In 26:1-29 Paul defends himself before Agrippa. Then in 26:30-32 we have Agrippa’s judgment. Before coming to 26:1-32, I would like to say a further word concerning Paul’s burden in the four Epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Hebrews.
In chapters twenty-one through twenty-six of Acts Paul passed through much suffering, testing, and trial. The Epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Hebrews are the expression of what was on Paul’s heart during the period of time of Acts 21 through 26.
As we have pointed out, Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians during his first imprisonment in Rome. It should have been after this imprisonment that he wrote Hebrews. We should not think that these Epistles were written by accident. On the contrary, they were written after a long period of consideration and preparation. I believe that the two years of being held in custody in Caesarea were a time of preparation for Paul. The more he saw of the situation concerning Jewish religion, Roman politics, and the church and compared this situation with what he had received from the Lord, the more he was burdened to put into writing the revelation he had seen. Paul did not have the opportunity to speak what was on his heart. No doubt, he intended to find a time in a quiet environment where he could write down the revelation concerning God’s New Testament economy. He must have been looking for a chance to put into writing everything he had seen of the Lord concerning the divine economy, and then to send these writings to the churches, where they would be preserved.
We thank the Lord that He gave Paul the time and the place to write Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Hebrews and that we have these four Epistles today. In these four books we see a number of crucial points concerning the dispensational transfer that we have been emphasizing in these messages. This dispensational transfer is a great matter.
In Ephesians 2:14-16 Paul says, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition, the enmity, having abolished in His flesh the law of the commandments in ordinances, that He might create the two in Himself into one new man, making peace, and might reconcile both in one Body to God through the cross, slaying the enmity by it.” Here we see that on the cross Christ abolished all the ordinances. No doubt, this abolishing of the ordinances includes the ones concerning circumcision, diet, and the Sabbath.
Although Christ had abolished these ordinances, James in Acts 21 still promoted them. To be sure, the ordinances abolished by Christ on the cross include the Nazarite vow. Do you not believe that when Christ abolished the ordinances He included the ordinances related to vows? If we have the proper understanding of Ephesians 2 and Acts 21, we shall see that what James did in Acts 21 was contrary to what Christ accomplished on the cross. Christ abolished the ordinances, but James held to them and promoted them.
We may say that the matter of abolishing ordinances is a negative aspect of the revelation in Ephesians. On the positive side, we have Paul’s word concerning the unsearchable riches of Christ: “To me, less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach to the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ as the gospel” (3:8). For the present, however, we would emphasize that in Ephesians Paul clearly says that on the cross Christ has abolished all the Judaic ordinances of the Old Testament.
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