Thursday, September 6, 2012

Transition makes the difference

I am confused by a seeming contradiction in Acts 10:9-10.  Can it be true that Jews should add ‘confess with thy mouth’ to faith for salvation in the dispensation of grace?  Was this an exception for first century Jews during the transition period only?  If there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in the dispensation of grace, why would they have a different requirement for salvation?

The book of Romans was written during the book of Acts (the transitional period); therefore, Romans contains a lot of things relevant to Jews; for example:

Romans 7:1

Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

Paul is speaking here to the Jews who were in Rome who knew the law.  You can also see this transition in other places such as in 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians.

Galatians 2:15

We who are Jews by nature,

During the transition period we see that Paul water baptized in 1 Corinthians 1 and the book of Acts

Acts 16:14-15

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.  And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

And he circumcised Timothy:

Acts 16:1-3
Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

We know that water baptism and circumcision are not required by God today; so why did Paul do it?   Because it was during the transition.  It looks like an exception for the first century Jews is the issue in Romans 9, 10 and 11.

The focus in those three chapters is Israel’s past; Israel’s present condition in the Dispensation of Grace; and Israel’s future in the Kingdom.

So during the transition there was an exception for the Jews.

Romans 10
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

What is the issue?  Israel’s salvation.

2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

That is the issue.  Watch how Paul expounds this to the Jewish people.  He’s going to use Moses.

5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

If you do/keep the law, you live.  He’s talking about eternal life in Time Past.

6 But [in contrast] the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise [now here is how it’s working now with the Jews at the time Paul wrote this…]Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

The issue is who is Messiah.  That is the issue with the Jews.  That is why there is an exception in this early part of the Dispensation of Grace.

7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

Messiah came down from heaven; he died, but he did not stay dead; he rose from the dead.  There are two issues with the Jews:  who is Messiah (Jesus!); and the necessity to believe that he rose from the dead.  That is the message of salvation for the Jews at this time.

8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

The word of faith is the Lord Jesus Christ…


9 That if thou [the Jew] shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, [Paul is telling them that the moment they believe Moses’ preaching and accept that, as Paul tells them that Jesus of Nazareth is their Lord, they are to confess him…] and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

…that he is alive today.  Remember in the gospels it was commonly said that Jesus was an impostor and that his disciples came and stole his dead body.  This is the Jewish mindset that Paul is trying to deal with here. Paul tells them to believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord, and to believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead.  That is the focus in Romans 10 for the Jew.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

This is Jewish terminology (confess with your mouth).

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

All this terminology is familiar to Jews.  Peter quoted it in the book of Acts.  The exception is that the first century Jew was to call on the name of the Lord, but that is not the norm in the dispensation of grace in our day.  Remember that at the time Paul wrote Romans, he only had partial knowledge of the mystery.  He had only written Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 and 2 Corinthians.

Today we are to use the complete knowledge that God gave us in all 13 of Paul’s epistles.

1 Corinthians 13

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

These were temporary spiritual gifts operating in the infancy of the Body of Christ.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

Paul only had partial knowledge at this point.  He worked with what he knew.  When he water baptized, that’s what he knew.  That gradually fell off the scene.  He circumcised Timothy because that is what he knew; and that fell off the scene.  We begin to see these things as the dispensation of grace continues and as the mystery is revealed through Paul’s epistles…

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Paul is saying that as he grows and matures spiritually in the understanding of the Mystery through the visions and revelations given to him by God, (2 Cor. 12:1), he reveals it and we’re to operate in it.  But when he wrote Romans, he was dealing with Jews in the synagogues and they would have to confess the Lord Jesus Christ and believe that God raised him from the dead.

The best example of this exception to faith alone in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is how Paul was saved in Acts 9.  Did you ever wonder about the fact that Paul wasn’t trusting in the shed blood of Christ?  He didn’t say that he believed Christ died on the cross to pay for his sins, was buried and rose again.  That is our Gospel!!  We tell people to trust the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  But Paul didn’t know any of this! And yet, he was saved on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:4-6

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

And he said, Who art thou, Lord [Jehovah]? And the Lord said, I am Jesus [of Nazareth (Acts 26:9)] whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks [the word was convicting Paul].

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Paul confessed Jesus as Lord and obviously he believed that he rose from the dead because he was talking to him.  The moment he said “Lord,’ it was an exception in the dispensation of grace.  This is when God started the dispensation of grace, and yet Christ didn’t preach the cross (that information was revealed later); he didn’t tell Paul that he died to pay for his sins with his blood on the cross.  He simply revealed himself to the apostle and told him to stop fighting the Word that was convicting his heart telling him that he was Messiah.  Like Paul says in Romans 10 – the word of God is pointing to Jesus; just believe it. 

Romans 10:8

8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

So when Paul as a Jew stops fighting the conviction of God’s Word in his spirit and when he says, ‘Who art Thou Lord?’ and when the Lord says ‘I am Jesus’, that is when Paul calls Jesus Lord and he is saved that moment.  That was how God dealt with Jews during the transition period during the book of Acts.

Hopefully this helps!  

Do you have a question for Pastor Ron?

1 comment:

  1. That makes so much sense. Thank you! Now I can clearly explain to others why we don't have to confess with our mouths to be saved today.