by David Tavender
In this article, the different conditions in operation before and after Acts 28 will be summarised.
Those BEFORE Acts 28 are recorded in the book of Acts and the epistles written during that time, whilst those AFTER Acts 28 are to be found in the last seven letters of Paul: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon. Here, then, are some of the differences – “before” and “after” Acts 28 – with Scripture references for further study.
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National Status (No.1)
Before Acts 28: There were two distinct orders of believers. These were called “Jews that believe” and “Gentiles that believe” (Rom 1:16; 2:9,10). There were different rules of life and requirements for these two groups of believers (Acts 15:19,20).
After Acts 28: No such distinction exists among God’s saints today. God’s rule for one believer is God’s rule for all. “Gentiles (ie, nations) are fellowheirs” (Eph 2:14,15; 3:6; Col 2:14).
National Status (No.2)
Before Acts 28: The blessings that came to the Gentiles were related to God’s desires and purposes for Israel. They were given to the Gentiles in order to provoke Israel to jealousy. (Rom 11:11)
After Acts 28: The blessings that belong to the Gentiles now have no relationship to Israel. Believers of all nations are blessed independently of Israel.
National Status (No.3)
Before Acts 28: The gospel of salvation was to the Jew first. In each city that was preached to, Jews were given the first opportunity to believe (Acts 3:25,26; 13:5,14,45,46; 14:1; 17:1,2,10; 28:17).
After Acts 28: This gospel is no longer to the Jew first. All national priorities are abolished. Gentile believers become equal with Jewish believers in every way. A literal translation of Eph 3:6 is that Gentiles are joint-heirs, in a joint-body, and joint-partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel.
National Status (No.4)
Before Acts 28: There was an advantage in being a Jew, and circumcision was profitable (Rom 3:1,2; Acts 16:3).
After Acts 28: There is no advantage in being a Jew, and there is no profit in circumcision (Phil 3:5-8).
Before Acts 28: The mystery (or secret) of Ephesians was not yet revealed (Eph 3:3,5).
After Acts 28: The mystery that believers from all nations are now fellow heirs, is revealed (Eph 3:5,6). Previously it had been hidden (Col 1:26). The church of the mystery is a new creation (Eph 2:15); therefore, the term “mystery” is never used of the church during the Acts period.
Before Acts 28: The term “body” was simply an illustration of the groups of Christians within each locality. The relationship of Christ as head of the body did not yet exist, as shown by 1 Cor 12. Here, various members of the body were compared with the eyes, ears, nose, etc – i.e. parts of the head (Rom 12:4,5, 1 Cor 12:12-20). Note that the Greek of 1 Cor 12:27 says “you are a body (not “the” body) of Christ”.
After Acts 28: The Head is Christ and the body is the group of believers (Eph 1:22,23; 4:15,16; 5:23; Col 1:18; 2:19). The term “The Body of Christ” is now the title of the church today, and not just an illustration as was the case previously.
Before Acts 28: Israel’s hope of the kingdom was active right up until Acts 28 (Acts 28:20).
After Acts 28: There is no mention of Israel’s hope, because plans for Israel as a nation have been temporarily laid aside.
Foundation of the World
Before Acts 28: The hope of believers is linked with ages “SINCE (or from) the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34).
After Acts 28: The hope of present believers is linked with ages “BEFORE the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4).
Before Acts 28: God’s administration was not one of pure grace. Some of His acts were gracious, others were acts of justice, and some acts were designed to punish. People died for sinful actions (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:30). .
After Acts 28: God’s administration is one of pure grace. All of his acts are gracious. All direct judgement against human sin is in abeyance (Eph 3:2). Every blessing that comes to us is the result of God acting in grace – not as a result of our earning.
Before Acts 28: Every covenant that God had made with Abraham’s seed was in operation. Some of the blessings that came to them were the result of God keeping a covenant (Acts 3:25,26; Rom 9:4).
After Acts 28: No covenant is in operation, because the people to whom they were made (i.e. Israel) have no standing before God (Gal 3:16; Eph 2:12).
The Lord’s Coming
Before Acts 28: During Acts the Lord’s coming was to be soon (Acts 3:19,20; Heb 10:37; James 5:8; Rev 22:7,12,20). This is why Paul advised widows and the unmarried not to marry (1 Cor 7:8,9; compare Matt 24:19).
After Acts 28: The Lord’s coming to rule in Israel has been postponed and does not relate to the hope of our dispensation. Hence we do not find phrases such as “the Kingdom of heaven is near”. Note that Paul now advises younger widows to marry (1 Tim 5:14).
Before Acts 28: Men (mostly Jews) had constantly opposed the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:48-50; 17:4,5,13; 21:27-29).
After Acts 28: Paul preached with “…no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31).
Before Acts 28: Ceremonies such as water baptism, the Sabbath and the Lord’s Supper (Passover) were observed by Jewish believers.
After Acts 28: Observance of these ordinances, which were for Israel, are now not necessary (Col 2:13-17).
Before Acts 28: Water baptism was an esssential requirement along with faith for salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
After Acts 28: Water baptism is not essential to our forgiveness or redemption (Eph 1:7; 2:8,9).
Before Acts 28: At least two forms of baptism were in operation – water & spirit (Acts 2:1-4; 8:14-17; 10:44-48).
After Acts 28: Only one baptism is now in operation – that of being identified with Christ in His death. (Col 2:12; Eph 4:5; Rom 6:3,4).
Before Acts 28: Belief in Christ as Saviour was confirmed by visible, miraculous signs that accompanied this belief. This was true of every Christian at the time (Mark 16:16-18; Heb 2:4; Rom 15:18,19). Miracles were a sign to Israel (Acts 2:22).
After Acts 28: Believers are no longer accompanied by miracles. This is because the nation of Israel has been temporarily set aside. There are no references to miracles occurring after Acts 28.
Before Acts 28: Paul could heal by his word, his touch, and even a handkerchief (Acts 19:12; 28:8,9).
After Acts 28: Paul was now no longer able to heal (1 Tim 5:23; 2 Tim 4:20).
Content of Writings
Before Acts 28: In his messages, Paul only declared that which was also covered by the writings of Moses and the prophets in some way. “It is written” occurs forty-odd times in Paul’s early epistles (Acts 26:22).
After Acts 28: Paul declared truths revealed to him, which Moses and the prophets knew nothing about. This is because, in previous ages, they were “not made known” (Eph 3:5,9). The term “it is written” occurs not once.
Before Acts 28: Quotations from the Old Testament and references to Old Testament people, places and events abound. Because Israel as a nation still feature in God’s plans, there are many references to the OT which features Israel.
After Acts 28: In the later epistles, there are very few quotations from the OT, and of this number, not one can be said to teach the mystery revealed to Paul. (Eph 4:8; 5:14,31; 6:2; 1 Tim 5:18).
Before Acts 28: Words and phrases associated with “Israel” and its part in God’s plans are very common. Such phrases include: Jew, Israel, Israelite, Abraham, Moses, the Lord’s Supper, miracles, tongues, interpret(ation), heal(ing), prophecy, prophesying, circumcision(ise), and others.
After Acts 28: These terms are virtually non-existent. The few times they do occur, they emphasise the fact that there is no difference between the Jewish and Gentile believers. (Col 3:11; Eph 2:11,12; Phil 3:3-9; Titus 1:14; 2 Tim 3:8).
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The above is an attempt to show the differences in the way that God has dealt with His people before and since the Acts 28 dividing line, and how the relevant Scriptures reflect this. It is our hope that we may all come to a better understanding of the unique and blessed place of the church under this current dispensation of God’s immeasurable grace.