acts records, was a Roman official and his friends, Cornelius who gave alms to Israel. and worshipped Israel’s God. Acts 10:1 to 6; Acts 10:22; Acts 10:28; Acts 11:18 and 19. The first Gentile to whom Paul preached, according to the “Acts” record, was a Roman official. Acts 13:6 to 12.

12. During the seven or eight years, covered by the first nine chapters of Acts, there is not a single word to suggest that “Peter with the Eleven” preached justification by faith, the gospel of the grace of God, the ministry of reconciliation; or that they urged the Israelites to whom they preached to forsake Moses, give up circumcision, or to abandon their hope of the Messianic kingdom. Of course there was the element of grace in their messages of repentance and restitution. But they preached to Israel only the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the circumcision. Galatians 2:7 to 9. They preached to Cornelius the word that God sent to Israel Acts 10:36. Paul preached to Gentiles the gospel of the uncircumcision.. This gospel was not sent to Israel. God preached the gospel to Abram, when he was 75 years old, in uncircumcision. Abram was circumcised when 99 years old, (Genesis 17:3 to 20). From that day until Cornelius was saved all blessings were on the grounds of circumcision.

13. In Acts 2:36, and through chapter seven in Acts, the Twelve and their associates were testifying to Israel that Jesus was Christ (Messiah). Paul and his associates continued in the synagogues of Israel to testify that Jesus was Christ (Messiah). Acts 9:16 to 28; Acts 17:3; Acts 18:5; Acts 28:19 to 28. Jesus specifically instructed His Apostles not to testify that He was Messiah, after the rulers had rejected Him. Matthew 16:20 and 21. If Jesus did not rescind this order, then His Apostles wilfully disobeyed Him. When did He rescind this order? Christ’s prayer on the cross (Luke 23:34) rescinded the order. God began anew with Israel on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:36; Acts 3:14 to 26. Compare the kingdom communism of Acts 2:45; Acts 4:34 with Luke 12:33.

14. According to Acts 2:29 to 33, Peter declared that David prophesied that Christ would be raised from the dead to take David’s throne. All the prophets, beginning with Moses and Samuel, foretold Israel’s kingdom days. Acts 3:21 to 24. In Acts 3:19 to 21, Peter declared that God would send Christ from heaven to establish these kingdom days, if Israel would repent. What a contrast between these messages and the fact concerning Christ and the members of His Body seated in the upper heavenlies. Ephesians 1:19 to 22 and Ephesians 2:5. Christ, on David’s throne, as Israel’s King, foretold by the prophets, is quite a different relationship and ministry, than Christ far above in the heavenlies, Head of the Church, which is His Body. It is one thing for a believer to be raised up where Christ is, in the heavenlies. Ephesians 2:6. It is quite a different thing for God to send the standing Christ back from heaven to the believers on earth.

15. In the Book of Acts we learn that, with the exception of the miracles performed by Phillip and Stephen, either Peter or Paul was present when the recorded miracles were performed. Peter and Paul each raised a man lame from his mother’s womb, (Acts 3:1 to 5; Acts 14:8). Each had a miraculous jail deliverance (Acts 5:19 and 20; Acts 12:11 to 17; Acts 16:23 to 31). Each was told in a vision, to preach to Gentiles (Acts 10:1 to 28 and Acts 22:17 to 22). Each of them miraculously healed those who came near their bodies (Acts 5:11 to 14 and Acts 19:11 and 12). Each pronounced a Divine judgment (Acts 5;1 to 10 and Acts 13:8 to 11). Each raised the dead (Acts 9:37 to 41 and Acts 20:9 and 10.)

16. During the first half of the Book of Acts, Peter, the minister of the circumcision is mentioned 67 times. In the last half Peter is never mentioned after Acts 15:13 and Paul, as Paul, is mentioned 132 times, beginning with Acts 13:9. In all the messages of Paul, from Acts 9:14 to II Timothy 4:22, he uses the first person pronoun in speaking of himself, more than 1200 times. The Book of Acts closed in the middle of Paul’s Epistles. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Timothy, Titus, Philemon and II Timothy were written after Acts closed. As the Book of Acts is principally the record of the acts of Peter and Paul, why did that record close several years before Paul’s life closed; especially since it is evident that Paul had two imprisonments and he acted between these imprisonments. I Timothy 4:13; Philemon 22. It is generally believed that he wrote Titus between the two imprisonments.

17. In the Book of Acts the Lord is carrying out His program, declared in Mark 7:27 and in Matthew 8:12. Read the very interesting accounts of the Lord’s conversations with a Roman man and a Greek woman; the only account of the Lord’s dealings with Gentiles until He stood before Pilate. The Records are Matthew 8:1 to 12 and Luke 7:3 to 10, the Roman man; Matthew 15:22 to 28 and Mark 7:24 to 30, the Greek woman. Concerning each of these Gentiles it is recorded “great faith”. Matthew 8:10; Matthew 15:28. To the Greek woman, the Saviour said: “Let the children (Israel) first be filled.” Mark 7:27. To the Roman man, the Saviour said “The children of the kingdom (Israel) shall be cast out into outer darkness.” Romans 8:12. The judgment of the outer darkness is announced by Paul in Acts 28:25 to 28 (about 62 A.D.) and in Romans 11:6 to 25. The awful judgment came with the destruction of Jerusalem, about 69 or 70 A.D. During the Book of Acts the children were being “filled first”. With the close of Acts they were cast into outer darkness.

18. With Acts 2:38, “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Compare Matthew 3:1 to 12 with Mark 1:4. Luke 3:3, John’s water baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Both messages were for the same people, Israel. Both were repentance and water baptism for the remission of sins. John’s water baptism was that Christ might be made manifest to Israel. John 1:31. The Twelve Apostles received their water baptism, at least three years before the day of Pentecost. If, as some claim, Christian baptism began on the day of Pentecost, the Twelve Apostles never received Christian baptism. There is no Scriptural proof that water baptism was given a new meaning on the day of Pentecost. Water baptism was a kingdom ordinance.

19. In Acts 3:26 Peter said to Israel “to you first”. In Acts 13:46 Paul said to Israel it was necessary that God’s words should first have been spoken unto Israel. Let us compare these statements with the judgment of the Lord Jesus pronounced upon Israel in Matthew 23:31 to 33. Note what He called them in Matthew 23:33, “serpents” and “vipers”. He called the Gentiles, “dogs”. Matthew 15:26. If Israel’s rulers were “serpents” and “vipers” before they added the greatest of all crimes to their list, “they killed the Prince of Life” (Acts 3:15), were they not then worse than serpents and vipers after Pentecost? Why after that should Israel be “first”? Why was it necessary that the word should first be sent unto them? Why should a “serpent” come before a “dog”? The answer is Luke 23:3 and 4, Acts 1:8 and Acts 3:16 to 18.

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.