UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF ACTS
from "On So-called Lord's Supper"
Maurice M. Johnson
Long Beach, California
July 14, 1955
But Paul by divine inspiration in 2 Corinthians said, "Henceforth", and we'd have to go back and read the first part of that chapter, all the three chapters in 2 Corinthians, to see the order and the progress of doctrine. In the 3rd chapter he is talking about Israel with the new covenant, and that they are still blinded under the law, and they don't see the truth about Christ the Messiah, and he says up to this time, "I have been an able minister of the new testament". Just like he said in 1 Corinthians 9, "To those... though I'm free from all men by the way, turn to 1 Corinthians 9:19. I think this is a very, very important scripture. Of course, there's a real sense in which all Scripture is important, but I believe from the standpoint of understanding the book of Acts, for instance, and how it was that during that period we have Paul having Timothy circumcised, Acts 16:3, having his-head shaved with a Jewish vow ... by the way, after he established the church at Corinth. In Acts the l8th chapter we read of Paul going to Corinth and his missionary work there and the founding of the church of God in Corinth. And it was during that time that he told them about the new covenant supper, as he expressly says in the 11th chapter of 1st Corinthians, he says, "I have delivered unto you that which I also received of the Lord how the night He was betrayed He took bread", and so forth. So while Paul was at Corinth, recorded in Acts the 18th chapter, was when he gave them what the Lord had said about the last supper.
Now watch. So after he left Corinth, having established a church there and having told them about the new covenant supper, in a neighboring town of Cenchrea he takes a Jewish vow, has his head shaved, proving he's still practicing Jewish religion in some connection. And now letís see why, I Corinthians 9:19, "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more."
There are many Bible teachers and preachers who argue that the reason Paul practiced Judaism during the book of Acts was because he was a compromiser. Some of us heard that "Jesus Only" debater last Sunday contending over and over again that the reason Paul had Timothy circumcised, Acts 16:3, the reason he had his head shaved with a Jewish vow, Acts 18:18, and the reason that he went into the temple to join four men that had a vow that they might shave their heads and wait for the days of purification, water baptism, one of the Jewish water baptisms, God-given, Acts 21 verses 18-25, and wait until a blood offering should be offered in the temple 25 years after Christ shed His blood, doing away with all physical ordinances. Then what's Paul meaning, what does he mean by going into the temple with the veil of the temple sewed up again now?
You remember when Christ cried on the cross, "It's finished", there was an earthquake and we're told the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, proving by Christ's sacrifice outside Jerusalem God was through with His typical sacrifices. And the veil in the temple which was the last thing between ... that kept the unsaved and the people out from the presence of God where He typically met in the Holy of Holys. The veil you remember was the last thing that separated... the holy place and the outer court from the Holy of Holys where God met the sinner typically when the high priest went in once a year to be alone. But when Christ cried on the cross, "My God, My God, Why ... why has Thou forsaken Me?" then cried with a Loud voice, "Tis finished", there was an earthquake, and the veil in the temple in Jerusalem from top to bottom proving that God did it, going from top to bottom.
But God Let the Jewish priests and rabbis sew it up again. And 25 years Later Paul goes into the temple in Jerusalem, Acts 21 verses 18-25, to wait for a blood offering. Why? Because it hasnít become Godís time to reveal to the Jewish believers the truths we later find in the book of Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews 10th chapter weíre told, "Christ by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified". And it's in that epistle, written after the time of Acts 21, that Paul was inspired to write to the Jewish believers explaining to them that the Jewish program, religious I mean, the Ten Commandments with its system of "meats and drinks, and divers washings," or different baptisms, "and carnal ordinances imposed on Israel until the time of reformation", that that time has now come, so we don't need those physical things any more, Hebrews 9:8-10.
Now notice, "meats and drinks", doesn't that include the Passover supper? Certainly. Well doesn't it include the new covenant supper? Of course, [ ? ? ?] Paul says in Hebrews 9:8-10 that that system was imposed upon Israel until the time of reformation. Now let's see if in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul isnít referring to practicing those things when we come among the Jews as late as ... really after Paul was saved. Look now, 1 Corinthians 9:19,
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew,
I repeat, there are many Bible teachers who want to hold onto the physical ordinances, that is, a part of the Jewish physical ordinances, the new covenant supper and water baptism, when they're faced with what Paul gave in having Timothy circumcised, Acts 16:3, having his head shaved, Acts 18:18, practicing another water baptism as late as Acts 21, and waiting for a blood sacrifice in the temple in Jerusalem, they say, "Well, you know why he did that? Because he was a compromiser, he let down. He didn't want to offend the Jews and so he just went in there, and did what they told him to." But that brings on more trouble to say that, because weíre told in Acts 21 that James and all the elders, Christian Jewish elders in Jerusalem, told Paul to go in the temple ...
(comment from audience)
With a Gentile.
(comment from audience)
So when you accuse Paul of doing that in Acts 21 because he was a compromiser and a smooth politician, didn't want to offend the Jews, and so he went in the temple to practice another water baptism and blood sacrifice, and you accuse Paul of doing that because he was a compromiser, you also bring in James and all the Christian elders at Jerusalem, and not only that but then you're confronted with the problem, why did the Spirit of God have the inspired historian Luke who wrote the book of Acts, humanly, why didn't the Spirit of God have Luke say what you're now saying, that Paul was a pussyfooter and a compromiser and a coward and a politician, and that also James and the elders. Well you see, you're starting a process that'll wind you up in a lot of trouble. Not only that, if you're logical, not only that, it will lead you to deny the inspiration of Scripture.
Now that is proven by this passage; here, 1 Corinthians 9. Paul, why did you practice Judaism among the Jews? Why "that I might gain the more", 19th verse again,
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a dew, that l might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the Law,
"Practicing the Mosaic system and Jewish religion?" "Yes." "Well don't you know better than that?" "Yes, but the Jews don't." And the Lord is still dealing with the Jews as Jews at this period. And when Paul's among the Jews, and those were the Ten Commandment program, he practiced it. Now watch. "And I do this"
that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law,
I act and, you know, walk as one without law,
(being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some. And this I do
"because I'm a coward and a pussyfooter and a compromiser." That what he said?
this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Notice how he goes on now. Now if Paul isn't telling the truth as the Spirit of God wanted him to, then how are you going to tell what's inspired of God and what's not? How are you going to tell whatís right and what's wrong? Paul gives this as a part of his Christian ministry; notice how he goes on.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainty.
Now put that with the argument that Paul practiced Judaism during the book of Acts because he was a compromiser. Now that was pretty uncertain of him wasn't it? He said,
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body,
or keep my body under,
and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Castaway from what? Well what the runners are running for. If it's salvation, then Paul presents this monstrous contradiction: that somebody dead in trespasses and sin is running to get life.
(comment from audience)
Yeah, but now watch. Somebody dead in trespasses and sin is running to win the prize of life. A dead man running so he can be made alive. See that's the hopeless contradiction that they run a [ ? ] ... "I think this picture is talking about salvation, and if you don't run real hard and real careful, brother, you're liable to lose your salvation. Paul said he was." I was reading that from 'Roman Catholics Today', a Roman Catholic book, [ ? ] ÖPaul ... it was a book entitled "Paul Over All", and the writer undertook to prove that Paul was never sure of his salvation, Paul said work out your salvation with fear and trembling; Paul said, "I run lest I myself be a castaway". And as brother Baker just said, this presents a race where just one gets the prize, but they all run. But according to this then, there shall be one person saved and Paul said "I hope I'll be the one". But above there he says, "Now you run so you can obtain". Looks like he made a bunch of winners. He said we could be as straightened as in a race, we're careful about the way we train and run because we're running for a prize even though it's corruptible. But in this race of life we must be all the more careful for an incorruptible crown. Well the incorruptible crown isn't salvation as a result of how fast we ran, it's the gift of God, it's the gift of God.
Now notice please in the 9th chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul is saying, telling about how he practiced Jewish religion when he was among the Jews, how he observed the Ten Commandment program when he was among those under the law, that he might gain them. Now in 1 Corinthians 11 should we be surprised if we hear him speaking of the new covenant supper, new covenant to be made with Israel and Judah. I started to say awhile ago from Jeremiah 31:31; let me quote it now, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord," Jeremiah writing by inspiration to Israel and Judah, he's an Israelitish prophet, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I'll make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah". Now the covenant couldn't possibly be made with us Gentiles because we never had the old covenant. "I'll make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah." And certainly the new covenant couldn't be for the church which is Christ's body because it never had the old. If I were to say I have some new shoes and it was the first pair I ever had, it would be more accurate to say I have some shoes. And certainly if I were to also refer to them as second, second pair of shoes, then that would suggest very positively that I had a first pair.
Now in Hebrews the 9th chapter we find the covenant that God made and promised to make with Israel and Judah, referred to as, two: the first covenant and the second covenant, the old covenant and the new covenant. There're just two covenants there: once they're called first and second respectively, and then again in the same context they're called old and new; first or old, new or second covenant. Now could we as Gentiles have the second covenant if we didn't have the first? No, and we're expressly told back in Exodus as well as in Romans the 2nd chapter and in 1 Corinthians 9 that the Gentiles didn't have the Ten Commandment covenant. We never had but the Abrahamic covenant. So if we never had the first covenant, we couldn't have the second covenant as the second covenant. It would be our first covenant wouldn't it? Now those are simple things, but they're simply true; they're the truth, and we need to notice it.
The new covenant supper is to be for the new covenant people. And that's why I'm sure Matthew, Mark, and Luke when presenting Christ primarily in connection with His earth people and earth program, they go into detail about the new covenant supper. But when John the beloved was led of the Holy Spirit to present Christ primarily as the uncreated Eternal, and begins in the very salutation, "In the beginning was the Word". And as I said awhile ago, in the book of John we have all of those wonderful "I am" titles which are dateless. Not "I was" or "I will be" or "I am for the present", but "I am". "I am the bread from heaven", not "I will be when they bake me in a oven and then the priest says hocus-pocus over Me", but "I am the bread from heaven". Brother Arian (?) and his wife said they appreciated very much something I gave on that one day. I said notice here in John the 6th chapter, Christ doesn't stay, "I'm going to be the bread at the next Passover", because that was a year before the last Passover when He said that, John 6. But He said, "I am the bread from heaven. I'm the bread from heaven", not the bakery, "I'm the bread from heaven".
So when we compare scripture with scripture, rightly divide the Word of truth as we're commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:32 and 2 Timothy 2:15. In 1 Corinthians 10:32, and it's interesting that that's in the 10th chapter, before we get to the things about the supper in the 11th chapter, Paul staid, "Giving none offense neither to the Jew, nor the Gentile, nor the church of God". Now the new covenant supper was promised for Israel and Judah. And after the truth of the one body in Christ composed of Jews and Gentiles, they've lost their national identity, after that truth was given we never hear of a mention of the physical supper anymore. Because it's out of harmony with the truth about the one body in Christ, Christ in us and we in Christ. How could a member of my body, and that's what every Christian is in relationship to Christ, we're members of His body, Romans 12:4 and 5, 1 Corinthians 12, the chapter after Paul mentions the supper. He could give some new truth to the Corinthians about being members of the body of Christ, but he doesn't tell them how to walk yet. In the second epistle he says now, "Now we don't know men after the flesh anymore, because if any man be in Christ he's a new creature".
Now how could a member of my body ... take my right foot, could my right foot carry on a program that would show forth the death of my head till he come? Don't you see that's a contradiction of thought, it's a contradiction of terms, and an absurdity. Could my foot, a member of my body, show forth the death of my head until it comes? When you put Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 11 over with the truth about the one body, you have hopeless confusion of thought. 1 Corinthians 11, "As oft as you do this, you do show forth the Lord's death till He comes". Now that's what the Jewish apostles were to do and the Jewish believers in Christ. They ... as long as they were looking for the Messiah to come back to be the angel of the covenant and to establish the kingdom and make them a kingdom of priests, they were to show forth His death believing He shed the blood of the new covenant. He said, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, the new covenant in My blood".
Now peopleÖ [ ? ] to stay, "Well if you don't have the new covenant supper, then you don't have remission of sins, cause Christ said as recorded in Matthew 26 the night He was betrayed, "This cup is the new testament in My blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins". And you reject the new covenant cup, you reject remission of sins in Christ's blood." And when I first heard that argument it really floored me. I thought, "Whoof! That was pretty strong. I don't want to reject remission of sins in Christ's blood. But wait a minute, let's see what He did say." "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, or new testament, in My blood which was shed for many for the remission of sins." Now which was shed -- the blood or the covenant? Which was shed? The covenant? Was the covenant shed for the remissions of sin? Or was it the blood that was shed for the remission of sins?
Now watch. Christ said, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins." The Abrahamic covenant is in Christ's blood. The Noahic covenant which guaranteed that ... that was the covenant God made with Noah, and He said, "I'll never send another flood of water -- judgment put on the world. And now the token of My covenant is the rainbow in the clouds. When I see the rainbow ... I'll remember, it's My ... a token that Iíll never send another judgment of water." Well why wasn't God going to send another judgment of water? I believe because of what Christ was going to do for the world in dying for the sins of the world.
And so there's all the blood in connection with the Noahic covenant. God didn't tell Noah to shed the blood of a bullock or a lamb or a goat and Let that blood be the blood of the Noahic covenant. Well what was the blood? Every covenant must have a blood. The Mosaic covenant had to have blood; it's the blood of bulls and goats and lambs; ashes of a heifer that is killed. Well , what was the blood for that Noahic covenant, Noah's covenant? The blood of Christ. What was the blood of the Abrahamic covenant? The blood of Christ. And we read of the covenant made with David, he's going to never want to have a king to reign on his throne. Well what was the blood of that covenant? The blood of Christ. And so Christ said, "This cup is the new testament in My blood". There's the Noahic covenant in Christ's blood. There's the Abrahamic covenant in Christ's blood. There's the Davidic covenant in Christ's blood. There's the new covenant in Christ's blood. And the Mosaic covenant is the blood of bulls and goats. That's why it waxed old. Because the blood of bulls and goats were not effective.
The blood of the (now I'm only going to take a little bit longer, just a little bit longer), please notice that because it's ... in the first place it's plain unforced truth about the different covenants that were all on the basis of Christ's blood. And the one covenant that was on the basis of imperfect sacrifices, bulls and goats and ... We're told in Hebrews 9 that it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats and all could give a good conscience to the person who brought those sacrifices. Because, the blood of bulls and goats wouldn't satisfy for the death penalty for man. But the blood of bulls and goats were pictures in type of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. So the Mosaic Ten Commandment covenant, we're told in Hebrews 8, waxed old. Why? Because the blood of the covenant wasn't precious blood of a spotless victim. It was the diseased blood of cursed animals. Of course they were without spot and blemish, the lambs were, comparatively, but they were all in the realm of the fall you see, and just another lamb.
And so the argument is given there, the clue, that the reason the Ten Commandment could wax old and be termed the old covenant and vanish away, was because the basis for it was the work of man and they were very imperfect. Keep the Ten Commandments -- that covenant. You keep these Ten Commandments and you'll be all right. "Oh-h, but we can't." "All right, bring a blood sacrifice in your place:." And so their efforts to keep keeping the Ten Commandments was imperfect and the blood of the sacrifice was imperfect. So what value was the Ten Commandments? Was it of eternal value? It was not. That's why it had in it the elements that caused it to wax old. It was a temporary covenant. But every other covenant is everlasting. And some places we read of the everlasting covenant. There's a sense in which you might say, from the Jews' standpoint, that the Davidic covenant will be everlasting, Christ going forever and forever and forever. Sit on the throne of David and reign forever and of His kingdom there shall be no end, Luke 1:33.
Incidentally, that's very important to see with these people that deny that death has been accomplished ... been destroyed, the Universalists. They all deny the eternal reign of Christ. They've got to have Christ deliver up the kingdom in the future. That's another subject, but it's very, very clearly taught in the Word of God that Christ is going to reign as king forever and forever and of His kingdom there shall be no end. People try to argue, "Well that means of the kingdom but His reign will end". Well it won't be His kingdom then.
(question from audience) What does that word 'increase' speak of?
In Isaiah 9, "And of the increase". Thatís good. I never thought of that in this connection. It certainly has some point and place in this line of thought, usually. That was your thought too wasn't it?
(comment from audience) Well I was wondering ... "Of the increase of His government."
(comment from audience) Yeah, how is it going to keep on increasing if the Lord isn't going to keep on reigning.
That's good. That's right. I never thought of that in this connection. The word 'increase' in Isaiah 9, "He sits up on the throne of His father David, and of the increase of His government", so forth, there'll be no end.
Now back for a little bit. Just a few more things about the supper. I haven't of course done more than give a foundation, and shall we say in some respects preliminary, but I know it will lead any honest, humble student on to the right conclusion that members of the church which is Christ's body cannot have, according to God's program, a new covenant supper to observe in the physical realm. Because I as member of the body of Jesus Christ, the church which is Christ's body, I as a member of the body of Christ, cannot show forth Christ's death till He come.
Now watch. In Paul's epistles, we have these two phases or aspects of Christianity, salvation, brought out very clearly over and over again. As to my salvation and my eternal acceptance, I have been made "accepted in the Beloved", Ephesians 1:5. God the Father has made all believers in Christ accepted in the Beloved. In the light of ... in the language of ... Colossians, "we are dead", all Christians are dead as to the old Adamic nature and our life is "Hid with Christ in God". Ephesians 2, we're "new creatures in Christ", "raised up and made to sit together in the Heavenlys in Christ". Philippians 3:3, "We're the circumcision", or the crucified ones, "which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh". Now, there're others ... and "If any man be in Christ, he's a new creature", don't know him after the flesh.
Now those are a few of the passages that speak of the believer in this dispensation being in Christ, in Christ in the glory, in heaven already, seated in the heavens. But I'm on earth temporarily while I'm physically alive to live for Christ in this veil of tears and to be an ambassador of Christ. Well what's the aspect of salvation down here? Christ in me. And that's just as clearly brought out, and as far as I know, it's repeatedly (Iíve never counted the times) as the expression "in Christ". I'm in Christ, made accepted in the Beloved, sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, and my life hid with Christ in God, so that guarantees my eternal salvation. I'm already complete in Christ by the way too, Colossians 2, complete in Christ and my life hid with Christ in God. Was that ... all in Christ is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile.
Well I couldn't from that standpoint of my salvation, that aspect, as one in Christ, I couldn't show forth His death till He come could I? Could I, as a new creature in Christ, show forth His death till He come? Not very well, I couldn't possibly.
Well now there's the other aspect to the Christian life, Christ in me. While I'm on earth, down here, with my mortal body, it's Christ in me. 2 Corinthians 13, "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you be a reprobate?" Paul said, "and I trust you shall know that we're not reprobates".
All right, how can I with Christ in me, now again, just again, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 4 and 5, Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me". Now can I, and yet not I but Christ in me, show forth His death till He come?
Utterly inconceivable, impossible.
So then what's the meaning, ... how are we going to understand the fact that Paul and some of the Christians at Corinth, they were showing forth His death till He came? They were showing forth His death till He came as Jewish believers who up to that time had not been told but what Christ very likely would come back as the Messiah in their lifetime to establish the kingdom. And so when Paul was among them, 1 Corinthians 9, "To those that are Jews, I became as a Jew, to those under law as under the law", First Corinthians. But in 2 Corinthians 5:16, "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh". Iím through with that part knowledge, through with going to the Jews as Jews. No longer would Paul say as he said in Romans 1:16, "Iím not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it's the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first", I mean that ... that is God's order. It's no longer God's order. After Romans 9th, 10th, and 11th chapters, and then Paul got to Rome and cut the last group of Jews off in ... official Jews in Rome, Acts 28:28, then was no longer Jew first.
Now, Spirit-taught and Spirit-led Christians will not observe the Jew first order in his gospel preaching because he regards Jews and Gentiles alike, and the Jews have no priority, and their Synagogues are not recognized by God at all today except being corrupted Judaism. And the temple has been destroyed in Jerusalem, and the Jews have no place to have their Passover, they have no place for their feast of Tabernacles, they have no place for anything but to go to the cross by faith. And when they go to the cross of Jesus Christ by faith and accept what God's Word says happened there, that Christ died for their sins and our ... us Gentiles' sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and rose again the third day, when they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ they're instantly saved, created anew in Christ Jesus, and God makes the believing Jew and the believing Gentile, the twain, one new man in Christ, and the physical ordinances are done away with, Paul says in that same context, Ephesians 2, Colossians 2. And 2 Corinthians 5, "Henceforth", from now on, "know we no man after the flesh, though we have known Christ after the flesh", He was a minister of the circumcision, Romans 15:8, "'but we don't know Him that way any more", minister of the covenant -- new covenant, "donít know Him that way anymore. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he's a new creature: old things are passed away."
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