concerning the overlapping of the
Jewish and the Church dispensations
as recorded in the Book of Acts

by Ed Stevens

-  As Revealed in the Book of Acts     Go to Transition Chart  

The Book of Acts, by a succession of forward steps, with long periods of time intervening between the successive steps, covers the transition period. At its beginning, the human family is divided into Jews and Gentiles only, at its end there are three divisions - Jews, Gentiles, and the Church - the latter being formed of both Jews and Gentiles. In the Church there is a new order without any differences between tbs. Jews and the Gentiles.

God's word reveals to the careful student the fact that Paul, the apostle, who calls himself "Jesus Christ's slave," (Rom. 1:1) was called to an unique ministry. Prove this statement (1 Thess. 5:21) by an attentive, unhurried and thoughtful reading of the following passages in his own writings: Gal. 1:11-20; 2:1-9; Eph. 3:1-12; Col. 1:23-27; 1 Tim. 1:11; Tit. 1:3; Rom. 11:13; 15:15, 16; 16:25, 26. This peculiar ministry of Paul is confirmed by some of his recorded utterances - e. g., Acts 20:24 - and by the inspired writings of other men: Luke in Acts 9:15 and 13:2, 4; and Peter in 2 Pet. 3:15, 16.

Paul, having received a commission from the Lord in the heavens ("not of men" [i. e., from men, as a source], "neither by man" [i. e., through man, as an agent] - Gal. 1:1), ministers to the Gentiles in thirteen epistles. And when the Book of Acts closes he is found at Rome, a prisoner waiting a hearing before Caesar, to whom he had appealed as a Roman citizen, after having been falsely accused of the Jews as "a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple." - Acts 24:5, 6. Up to this time he had written 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, probably in that order. After reaching Rome he writes Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians, Hebrews, 1 Timothy, Titus and 2 Timothy.

In this latter group of epistles (which have been called the prison epistles") the "mystery" concerning the Church, which is Christ's body, is FULLY revealed. Certain vital revelations are also made in regard to the walk of those who are in the Church, while their separation, and their hope are more thoroughly explained. It is declared that those who comprise this body have "put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him; where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all." - Col. 3:9-11. See also Gal. 3:26-28.

Note that the Church is His (Christ's) body (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18); that there is one body only (Eph. 4:4); that they who believe are all baptized by (or with, or in) one Spirit into this one body (1 Cor. 12:13); that as many as have been so baptized have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). This is the new creation of 2. Cor. 5:17 (R. V., margin).

The Formation of the Church Causes a New Division of the Human Race

This marvelous, mystical body—the Church —is something never made known to anyone before Paul received the revelation of it (Eph. 3:5, 6; Col. 1:25-27; Rom. 16:25, 26). Our Lord Jesus Christ had said in Matt. 16:18, "I will build my Church," a promise that something new was coming, differing from the "church" with which the Jewish disciples were familiar. Matt. 18:15-17; Acts 7:38 (See also Heb. 2:12.)

In 1 Cor. 10:32 the Church is named as one of three groups into which the human race is divided—"Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God."

The Beginning of the Church

Now note carefully that this group called "the Church" had its beginning at Acts 2:4.


1 Cor. 12:13—"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." Spirit baptism puts the believers into one body.

Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1 :18—"The Church which is His body." The one body into which the believers are put is called "the Church."

Acts 1:5—"Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Spirit) not many days hence." The promise of the imminence of the induction into the Church through the baptism of the Spirit.

Acts 2:4—"They were all filled with the Holy Ghost (Spirit)." The identification of "baptism" and "filling" of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as this is the fulfillment of Acts 1:5.

This is so important that it seems best to emphasize it by putting it in different language. Since Spirit baptism puts the recipients thereof into one body (1 Cor. 12:13), and since that one body is called "the Church" (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18), we know that Acts 2 :4—"They were all filled with the Holy Ghost (Spirit)"—marks the beginning of the Church, "filled" in this place being clearly identified with "baptized" of Acts 1:5 by reason of the fact that the promise was to be fulfilled not many days hence."

As we think of all these things, we become aware that when the Book of Acts opens there are but two groups of peoples in the world—the Jews and the Gentiles. Between these two groups was "a middle wall of partition" (Eph. 2:14), divinely established, it being declared an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation." Acts 10:28. (See also Deut. 7.)

Divine Distinctions Between the Jews and the Gentiles

Now the Jews had much advantage every way, chiefly because that unto them were committed the lively oracles of God (Rom. 3:1, 2; Acts 7:38; cf. Heb. 5: 12). They had received the law of God by the disposition of heavenly messengers (Acts 7:53; cf. Gal. 3:19). They were the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with their fathers (Acts 3:25; Heb. 8:8) and it was unto them that pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. The fathers were theirs, and it was of them, as concerning the flesh, that Christ came (Rom. 9:4, 5).

They were God's people whom He foreknew. (Rom. 11:1, 2.)

The Gentiles, on the contrary, were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world; they were strangers and foreigners (Eph. 2:12, 19).

The Scope of the Book of Acts

In Acts, first chapter, we find our Lord Jesus Christ meeting with the disciples and commanding them not to depart from Jerusalem. This was during the forty days after His resurrection—about 33 A.D. In the last chapter we find Paul a prisoner at Rome, dwelling in his own hired house for two years, during which time he wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews (63 A.D.), in which the Jewish believers are told that the Mosaic system, "imposed on them until the time of reformation" (9:10), is become old and is "now ready to vanish away" (8:13). And the revelation is given about this time that the barriers between the Jews and Gentiles, though potentially broken down by the cross, were actually left standing until the clear revelation of this new man. (Eph. 2:11-19.)

Progressive Revelation Foretold

When our Lord Jesus Christ discoursed to His Jewish disciples on the night He was betrayed, He said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth." (John 16:12, 13.) Had He told them at that time that the religious system under which they were living—the Jews' religion (Gal. 1:13, 14)—was decaying and waxing old and ready to vanish away (Heb. 8:13), that it stood only in meats and drinks and divers baptisms (Gr.) and carnal ordinances (Heb. 9:10), and was to be displaced with "better" things (Heb. 7:19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:40), they could not have borne it. That revelation had to wait for about thirty years, when God gave it to Paul, in order that all differences between Jews who believe and Gentiles who believe might be dissolved. Three years after the revelation in Hebrews, Peter said there were some things in Paul's Scriptures "hard to be understood." —2 Pet. 3:15, 16.

After the warning of Acts 28:28, the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, releasing the "Jews which believe" from the Mosaic system, and unveiling the "better" things that displace the fulfilled law. This brought them into the same relationship with the law that the "Gentiles which believe" had been enjoying for twenty years. Peter makes it clear that the Mosaic law was not enjoyable to the Jew (Acts 15:10).

The carnal ordinances, the ceremonies, the meats and drinks, which were imposed on the Jews in the Mosaic law, have now come to an end. Note with an open mind what God says, Heb. 9:10, concerning the system—

"Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings (Greek baptismos: baptisms) and carnal ordinances (ordinances of the flesh) imposed on them (the Jews) until (when?) the time of reformation (setting things right)."

The student who wishes not to be ashamed" will be charmed and delighted as he rightly divides the Word of Truth with a desire to understand the steps in this transition (See 2 Tim. 2:15). This chart is prepared with the intention of helping in such a study. May our gracious Lord so use it.

Three Phases of the Transition   

Three phases of the transition are clearly defined in the Acts record:     Go to Transition Chart  

From Acts 2:4 (33 A.D.) to Acts 10:43 (41 A.D.)

During this period, only Jews received the message concerning the death, burial, resurrection and appearances of our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 11:19 and 15:14 (margin).

From Acts 10:44 (41 A.D.) to Acts 15:19 (51 A.D.)

During this period, not only were Jews being saved and added to the Church, but Gentiles also, the latter without ordinances of any kind, their hearts being purified by faith (Acts 15:9), but their relationship to the Mosaic law was as yet undecided, raising the question as a matter to be decided in solemn council (Acts 15:2, 6).

From Acts 15:20 (51 A.D.) to Acts 28:28 (63 A.D.)

During this period, the questionable matter having been officially settled, clear distinctions between "Jews which believe" and "Gentiles which believe" were scrupulously observed. The "Jews which believe" were "all zealous of the law" (Acts 21:20), circumcising, shaving their heads, keeping vows, observing feasts and days, and worshiping in "this holy place," the temple. The "Gentile which believe" were not to be "troubled" with the "yoke" of Judaism. Acts 15:10, 19.


God says that both Jew and Gentile are all under sin. (Rom. 3:9) To come out from under sin is your responsibility. You may be brought into a place where there is no condemnation" (Rom. 8:1) by believing the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16), which is as follows:

Jesus Christ, the sinless Lamb of God, was led to the slaughter as your substitute, bearing in His own body your sins on the tree. He cried the cry of a lost soul, condemned to separation from God—"My God my God why host thou forsaken me?"—because He was made to be sin for you. He died and went to hell for you, fulfilling the Scripture as recorded in Ps. 16:10, and they placed His bruised body in a tomb. After three days and three nights He triumphantly broke the chains of death, and came out of the grave, being seen by many and showing Himself alive by many infallible proofs. These things were not done in a corner, but openly, so now we can say we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we declare His majesty and His glory with God, His Father, in the heavens. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." "He that believeth not shall be damned."

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