The Greek Scriptures Historically Considered
By Major R. B. Withers, England

Chapter I
Four accounts have been given us of the ministry on earth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first three are commonly called the Synoptic Gospels because they are supposed to regard from the same general point of view the events narrated in them. This name is unfortunate because it is misleading and because it emphasizes the features common to the accounts which, nevertheless, important though they are, have for us less significance and instruction than those peculiar to each. Automatically we associate the first three together and overlook the very wide divergence which actually exists. Moreover, we are so accustomed to thinking of the four gospels as displaying four aspects of our Lord (as the King, the Servant, the Man and the Son of God) that we overlook other special features of them.

For instance, only one, Luke's Gospel, has a sequel. This, Acts of Apostles (there is no "the" in the Greek title), begins with a preface which speaks of "the first account." Clearly then, a primary object of Luke was to present an accurate history; and this is borne out by the preface to his gospel. As the Concordant Version note to Luke 1:1 admirably puts it, Luke's aim was to write an account which would be accurate and consecutive; but, more than that, we must expect to find that it is History in the widest sense, designed to link up with Israel's history in the past, world history (so far as it was relevant) at the time of writing, and future history of Israel as foretold in prophecy.*In this there is nothing inconsistent with the four aspects as usually understood. The King makes History, God's Son is above it, His Servant is not concerned with it; but as Man the Lord Jesus deliberately brings Himself within the framework of human history in bringing Himself within the limitations of time.

Matthew envisages the Lord Jesus as the promised King and shows how He fulfilled Hebrew prophecy. He therefore starts off with "a scroll of lineage of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham." (Matt. 1:1). Luke starts off quite differently, with a time indication ("in the days of Herod, the king of Judea," Luke 1:5), and then first relates the history of the forerunner, John the Baptist. The aim of the forerunner was declared to be "to make ready a people formed for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). This was confirmed by his father, Zacharias, the theme of whose prophecy is redemption and salvation (Luke 1:68-79). Next comes another time indication (Luke 2:1-3) and then the history of the birth of the Lord Jesus, who was announced to the shepherds as "a Saviour Who is Christ, the Lord." (Luke 2:11). Later, at His presentation in Jerusalem, Simeon received Him in his arms and said:

Again we find a time indication, at the start of the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-6), another announcement of salvation. All these are peculiar to Luke, as is also the account of the beginning at Nazareth of the Lord's ministry. Here He read from Isaiah 61, describing His commission, as far as the words "to proclaim an acceptable year of the Lord." There He stopped abruptly, not uttering the succeeding words "the day of vengeance of our God." This proclamation is, significantly, followed by His first rejection, from His own native town.

This, the beginning, is the beginning of the end. The account from thence is one long history of the Lord's rejection by His people Israel. Considerations of space forbid any exposition of this now, but attention must be given to Luke 21:5-36. This prophecy is in part similar to what is narrated in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, but the occasion was different. Luke's account of the Lord's prophecies is concerned primarily with the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew's and Mark's with the end of the eon. In Luke 21 the interval between these events is covered by the latter half of verse 24, to which we will refer again later.

The Lord's last words in Luke's Gospel (Luke 24:44-49) define the scope of Acts, the sequel, to which we now turn.

At once we come into a different climate of thought and feeling. Gone is the atmosphere of solemn grandeur combined with placid dignity and restraint which characterizes the narratives of all four gospels. In them though judgment and doom are forecast, they are conspicuously absent from the events related. The Lord Jesus was full of grace and truth, and the grace and the truth came through Him and irradiated His entire ministry. The keynote of Acts is impending judgment. The first act is condemnation of Judas and the election of another in his place. Pentecost itself was the prelude to the era of judgment, to the coming of the great advent day of the Lord (Acts 2:20), and the whole account is tense and heavy with urgency. The Apostle Peter links Pentecost to the resurrection and exaltation at God's right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to His ultimate triumph over His enemies. When those who hear the Apostle Peter ask him what they should do, his reply is an echo of John the Baptist's proclamation (Acts 2:38-40). This is amplified in Peter's talk to the people in the next chapter, which we will consider presently.

The prayer in Acts 4 (contrast it with the Apostle Paul's prayers in his epistles) is followed by judgment of sudden death upon Ananias and Sapphira. The cold sternness of this is startlingly in contrast with the whole atmosphere of Paul's epistles from the first to the last and also with the gospels; yet it is eminently suited to the severity of an era of Divine judgment, to the impending Day of the Lord. The same may be said of the other death miracle. (Acts 12:23).

Readers will find no difficulty in pursuing this theme on their own account.

Throughout Matthew's Gospel there are two main strands of thought, the presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ as Israel's King and as Israel's Saviour. We have in the past been inclined to overstress the former, even in the account which is specially concerned with His Kingship. Luke's Gospel does not overlook the Lord's Kingship, but as we have already noted, He is shown primarily as Israel's Saviour. The actual Greek word, sOtEr, saviour, occurs outside the Epistles only in Luke 1:47,2:11, John 4:42 and Acts 5:31,13:23, i. e. four out of five by Luke. Luke alone records the Lord's first words on the cress: "Father, forgive them, for they are not aware what they are doing." Nevertheless, in the background lies the thought of imminent judgment should His people reject that salvation. He closed the book after He proclaimed an acceptable year of the Lord; yet still, the next words stood written and are confirmed in His prophecy recorded in Luke 21. In Acts the Lord Jesus is again put forward as Saviour, miracles of mercy are performed as before; but judgment is nearer the surface and even comes into actuality.

Too readily and too long have we been bewitched by the theory that the fate of Israel was actually an open question right up to the last few verses of Acts. The prophecy in Luke 21:12-28 was never withdrawn. Consequently, everyone who heard it ought to have known full well the main outline of what was to happen to Israel during the 40 years or so after Pentecost. That they did not know is due to one thing, and one only, sheer unbelief; though none of us who have embraced ideas contrary to this prophecy are in the position to cast stones at them. The prophecy is plain enough. The narratives in Acts are largely an expansion of Luke 21:12. Secular history records the fulfilment of Luke 21:20-24. The second half is going on being fulfilled to this very day. There was nothing unexpected in Part 2 of Luke's narrative for anyone who had really mastered Part 1. That this idea is neither new nor original will be seen from the note to Romans 10:19 in the 1930 Concordant Version.

The description a while back of the Day of the Lord as "impending" in Acts may be criticised, and not without some show of reason; since we know that, at least, nearly 1900 years were to elapse. Let us, however, remember that from the point of view of Israel, and from God's point of view so far as purely terrestrial affairs were concerned, this long period is of little account. Luke in ch. 21:24 devotes one sentence to it. Peter, speaking of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, takes no account of it whatever. So far as Israel's revealed history goes it is covered in Scripture by one verse only, Acts 28:29, which is probably authentic, but not certainly. In God's sight mere size and mere duration are unimportant. World-history's significance to any individual is measured by the degree it concerns him. We are apt to forget that it is the same with God; and since His thoughts are not as ours, what is really important in history is unlikely to prove to be the same as what seems important in our eyes.

As we shall presently notice, what many have thought to be a pronouncement of judgment on Israel at the end of Acts is, in fact, no more than an elucidation of something which had already taken place. The history of Israel for the time being had, by then, already in reality come to an end. So far as they were concerned, except for the judgment on Jerusalem, nothing remained to come except the judgments of the Day of the Lord. If the Day could not properly be described as "impending" right though the narrative, what other description of the state of affairs could have been employed? That, in fact, some nineteen centuries or more were to pass, is irrelevant. One minute's conscious activity may hold enormously more significance than a long night of dreamless sleep. Spiritually, Israel is not even asleep, but dead.

We talk and write as if Acts 28 :28 were a great crisis of the ages, a crisis not only for Israel but for the churches of Gentiles which heard the Apostle Paul. Sometimes one can only wonder whether we ever read Scripture at all, or whether we just skim it like a novel from the circulating library, so carelessly and inaccurately do we take it in. Admittedly the translators do not help us as they ought. In Acts 28:25-31 there are eight questionable readings in the 1930 C. V., of which only one is altered in the 1944 edition. The Jews in Rome behaved well to the Apostle Paul, far better than any except in Berea. Some were persuaded by what Paul said, yet some disbelieved. As there were disagreements one with another—nothing is said or hinted of any quarrel with Paul—the meeting broke up, dissolved. The verb is here in the Middle Voice, not Passive as the C. V. renders it. Paul does not pronounce any judgment or sentence on these Jews, he simply tells them the true state of affairs. He quotes Isaiah, and adds: "Let it be knowable, then, that to the Gentiles was despatched this the saving-work of God, and they will hear it on their own account." Moreover, the Apostle Paul does not say that Isaiah was talking to these Jews. He says that Isaiah and the Holy Spirit talked to their fathers.

Even at the risk of breaking the thread of the argument, this point has to be enlarged on. Paul wanted his hearers to be capable of grasping the facts he was revealing to them; not merely the surface fact of his turning to the Gentiles, which no doubt was known to some of them already. Most Jews in the World Metropolis must by then have been aware: of the existence of such predominantly non-Jewish churches as that at Thessalonica. The despatch to the Gentiles had already occurred. The operative word is in the past tense "was," not "is" as in the A. V. and as most of us still seem to read it. "The" before "saving-work" is in the Greek, and" as it makes sense, should be in the English. "This the saving-work" can refer only to the quotation from Acts. Here is; the hidden core of meaning in the pronouncement, knowable only to those who receive Paul's evangel. The callousing of Israel is the saving-work of God! At once our minds leap to Romans 11, particularly to verse 15: "Their casting-away is world-conciliation."

The Greek word here rendered "saving-work," an adjectival form, almost a noun, is "sOtErion," which occurs only in Luke 2:30, 3:6, Acts 28:28, Eph. 6:17. It is something concrete, not abstract as "salvation" is. The corresponding pure adjective, "sOtErios," occurs in Titus 2:11 only, and has been well rendered "salvation-bringing." Thus in Acts 28:28 we come back in thought to Simeon's words in Luke 2:30, already quoted.

In the last clause we again have a verb in the Middle Voice. The idea is that the Gentiles will hear it of their own accord, on their own account, no longer mediated through Israel, no longer held back by a barrier of covenant privilege belonging exclusively to others.

Verse 29 adds an authentic touch, "And at his saying these things, the Jews came away, having much discussion among themselves." There is good evidence that this is genuine Scripture. Perhaps a misunderstanding of the significance of the Middle Voice of the verb in verse 25 brought about an idea that verse 29 was superfluous, so that it dropped out of many copies.

The last verse is very general. "The Kingdom of God" (compare Acts 1:4) is a wide term denoting the whole sphere in which God is acknowledged as Ruler. It is something much wider than Israel's millennial kingdom on earth foretold by the prophets. Anyone who doubts this should try the experiment of substituting these words in every occurrence of "the Kingdom of God." This was done mentally, and in error, in the question asked in Acts 1:6, "Lord, art Thou at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel?" The question was never answered directly. It need never have been asked at all if Luke 21 had been understood, and the Lord's reply hints this. To "this time" He replied that it was not theirs to know times or eras. To "restoring the kingdom," v. 8 is the answer; and, significantly, no further reference to the millennial kingdom is made after Pentecost.

It must be confessed that we have not yet succeeded in getting the Scripture doctrine of the Kingdom as clearly set forth as it ought to be. There seems little doubt that the word, like many others, takes its precise colour largely from its context. "The Kingdom of God" seems to be as we have defined it above. "The Kingdom of the heavens" seems to be the sphere wherein God's will is done on earth as it is in the heavens. The Millennial Kingdom, with Israel under the New Covenant doing from the heart the will of God, will certainly be within the Kingdom of the heavens, but it is not so certain that the Kingdom of the heavens is the Millennial Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is generally supposed to promulgate the laws of the Kingdom of the heavens. Are we, then, to believe that under the millennial earth-rule of Messiah His Israel will be poor (Matt. 5:3), will mourn (5:4) , will be persecuted (5:10-12), will be worrying for their soul (6:25, 34)? The whole discourse is appropriate to the conditions which existed at the time and will again exist before Messiah comes in power to reign. Is it appropriate thereafter?

On the other hand, the Sermon on the Mount cannot be made to fit in with the circumstances of the present Economy of the Secret of Eph. 3. Matthew 5:23, 26, 29, 30 certainly do not. Yet we must not overlook that the underlying principles enunciated are as binding now as ever they were. If only Christians would live up to the standards set—not under bondage to legalism, but because they are free from the curse of law, free to do righteousness, free to do what is pleasing to God—there would be an end to indifference, sectarianism, jealousy, hardness of heart; indeed, to all the evils which afflict and divide us, not only in the sects, but also among those who follow concordant teaching and should therefore be above sectarianism. There is nothing in the principles underlying the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount incompatible with the Apostle Paul's teaching.

To resume: Candid examination of the eight occurrences of the word "kingdom" in Acts (1:3, 6; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31) will show that it is entirely wrong to declare, as many do, that Peter or Paul "offered the Kingdom" in Acts; or even that Israel rejected the Kingdom. For the most part they did reject their risen Messiah, Christ, as they rejected the exhortation to repent; and in so doing they forfeited what acceptance would have brought; but we are not at liberty to add our own gloss to the narrative and declare that the Millennial Kingdom was offered and rejected or withdrawn. There is another point to be borne in mind, too. Had Paul proclaimed in the presence of Festus and King Agrippa that he was earnestly labouring with a view to ushering in an independent Hebrew Kingdom, within a brief time, it is simply not credible that these rulers would affirm, "This man is not committing anything deserving death or bonds."

The Apostle Peter's proclamation in Acts 3:19-21. must now be examined.
The following is a very literal rendering of it:

"Repent, then, and turn about for the erasure of your sins, so that seasons of refreshing should be coming from the Lord's face, and that He may despatch the One selected before for you, Jesus Christ, Whom heaven must indeed receive until times of restoration of all which God talks through mouth of the saints from eon—His prophets."

Now, let us be candid. It is in no sense an "offer." It is an exhortation to repentance "to the end that, in that case, may come seasons of refreshing. . . and that He may send forth. . . ", as Rotherham more freely renders it. The repentance would look to an aim and end; but even were the repentance whole-hearted and complete, no guarantee is given that the aim and end would immediately follow. On the contrary, verse 21 intimated with crystal clarity that much was to happen before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, the next verses (22 and 23) were a threat of certain punishment if Israel did not hear Him on their own free will (Middle Voice again). There is no "perhaps" about this as there is about verses 19 to 21.

Any national repentance would have been only the preliminary step towards the return of Messiah. Inevitably the birth-pangs were to come first. These "times" of restoration might well include a number of periods. The prophets knew that there was to be a period of unknown duration and character to intervene between Messiah's sufferings and the Kingdom glories. (1 Peter 1:10, 11).

We are apt to be impatient. The Corinthians were awaiting the revelation of the Lord (1 Cor. 1:7). So we deduce that they were given to understand that it was to occur soon. Yet the Apostle Peter, at about the same time, was looking forward to the presence (parousia) of the Day of God, an event long subsequent; and we certainly cannot find any suggestion in his epistles that he expected it quite soon. His second epistle makes it abundantly clear that he knew that a very long time indeed was to elapse. We are far too fond of trying to reason our ideas and our wishes into the Scriptures.

Bearing all this in mind, what can we think of the following quotation from Dr. Bullinger? (Things to Come, 1909 p. 16).

"Had Israel repented and turned to the Lord, it is certain that Jesus Christ would have been sent, and every prophetic word written not only in the Old Testament prophets, but in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans would have been fulfilled. What would have happened with regard to the Mystery (or Great Secret) no human tongue can tell."

Well, Dr. Bullinger himself furnishes an answer in his next words: "All we know is that God is sovereign, and infinite in wisdom, and power, and skill; and all would have been perfect and glorious. But we have to do with what is written. . ."

Quite so! In other words, to put it bluntly, God's plans for the Church which is Christ's body would have come to naught, and Christ's prophecy in Luke 21 would have failed with them.

"We have to do with what is written." How true! And we urge most earnestly that when our distortions of Scripture lead us to such conclusions as these, we ought humbly to retrace our steps, drop our theories and go back again to what is written.

Are we, then, to declare that there is no difference between those of the Apostle Paul's epistles which were written before the end of Acts and those after? By no means: but let us first rid ourselves of the delusion that some sort of instantaneous change took place then at Rome. Something like five years, not five minutes, elapsed between the writing of Romans and of Ephesians. It is not suggested that the happenings to Israel narrated in Acts had no influence beyond Israel. Naturally their casting-away had profound effects—but it is not in Acts that we read of these effects. We learn of them; and we learn something which was, and still is, altogether hidden from Israel; in Romans 9-11, written several years before that final scene in Rome which Acts 28 records. To interpret Paul's epistles there is no need whatever to go outside them; indeed, if we do so in dispensational or, better, administrational matters we are almost certain to go astray. The plain fact is that if we were to lose Paul's epistles we would be in a hopeless position; but if we were to lose the rest of Scripture, while retaining the epistles, we could still carry on securely, though deprived of much which is our health and our delight to know.

While the Jew still retained his standing of covenant privilege, that was bound to affect somewhat the Apostle Paul's approach to the Gentiles. When Paul wrote Romans, he had not yet disclosed to the Roman Jews the real state of affairs; so the evangel was "to the Jew first." Nevertheless this was already, in fact, obsolescent and, on occasion, obsolete. To the Galatians, probably before Romans was written, Paul was able to say: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation" (Gal. 6:15). And, in practice, the vestige of privilege involved in presenting the evangel to the Jew first makes no appreciable difference to the evangel itself. What it does clash with is the Secret disclosed in Ephesians 3, which is incompatible with fleshly privilege.

There is no clear-cut time boundary for Paul's Evangel. If we will insist on bringing Israel's time boundaries into something which is altogether outside Israel's affairs, we have only ourselves to thank when we go astray.

We have no need to puzzle about how to rightly-divide the Apostle Paul's epistles. The Prison Epistles rest upon the doctrine revealed in the earlier epistles, the earlier epistles lead up step by step to the crowning revelation of the Prison Epistles. None are complete without the others. The whole, taken together, are complete in themselves.

For instance, when we read about the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor. 11:23-24 and learn that it is "until He should be coming;" we have no need to worry about whether this is upset by the imaginary postponement of an imaginary offer in Acts 3. Paul accepted it from the Lord, and nowhere does he cancel it; so we can safely accept it too and gratefully enjoy the Supper.

The Editor of the "Berean Expositor," Mr. C. H. Welch, wrote in his book, "Dispensational Truth," (p. 177) in 1912, about Acts 28: "It is a climax, and a climax having nothing to do with the church, but with Israel." Yet he could not have real\y believed his own words; since the remainder of the book, some 100 pages, is devoted to the theory that it is the vital boundary line for the church, a theory of which he is now the chief exponent. So he sets aside the Lord's Supper with the hope of Israel!

Let us be honest, and confess that we have all been in some measure guilty of such inconsistencies. We need to believe what God has spoken, and to believe all; merely to believe some is not enough.

With the end of Acts we come to the end of history, pure and simple, in the Greek Scriptures. And few students appear to have noticed how strange is the ending of Acts. We naturally expect a narrative to work up to its climax, then tie up any loose ends, then conclude. So strong is this instinct of ours that, not finding our climax, we try to see it in the Roman meeting. We are, however, only discovering something which we have ourselves read into the account. In desert country near mountain ranges, large rivers sometimes come down the valleys and meander dwindling through the desert till they come to an inconclusive end of marsh or shallow lake. Acts is like this. In the glittering splendour of Pentecost, Israel is put on trial. At each failure something falls away and vanishes. Finally, all Israel except those in the world's metropolis, Rome, have been shown to have failed nationally to respond to the Apostle Peter's call. The Roman Jews, though evidently they have no hostility towards the Apostle Paul, cannot collectively make up their minds. That is the end. To change the figure, the last card has been played. There is nothing left. The only possible sequel is the Revelation. True, there are plenty of loose ends; but Luke has accomplished his purpose, he is not concerned to satisfy our curiosity. Three is not even a real conclusion. The account tails off, leaving every question unanswered but one—the question with which Acts starts. And the answer is "No."

Chapter 2: The Kingdom of the Heavens.
New truth does not destroy old truths. All it can do is to modify our understanding of them.

Most people will assent to this; but when they come to applying it in practice, the result is usually very different. Almost invariably they rush from one extreme to its opposite instead of holding new and old in harmonious balance.

The relation between what are infelicitously called "Kingdom truth" and "Church truth" is an outstanding example of this almost universal mental habit. Those who have attained to some grasp of the transcendent truths revealed by the Apostle Paul nearly always regard them as not only distinct in every way from those belonging to Israel, but wholly unrelated to them. They see the Church which is the body of Christ clearly set forth in the epistles Paul wrote in prison; they see, or imagine they see, Israel's affairs and the New Covenant which is Israel's in Paul's earlier epistles, so they label them as "Kingdom truth," bracket them with Acts and Matthew's Gospel, and virtually discard them.

Now, certain things are Israel's exclusive prerogatives. We find them listed in Rom 3:2 & 9:4, 5, and (negatively, as something the Gentiles did not have) in Eph 2:12. They add up to this, that Israel alone are in covenant relationship with God and alone possess the sign of circumcision. These prerogatives carry with them the corresponding responsibility to keep the covenants and obey the law.

Other things are the exclusive prerogative of the Church which is the body of Christ. Some of these are listed in the opening verses of Ephesians and stated concisely in the Secret disclosed in Eph. 3.

There remain certain matters which belong to all God's saints and cannot be earmarked for anyone class, calling or economy. These relate to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself—His blood, His cross, His death, His resurrection from the dead and His saving work which results from and depends upon them all. These cannot be hemmed in within the bounds of covenant or calling. Covenant is exclusive. The blessings which flow from the Lord Jesus Christ's work for sinners must by reason of their very nature overflow all barriers of covenant—even the covenant blessings themselves. For the covenant people were never intended to luxuriate in their own privilege and enjoy their blessings while those outside remained shut out in darkness and death. Indeed, the very nature of the covenant blessings was and is that they are out of the reach of those whose sole desire is self advantage, however good and pure and even holy in itself that desired advantage may be. The extreme form of this desire, the unholy medieval idea of a comfortable front seat in heaven from which the tortures of the damned might be watched and enjoyed, is utterly foreign and repugnant to God's thoughts. Nowhere does Scripture say or even hint that the blessings issuing from the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ were to be confined to any selected class. The Lord's earthly ministry was indeed for Israel alone. (Matt 15:24, Rom 15:8) Early in Acts we discover the existence of the idea that the ministry of the risen Lord is also so restricted, but the Apostle Peter is soon shown his mistake by the vision of the sheet. Thereafter in Acts, though the Apostle Paul still goes first to the synagogues of the Jews, he always ministers to the Gentiles as well.

This does not mean that we are to scrap all distinction between the various callings of God's people. On the contrary, by appreciating to the full the common basis whereby salvation is brought to all callings of God's people, we are the better able to understand to the full the special features of each calling and each economy. The blessings out flowing from the death, the blood, the cross of Christ to us now are different from those which Israel will enjoy under the New Covenant; yet they have the same basis, they even have analogous features on account of that common basis. Should we not at first fully understand this, we may perhaps still realize that our special blessings are different and be thankful for that realization, but we cannot appreciate their full measure and rejoice in their fullness.

Beneath and behind the diversity of God's purposes is an underlying unity. With some teachers the unity is dwelt on exclusively, with others the diversity. The right aim is to hold the balance between them.

The Kingdom of the heavens has been a very much disputed subject in recent times. The real problem has been to decide under which of the three categories, just discussed, we ought to classify it. Most people who enjoy some enlightenment regarding the various economies ordained by God will answer without hesitation:—"The Kingdom of the heavens is essentially Israel's. From first to last Matthew's Gospel is Jewish. It begins with a scroll of lineage of Jesus Christ, Son of David; Son of Abraham. His first commission to the Twelve Apostles sent them only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and His own commission was the same. (Matt 10:6, 15:24) He was Servant of Circumcision to confirm the patriarchal promises. (Rom. 15:8)."

This is too easy a solution of the problem! In the first place we are bound to ask "What other form could the ministry on earth of the Lord Jesus have taken?" At that time, salvation was of the Jews. (John 4:22). They alone were in covenant relationship with God. No Gentile could have any part in Divine blessing except through, and in subjection to, Israel. Everything—not only the Kingdom of the heavens—had to come to and through Israel or not at all. Blessing to the Gentiles was promised, but only through Israel. The Lord's ministry was largely the subject of Hebrew prophecy. Even His death fulfilled Hebrew prophecy and was typified in its various aspects by the Levitical offerings.

Next, as indicated in the previous chapter, we cannot equate the Kingdom of the heavens to the Millennial Kingdom, foretold by the prophets, which will be set up when the Lord Jesus returns to earth again. He declared that His Kingdom was not of this world. ("kosmos" John 18:36). Until the kingdom of the world becomes our Lord's and His Christ's (Rev. 11:15) He cannot reign on earth.

Finally, there is the difficulty that the Kingdom of the heavens is peculiar to Matthew's Gospel. Nothing said about it therein is to be found in any of the Hebrew prophecies. It was something new.

Something new? Yes, literally! And why should we be surprised at this? Have we forgotten what John wrote? "And the Word became flesh, and tabernacles among us, and we gaze at His glory, a glory as of an only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . the law was given through Moses, the grace and the truth came into being through Jesus Christ." (John 1:14-17).

What the Lord Jesus taught on earth was grace, pure grace. It was not the reigning grace which the Conciliation has brought to us (Rom. 5:16-21), but it is grace, none the less. Side by side with it went judgment. There is no incompatibility between grace and judgment for grace rejected. Only when grace reigns does judgment retire from the scene.

Nor need we look further than the Sermon itself for proof of its originality. "You hear that it was declared to the ancients. . . . Yet I am saying to you. . ." (Matt 5:21. Compare vv. 27, 33, 38, 43) If that was not something new, what is?

Before we proceed, let us clear the ground and make quite sure that we have all the data before us.

The expression "The Kingdom of the heavens" is peculiar to Matthew, and occurs in the following passages: which also are peculiar to Matthew: Matt. 3:2, 5:10, 19, 19, 20, 7:21, 8:11, 10:7, 11:12, 13:24,44,45,47, 52, 16:19 18:1, 3,4, 23,9:12,20:1,22:2,23:13,25:1; and by implication in Matt 4:23, 8:12, 9:35, 13:19, 38.

In the following "The Kingdom of the heavens" is found in Matthew with "The Kingdom of God" in a parallel passage elsewhere, shown in brackets. Matt 4: 17 (Mark 1: 15); Matt 13:11 (Mark 4:11); Matt 13:31 (Mark 4:30); Matt 19:14 (Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16); Matt. 19:23 (Mark 10:23, Luke 18:24).

In the following the parallel is in a similar but different context Matt 5:3 (Luke 6:20); Matt 11:11 (Luke 7:28); Matt 13:11 (Luke 8:10); Matt 13:31 (Luke 13:18); Matt 13:33 (Luke 13:20).

In Matthew "The Kingdom of God" occurs in the following passages, of which only one has a parallel, shown in brackets: Matt 6:33,12:28,19:24 (Mark 10:25),21:31,43. The first is found in the Received Text, but not in all modern texts.

The Kingdom of the Son of Mankind is referred to in the following, in chronological order: — Luke 1:33, Matt 13:41, 16:28 (Kingdom of God read in parallel passages Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27) and Matt 20:21 (probably).

The Kingdom of the Father is referred to in Matt 6:10, 13:43, Luke 11:2, Matt 26:29 (parallel) Mark 14:25 reads Kingdom of God).

A general examination of the occurrences of "The Kingdom of the Heavens" and "The Kingdom of God" in parallel and similar passages will show that the latter is the wider term of the two and can generally be used instead of the former. A consideration of the cases where the latter is used in Matthew will bear out this impression.

Not a single occurrence of "The Kingdom of the heavens" can be regarded as referring to the Millennial Kingdom. Yet references to this Kingdom do exist. Matt. 13:41 is the first, and here the subject is the Kingdom of the Son of Mankind. The same applies to Matt 16:28 and 20:21 (the "Him" in v. 20 clearly refers back to "The Son of Mankind" in v. 18). In Luke 1:33 the Kingdom is that of the Son of the Most High, "and of His Kingdom there shall be no consummation". This calls to mind what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:24-28.

The future Kingdom which will be set up in power when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again to His people Israel will be the Kingdom of the Son of Mankind.

Furthermore, parallel with Matt 16:28, above referred to, are Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27, and each of these latter speak of the Kingdom of God.

There is another very significant parallel, between Matt 26:29 and Mark 14:25, with the Kingdom of the Father and of God respectively.

From all these we see that the Kingdom of the heavens, the Kingdom of the Father and the Kingdom of the Son of Mankind are different aspects of the Kingdom of God. The first must be located in the present eon, and the Kingdom of the Son of Mankind in the eon to come. The general character of the Kingdom of God is confirmed by the references to it outside the Gospels.

What is meant by these various kingdoms? The clue to this problem is found in Col. 1:12, 13: — ". . . giving thanks to the Father. . . Who rescues us out of the authority of darkness and transports us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. . . " It is a question of jurisdiction. Those who accept God as Sovereign are in the Kingdom of God. The scope of the Kingdom of God is governed by the extent of His jurisdiction. During the Lord's earthly ministry it did not (in this respect) extend beyond His people Israel and the few Gentiles who were proselytes and the very few outside who heard and responded to Him. Throughout Acts it expanded until at the end the Kingdom of God was proclaimed to all. In the Apostle Paul's epistles we find fresh revelations and a new Economy hitherto secret, which none the less becomes a part of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of the heavens is rather different. It is the jurisdiction of the heavens on earth. John the Baptist proclaimed it, not the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus then proclaimed it. Next, it opened the Sermon on the Mount. "Happy, as to the spirit (to pneumati), are the poor, that theirs is the Kingdom of the heavens." (Matt 5:3). It will not escape notice that the revelation of The Secret in Eph. 3:6 begins "In spirit" (en pneumati). The blessings of The Secret are exclusively spiritual. The blessings of the Kingdom of the heavens are also spiritual blessings; but they are not exclusively spiritual, they are material as well. "Happy are the meek, that they will be inheriting the Land" (Matt 5:5).

Israel expected a Messiah who would give them all their soulish and material desires. These things are neither good nor bad in themselves. There is nothing necessarily unspiritual in material blessings. They are unspiritual only when they are contrary to spiritual. The things Israel desired had been promised by the prophets. What Israel failed to perceive was that soulish and material blessings were good only when spiritual blessings were desired above and beyond them. Yet they had no excuse for this failure. The Lord Jesus began His ministry with a call to repentance. Next, at Nazareth, He proclaimed an acceptable year of the Lord and followed His proclamation with a warning which infuriated all in the synagogue. (Luke 4:28). His first miracle, at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1), was followed by His casting the money changers and others out of the temple and, immediately after, the first intimation of His death and resurrection. Then came His famous words to Nicodemus (John 3:3): "Verily, verily, I am saying to you, except anyone should be begotten anew, he cannot perceive the Kingdom of God."

According to some students who have carefully compared the four Gospels, all these things, including John 3 and 4, occurred before the Sermon on the Mount was given. If so, they furnish a background which throws it into clear relief. Certainly Matthew's Gospel leads up to the Sermon very abruptly. We must, however, remember that each writer was concerned only to present his one special point of view, and rigidly excluded all matter irrelevant to it.

Unfortunately most of us are unconsciously tainted with the ancient heresy that material things are unspiritual. Some people even go so far as to deny the resurrection on the ground that the raising of a material body is "an unspiritual idea." No real Christian accepts this absurd doctrine, which denies the very foundation of the Evangel; but few are quite free from the taint of it, and able to perceive that the fact that the blessings promised to Israel are material is in no way incompatible with their being spiritual. The Lord Jesus said to the Jews: "The declarations which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." (John 6:63).

Some writers identify the Kingdom of the Heavens with the kingdom spoken of in Daniel 2:44 and 7:27. This is precisely what Israel did, and when they found that the kingdom preached by the Lord Jesus was not of this world after all, they were very indignant about it. No doubt many will be indignant at reading all this; but if so, they have no right whatever to cast any stone at Israel. The earthly kingdom set up in power was wholly out of the question then. It continues, and will continue, so to be until the Lord Jesus returns in great power and glory to reign. We ought to know this, and are without excuse if we do not.

There is only one way to come under the jurisdiction of God, and that is to make a completely fresh start. For Israel, this meant to be born again, to be born of water and spirit. For us, this means to be a new creation in Christ Jesus. The callings and destinies are quite different, but the result, as regards God's people so long as they are in this world. is the same—the Kingdom of God.

So long as they are in this world. This is the operative idea in all references to the Kingdom. With the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, God intervened personally in this world's affairs. At once humanity was divided into two classes, those under the jurisdiction of God and those under the jurisdiction of darkness. The former constituted the Kingdom of the heavens. The whole point of this description of the Kingdom is that it is an invasion of this earth by the jurisdiction of heaven, God's first step to reclaim this earth.

Only in Matthew is this term, "the Kingdom of the heavens," to be found; because it is in Matthew that the royal prerogatives of the Lord Jesus Christ are specially displayed. Only in Matthew is the Millennial Kingdom of the: Son of Mankind spoken of, though even then not more than some two or three times. Elsewhere the rule of God is expressed by the term "the Kingdom of God." In Matthew the essential idea is that the heavenly rule is in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Outside Matthew there is no need to dwell so strongly on this aspect of His glories; we do not forget that He is Son of David, but we are more concerned with remembering that He is Son of Abraham and Son of God.

The outlook in Matthew is exclusively concerned with this earth. The Kingdom is of the heavens, but earth is its scope of operation. So at the very forefront is the Lord's genealogy in kingly succession. Matthew alone records the coming of the Magi at His birth to worship Him as King of the Jews, and the efforts of King Herod to destroy Him. At the end of Matthew we find the sole record of the taking of many bodies of the reposing saints after the Lord's death, and of His commission to the eleven disciples with "all authority in heaven and on earth." In harmony with the earthward outlook of this Gospel no reference is made to the Ascension.

Matthew alone details the eight parables which constitute the secrets of the Kingdom of the heavens. Mark refers to the corresponding secrets of the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:11), and gives only the parables of the sower and the mustard seed. For our present purpose the most important of the eight parables is that of the darnel of the field. The field is the world, the harvest is the end of the eon. Then we pass in thought to the Kingdom of the Son of Mankind. (Matt 13:36,43) We see the Kingdom of the heavens as something belonging essentially to the present eon, working up to a climax at its end, and preparing the way for the inception of the coming eon. True, the bulk of the time period covered is devoted to the calling out of a special company which is not terrestrial but celestial in its destiny, and which is not directly concerned with the coming eon; yet nevertheless the scene is set in world, history and the events accompanying it are surpassed in importance only by the culminating crisis at the end. The favourite interpretation of the eight parables among teachers of "dispensational truth" is that these parables cover only the period of some 40 years after Pentecost, and a possibly similar period after the removal of the Church which is the body of Christ—perhaps some 80 years out of a total of 18¾ centuries at least, something of the order of 4% of the whole. They contend that the parables, being for Israel only, ignore the present period of Israel's hardening. That these parables are for Israel only is an assumption which they fail to prove. If they could prove it, however unlikely it certainly seems, their theory would have to be accepted. As things are, it is safe to say that nobody would ever have dreamed of such an interpretation if it had not been necessitated by the theory that the Millennial Kingdom was the one which had been rejected by Israel. If that theory be discarded, the difficulty vanishes. These parables display what the Kingdom of the heavens is like, not what it is. In other words, we are intended to see in them eight pictures of what the Kingdom of the heavens appears to be like, during the present eon, from various different standpoints. That what appears is entirely different from what really exists is evident from the parables themselves, and it is also evident from what we see all around us. We are concerned here with man's viewpoint, with the world's viewpoint and with world history as God sees it—with what is happening on earth, in fact.

Although the realm which is ours is inherent in the heavens (Phil 3:20), as yet only in spirit do we enter into our celestial blessings. Our bodies are still on earth, and so long as they thus remain we are (so far as earthly matters are concerned) in the Kingdom and involved in its affairs. It is, therefore, quite in order that the outward appearance of the Kingdom, now that Israel is temporarily set aside, should be in fact the outward appearance of the Church.

In spite of this, the suggestion that the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to this eon and no other is certain to raise the question, "Then what becomes of the Church which is Christ's body?" Nothing "becomes" of it in this sense. Its special calling and standing remain completely unaltered. Nobody gets startled at the idea that it is included in the Kingdom of God. "But surely that is different!" some one will say. Yes, there is some difference between the two kingdoms; but, as an examination of the parallel and corresponding passages listed above will show, both are equally "Jewish." If the Church can exist unaffected by the "Jewish" element in the one, it can so exist in the other.

We are not free from the curse of the law because we are (supposedly) not in the Kingdom, but because of what Christ Jesus is to us and because we died to sin, died together with Him.

The real problem about the Kingdom is righteousness. The Sermon on the Mount speaks of righteousness in two out of the nine "Beatitudes." It demands from its hearers a standard of righteousness superabounding more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt 5:20). The practise of righteousness is enjoined (6:1). They were to seek first the Kingdom (or, "the Kingdom of God") and its righteousness (6:33). This is not the righteousness of God, but the righteousness of the Kingdom, the standard of righteousness which is compatible with membership of the Kingdom.

Nowhere are we told, in Matthew or in the other three Gospels, how the righteousness of the Kingdom was to be sought or where it was to be found.

A hostile critic might argue with some apparent plausibility that this omission was unfair to Israel. That this criticism does not appear to have ever been made is, no doubt, due to the fact that it requires spiritual insight to perceive even that the problem exists.

Where, then, are we to look for the answer to the problem? In James' Epistle? Many have thought it to be a kind of meditation upon Matthew's Gospel in much the same way as the Apostle John's Epistles are related to his Gospel; but for this question it gives us no real help. James' Epistle does not go beyond the obligation to keep the whole law (Jas 2:10). Only by works is a man being justified (2:24). The question how sinful man can ever do such works consistently so as to achieve righteousness does not arise.

The clue we are searching for is to be found in Hebrews, which speaks of "the expectation lying before us" (i. e. the Hebrews) "which we have as an anchor of the soul, both secure and confirmed." With this they may be "entering into the interior beyond the curtain, where the Forerunner, Jesus, entered for our sakes, becoming Chief Priest according to the order of Melchisedek for the eon." (Heb 6:18, 20). This Melchisedek is "'king of righteousness,' yet thereupon king of Salem, too, which is 'king of Peace'". The figure is the entrance of the Chief Priest beyond the curtain of Israel's tabernacle. Without some understanding of the tabernacle and its meaning, the Hebrews Epistle is bound to be obscure. Unfortunately, it would be too great a digression to study this theme here.(7:2). Perfection could not come through the Levitical priesthood, so there had to be a different Priest according to the order of Melchisedek. "For, the priesthood being transferred, of necessity there is coming to be a transference of law also." (7:12). This different Priest "has not come to be according to the law of a fleshly precept, but according to the power of an indissoluble life. . . . For the law perfects nothing, yet is the super induction of a better expectation, through which we are drawing near to God." In this way "Jesus has become the sponsor of a better covenant." (7:16-22). This covenant is then shown to be the New Covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah, in which the Lord is saying "Imparting My laws to their comprehension, even on their hearts shall I be inscribing them." (8:10). Because of His inviolable priesthood "He is able to save to the uttermost those approaching God through Him, always being alive to be pleading for their sakes." (7:25).

This theme is developed right through the ninth and tenth chapters, reaching its climax in Heb. 10:19-22, "Having then, brethren, boldness for the entrance of the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by a recently slain and living way which He dedicates for us, through the curtain, that is, His flesh; and a great Priest over the house of God, we may be approaching with a true heart, in the assurance of faith, with hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience, and a body bathed in clean water."

For us, who received the Evangel as Gentiles, the apprehension of this is far from easy. Consideration of our relation to it all must be postponed to a later chapter. For the Jew, in the years immediately following Pentecost, the position was very different. The Temple offerings were as familiar to him as the train, the motor car and the aeroplane are to us. He could easily understand the idea of Jesus being Chief Priest, a different Priest to the Levitical priesthood which served the Temple; the idea of the expectation and the law, which He brought about, being better than those of Moses; the idea of His becoming the sponsor of a better covenant, the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31, which the Jew knew about, at least in theory; and the final idea of entrance of the holy places by His blood. He could understand all this—but only the elect remnant of Israel believed it, and then only by God's mercy and grace.

Yet those who did believe entered forthwith into the Kingdom and its righteousness, for at each failure of the flesh He was able to save them to the uttermost.

Reading Matthew in the light of all this we can see a deep meaning in it which was not apparent before and was certainly not apparent to those who heard the Lord at that time. In one respect they were far better off than we are. They had the Lord Jesus before their eyes. They, therefore, did not need faith in the same way as we do who have never seen His face. Yet they did need faith. Peter saw Him and with the other eleven left all and followed Him (Matt 19:27). They were promised the reward for following Him, yet within a little while Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him and the rest forsook Him. They needed faith to endure to the end, and they continued to need it (Heb 10:35, 39).

King of Righteousness, thereupon King of Salem, of Peace. That is the essence of the Kingdom of the heavens. At this present time the Lord Jesus Christ is King of Righteousness. At the end of this eon He will come again in power and become in realized fact King of Salem, and King of the peace of the Millennial Kingdom.

Nor are we debarred from this essential characteristic of the Kingdom. To us the Apostle Paul has written these words: "Being, then, justified by faith we may be having peace toward God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have been having the access also, as to the faith, into this the grace in which we have been standing, and we may be glorying in expectation of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:1, 2). To us, also, He is King of Righteousness and thereupon King of Peace.

Matthew 13 shows what the Kingdom of the heavens is like in this present eon. In none of these eight parables is it like anything distinctively Jewish, nor is it like anything distinctively ours. The true children of the Kingdom individually shine as the light of the world and keep it from corruption as the salt of the earth, but collectively the world perceives them not. What is beheld by the world is the outward semblance of the Kingdom. What is beheld by God is the whole sum total of His people as they really are.

The scene in which Matthew's Gospel is set is this earth. The Kingdom is of the heavens because, in the coming of Christ to earth, the heavens have secured a bridgehead in the enemy's dominions. The struggle from then on has been and is around this bridgehead. Is it to be destroyed or is it to maintain itself and extend its control? This is the issue, and Matthew supplies the answer. The answer largely concerns Israel, but not wholly. Israel being by God's covenant His earthly people, are necessarily most involved in the opening phases of the campaign. We, being on earth, cannot refrain from taking our Part; but we come into the matter as ones who for the present are sojourning in this world. Our celestial standing is outside all this, above and beyond it all. Nothing in this connection can so much as even touch our position as exhibited in the Apostle Paul's epistles; yet in our walk on earth we are subjects of the King; and the moral obligation on us as subjects cannot be, in principle, different from the moral obligation on others, whatever may be our spiritual standing, or theirs.

Chapter 3
THE KINGDOM AND THE CHURCH
Exception has been taken to the statement that the question in Acts 1:6 would never have been asked by the disciples if they had understood Luke 21. The argument is that the question was the direct outcome of forty days' instruction concerning the Kingdom of God, and that the Lord Jesus Christ was not correcting any error but, rather, encouraging the disciples in their hope for the Kingdom by telling them that they would be His witnesses.

This can hardly be called an unbiased statement of the position. The special course of instruction given by the Lord Jesus to His apostles consisted of presenting tokens of His resurrection, telling them that which concerns the Kingdom of God, and charging them to remain in Jerusalem to be baptized in holy spirit. At the very end they asked Him one question: "Lord, art Thou at this time restoring the Kingdom to Israel?" Now, if we want to understand the question, we must note what it says, and most carefully avoid reading into it what it does not say. The question is not "Wilt Thou be restoring the Kingdom soon?" It is not even "Art Thou restoring the Kingdom?" The present tense of the verb is strongly reinforced by "at this time" (Greek: "in the time this"). If the forty days' instruction had not already convinced the apostles that an immediate restoration of the Kingdom was out of the question, it can only be either because the subject was outside the scope of what the Lord had taught or because the apostles were as yet unable to deduce on their own account the truth regarding it. However this may be, the fact remains that the point was never raised again. We may be sure that after Pentecost the apostles would not have been blind to the truth about this matter, whatever they might have been about others, and that if the subject ought to have been pursued, the Apostle Peter would have done so.

On the other hand, the Lord's reply clearly suggests that the question was outside the scope of what He wished to teach. If it was not for them to know the times or the eras which the Father placed in His own jurisdiction, it was not for them to ask such questions.

The Twelve Apostles did not, even after Pentecost, know everything about God's plans concerning Israel and their relations with the Gentiles. If they could err in one matter, they could in another — not what we have any need to suppose that the question of Acts 1:6 was asked in error rather than in ignorance. That they were, in fact, ignorant in some respects is shown by the Apostle Peter's vision of the sheet (Acts 10), and what happened afterwards. Even so late as this, he had to learn that the work of the Lord Jesus Christ was no longer restricted to His people Israel. Then, at last, Peter grasped that God is not partial, but in every nation he who is fearing Him and working righteousness is acceptable to Him. (Acts 10:34, 35). So revolutionary was this that when Peter afterwards returned to Jerusalem "those out of circumcision judged them *Middle Voice. This was a spontaneous reaction to what Peter did. differently towards him" saying "You came in toward men having uncircumcision, and ate together with them" (Acts 11:2, 3). Because of this, he had to explain again what had occurred, before he could convince them. The C. V. note about Peter's explanation puts the position admirably : "So important is this new departure that Peter's rehearsal before his indignant brethren is given in full, for it removes the great obstacle which lay in the way of the further spread of the evangel. The commission which was received by the eleven from the Lord did not include the uncircumcised. They had made it known in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the whole land of Israel, but only to the Circumcision. None of the disciples had any thought of proclaiming it to those of another nation even if they, like Cornelius, were devout and God fearing men." The C. V. adds further on: "Neither may we take the case of Cornelius as the beginning of the evangel to the nations, as such. We do not find that this case was followed up by the evangelization of the Uncircumcision in the land." This is quite true, but we must not deduce that the Twelve were wrong in this. Their evangel was of the Circumcision, and neither their commission nor their evangel could apply to the Uncircumcision.

Some have gone to the opposite extreme and deduced that Peter had received what practically amounted to the doctrine of the Conciliation. What Peter had learnt and done produced little effect on the Twelve, but it certainly facilitated Paul's ministry, cutting the ground from under the feet of any of Israel who might have objected to his approaching Gentiles in any way at all. This was a clear gain, but it was not the Conciliation. Romans 5 cannot possibly be read into it. Those whose imaginative efforts are devoted to confusing such utterly different revelations as these are responsible for nearly all our difficulties in understanding and believing God's Word.

The Lord Jesus Christ was born a Jew. His ministry on earth was to His own earthly covenant people, Israel. As the fulfilment of the types of the Levitical offerings He died on the cross. In all this He was Son of David, but also He was Son of Abraham. His death and His resurrection were for all mankind. This is the implication of Peter's vision. At once, all who were working righteousness had become acceptable to Him. The Kingdom ceased to be the special preserve of the covenant people, it had been opened to all who were working righteousness.

This was a fundamental change in God's dealings with humanity. It opened the door to the Apostle Paul's special ministry, but it was never any part of what made his ministry special; and it will remain when Paul's ministry with its fruits has been removed from this earthly scene.

Once the essential nature of the Apostle Paul's evangel is grasped, the danger of confusing any part or aspect of it with other revelations will vanish. The whole point is that it is the Evangel of the Uncircumcision. Therefore, everything to do with the Circumcision is, by that very fact, excluded from Paul's Evangel. The Apostle Peter's vision disclosed that in every nation, Gentile as well as Israel, he who is working righteousness is acceptable to God. The Apostle Paul has nothing to say to "every nation" if Israel be included in their number. His evangel had no immediate good message for the Circumcision, for Israel as Israel. Before he could start he had to Bring Jew and Gen, tile down to the same depth of abasement: "Not one is just—not even one." (Rom. 3:10). That automatically stripped Israel of everything of privilege. (Rom. 3:9). From this point there is no further priority of the Jew. Paul in the positive presentation of his Evangel speaks to Gentiles and to nobody else. The Conciliation depends on Israel's casting-away (Rom. 11:15); The Secret of Eph. 3 refers to Gentiles alone. What we have had disclosed to us in the Apostle Paul's epistles is something super added to, and altogether separate from, everything which is disclosed elsewhere. We can, and do, take our part as subjects of God's Kingdom, but nothing in connection therewith touches or can touch our position as members of the Church which is the body of Christ.

This point is so vital, and so generally unrealized, that it is hardly possible now to overemphasize its importance. If the Apostle Paul's epistles had never been written, the reader of the Greek Scriptures would not be aware of the nature of what was missing. Acts would still tail-off inconclusively, Peter's epistles would urge the need of patient endurance and Hebrews would point towards righteousness and peace in the great Chief Priest. The Revelation would confirm the Hebrew prophecies and complete the story. There would be an uneasy sense of lack of finality. The Gentile would continue to take his lowly place as a proselyte, or stay outside altogether. He would feel even more than the Jew that there was something missing; but it would be beyond the power of anyone to guess what further revelation would be needed to bring finality. In fact, it would not be possible to prove the need existed; and for the best of reasons, that the Scriptures would be from end to end addressed to the covenant people, Israel; and, so far as they were concerned, would be complete in themselves.

We, whose minds are saturated with the treasures of wisdom and knowledge disclosed in the Apostle Paul's epistles naturally find it hard to imagine what it would be like to be without them. Yet no Jew ever notices any lack, even when he sees his Messiah in Jesus Christ. If we use our imagination, we see that this must be so. Paul has no good message for the Jew as a Jew, outside the Hebrew Scriptures and the presentation of Christ as the Messiah therein promised. We study his speeches in Acts in vain to discover anything belonging to his epistles — it is simply not there.

On the other hand, the Apostle Paul's epistles are very nearly complete in themselves. We ourselves do not really need anything outside them. In order to understand them sufficiently there is no compelling requirement to consult the other Scriptures. It is doubtful if they really presuppose anything in the Gospels except perhaps one thing only, the Virgin Birth of the Lord Jesus. We know from the Apostle Paul's own statement in 1 Cor. 15 that his evangel included a knowledge of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which he there passes on to us. It therefore contains, in itself and combined with the secrets revealed by Paul, everything necessary to establish our celestial calling and standing in Christ Jesus.

What we derive from the rest of the Sacred Scriptures does no more for us than fill in details of the historical basis of Paul's Evangel and enrich our understanding of God's purposes by disclosing His work for others. We learn much about the Kingdom of God; we learn what, indeed, Paul has already told us, that we are subjects of the Kingdom; yet this knowledge can and does in no way improve on or detract from our exalted standing in Christ Jesus. It is very precious, and without it we would not be as completely equipped as we are; but for us it is comparatively of secondary importance. To perceive this we have only got to read or listen to those who neglect the Apostle Paul's epistles.

Why, then, are some expositors so frightened of the idea that the Kingdom of the Heavens is now in being that they feel compelled to invent a theory that it was presented, withdrawn and postponed? Why should not some of the parables of Matthew 13 depict the present outward semblance of what claims to be the Church and also claims to be the Kingdom of the heavens? Had the disclosures in his epistles never been revealed to and by the Apostle Paul, are we to suppose that this would have made any real difference to the history of what is called Christendom? What real influence have Paul's epistles had on the bulk of the professing Church? Before Paul's death, all in Asia, his special field of labour, had turned away from him. The So-called Fathers, only too clearly, did the same, even If any of them had ever known his Evangel, which is unlikely. Except for a few companies of "heretics," here and there, and a few specially enlightened saints in the acknowledged churches, Pauline truth has been unsought and unknown right through some 14 centuries of Church history. It is really difficult to believe that Church history would have been widely different to what it was up to the dawn of the Reformation if Paul's epistles had all been burnt in the first century. All written remains which have come down to us, beginning with the Didache, are Judaism more or less adulterated with paganism, chiefly the religion of Mithraism. True, the Jew is set aside by the Catholic Church, a setting aside more complete than in Scripture because final and irrevocable; but this is only because the so called Church has taken over the Jew's assets complete — or rather, imagine that she has. All she has really done is to take over the Jew's liabilities!

The fact that our calling and standing are celestial, whereas the location of the Kingdom of the heavens is on earth, does not really touch this point. "Our citizenship exists in the heavens" (Phil. 3:20), and we are not to be disposed to terrestrial things. In Colossians 3 the Apostle Paul exhorts us to be disposed to that which is above, not to that on the earth, to put to death our members which are on earth: prostitution, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and greed. The meaning of all this is crystal clear. All our real interests are celestial though we ourselves must for a season sojourn on earth. We are to put to death in ourselves all that is evil, we are to put on all that is good. If we read, and re-read this chapter and then turn back to Matthew 5, can we honestly say that there is any discord in the basic principles of conduct enjoined in the two? There is none. Yet there is a difference, an enormous difference in the people addressed, and in their circumstances, outlook and expectation; the difference between celestial and terrestrial, the difference between uncovenanted blessing and covenant obligation. Nevertheless, God's people are people of God, whether on earth or among the celestials; and nothing short of conformity to His standard of righteousness is good enough for Him.

When the Lord Jesus spoke the blessed and holy exhortation of the Sermon on the Mount, He introduced a new and altogether higher standard of righteousness. If men could not, of themselves, attain to the righteous standard of the Law, how could they attain to that of the grace and the truth which came with Jesus Christ? They could not, and they soon demonstrated the fact by killing Him Who brought the grace and the truth. It is at least arguable that if the Lord Jesus had declared no higher standard than the letter of the Law already given by Moses, He would have met with no serious opposition or hurt. If He had done what so many modern expositors maintain He did, and declared the promised Millennial Kingdom with Himself as King, then and there, we cannot doubt that Israel would have followed Him to a man without hesitation. What He did do was to add to the stern justice of the Law of Moses a Divine grace and a spirit of kindly good will which transformed it. What He did not, and could not, do was weaken and attenuate the Law till it could so commend itself to Israel after flesh that He and they, together, would be able to overthrow the might of Rome and set up in power the promised Kingdom.

The effect of the infusing of grace into the Law, which is so eminent a feature of the Sermon on the Mount, was at once to bring it even further—if that were possible—beyond the power of unregenerate Israel to obey. So grace added to law gave law an even more deadly potency than it had previously. The sin of anger with a brother is shown to be on a par with the sin of murder. Adultery is extended even to the sinful look. Swearing and revenge, in any form, become too unsafe to be permitted. Love is extended even to enemies. If Israel could not carry out the Law as it originally was, how could they do so as it had become? The coming of grace had a two-fold effect so far as Israel was concerned. First, it shed new light on the terrible nature of sin in enhancing the scope and potency of law. Second, it opened up a way of escape. "Thus, then, in the current era also, there has come to be a remnant also according to the choice of grace." (Rom. 11:5). Grace, once it was on the scene at all, cannot be confined. Its very touch destroys the whole meaning of works. (Rom. 11:6). The Apostle Paul goes on to say that "what Israel is seeking, this she has not encountered, yet the chosen ones encountered it. Now the rest were calloused, even as it is written. . ." (Rom. 11:7, 8).

Before proceeding, it should be pointed out that law perfected by grace, deadly as its effect was on Israel. is the only Law good enough to be kept by any who may be capable of keeping it. The Law of Moses "perfects nothing, yet it is the super induction of a better expectation, through which we" (that is, the Hebrews) "are drawing near to God" (Heb. 6:19). So when the days come for the Lord to conclude with the houses of Israel and Judah the promised New Covenant, He will be imparting His laws to their comprehension and inscribing them in their hearts. (Heb. 8:8-12). A different Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, not of Aaron, having arisen, of necessity a transfer of law has also taken place. (Heb. 6:11, 12). This Law must needs be law in its highest and holiest form. Where else are we to find it but in the Gospels? Those on whose hearts God has inscribed it will be able to keep it. Needless to say, those features of it which belong solely to this present eon will become obsolete in letter; but the attitude of mind and heart which is required if they are to be kept will still be called for. It is very significant that the two passages just quoted (Rom. 11 and Heb. 6) both lead up to their climax in a reference to the New Covenant.

To resume: the passage Rom. 10:5-8 shows us a chosen remnant of Israel with the rest in a calloused state. The quotation from Hebrew prophecy brings our minds sharply back to Matt. 13:10-15. These passages, it is submitted, view the same event from opposite standpoints. The Apostle Paul sees the trial of Israel, and the callousing of the majority of them as the essential prelude to two vast and vital things—the present world-conciliation and the ultimate salvation of all Israel culminating in the conclusion of the New Covenant. Matthew sees it as veiled in the secrets of the Kingdom of the heavens, veiled to Israel, opened to the disciples. The eight parables which cover these secrets are in two groups of four, the first covering the present outward seeming of the Kingdom, the second the appearance of its inward reality.

For the interpretation of these parables the student cannot do better than study Miss Ada R. Habershon's book, "The Study of the Parables." There is a sane and sober balance about her book which is as wholly admirable as it is rare. In contrast a more recent expositor has written, "It is a wicked perversion of God's truth to whittle away these 'secrets of the kingdom of heaven' upon some fanciful allusions to the career of Christendom and so-called 'church history'." This comes well from a writer who seeks to limit the operation of these parables to the relatively small part of this present eon (since the coming of Christ) during which Israel holds the centre of the stage!

Nevertheless, we must not, in our turn, allow ourselves to be misled by prejudice. The question can be settled, and should be settled, by a careful examination of the Scripture itself.

Consider first the parable of the darnel in the field. The field is the world. The harvest is the conclusion of the eon (Matt. 13:38, 40). Have we any right to reduce the field to that which concerns Israel's affairs alone? Have we any right, to cut out a very great gap from the eon? It is for those who answer these questions affirmatively to prove their case, and they have not yet done so.

The explanation of the parable of the sower with the seed is, or should be, clear enough; but the exposition now being criticised speaks of "the four sowings of the kingdom seed" and allocates them in order to John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, the Twelve during Acts and the final witness before the end of the eon, Unfortunately for this teaching, both parable and interpretation speak of "the sowing." There are four different grounds, not four sowings, Assuming that this expositor's view is correct, and that the parables belong to Israel only, how is the mustard tree to be explained? Does such a dominant position exist for Israel at any time during this eon? Even if there were to be such dominance at the end, what is there corresponding to the steady monstrous growth of the mustard right from its planting?

It is plausible to write off the Sermon on the Mount as "Jewish" because certain features of it are characteristically so, as we have already noticed; but what is there distinctively Jewish in these eight parables? Nothing at all. If it be argued that the kingdom of the heavens is Jewish, the answer must be that whether it is necessarily Jewish or not depends precisely on the correct interpretation of these parables. It is absurd to begin by assuming the very point one is attempting to prove.

Finally, it is urged that Matt. 13 must be exclusively Jewish because "this people" of Matt. 13:15 can be none other than Israel. The only difficulty in answering this is to discover any valid argument to answer. What is said about "this people"? That their eyes cannot observe and their ears cannot hear; that to the disciples had it been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of the heavens, yet to them it had not been given. In other words, that these secrets were not for Israel and not Jewish.

This quotation from Isa. 6:9, 10 is made three times in the Greek Scriptures; here in Matthew, in John 12:40, and in Acts 28:25. Here in Matthew the Lord says that the prophecy is "filled up in them." This is final. The reference in John is in an explanatory parenthesis, disclosing the reason why Israel could not believe. It is, quite evidently, a reference back to the Matthew quotation. The third, in Acts, is also a reference to something which had already happened. In spite of all this, Dr. Bullinger in his excellent book, "How to Enjoy the Bible," says on p. 178 "Isaiah 6 had been twice quoted by Christ as not yet fulfilled." That he should have been so blind here was a real misfortune.

Properly speaking we cannot refer to "the cumulative fulfilment of Isaiah 6," as Mr. C. H. Welch heads Chapter 10 of his book, "Dispensational Truth." This prophecy was filled up in Matthew 13, as the C. V. rendering quite clearly states: "And in them is filled up the prophecy of Isaiah."

We come back to where we started. The question in Acts 1:6 would never have been asked by the disciples if they had understood Luke 21; and we can now add, if they had really understood Matt. 13, as they said they did. (Matt. 13:51). Only too clear is it that they did not understand.

Chapter 4
ISRAEL AND THE KINGDOM
When at the end of the first seven parables of Matthew 13 the Lord Jesus asked His disciples "Do you understand all these things?" and they said to Him "Yes"; He gave them the parable of the Householder, the eighth.

"Therefore every scribe who is made a disciple as to the Kingdom of the heavens is like a man, a householder, who goes on extracting out of his treasures things new and old."

Miss Habershon likens this parable to the octave note of a scale, which closes and completes it. No comment on it is made in the Gospel. The disciples thought that they understood what had gone before, but they evidently did not; and this eighth parable was received in silence, which remains almost unbroken to this day. Indeed, few commentators have ever reckoned it with the other parables.

Two further parables of the Kingdom of the heavens have for their subject a householder. In the first a man hired labourers for his vineyard at different hours, yet paid them the same wages. (Matt 20:1). The second planted a vineyard and leased it to farmers, who first lashed and killed his servants and then his son (Matt. 21:33 ). There seems good ground for thinking that these two parables are the explanation, in part at least, of the words "things new and old." The former certainly foreshadows a new departure in God's dealings with humanity, the latter looks to prophetic promise and to Israel's past history. A study of the tenses of the verbs used supports this idea.

The point of the eighth parable, then, is that the serious student of Scripture, the scribe made a disciple in the Kingdom of the heavens, must expect to find a double meaning in Kingdom truth. The birth, ministry, death, entombment and resurrection of the Lord Jesus changed everything. Nothing could remain as it was. Something new, and decisively new, had come into the world. It was the world's crisis. What existed before still remained, but it took on a new aspect and a new significance. In the Hebrew Scriptures we learn a great deal about the promised Messiah as Son of David, we do not learn much that is very definite about Him as Son of Abraham. We read of the promises to Abraham, but we are told comparatively little of how they are eventually to be fulfilled. In the Greek Scriptures the position is reversed. There is little that is new about the Davidic promises, much about the Arahamic. Both are of extreme importance. For us the path of wisdom is to bring forth from this treasury things new and old.

The beginning of Matthew's Gospel links it most firmly with the Hebrew Scriptures. From this some deduce that it is a direct continuation of Israel's recorded history. Others, noting that there is a gap of several hundred years between the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, not to say an abrupt change of language, open the latter feeling that they are starting something new. There is a measure of truth in both views. Matthew's Gospel is very definitely a continuation of the Hebrew Scriptures. From end to end it records the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies. Luke's Gospel is the continuation of Israel's history. Nevertheless, it is just as true that the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ changed everything. "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). That is true of us alone, at the present time; but we have only to read the Revelation (Chapter 21) to see that what happened at the Incarnation was the beginning of a new creation which will eventually be extended to all things. Nor need we go further than the Gospels themselves to perceive that something essentially and overwhelmingly new had come into the world; and that even those who were nearest to Him Who had brought it completely failed at first to under stand what was happening, and learnt its meaning only slowly and in part. From the treasury are things new and old, and we must not dwell on the one set to the neglect of the other, as, unfortunately, nearly everyone does.

Those who insist that everything in the Greek Scriptures is new find "the Church" in everything. According to them, de spite Rom. 11:1-2, Israel was thrust away finally in Matthew 13, and "the Church" reigns in her stead. For them Pentecost marks "the Church's" birthday. Who is supposed to occupy the place of favour between Matthew 13 and Acts is not clear.

Those who insist that everything in the Gospels and Acts is old see in the Kingdom of the heavens the Millennial Kingdom promised by the Prophets. To make room for the Apostle Paul's Evangel, the Kingdom "offer" has to be withdrawn and the Kingdom itself "postponed," in spite of the fact that no trace of any offer of the Millennial Kingdom or of its refusal can be found.

The truth lies between the two extremes, and rather nearer the second than the first. The antidote to the first error is a proper understanding of the Apostle Paul's Evangel, with the Conciliation and the Secret of Ephesians 3. The antidote to the second is a more exact study of the Kingdom of the heavens, and of the other aspects of the Kingdom. Many of us have deluded ourselves with the idea that we clearly understand this subject; and we have consequently admitted as certainties many assumptions about it which will not bear careful scrutiny. One of them is that the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9, 10 is found in Acts 28. The contention here is, on the contrary. that Matthew 13 is the place. That is the plain meaning of Matthew 13:14.

What appears at first sight to be a most formidable difficulty, if this be true, is the nature of what took place in Acts. It certainly seems plausible in these circumstances to contend that the Apostle Peter's proclamation in Acts 3 was not merely pointless but actually insincere. Was he not offering Israel a Kingdom which in fact had already been taken away from them and given to others?

As usual, the answer can be discovered at once by examining the precise words used. Nothing is said about the Kingdom in this proclamation. Indeed, it is conspicuous by its absence. John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus announced "Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." Peter: "Repent, then, and turn about for the erasure of your sins." For Israel, as a nation, the Kingdom had receded out of view; which was only to be expected after their rejection of it and of the King. This, in fact, is the whole point of Peter's preliminary indictment (Acts 3:13-15), so utterly damning and yet so brief. No longer was it, for Israel collectively, a question of repentance and believing the Evangel of the Kingdom. Between them and the Kingdom had arisen the terrible barrier of their sin. The same is true of Peter's first speech, in Acts 2.

Why, then, was Peter concerning himself about Israel at all? For two reasons—because of what he was, and because of what they were.

In Acts the Apostle Peter stands pre-eminent among the Twelve, as conspicuously the greatest of them as the Apostle Paul was the greatest of the last apostles. The ground of his pre-eminence is to be found in Matthew 16:13-20. The distortion of this passage by the Church of Rome has, naturally but wrongly, brought about in us a tendency to belittle and neglect it. Verse 17 and verse 19 bind it most firmly to the Sermon on the Mount and to the Kingdom of the heavens. Verse 18 names Peter as the rock upon which is to be built "the new ecclesia, called out from the nation, and separated from them by loyalty to Him" (i.e. the Lord Jesus—C. V. Note). There can be no doubt that this quotation states the position correctly. The Twelve were called to minister to the Covenant people Peter was entrusted with the Evangel of the Circumcision. This church, ecclesia, called-out assembly, is called out of the Covenant people, not the Gentiles, as is the Church to which the Apostle Paul refers in his epistles. The church built upon Peter will endure the trials foretold for the end of this eon. We are to escape them.

Matthew 13 marks the close of the proclamation of the Kingdom of the heavens by the Lord Jesus. He came as Israel's true King, but they would not have Him. Thus it had to be. The very start of the Gospel shows Him first as Son of David, then as Son of Abraham. His rejection by Israel paved the way for the primary work which He had come to accomplish on the cross and in His resurrection. Until this essential preliminary had been carried out, nothing else could be. After it, Peter could and did use the keys, but in altogether new and different circumstances.

There was no longer any prospect of Israel, as a nation, receiving their King. He had ascended "Whom heaven must in deed receive until times of restoration of all which God talks through mouth of the saints from eon—His prophets" (Acts 3:21, very literally). National repentance by Israel is, for the present, done with. All prospect of it disappeared. The next step is the calling-out of the Remnant, the Church which is the subject of Hebrews, Peter's epistles and the Revelation.

Peter's mission to Israel in Acts was to call out the Remnant.

To suppose that this has nothing to do with the Kingdom, that after the pronouncement of Isaiah 6 the Kingdom became for the time being impossible of realisation, is very natural; but it is a mistake. The misunderstanding is due to confusion between the Kingdom of God (and also the Kingdom of the heavens) and the Kingdom of the Son of Mankind. That latter kingdom was impossible of realization—but then it had been so right from the start, and still is, and must be until He comes in power and glory to take up His throne and reign.

The Kingdom of the heavens disappears; indeed it disappeared after Matthew 25:1; but that is simply because it is only one aspect of the Kingdom of God, and that aspect is exhausted in Matthew's Gospel. To a large extent, the Kingdom of the heavens disappeared in Matthew 13, when it became connected with secrets. It certainly passed beyond the ken of those to whom the secrets were not given, and even in a measure of those to whom they were given, since these evidently understood them only in part. It is clear that if the Kingdom of the heavens were the earthly kingdom which is to be set up in power, there could have been no room for secrets in connection with it, or for any concealment, since every eye would see in it its King.

The Kingdom of God does not disappear in Acts. It does not disappear even in the Apostle Paul's epistles. It is not very prominent, but it is there in both; and in the latter it has been to some expositors rather a nuisance, because they have not rightly divided the Word as regards the Kingdom. It is found in Acts 1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23-31. On the other hand, it is not found in the epistles to the Circumcision even once! This fact speaks for itself.

Yet the Apostle Peter was given the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens not of the Kingdom of God. The reason is that Peter's Evangel was the Evangel of the Circumcision. He had no such message for anyone outside Israel. That is why Peter's ministry, though it begins in a blaze of glory and power in Jerusalem, slowly fades away as it leaves Israel's centre until its last important act, which we have already discussed, takes place at Joppa, by the sea. To Israel Peter addressed himself first at Pentecost. He did not go to Cornelius; Cornelius went to him, and the furthest extent Peter could meet him was to acknowledge him and those Gentiles who heard Peter's word, and bid them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:48). Even that caused some disquiet among the Circumcision, so that Peter had to explain and justify his action.

An examination of Peter's two final public speeches will elucidate this point. In the former (Acts 10:34-43) he first says: "Of a truth I am grasping that God is not partial, but in every nation he who is fearing Him and working righteousness is acceptable to Him." This is in line with the teaching in connection with the Kingdom. Then Peter testifies to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and concludes: "To this are all the prophets testifying: everyone who is believing in Him is to be obtaining pardon of sins through His name." In the latter (Acts 11:4-17 he recites what occurred in Joppa, and he winds up: "Now I am reminded of the Lord's declaration, as He said that 'John, indeed baptizes with water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit.' If, then, God gives them the equal gratuity even as to us, when believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I—able to forbid God?"

John's baptism, which was the subject of the Lord's special charge before His ascension (Acts 1:5), had now come to belong to all when believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Apostle Peter's last public word. (His final speech before the Church at Jerusalem will be discussed presently). From that time on the Kingdom of God holds sway, and all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ belong to it.

At this time, too, came another fundamental change. A new apostle, Paul, not one of the Twelve, arose and took up the proclamation to Israel. The first of the Twelve to be martyred, James the brother of John, was assassinated with the sword (Acts 12:2) and little more is heard of the remainder. The Apostle Paul carried on with the work of calling out the Remnant, testifying to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. At Antioch Paul announced that God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27), thus confirming what Peter had declared.

Then came another confirmation, this time by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. After telling of the arrival of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, the Acts account says: "Now, coming along and assembling the church, they informed them of whatever God does with them, and that He opens up a door of faith to the Gentiles. Now they tarried no short time with the disciples. And some, coming down from Judea, taught the brethren that 'If you should not be circumcised after the custom of Moses you cannot be saved.'" (14:27, 28; 15:1) The point here raised is of the very greatest importance. Neither John the Baptist nor the Lord Jesus ever laid down, either directly or by implication, any requirement about circumcision as a condition of entrance into the Kingdom of God. Even in the Kingdom's most Jewish context, in Matthew, circumcision is not mentioned. Circumcision is the symbol of Israel's covenant standing and nationality. Entrance into the Kingdom of the heavens or the Kingdom of God is not entrance into Israel. The Kingdom of God transcends nationality.

The conflict here is not between faith and law, grace and works, as the C.V. note suggests, but between the concepts of the Kingdom of God as designed for all nations and as limited to Israel. The other aspect of the controversy is outside the scope of Acts and, in fact, has nothing to do with the Kingdom in itself, So Paul and Barnabas go up to the apostles and elders into Jerusalem about this question. (Acts 15:2). Then follows an account of their meeting. At once "some from the sect of the Pharisees who have believed rise up, saying that 'They must be circumcised, besides charging them to keep the law of Moses.'" The latter condition was only logical. If the brethren were to be circumcised and belong to Israel, they automatically took upon themselves, by the very fact of their circumcision, to keep the law of Moses. The demand of the Pharisees served to bring the issue into clear relief, and Peter courageously points this out in the course of his final speech in Acts.

His opening words were: "Men! Brethren! Tou are versed in the fact that from early days God chooses among you, that through my mouth the Gentiles are to hear the word of the evangel and believe. And God, the Knower of hearts, testifies to them, giving the holy spirit even as to us, and does not judge differently at all between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith," (Acts 15:7-9). Now, we must consider this in its context. Peter was speaking to the Twelve and to the church in Jerusalem—in other words, to the apostles of the Circumcision and to the most essentially Jewish community of all. "The evangel" here must mean what it has meant all along, throughout the experience of this church and the experience of the Twelve, that is to say, the Evangel of the Kingdom. This is evident from examination of the twelve occurrences. It is worth noting that the Gospels of Luke and John do not use the word at all.

To the Apostle Peter was given the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens, not the key, as if to unlock it to the Jews alone. Here we have his clear statement that he unlocked the Kingdom to the Gentiles, in declaring that the holy spirit had been given to them as well. Referring back to Acts 10 we read (vv. 44-48) "While Peter is still talking these declarations, the holy spirit falls on all those hearing the word. And as many of the faithful of the Circumcision as came with Peter are amazed, seeing that the gratuity of the holy spirit has been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them talking languages and magnifying God. Then Peter answered, 'Is anyone, now, able the water to forbid, that these should not be baptized, who indeed obtained the holy spirit even as we?' Now he bids them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." In Peter's explanation to his critics in Jerusalem (1l:4-17)he refers, as we have already noticed, to John's baptism. This is a convincing confirmation that entry into the Kingdom is the subject here.

In due course we will consider the three baptisms of Matthew 3. Here it suffices to observe that the keynote of the Kingdom is baptism. John the Baptist did two things. He proclaimed "Repent! for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near!", and he baptized. Where we find baptism, there we have the Kingdom. There is no room for doubt that in Acts 10 we have the account of how the Apostle Peter unlocked the Kingdom to the Gentiles.

Why, then, was the Apostle Peter apparently so half-hearted? (Acts 11:17). Can it be said that we are pressing the figure of speech too far if we affirm that the purpose of keys is to unlock doors, rather than open them? Peter unlocked the Kingdom for the Gentiles in Acts 10: 48 just as he did for the Jews in Acts 2:41. Yet beyond this he did no go. At this point his ministry came to an end. He had completed his proclamation, though at Jerusalem he had then to defend his action. If any should argue that Peter did more for Israel than unlock the Kingdom to them, we may reply that, no doubt, he did; but the fact remains that little of this ministry is to be found in Acts. For instance, it was Philip who evangelized Samaria concerning the Kingdom of God, but the coming on them of the holy spirit was through Peter and John. If we assemble into one narrative the references to Peter in Acts, we will find we have an account of the ministry of the keys and not much else. Peter's last words in his final speech were: "But through the grace of the Lord Jesus we are believing, to be saved in a manner even as they." (Acts 15:11). Here he led to the very threshold of the Evangel of God proclaimed by Paul in Romans 1-4. More than that, he was pointing the way for the Remnant, the way declared explicitly by Paul in Romans 10. As we have already noted, all this is in complete accord with what is taught in Hebrews. The way of circumcision leads to the Law of Moses. This way leads to the new law, the Law declared by Jesus Christ, and the Law ultimately to be engraved by Him upon the hearts of His covenant people.

Chapter 5
The Two Focal Evangels
Confusion is a greater enemy of truth than plain error. Often an error betrays itself the moment it is scrutinized and then it will even suggest the truth. Where confusion occurs there is often nothing to be done but make a fresh start. Otherwise one tangle after another has to be painfully unravelled, and only too often the complete unravelling is found to be beyond our capacity and has to be left to those who come after us.

This analogy is certainly applicable to Theology. Very evident is it that at the time the last of the Greek Scriptures was written most of those who had received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour had a perfectly clear understanding of their calling and expectation. Those who had received what the Apostle Paul described as "my evangel" certainly knew what it was, though it is painfully evident from his last epistle that a large proportion of them had slipped into apostasy. They comprised Gentiles and a number of Jews who, like Paul himself, had gladly repudiated their circumcision and abandoned its privileges; who, in fact, ha ceased to be Jews, gone back to what Abraham was in uncircumcision, to the standing of Gentile; and in so doing had gone forward in Christ Jesus to the incomparably higher standing of membership of the Church which is His body, the completion of Him. (Eph 1:23) Those who had not been called to this exceeding high honour and who had retained their status as Jews, as the Circumcision, knew also quite clearly where they stood, To guide them they had the Circumcision Epistles, by Peter, James, John and Jude, and also Hebrews. No doubt they knew little or nothing of the Apostle Paul's distinctive doctrine. Even the Apostle Peter admitted that in Paul's epistles there were some things hard to apprehend (2 Pet 3:16); yet that is hardly surprising, since by the very fact that they remained the Circumcision, the calling disclosed by Paul was not and could not be for them.

After some eighteen centuries the position is as different as it could possibly be. Christians are split into hundreds of sects. The most powerful of all of them has found it necessary to add dogma after dogma to its creed through the centuries in the vain hope of reaching finality. At the other extreme there had been among the less intelligent Protestants a curious attempt to establish what is called "undenominational Christianity," a vague system, claiming to have shed all dogmas about which there exist any serious differences of opinion. Only persons whose minds are in a state of complete confusion could ever entertain such an idea.

The tide of confusion has engulfed us all. At every turn we are terribly handicapped by the confusions we have inherited; and even when we do manage to clear up some difficulties, we usually find that in making an orderly exposition of our results, we are only, as it were, speaking in a foreign language to those who remain befogged.

Take, for example, the word "gospel," and ask the average Christian what he means by it. Probably he will eventually fall back on the so called "Four Gospels" which begin the Greek Scriptures. Pressed to explain what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote of "my gospel," he is certain to find himself in difficulties. The word "gospel" has been ruined by misuse and the confusion which has resulted, so that now we are almost forced to leave it to the Four Gospels, and use instead "evangel," a transliteration of the original Greek word. This does, at least, give us some opportunity of attaining to a clear idea of what it means.

Two evangels form the foci of the Greek Scriptures. "Evangel" means simply "good news" or "good message," and any good message is, strictly speaking, an evangel; but in Scripture the word has the sense of a good message from God of special significance. The two focal evangels are contrasted in Gal 2:6-10—the Evangel of the Uncircumcision and the Evangel of the Circumcision. We learn that the former had been entrusted to the Apostle Paul and the latter to the Apostle Peter and the rest of the Twelve. The former is what Paul calls "My evangel." The latter is what was proclaimed by the Twelve in Acts and is in accord with what is found in all the epistles except those declared to have been written by the Apostle Paul. What forced Paul to set these two evangels side by side was the rise of a so called third evangel, "a different evangel which is not another" (Gal 1:6), that is to say, an evangel which purported to be so but which was not a real evangel at all. A clear understanding of these three and of their significance is the indispensable preliminary to clearing up our confusions regarding the Greek Scriptures.

For the moment, let us put aside all thought of what we have been considering about the Kingdom. We have perceived that all who believe the Lord Jesus Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, thereby come into the Kingdom. They have the same Lord and Saviour, and in consequence they have in common His sufferings, His death and His resurrection. Let us, then, leave these matters for the moment, and consider and rightly divide the things regarding which there is a difference in the standing of the two and the two evangels addressed to them.

Galatians 2:6-10 explicitly distinguishes the two apostolic commissions while making the fact perfectly plain that both are by God's operation. One circumstance, which inevitably gives unconsciously a wrong impression is that in English the word "uncircumcision" is merely the negative of "circumcision," whereas in the Greek the two words used are entirely different. The word translated "uncircumcision" is in Greek "arobustia." "Circumcision" is "peritomE," and in the Greek the only negative form of this word is "aperitmEton," which does not mean "uncircumcised" (as the C. V. has it in Acts 7:51, the only occurrence) but "uncircumcisable." It is not that the Gentile lacked the covenant privileges of Israel so much as that he was utterly outside covenant privilege altogether. In regard to covenant, Israel was all, the Gentile was nothing. This is not hair splitting. It means that we cannot look upon the Gentiles' state as differing from that of the Jew only that he had lost or had never received his covenant privilege; but as that of an entirely different sort of person, one who not merely lacked covenant relationship with God, but was actually ineligible for it. Once this is grasped, we are delivered from the curious delusion, recently put forward, that the Gentiles to whom the Apostle Paul was commissioned were really the (supposedly) "lost" ten tribes of Israel. One would have thought that the Apostle Paul's explanation of the former position of the Gentiles in flesh, before they had become near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:11-13) was easy enough to understand; but the new theory, just mentioned, imagines that the words "being alienated from the citizenship of Israel" meant that the Gentiles had once been citizens, but had lost their citizenship. In the two other occurrences of the word "apallotrioO" (Eph 4:18, Col 1:21) the C. V. renders it "estranged," and it is hard to see why it could not have been consistent and done so here. Right from the start, from the making of the covenant with Abraham, Israel has always been distinct and estranged from other nations; and the other nations have always, since then, been in the plight so graphically described in Eph 2:12.

God has so willed it that the blessings accruing from the death of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and from His resurrection, shall manifest themselves through two different channels, through the channel of covenant relationship and covenant privilege on the one hand, and through the channel of pure unadulterated favour, of reigning grace, on the other. The former is the Evangel of the Circumcision, applicable only to those already under covenant, proclaimed by the Twelve Apostles of the covenant people, Israel. The latter is the Evangel of the Uncircumcision, applicable only. to those not under such covenant as Israel had, proclaimed by the Apostle Paul who, though an Israelite, a Hebrew of Hebrews, had forfeited all his covenant privileges and deemed them to be refuse that he might be gaining Christ. (Phil 3:8).

Let us examine the general outline of each in turn.

The place to look for the Evangel of the Circumcision is where we have on record the words of the Apostles of the Circumcision, particularly of the Apostle Peter, who ranked first among them. Peter's initial public pronouncement was at Pentecost, and is found in Acts 2:14, 36. The first part is an announcement to the multitude in Jerusalem explaining what had happened. Then, addressing himself to Israelites, he next speaks of Jesus the Nazarene, then of His assassination at their hands, and then of His resurrection; and finally he makes the momentous declaration: "Let the entire house of Israel know certainly, then, that God makes Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus Whom you crucify!". (Acts 2:36).

The effect of this is such that Peter is able to proclaim to them repentance and baptism; in fact, to open to them the Kingdom of the heavens as John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus did in Matthew's Gospel.

The next proclamation (Acts 3:12-26), which we have already considered likewise centres round the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and calls to Israel to repent. The same theme is maintained in the answer to the Sanhedrin by Peter and the apostles. (Acts 5:29-32). Stephen's defence (Acts 7:1-54) is a summary of the salient points of Israel's history. He demonstrated that they were stiff, necked and uncircumcisable in their hearts and ears, and had become traitors and murderers. By the way, it should be noted that there is an important error in the C. V. concordance. The word "aperitmEtoi" (un-about-cut-able) occurs here only, and is not the same as "akrobustia," which occurs twenty times, and does mean "uncircumcision," and is "the special name given those who cannot claim physical descent from Abraham." (C. V. Concordance pp. 81 & 109).

Finally, Peter's speech to Cornelius (Acts 10:34,43) again witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ends; "And He charges us to proclaim to the people and to certify that this One is He Who is specified by God to be Judge of living and dead. To this are all the prophets testifying: everyone who is believing in Him is to be obtaining pardon of sins through His name."

Collating these speeches with what we learn from the four Gospels, we find in them nothing incompatible with what had been taught before, and nothing new except the proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Even the last is new only in the sense that it could not have been so proclaimed before it happened. All is based on Israel's history and on their treatment of their long-promised Messiah, when at last He came to them in accord with the word of His prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. Those who hear are exhorted to believe on Him and promised pardon of sins.

The Evangel of the Uncircumcision, specially entrusted to the Apostle Paul, and on twelve occasions described by him as his evangel, is expressly defined in 1 Cor 15:1-8. Later on we will compare it with what was proclaimed by Peter. Meanwhile if we turn back to Acts, we will find that the first speech made by the Apostle Paul there recorded (Acts 13:16-41) says through, out most of its course much the same as Peter did. Only at the end (vv38,39) does he break fresh ground. He says, "Let it be knowable to you, then, men, brethren, that through this One is being announced to you pardon of sins; and from all from which in the law of Moses you could not be justified—in this One—is being justified everyone who is believing."

Now this is a very remarkable pronouncement, and remark, able in two ways. On the one hand, it seems on the surface to go very much further from what Peter proclaimed than the statement in 1 Cor 15:1-8 does. On the other hand, it seems to go right outside the scope of its setting, Acts. Pardon and justification are incompatible. Justification implies the verdict "Not guilty." Pardon is possible only for those who have been pronounced "Guilty." Justification is the keynote of the teaching of the first four chapters of Romans. Only there in particular, and in Paul's epistles in general, do we find an explicit doctrine of justification. From the beginning of Romans up to Romans 3:20 we are working up to what appears to be an imminent verdict of "Guilty"; and then, suddenly, a new factor manifests itself, God's righteousness; which transforms the whole scene and brings, instantly and finally, a verdict of "Not guilty."

This tremendous fact of justification by faith apart from works of law is the unshakeable foundation upon which is erected the whole of the special teaching entrusted to the Apostle Paul, including the transcendent secrets he was commissioned to reveal. No such doctrinal edifice was erected, nor could be erected, upon the pardon proclaimed by the Twelve. Why, then, is justification absent from 1 Corinthians 15:1-8?

The answer will become evident when we answer another question. What is the ultimate basis of our justification? This is found in Romans 4. The essence of this chapter is concentrated in three statements about Abraham.
These are:

Those last words of all in the third quotation are generally passed over without the smallest realization of their overwhelming importance. We naturally think of justification as the essence of Paul's Evangel—but we do not think deep enough. The essence of the Apostle Paul's Evangel is "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day according to the Scriptures." That this covers our justifying is not stated in 1 Cor 15, because that information is set forth in Romans.

The other problem is why the Apostle Paul's pronouncement in Acts 13 seems to go outside the scope of Acts? Before we can answer this, we must consider another question which is interlocked with it. Paul was in Acts 13 speaking to Israelites in the synagogue. He was, in fact, evangelizing the Circumcision and, except for the reference to justification, was uttering at least the Evangel of the Circumcision, which was entrusted, primarily at least, to the Twelve. Why did he do this?

Each evangel contained a double message. The Evangel of the Circumcision, as we have just noticed, is in full agreement with the teaching of the four Gospels. It involved a repetition of the proclamation of John the Baptist, that is to say, the Evangel of the Kingdom. It was also concerned with Israel's whole past history, a definite pointed reminder that they had murdered their Messiah and a warning to repent while there was still time. The Evangel of the Uncircumcision likewise proclaimed the Kingdom, as we have already seen; but also it contained special features which were not only beyond anything taught by the Twelve, but were also incompatible with the covenant standing symbolized by circumcision.

In fact, the Evangel of the Circumcision and the Evangel of the Uncircumcision were and are utterly incompatible. Only for a short while were they being simultaneously proclaimed; and this was possible only because of what they contained in common, and because there was no contact between the different subjects to whom the two proclamations were made. Furthermore, even the proclamations of the Kingdom in the two contained incompatible elements. The Evangel of the Circumcision belonged to Israel and in the proclamation of it the Kingdom was for Israel, and not for others except in subjection to Israel.

The whole point of circumcision was that it implied priority with a place of exclusive privilege for Israel. It therefore automatically excluded all who had no right to that priority and privilege. As long as the priority and privilege existed as a recognized fact, so long was all evangelizing forced to conform to it.

Thus, at the start of his ministry, the Apostle Paul must needs go first to the synagogues; and to the synagogues he could preach no evangel other than the Evangel of the Circumcision, even though that properly belonged to the Twelve only. Not until the synagogues rejected his preaching could he go to the Uncircumcision.

Yet, in actual fact, the synagogues were all rejecting him, one by one and so he was able to preach his Evangel to the Gentiles. And they did receive his Evangel; and they actually were justified by faith alone apart from works of law. Thus, in God's Son, everyone who was believing was, as a matter of fact, being justified; even though it was pardon, not justification, which was being proclaimed to Israel.

This sounds a great deal more complicated than it really is. We have to grasp the fact that so long as Israel were in so overwhelming a position of covenant privilege, no evangel could go out to the Gentile unless and until Israel (by rejecting the Evangel of the Circumcision) stood aside (in so doing) and made way for the Gentile. That was what Paul was saying in declaring that "their offence is the world's riches and their discomfiture the Gentiles' riches" (Romans 11:12).

The evangel had to go to Israel first.

Because it was to Israel it had to be in line with covenant privilege, that is to say, to them it had to be the Evangel of the Circumcision.

Similarly, its kingdom aspect had to be as presented in the four Gospels. In these, there had to be a Jewish Kingdom.

Even though the Apostle Peter had to unlock the Kingdom to Gentiles as well as to Israel, he did not do so until the very end of his recorded ministry, and then only with reluctance. Even when his reluctance was overcome by God, he still did no more than he was obliged to do. He was not free to do any more. The unlocking of the Kingdom to Gentiles by Peter is the solitary recorded instance of presenting the Evangel to Gentiles (as Gentiles, without any qualification such as being proselytes) by any of the Circumcision. Nowhere else is there even a hint of such a thing. Jewish and Gentile Christians kept apart; There was, however, propaganda by unbelieving Jews, as we shall see later. Much of the trouble was in the fact that while the Old Covenant was near its disappearance, it had not. yet disappeared, and will not until the period of reformation culminating in the conclusion of the New Covenant. That does not directly affect us—but it affected Israel then, and still does affect them; and is indeed the governing influence which shapes their present course.

Once Israel had rejected the Evangel of the Circumcision, the whole position clarified itself.

The Apostles of the Circumcision had completed their commission to Israel as a whole. There remained to them only, the task of gathering out and shepherding the Remnant.

The Apostles of the Uncircumcision, particularly Paul, had completed the task imposed on them by reason of Israel's special position and privileges, and were freed to go forward with their principal mission, the proclamation of the Evangel of the Uncircumcision and the secrets.

Finally, the Kingdom was no longer something peculiarly Jewish. In rejecting the Evangel of the Circumcision, Israel had rejected the Kingdom. Consequently those who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and became subjects of His Kingdom could do so without becoming in any way involved in covenant privilege or obligation. Moreover the question of achieving the righteousness, of the Kingdom no longer arose, because, by partaking of the faith of Jesus Christ they had obtained God's righteousness (Rom. 3:21, 22). They could delight in the law of God as to the inner man (Rom. 7:22) and the spirit's law of life in Christ Jesus had freed them from the law of sin and death.

Note By R. B. WITHERS
My book is being criticized on two main grounds. Many readers are puzzled to know what I am getting at. Others complain that I am ignoring the logical consequences of Acts 28:28. For the sake of all concerned I am therefore asking the Editor to be kind enough to print this note.

As to the first, I want to rightly divide the Word of Truth. I maintain that hitherto we have failed to do this. We have not rightly divided "Kingdom Truth," but tried to hand it over entirely to Israel instead of realizing that all God's people, including ourselves, are under God's rule and subjects of His Kingdom. Grace reigns now, which is a figurative way of saying that God reigns in unmixed grace. Nor have we rightly divided what are called "dispensations" or "economies". We have assumed that they are periods of time, and thereby we have heaped up all sorts of difficulties entirely of our own making. As I have pointed out in Chapter 5 the really basic distinction is between Circumcision and Uncircumcision. All that is sound in what we call "dispensational truth" belongs to this basic distinction. The point is worked out fully in the later chapters, and this clears up some of the confusions which still remain about the Secret of Ephesians 3 and displays it more clearly than ever in all its sublime grandeur. It also clears up the serious misunderstandings which have so divided us concerning the Corinthian, Thessalonian and Roman Epistles, the one body, the spirituals of 1 Cor 12:1 and the presence (parousia) of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As to the second, we have in the past got Acts 28:28 out of all proportion or reason by assuming that it was a crisis for the Gentiles. That is wrong division. Throughout, Acts concerns Israel exclusively with one exception only, Peter's Kingdom ministry to the Gentiles; and this is because the keys of the Kingdom were given to Peter and nobody else, not even Paul. The disclosure in Acts 28:28 was made to the Roman Jews; it informed them of something that had already happened and had been made known to the Roman Christians some five years before in his epistle to them. The logical consequences of Acts 28:28 are to be found where we might expect to find them in the next three verses; set forth in three sections, each beginning with "and". First is the consequence to the Gentiles, next to the Jews (v. 29) and finally to Paul. What more do we want?

Chapter 6

The Setting of the Two Focal Evangels
The remark was made in the previous chapter that the simultaneous proclamation of the Evangel of the Circumcision and the Evangel of the Uncircumcision at the beginning was possible only because of what they had in common and because there was no contact between the different subjects to whom the two proclamations were made. To have offered proof of this latter contention would have been too considerable a digression, so it must be attempted now.

Some of the epistles addressed to churches by the Apostle Paul were written to churches which he had himself visited and evangelized. On the other hand Romans was written to a church which he had never seen. It becomes important, therefore, to enquire what sort of church this was.

At the start of Romans the Apostle Paul speaks of himself as having been "severed for God's Evangel. . . concerning His Son . . . Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom we obtained grace and apostleship for faith obedience among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake" (Romans 1:1-5). Here he declares his special ministry, the Evangel of the Uncircumcision; and the question at once arises whether it was this evangel which had originally been proclaimed to the Romans or the Evangel of the Circumcision. The answer, following on from the above, is definite: ". . . among whom are you also; the callable of Jesus Christ"; and to this is added (freely translated) "to all those, in Rome, who really are God's loveable ones, callable saints," (vv 6, 7); that is to say, those capable of answering to the call. In verse 13 Paul goes on to express to them his desire that he "should be having some fruit among you even, according as among the rest of the Gentiles also."

The last chapter of Romans gives the longest list of greetings of any epistle. First of all come Prisca and Aquila, who receive thanks not only from him "but all the churches of the Gentiles" (Romans 16:4). Further on come Andronicus and Junias, who are not only apostles but "notable among the apostles." They are also Paul's relatives, as are also Herodian (verse 11) in Rome, and Lucian, Jason and Sosipater (verse 21) who join their greetings to his. Except for Mary (verse 6) none of the other names are distinctively Jewish.

The only reasonable deductions to be drawn from all this are that a church of some magnitude had been established in Rome. Its two apostles were actually kinsmen, of Paul's; but the very. fact that they were apostles severs them from the Twelve. Like Paul, they had evidently renounced their circumcision and, in company with the other Jews named, had definitely received the Evangel of the Uncircumcision with the church in Rome which, as we see from the first chapter, was largely Gentile in origin. This means that from the point of view not only of the Jews hut of the strictly Jewish Christians, they had cut themselves off from all dealings with Israel. There is no evidence that anyone else had followed the example set by Peter in Acts 11; in fact, as we have already noticed, the evidence points to his action being special and isolated, the personal ministry of the keys of the Kingdom committed to him.

In support of their idea that it was a mixed church, some expositors have stressed the difficulty Gentile readers of Romans would have in understanding the references to Abraham, David and Adam in Chapters 4 and 5, and the seventh, ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters, in fact the bulk of the doctrinal part of the epistle. The sufficient answer to this is to read the chapters in question for oneself. The Apostle Paul does refer to the Hebrew Scriptures—but there is no need whatever to have a deep knowledge of them in order to be able to understand what he says. Compare these references to the Hebrews Epistle, which is simply incomprehensible without a deep under standing of the Pentateuch. Romans presumes no previous acquaintance with its subject matter at all. Look at the exposition of Abraham's justification in Chapter 4 with its careful explanation of every relevant detail; and then compare James 2:20-24 which tells almost nothing to a reader who has no access to Genesis. Paul has to refer to the Hebrew Scriptures because they are the seed from which all Israel's covenant blessings grow and because they are the anchorage of all Israel's hopes. We come into these covenant blessings, not because we are Israelites or have anything to do with Israel's covenants—which are their own and belong to nobody else—but because the covenant blessings are: the result of what the Lord Jesus Christ wrought on the cross, and because this is too potent and too vast to be penned into the narrow bounds of covenant. Israel did not understand that truth; only at the end of his recorded ministry was even the Apostle Peter brought to grasp it; yet it was nevertheless a fact, the basic fact of the Apostle Paul's Evangel of the Uncircumcision.

That there never was such a thing as a mixed church may confidently be affirmed. Let us try to imagine what it would be like. The Jews in it would be under covenant. They would be all zealous of the law and would be debtors to keep it. They would, in fact, be of the Circumcision. The Gentiles in it would be outside covenant, they would not have the sign of circumcision, they would have none of the Jews' prerogatives and in this respect would be in an altogether inferior position. On the other hand, they would not be under law, but under grace and, indeed, reigning grace through righteousness (Rom. 5:21). For them in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision would be any thing, but a new creation (Gal. 6:15). The Jews in this church would have an expectation of earthly blessing and glory under the New Covenant. The Gentiles in it would be blessed with all spiritual blessings among the celestials, in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Some of its members would be watching for the Lord's return whence He ascended, the Mount of Olives. Others would be waiting to meet Him in the air. There would, in sober fact, be not only confusion in this queer church, there would be downright incompatible contradiction!

The similar confusion between Christians now is a different matter. Now it is the consequence of blindness and unbelief, and is our own fault, and is remediable by returning to God's Word. Then, if it had ever really existed, it would have been the consequence of the action of God Himself in permitting His apostles to speak at the same time and in the same place in two different and contradictory voices. If we use our imagination and mentally put ourselves in the places of the two orders of apostles at that time, we will see at once that the two evangels had to be kept in water-tight compartments.

Individuals may have heard, and no doubt did on occasion hear, a presentation of the evangel which belonged to others and was inapplicable to themselves; but there is no evidence that they ever accepted the wrong evangel. When, in this study; we consider the hypothetical cases of such acceptance of the wrong evangel, we do so only to examine what it would have. implied, not because there is the smallest evidence that it ever happened.

These considerations explain why the Apostle Peter was so extremely cautious in his preaching to Gentiles and why the Apostle Paul went out of his way to consult Peter and to visit the Twelve in Jerusalem. All the apostles must have realized clearly what the two evangels implied and that in no circumstances could they be mixed. Any attempt to do so would have stultified and destroyed both.

The position of the Jew after the first fervour of Pentecost had come to an end was a very difficult one, and calls for our sympathetic understanding. He was far worse off than any Gentile. No clear-cut choice was his. He was faced with a double dilemma. He had to decide whether the Lord Jesus was the Christ or not, and in this decision he was handicapped by the very human delusion that the true Messiah, the Christ, would bring in at once the earthly Kingdom in great power and glory. Having made his choice of the Lord Jesus as the Christ, the Jew had then to decide whether to maintain his circumcision privilege, following the Twelve Apostles, or to cast this privilege aside as refuse and follow the Apostle Paul. In choosing the latter he was in actual fact leaving all—not merely home and friends and kindred, but what was dearer to him than life, his standing as an Israelite.

Having regard to all this, we can hardly be surprised at the deep chasm between the Jews who accepted the Lord Jesus as Christ and those who rejected Him, and, on the other side, the deep chasm between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. The former chasm was absolute, the latter was relative only; but the Jew could not be expected to perceive this contrast. To the Christian Jew, zealous of the law and all that this zeal implied, the Jew who (in his eyes) apostatized from his Judaism, followed Paul and became a Gentile, was utterly beyond the pale. For the Christian Jew nothing remained but patient endurance of his sufferings, in expectation of the return of Messiah in glory, secure in the knowledge that God is faithful and that what He had promised He would in His own good time perform. This spirit permeates Peter's epistles and Hebrews.

We see, then, three distinct and mutually exclusive and incompatible companies of people—calloused unrepentant Israel; the believing Remnant of the Circumcision who perceived the Evangel of the Circumcision; and those who, called out of Jews and Gentiles, believed the evangel entrusted to the Apostle Paul and became members of the Church which is Christ's body.

This explains the remarkable fact that the Jews of Rome, when they were called together by Paul (Acts 28:17), were quite unaware of what he had written in the Romans Epistle. If they had maintained any contact with the Church there, they would have known something, at any rate, of the contents of the epistle. At the time Paul wrote it he did not even have any idea that he would be able to realize his plan to visit Rome (Rom. 1:10-13; 15:22-25). Some three years passed before Paul came. When he did arrive, there is no sign of hostility to him. The Jews evidently heard from him courteously, and some believed. The meeting seems to have been contentious, but the controversy was among the Jews themselves, not with Paul or with the Church. All this is simply incredible except on the supposition that the Roman Jews knew nothing whatever of the Roman Church or of Paul's Evangel of the Uncircumcision.

Perhaps the most curious feature of the account is the apparent ignorance of the Roman Jews concerning the Evangel of the Circumcision proclaimed by Peter. There is not the slightest indication that they' knew about it or that any of them had accepted it. If they had heard it, directly or indirectly, from any of the Twelve, how came it about that its presentation by Paul to them caused such controversy among them? For it must have been the Evangel of the Circumcision which he presented to them, as this was his invariable recorded procedure throughout Acts. Yet it is very difficult to understand how they could have been unaware of the events in Jerusalem 25 to 30 years before. We are unconsciously apt to look upon these people in some measure as figures in a stained-glass window, rather than as living men and women, much the same as ourselves and highly civilized members of a highly centralized empire. As regards accessibility the civilized world then was not very different from what it was a hundred years ago. There seems nothing for it all but to accept as a fact (which subsequent history has confirmed) what we have said above, that the three sets of people had no dealings whatever with one another.

From this we must not assume that there were no individual contacts. On the contrary, a great deal of the trouble encountered by the Apostle Paul was the consequence of such activities. The first instance is found at the very start of his ministry. In Acts 15:1 we read, "And some, coming down from Judea, taught the brethren that, 'If you should not be circumcised after the custom of Moses you cannot be saved.'" The "no slight commotion and questioning" which ensued forced the Apostles Paul and Barnabas to go to the Twelve at Jerusalem and thrash the matter out. There, we read that "some from the sect of the Pharisees who have believed rise up, saying that 'They must be circumcised, besides charging them to keep the law of Moses.'" However, Peter supported Paul and Barnabas; and James, as regards this particular issue, judged in their favour.

As the late Pastor G. L. Rogers pointed out ("Unsearchable Riches" Vol. 29, 1938, p. 26), the Evangel of the Circumcision does not require the circumcision of those who receive it. He puts the point so admirably that we cannot do better than quote two extensive passages from him. "Peter never speaks of circumcision. He did not require Cornelius to be circumcised (Acts 11:3, 18; 15:7). Nor when he visited the Greek believers in Antioch did he demand that they receive it (Gal. 2:11, 12). Further, at the council at Jerusalem it was determined that the Gentiles were not to be circumcised. No commission requires it of Gentiles either in this age or the next. Circumcision is a sign of nationality and is the advantage of Jews only."{In later writings Major Withers came to see that the evangel of the circumcision has not yet been proclaimed, but it will yet come into operation after God's present purpose for the Gentiles has been concluded RF}

"There was a third and quite distinct 'evangel' which some preached. Paul calls it 'a different evangel which is not another' (Gal. 1:6). It differed from both Paul's evangel and that of the apostleship of the Circumcision. No mixture of these two genuine gospels could produce this 'different evangel.' Paul could not possibly say that what Peter preached was not another gospel. Indeed there is much that the two gospels have in common. The spurious gospel said that Gentiles could not be saved unless they be circumcised. . . The error of the Galatians was that they were forsaking Paul, not to turn to Peter, but to the preachers of this spurious gospel. The 'Galatian heresy' of today does not demand circumcision. It says that those who began in spirit and by grace shall be perfected in flesh by law."

What it all amounts to is this. None of us, not even the Jew, can go back to Moses and carry-on now as if the Christ, the Messiah, had not yet come. Whether they like it or not, He came and in coming radically changed everything. That is the theme of the Epistle to Hebrews. Israel had a clear choice before them in Acts—Messiah or nothing—and the bulk of them would not have Him. That was their tragedy then, and is their abiding tragedy still.

Those Gentiles who received the Evangel of the Circumcision received it in subordination to Israel. They did not become Israelites. Their reception of this evangel brought them into the Kingdom of God. At Peter's word, holy spirit fell on all who were hearing it (Acts 10:44). This was a limited repetition of what happened to the believers of Israel at Pentecost. When the apostles and the brethren who were of Judea heard of this and had listened to Peter's explanation, their comment was "Consequently God gives repentance unto life to the Gentiles, too!" Repentance—the keynote of John the Baptist's proclamation of the Kingdom.

In point of fact, apart from bringing them into the Kingdom of God, the Evangel of the Circumcision had no message for Gentiles at all. How could it have any message to any people other than those to whom it was addressed, the Circumcision? For Gentiles to receive circumcision was in fact acceptance of the obligation to keep the law of Moses, a yoke (Acts 14:10). This was explicitly condemned by Peter, and that ought to be sufficient to convince us. What, then, happened to those Gentiles who at that time accepted the Evangel of the Circumcision? They came into the Kingdom of God, the gratuity of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, and they were heard speaking in languages. (Acts 10:45, 46).

Both evangels, that of the Circumcision and of the Uncircumcision, were concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. That which concerned Him was the element common to both, as we have already seen. The difference between them was in their point of view. One was of the Circumcision. It concerned Israel. It was (rightly) preoccupied with law and with covenant; first covenant responsibility, afterwards covenant blessing. Gentiles confronted with this evangel were involved in it inasmuch as it concerned the Lord Jesus Christ. Being what they were, Gentiles, the covenant aspect of it was none of their business. Its tendency, therefore, on their accepting the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, was to lead them towards the evangel which was designed for them.

The point of view of the other evangel, that of the Uncircumcision, was utterly different. It did not present the Lord Jesus Christ as Priest or as Israel's Messiah. It presented Him as Christ Jesus, as God's Anointed, the Saviour Who died on the cross for mankind. It goes back to the time before Israel was, to Abraham the uncircumcised, one of the' Gentiles; not to Abraham the circumcised, in covenant with God. It goes back further, to Adam; and presents the Lord from heaven as the second Adam; and on that basis it leads to the revelation of the Secret of the Evangel, the Conciliation. All mankind is its field, not the elect race chosen by God and bound to Him by covenant of circumcision. When the Jew was confronted with this evangel, if he was able to entertain it at all its tendency was to lead him away from his own Evangel of the Circumcision. This is what it did to Paul himself and to those of Israel who heard and received his evangel and with him repudiated their standing as Israelites.

Why was there this trend away from the Evangel of the Circumcision?

Pentecost was two-sided. It was a preliminary partial fulfilment of Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:16) preparatory to the coming of the Day of the Lord. This is the theme of Peter's first proclamation. Secondly, it was a call for repentance to Israel, in line with the proclamation of John the Baptist (Acts 2:38, 3:19). It was inaugurated by filling with holy spirit and speaking with languages, which Gentiles (as we have already noticed) later shared. (Acts 10:44-46).

Not till we get to 1 Corinthians 12:14 do we read of languages again. In this passage the Apostle Paul gives directions for their proper use, announces that they will cease and declares them to be a sign, not to the believers, but to the unbelievers. This lengthy exposition leads, not to the Evangel of the Circumcision, but to a statement of his own evangel and to the great revelation of the Secret of the Resurrection.

Until quite recently, Pentecost was practically universally regarded as the birthday of the Church. That "the Church began at Pentecost" was an almost unchallenged dogma. The study of what is generally called Dispensational Truth during the last two generations has given us at least one certain result, that this dogma is a mistake, unfounded and untrue. Yet, like most human activity, this study has been more effective destructively than constructively. We are delivered from seeing the Church which is Christ's body in Acts; but, so far, we are without a really clear idea of what Pentecost was and meant. Moreover, there are elements in the over thrown dogma which are not wholly mistaken. As we have just seen, though Israel (and not the Church of Paul's epistles) was in the forefront of affairs throughout Acts, yet nevertheless, Israel was fading out, was (to change the figure) a rapidly declining force. Everything was leading away from circumcision and the Old Covenant, though not to the New Covenant, but to something which was outside and beyond covenant; away from the law of Moses, though not directly to a higher law, but to a state of things in which law itself was eclipsed by reigning grace. The Israelite him self was confronted everywhere by crisis, so that he could no longer continue as his fathers had done for generations. The Israelite's" Messiah, Jesus Christ, had come; and Messiah's people Israel had crucified Him. Now the Israelite had to decide whether he was to endorse that wicked act. As always, once wrong has been done, to do what is right thereafter is the more difficult in proportion to the magnitude of the wrong. So he had to face the problems discussed a few pages back. No wonder there was a general failure to repent.

Israel were not aware that the Old Covenant was being nullified. They did not know why Moses placed a covering over his face, that it was "so that the sons of Israel were not to, look intently to the consummation of that which is vanishing. But their minds were calloused, for until this very day the same covering is remaining at the reading of the Old Covenant, it not being discovered that, in Christ, it is vanishing." (2 Cor. 3:13, 14). This fact is the key to the understanding of Israel's position during Acts, and now. The Old Covenant is vanishing; the New Covenant cannot be concluded until Israel's tribulation is ended by the coming of their Messiah as Rescuer. (Rom. 11:26, 27).

"Is vanishing." This is in the present tense, indicating a continuous process being carried on. We are not told, anywhere, that the process has ceased; nor are we told when it will cease. Few students appreciate the importance of noticing carefully what Scripture does not say. Instead, we are all too apt to jump to conclusions which imply that Scripture has revealed something concerning which it is, in reality, silent, In the same way, we are not told that the Evangel of the Circumcision is obsolete, or that it has been withdrawn. The fact that it is in, no way applicable to us, at all, does not imply that it is inapplicable to those for whom it is intended, the Circumcision. If anyone should think otherwise, the issue can be brought to a sharp focus by asking one question, "When was the Evangel of the Circumcision withdrawn?" By the Apostle Paul in Acts 28:25-28? By no means, for, as we have already noticed, Paul's declaration refers to something which had already taken place; and besides, the sending of the saving-work of God to the Gentiles does not necessarily imply that it is closed, to all Jews. Israel's callousing was said to be "in part"; so evidently there were some who were not calloused; and for all we are told, there still are.

Are we quite sure that we are not concerning ourselves over-much with Israel's business? We are right in studying it thoroughly so far, as it is revealed, and only so far. The fact that so much is hidden from us is a definite intimation that it is no affair of ours beyond what is revealed.

R. B. Withers

(To Be Continued)
Last updated 7.2.2006