It is not my burden in this Life-study of Acts to cover all the minor points contained in this long book. For example, I am not burdened to speak on such a matter as David being a man according to God’s heart. Rather, my burden in this Life-study is to cover all the crucial points regarding God’s New Testament economy. In other words, I am concerned with all the things in Acts that bear a dispensational significance.
I do not use the word “dispensational” to refer to an age or to God’s way of dealing with people during a certain period of time. Rather, in these messages the word “dispensation” denotes the divine arrangement in God’s eternal economy. In the book of Acts there is much to see concerning this divine arrangement. Acts, therefore, is a book of God’s economy. Many Christians do not have this understanding of Acts. Acts is not merely concerned with acts. This is a book showing us God’s dispensation, God’s economy, God’s arrangement in His eternal economy. My burden in these Life-study Messages is to cover the matter of God’s economy in the book of Acts.
As I come to a particular chapter in Acts, my goal is to see something concerning the divine arrangement of God’s economy in that chapter. This is my goal as we come to chapter fourteen. It may seem that in this chapter we cannot see anything concerning the divine arrangement in God’s economy. But if we study this chapter carefully, we shall be able to see some matters related to this divine arrangement.
Acts 14:1 says, “Now it came about in Iconium that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews and spoke in such a way that a great multitude believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.” As in 13:5 and 14, they did not go to attend the Jewish synagogue gathering, but to take advantage of that gathering to announce the word of God’s grace. Verse 2 continues, “But the Jews who disobeyed stirred up and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers.” Here the Greek word rendered “minds” literally means “souls.”
Acts 14:3 goes on to say, “Therefore they stayed a considerable time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who testified to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done through their hands.” As we have pointed out, the Lord’s grace is the Triune God received and enjoyed by the believers and expressed in their salvation, change in life, and holy living.
As the Lord testified to the word of His grace, He granted signs and wonders to be done through the hands of Paul and Barnabas. Wonders and signs are not part of God’s central testimony of the incarnated, crucified, resurrected, and ascended Christ; neither are they part of His full salvation. Rather, signs and wonders are only evidences that what the apostles preached and ministered was absolutely of God, not of man.
The phrase “the word of His grace” denotes certain dispensational points. In the synagogues the Jewish people did not read the Old Testament in order to know the word of the Lord’s grace. Rather, they read the Scriptures in order to know the word of God’s law, a word belonging to the old dispensation, to the former divine arrangement of God’s economy. But the word of the Lord’s grace replaces the law. The minds of the Jewish people in the synagogues were occupied with the law. But Paul preached Christ as grace to them. They edified the new believers by testifying the word of life and the word of the Lord’s grace. The word “testified” in verse 3 implies that the word of grace already existed and that it had already been preached. Because the word of grace had been preached, testimony was borne to it.
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