Friday, June 23, 2017

Mid-Acts Dispensationalism in the 1800's

The opponents of Mid-Acts Dispensationalism often make the claim that what we believe and teach cannot be right because it is a recent development that started with men like C.R. Stam (1909-2003). We are not to determine what is sound doctrine on the basis of who taught it and when, but on the basis of the word of God. The truth found in verses like 2 Tim. 2:15 and Eph. 3:1-13 has been in the Bible ever since Paul wrote it by inspiration of God in the first century, and it is always true regardless of who believes it. 

I am sure there were believers down through church history that believed Christ gave Paul a distinct message and ministry as the apostle of the Gentiles, but we don't know anything about them because they didn't write any books. But some did write, and it is always a blessing find such material. 

I have always enjoyed reading after C.H. Mackintosh (1820-1896). He was a great writer that is still esteemed today by many fundamentalists. His books on the Pentateuch are classics that every Bible student should have. There are preachers that would call me a heretic, but they greatly respect Mackintosh. Well, consider this "heresy" that he wrote over 125 years ago. It can be found at the end of his book on the Life and Times of Elijah. 

"The doctrine of the Church's heavenly character was developed in all its power and beauty by the Holy Ghost in the apostle Paul. Up to his time, and even during the early stages of his ministry, the divine purpose was to deal with Israel. There had been all along a chain of witnesses, the object of whose mission was exclusively the house of Israel. 

The prophets, as has been already observed in the opening of this paper, bore witness to Israel, not only concerning their complete failure, but also the future establishment of the kingdom agreeably to the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. They spoke not of the Church as the body of Christ. How could they, when the thing was a profound mystery, "not revealed to the sons of men"? 

The thought of a Church composed of Jew and Gentile, "seated together in the heavenlies," lay far beyond the range of prophetic testimony. Isaiah, no doubt, speaks in very elevated strains of Jerusalem's glory in the latter day; he speaks of Gentiles coming to her light, and kings to the brightness of her rising; but he never rises higher than the kingdom, and as a consequence never brings out anything beyond the covenant made with Abraham, which secures everlasting blessedness to his seed, and through them to the Gentiles. We may range through the inspired pages of the law and the prophets, from one end to the other, and find nothing concerning "the great mystery" of the Church.

Then, again, in the ministry of John the Baptist we observe the same thing. We have the sum and substance of his testimony in these words: "Repent, for the kingdom is at hand." He came as the great precursor of the Messiah, and sought to produce moral order amongst all ranks. He told the people what they were to do in that transition state into which his ministry was designed to conduct them, and pointed to Him that was to come. Have we anything of the Church in all this? Not a syllable. The kingdom is still the very highest thought. John led his disciples to the waters of Jordan — the place of confession in view of the kingdom; but it was not yet that character of repentance produced in them who are made members of the body of Christ. 

The Lord Jesus Himself then took up the chain of testimony. The prophets had been stoned; John had been beheaded; and now "the Faithful Witness" entered the scene, and not only declared that the kingdom was at hand, but presented Himself to the daughter of Zion as her King. He too was rejected, and, like every previous witness, sealed His testimony with His blood. Israel would not have God's King, and God would not give Israel the kingdom.

Next came the twelve apostles, and took up the chain of testimony. Immediately after the resurrection they inquired of the Lord, "Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" Their minds were filled with the thought of the kingdom. "We trusted," said the two disciples going to Emmaus, "that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel." And so it was. The question was, when? The Lord does not rebuke the disciples for entertaining the thought of the kingdom; He simply tells them, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:7-8)

Agreeably to this, the Apostle Peter, in his address to Israel, offers them the kingdom. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, and the times of refreshing shall come from the presence (apo prosopon) of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."

Have we here the development of the Church? No. The time had not yet arrived for this. The revelation of the Church was yet to be, as it were, forced out as something quite extraordinary — something quite out of the regular course of things. The Church as seen in the opening of the Acts exhibits but a sample of lovely grace and orderexquisite indeed in its way, but not anything beyond what man could take cognisance of and value. In a word, it was still the kingdom, and not the great mystery of the Church. Those who think that the opening chapters of Acts present the Church in its essential aspect have by no means reached the divine thought on the subject.

Peter's vision in Acts 10 is decidedly a step in advance of his preaching in Acts 3. Still, however, the grand truth of the heavenly mystery was not yet unfolded. In the council held at Jerusalem for the purpose of considering the question that had arisen in reference to the Gentiles, we find the apostles all agreeing with James in the following conclusion: "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things." (Acts 15:14-17) Here we are taught that the Gentiles, as such, are to have a place with the Jews in the kingdom. 

But did the council at Jerusalem apprehend the truth of the Church, of Jews and Gentiles so truly formed in "one body" that they are no more Jew nor Gentile? I believe not. A few members might have heard it from Paul (see Gal. 2:12), but as a whole they do not seem to have understood it as yet.

We infer, therefore, that the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles by the mouth of Peter was not the development of the great mystery of the Church, but simply the opening of the kingdom, agreeable to the words of the prophets, and also to Peter's commission in Matt. 16: "And I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Mark, it is "the kingdom," and not the Church. Peter received the keys of the kingdom, and he used those keys, first to open the kingdom to the Jew, and then to the Gentile. But Peter never received a commission to unfold the mystery of the Church. Even in his Epistles we find nothing of it. He views believers on earth; as strangers, no doubt, but yet on earth; having their hope in Heaven and being on their way thither, but never as the body of Christ seated there in Him.

It was reserved for the great apostle of the Gentiles to bring out, in the energy and power of the Holy Ghost, the mystery of which we speak. He was raised up, however, as he himself tells us, before the time. "Last of all, He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." Things were not sufficiently matured for the development of the new revelation of which he was made the peculiar minister, and hence he styles himself one born before the time; for such is the real force of the original word. And how was he before the time? Because Israel had not as yet been finally set aside. The Lord was still lingering over His beloved city, unwilling to enter into judgement; for, as another has said, "Whenever the Lord leaves a place of mercy, or enters a place of judgement, He moves with a slow and measured pace."

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! I have that book and will share this with PB friends! Thank you, David Jared


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