Had Ye Believed Moses
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Saying No Other Things
Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.
Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those that the prophets and Moses said would come —
that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:19-23)
Paul appearing before Agrippa, several years prior to the close of his ministry, briefly recounts and summarizes his entire past ministry. He began with events surrounding his conversion on the Damascus road and continued with events surrounding his subsequent ministry — a ministry that began with the Jews in Damascus, progressed to the Jews in Jerusalem and beyond, and eventually extended out to the Gentiles among the nations.
Paul was the apostle whom God had called for the specific purpose of taking the message of the kingdom of the heavens out into the Gentile world. And though Peter had been used of the Lord to open the door to the Gentiles in this respect (Acts 10:1ff), Paul was the one whom the Lord had called for this purpose (Acts 9:15; Galatians 2:7).
And this was a task that required a special and particular type preparation, available only through one means. It was available only through that part of the Old Testament Scriptures having to do with the matter at hand being opened to Paul’s understanding. And to bring this to pass, the Lord took Paul aside shortly after his conversion (apparently to Arabia, for possibly as long as three years [Galatians 1:16-18]). Then, through personally appearing to Paul, the Lord taught him what is called in Scripture, “the mystery.” The Lord, using Paul’s knowledge of the letter of the Old Testament Scriptures, opened these Scriptures to his understanding, revealing spiritual truths surrounding the “one new man” in Christ.
The mystery is an expression used by Paul to call attention to the heart of that which he proclaimed throughout his ministry; and, this being the case, it would only be natural for Paul to provide explanatory statements surrounding the mystery in his epistles (Romans 16:25; Galatians 1:11, 12; 2:2).
Note how Paul explains the mystery in his letters to Christians in both Ephesus and Colosse:
How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery…
that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,
Whereof I was made a minister… (Ephesians 3:3a, 6, 7a).
of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God,
the mystery …
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25, 26a, 27).
Explaining the mystery is really very simple. The mystery has to do with believing Jews and believing Gentiles being placed together in one body (where there is “neither Jew nor Greek [‘Gentile’],” but “one new man,” in Christ [cf. Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:12-15]), for a purpose. It has to do with those in Christ, whether removed from the Jews or from the Gentiles, being “fellowheirs [heirs together], and of the same body [‘in Christ’], and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel [the good news of the coming glory of Christ]” (Ephesians 3:6). It has to do with those “in Christ” being heirs together within that which had previously been offered to and taken from Israel — heirship with Christ in the kingdom of the heavens.
Then, Paul states the matter another way in his letter to the Christians in Colosse. The mystery has to do with “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). “Christ,” the One Who would rule and reign, was now being proclaimed among the Gentiles. And these Gentiles, who had previously possessed “no hope” (Ephesians 2:12), were now in possession of a hope. Christ being proclaimed among the Gentiles had to do with the Gentiles now being in possession of “the hope of glory.”
(The words, “Christ in you,” could, contextually, be better translated and understood as “Christ among you.” These three words simply capsulize the first part of the verse, which has to do with the mystery being proclaimed among the Gentiles.
The Greek word “en” appears twice in the verse, translated “among” and “in” — “the mystery among the Gentiles,” and “Christ in you.” The word can be translated or understood either way, but its contextual usage must determine which way is correct.
The thought beginning the verse has to do with the mystery being proclaimed among the Gentiles, and this is continued with a definition of that thought — “Christ among you…” That is, the mystery being proclaimed among the Gentiles had to do with Christ being proclaimed among them. It had to do with the One Who would rule and reign now being proclaimed among the Gentiles, giving the previously alienated Gentiles a hope.)
Paul, through preaching Christ among the Gentiles, had been called to proclaim this “hope of glory” throughout the Gentile world. And because Paul had been “obedient to the heavenly vision,” this message, during Paul’s day, was “preached to every creature that is under heaven” (Colossians 1:5, 6, 23). That is, during Paul’s day, the message that he had been called to carry out into the Gentile world was proclaimed to every Christian throughout the then-known world, whether within the nation of Israel or out among the Gentile nations.
The Lord, appearing to and instructing Paul over the course of possibly three years, took the Old Testament Scriptures and opened these Scriptures to his understanding. And this message, derived from an understanding of this aspect of Old Testament revelation and referred to as “the mystery,” had to do with all the various things surrounding the hope set before the new entity whom the Lord had called into existence — the “one new man,” in Christ. It had to do with the Gentiles no longer being alienated from “the hope of glory.” It had to do with believing Gentiles and believing Jews realizing an inheritance together, in the same body.
And Paul, proclaiming this message to believing Gentiles, warned “every man [concerning that which would occur if the message was not heeded],” and taught “every man in all wisdom [the things concerning the mystery, the proclamation of Christ, which gave them a hope],” and he did this for a purpose. He wanted to be able to one day present “every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28).
The word translated “perfect” in Colossians 1:28 is from the Greek word teleios, which has to do with bringing something to completion, or to a goal. This is the word sometimes used for maturity in the faith (e.g., Ephesians 4:13; James 1:4); but, contextually in Colossians 1:28, the thought moves beyond maturity and has to do with Christians appearing in Christ’s presence at a future date, with nothing lacking.
Maturity in the faith is not an end in itself. Rather, maturity is with a view to an end. Maturity is an integral part of the process, for it provides the wisdom and knowledge necessary to properly run the race in which Christians presently find themselves engaged, allowing them to successfully reach the goal, the end in view.
Presenting individuals perfect, presenting them complete in Christ’s presence, has to do with bringing Christians to the goal of their calling — the salvation of their souls. It has to do with Christians appearing at the judgment seat in a manner that will allow the Lord to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (cf. Matthew 16:27; 25:19ff). And bringing Christians to this goal was to be the end result of that in which the Lord had personally instructed Paul and which was referred to as “the mystery.”
Paul was obsessed with proclaiming this message to Christians in the Gentile world, for he wanted to one day be able to see these same Christians realize the goal of their calling. His three-year ministry in Ephesus would be a case in point.
Throughout these three years, he had not ceased to “warn everyone night and day with tears” — a statement that, contextually, had to do with false teachers subsequently arising in the Church and proclaiming a message contrary to the one Paul had proclaimed]” (Acts 20:29-31). Paul’s burning desire was to see every Christian in Ephesus one day appear in the Lord’s presence with nothing lacking. And he knew that false teachers arising among them, with their “damnable heresies” (cf. 2 peter 2:1; 3:15-17), could mislead many and prevent this from happening.
Paul, above everything else, did not want to appear in Christ’s presence in that coming day and find that he had either run or labored in vain. And he conducted his ministry accordingly (1 Corinthians 9:23-27; 15:58; Galatians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).
From Israel to the Gentiles
The kingdom of the heavens had first been offered to Israel by John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ; the offer was then continued by Christ and His disciples. Israel though, beginning with John, spurned the offer. And not only did Israel spurn the offer, but the Jewish people terminated their rejection by crucifying the Heir, their Messiah.
But even though the Jewish people had done these things, God was longsuffering toward them. He, at this point, was not finished with Israel in relation to the proffered kingdom.
After God had raised His Son from the dead, He called a new entity into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel had rejected. And for those comprising this new entity — the “one new man,” in Christ, the Church — their first task had to do with proclaiming the message of the kingdom to Israel once again, constituting a re-offer of the kingdom to the Jewish people.
This re-offer of the kingdom began on the day of Pentecost as Peter and others, empowered by the Spirit Who had been sent, proclaimed the message to Jews who had assembled in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven. These Jews had come up to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Pentecost (one of three annual festivals to be observed in Jerusalem by Jewish males [Deuteronomy 16:16]), and every man under the sound of those proclaiming the message on that day heard the opening message of the re-offer of the kingdom in the native language of the country from which he had come (Acts 2:1ff).
This re-offer of the kingdom to Israel continued for slightly over three decades (from 30 A.D. until about 62 A.D.). And throughout this time, though Israel held priority, the message was also to be carried to the Gentiles (something completely new, for the offer had been restricted solely to Israel up to this point in time [Matthew 10:5, 6]).
But beginning on the day of Pentecost — when a new entity was brought into existence and the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel began — Gentiles were no longer excluded, though priority still belonged to Israel. As long as the re-offer of the kingdom remained open to Israel, the message was to be proclaimed “to the Jew first.” The Jewish people held priority in this respect. But, with the Gentiles no longer excluded, the message was to be proclaimed “also to the Greek [‘Gentile’]” (Romans 1:13-16; 2:5-10 [sections of Scripture written very near the close of the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel]).
However, even though the offer of the kingdom was now also open to the Gentiles, those comprising the “one new man” (all converted Jews at the beginning) apparently, at first, had little to no understanding of this fact. For about the first ten years of the existence of the Church, the message continued to be carried to Israel alone (as in the original offer preceding Calvary). And even Paul, converted about midway through this period, insofar as the record goes, did exactly the same thing at first.
Two central things brought an end to events where the message was carried to Israel alone:
1) The Lord took Paul aside as the one whom He had chosen to carry this message out into the Gentile world (cf. Acts 9:15, 16; Gal 1:15-23; 2:2, 7). And this is where the revelation of the mystery is seen in Scripture. Viewing the mystery from this perspective, it simply has to do with all the different things involved in Paul taking the same message being proclaimed to Israel and proclaiming this message to the “nation” that the Lord had spoken of when He previously announced that the kingdom would be taken from Israel (Matthew 21:43). This was a nation that couldn’t be Jewish (for the kingdom had been taken from Israel); nor could this nation be Gentile (for the Gentiles were “aliens from the commonwealth [Gk., politeia, having to do with political or governmental activity] of Israel…and without God [Gk., atheos, from which the English word, “atheist,” is derived] in the world” [Ephesians 2:12]).
2) Then the Lord took Peter aside, showed him the vision of the great sheet (containing all types of animals that were unclean to the orthodox Jew), and instructed Peter concerning that which He had cleansed, which Peter was looking upon as unclean. The reference was to the Gentiles, and Peter was not to look upon the Gentiles as unclean in relation to the message at hand. The message was to be carried to them as well, something that all those proclaiming the message to Israel up to this point in time had not been doing at all. And the household of Cornelius was used as the object lesson, with Peter instructed to carry this message to these Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48).
But, though this new nation was neither Jewish nor Gentile, it would be formed from both; and this formation would occur mainly through God going to the Gentiles, “to take out of them a people for His name” (cf. Acts 15:14; I Peter 2:9, 10). And it is this new entity, taken mainly from the Gentiles, which would be afforded the opportunity to bring forth fruit for the kingdom.
Thus, the message to be carried to the Gentiles was not to be carried to unsaved Gentiles but to the “one new man,” taken mainly from the Gentiles — which was “neither Jew nor Greek [‘Gentile’],” but “a new creation,” in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26, 28; Ephesians 2:15). The word “Gentile” is used to refer to this “one new man” numerous times throughout the book of Acts and the epistles. And that which the Lord opened to Paul’s understanding had to do with the message surrounding the kingdom of the heavens being proclaimed to this new entity, which would be located mainly among the nations of the world.
(Though Paul had been called to carry this message to the Gentiles, as long as the re-offer of the kingdom remained open to Israel, Israel held priority. The message had to be carried “to the Jew first” throughout this period. This was God’s ordained order. And this was the reason that Paul, during the course of his ministry in Gentile cities, always, without exception, went to the synagogues and proclaimed the message to the Jewish people first. Only after the Jewish people in a particular city had rejected the message did Paul go to the Gentiles in that city.
And Paul continued his ministry in this respect all the way to Rome, when Israel’s priority was brought to a close. At the end of the book of Acts, Paul, in Rome, sent for the Jewish religious leaders first. And when they had come, Paul spoke to them of “the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets, from morning until evening” [v. 23].
It was only after these Jewish religious leaders had rejected the message that Paul was free to go to the Christians in Rome with the same message. And it was only after he had spoken to these Jewish religious leaders that Paul, because of continued Jewish rejection, announced for the third and last time:
“Be it known therefore to you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” [v. 28; cf. Acts 13:46; 18:6].
This marked the close of the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel and the end of the Jewish priority seen throughout the book of Acts. From this point, throughout the remainder of the dispensation, the message of the kingdom would go only to the Gentiles [i.e., only to “the new creation,” in Christ]. And for a Jew to come under the hearing of this message throughout the remainder of the dispensation, following Paul’s statement in Acts 28:28, he would have to become a Christian. He would have to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, exactly as an unsaved Gentile would have to do to come under the hearing of this message.)
Thus, the message of the kingdom carried to the Gentiles, either before or after Paul’s visit to Rome, could not be carried to unsaved Gentiles per se. Unsaved Gentiles were “dead in trespasses and sins,” along with being separated from both God and Israel’s political sphere of activity. Gentiles had to first hear a message that would not only allow them to pass “from death unto life” but would, as well, place them in a position where they were no longer separated from God and from Israel’s political sphere of activity. Only then could Gentiles hear the various things involved in “the mystery.”
This is the reason Paul, when first going to Corinth and finding a city filled with unsaved Gentiles, determined to not proclaim anything among them “save Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Those in Corinth had to first hear the message surrounding the simple gospel of grace. Having heard and heeded this message would allow two things to occur: 1) their passing “from death unto life,” and 2) their positionally being “in Christ,” allowing God to recognize them as “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (cf. Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 2:1). Only then would they be in a position to hear things surrounding the good news of the coming glory of Christ.
And within Paul’s proclamation of this message among the Gentiles, a ministry lasting about three decades, possibly two things stand out above all else in Paul’s summary statement as he stood before Agrippa in Acts chapter twenty-six and recounted his ministry: 1) “…I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision,” and 2) “…I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those that the prophets and Moses did say should come” (vv. 19b, 22b).
1) “I Was Not Disobedient…”
The Lord had a specific purpose behind Paul’s conversion. Paul is introduced in Scripture at a time when Israel’s religious leaders had, again, reached an apex in their rejection of the proffered kingdom — at the time of Stephen’s stoning (the first apex is seen in Matthew 12:9-24, during the original offer of the kingdom to Israel). Those who stoned Stephen “laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” And Saul, later called Paul (apparently his Roman name), “was consenting” unto Stephen’s death (Acts 7:58; 8:1; 22:20).
Paul was the great persecutor of the early Church, referred to at that time as those of “the way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22) — a way different than that which the Jewish people followed, a way looked upon by Israel’s religious leaders as heretical. And Paul, a strict and knowledgeable Pharisee, directed his efforts toward doing away with this new sect, thinking he was doing that which was right in God’s sight (Acts 8:1-3; 22:3, 4).
Paul, in Acts 9:1-3a is seen journeying from Jerusalem to Damascus for this same purpose. Paul had in his possession “letters [religious legal documents]” from the high priest in Jerusalem, which were to be presented to the religious leaders in the synagogues in Damascus. And these documents would give Paul the necessary authority to bind and take back to Jerusalem any individuals — men or women — that he found following “the way” in Damascus.
But the Lord stopped Paul as he neared Damascus, made Himself known to Paul, and told Paul what he, in reality, was doing by persecuting those of “the way.” And Paul was left trembling, astonished, and blind (blinded by the light of the Lord’s presence, a light “above the brightness of the sun” [Acts 26:13]). Paul then had to be led the remainder of the way to Damascus by those accompanying him, who had heard only a voice and had not witnessed the Lord’s visible presence, leaving them unaffected by the light (Acts 9:3b-8).
Part of that which occurred at this time is not recorded in Acts chapter nine but is reiterated years later by Paul as he stood before Agrippa in Acts chapter twenty-six. Note that which Paul relates before Agrippa about the Lord revealing the purpose for this revelation of Himself at the time of the events recorded in Acts chapter nine:
So I said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things that you have seen and of the things that I will yet reveal to you.
I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,
to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26: 15-18).
Some of the things within this revelation had also been revealed to Ananias (a follower of “the way” in Damascus) shortly after Paul’s encounter with the Lord on the Damascus road. And it was Ananias whom the Lord used to appear before Paul on Paul’s third day of blindness and lay his hands upon Paul, allowing the Lord, in this manner, to restore his sight and to fill him with the Holy Spirit, empowering him for the task at hand (Acts 9:15-17).
Paul, almost immediately, drawing from his knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, began to enter into the synagogues of Damascus and both proclaim and prove from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. And Paul was zealous and knowledgeable enough in the matter that the Jews in Damascus sought to kill him (Acts 9:20-24).
Then, after the disciples had let Paul down over the outside of the city wall in a basket, delivering him from the Jews in Damascus, he journeyed to Jerusalem. And Paul, in Jerusalem, proclaimed the same message after the same fashion, causing the same unrest among the Jews in Jerusalem that he had previously caused among the Jews in Damascus. And this resulted in Paul having to be removed out of the country altogether and sent to Tarsus. It was only then that things began to settle down, with the churches throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria realizing rest (Acts 9:25-31).
It was sometime after these events that the Lord took Paul aside, appeared to him a second time, and taught him, from the Old Testament Scriptures, all the various things surrounding his carrying the message of the coming kingdom to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 26:16b; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3).
Then Paul returned to Damascus where he had begun his ministry several years earlier and went on to Jerusalem for the specific purpose of seeing Peter (apparently to convey to Peter, the apostle God had called to go to the Jews, things that he had learned about carrying this message to both Jew and Gentile during his previous lengthy time spent with the Lord [Galatians 1:17, 18; cf. Galatians 2:2, 7]).
That which the Lord had outlined for Paul to accomplish was revealed to him at the time of his conversion on the Damascus road. And Paul, looking back over his ministry as he neared the end, stated before Agrippa that he had done all that which the Lord had called him to do. He had not been disobedient to the heavenly vision.
2) “I Continue unto This Day…”
Not only had Paul been completely obedient to the heavenly vision, but he had continued obedient until the day he stood before Agrippa. And no change in obedience occurred in Paul’s ministry beyond that. He continued to proclaim this message, and he was in route to Rome to proclaim this same message to the Christians there (cf. Acts 27:1; 28:16-31; Romans 1:13-16).
But again, when Paul arrived in Rome, the re-offer of the kingdom was still open to Israel, with Israel still holding priority. Thus, before going to the Christians in Rome, Paul, “as his manner was” (Acts 17:2; cf. Acts 13:46), proclaimed the message to the Jewish religious leaders in Rome first. It was only after these Jewish religious leaders had rejected the message that Paul was free to go to the Christians in Rome.
And this is where the book of Acts ends, for a reason. The book of Acts covers that period in both Israeli and Church history when the kingdom was reoffered to Israel by Christians. And the termination of this re-offer brings the book of Acts to a close.
This is that which is peculiar above all else to the book of Acts, causing numerous things in the book to be an enigma to those Christians failing to recognize this central feature of the book. And this will reflect on one’s proper understanding of numerous things in the epistles as well (both Pauline and General), for some of the epistles were written during the Acts period, and some were written following this time.
Suffice it to say, had the account in the book of Acts continued, covering Paul’s ministry beyond Rome, there would have been one change seen in his ministry. His manner would no longer have been to go to the Jew first with this message, for he couldn’t have done so. The offer of the kingdom (original offer preceding Calvary, and the re-offer following Calvary) had been closed to Israel. The offer of the kingdom beyond this point was to “the new creation,” in Christ alone.
All else though would have remained the same. Paul would have continued, and did continue, obedient to the heavenly vision, to the end (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7-18).
Content of the Pauline Epistles
Paul, before Agrippa, called attention to a little understood or appreciated truth about his ministry, which would include all the things that he wrote in his epistles to different churches and individuals. Paul, during the course of his ministry, said nothing other than those things “that the prophets and Moses did say should come.” And these things had to do with Christ’s sufferings, His resurrection, and light being shown to the Gentiles (Acts 26:22b, 23).
Suffering precedes glory, and glory cannot be realized apart from suffering (cf. Luke 24:25-27; I Peter 4:12, 13). And this glory can be realized only in resurrection — things having to do with the light now being shown unto the Gentiles. This light had to do with Christ, the One raised from the dead and the One Who would rule and reign, now being proclaimed among the Gentiles, which gave the Gentiles a hope.
Paul derived all the various facets of this teaching entirely from the Old Testament Scriptures, as the Lord opened these Scriptures to his understanding near the beginning of his ministry. Everything that Paul taught had its basis in Moses and the Prophets, whether it had to do with Israel, the Church, or the Gentile nations.
And Paul’s own statement to this effect should lay to rest the erroneous teaching that numerous things in the epistles that he wrote about (e.g., the Church) cannot be found in the Old Testament Scriptures. If Paul dealt with a matter, it has its basis in Old Testament revelation, for he dealt with nothing other than that “which the prophets and Moses did say should come” (cf. 2 Peter 3:15, 16).
This is why the study of biblical typology is so important in properly understanding the New Testament. Only through comparing that stated about one (the type, in the Old Testament) with that stated about the other (the antitype, in the New Testament) can the complete picture be seen. It could be compared to viewing a picture from two different vantage points. Certain things can be seen from one point that might not be evident from the other point; and, through comparing the two — the one picture, presented two different ways — the complete picture can be seen.
And all this comes through the only pictures that God has provided — word-pictures. God uses “words” to express His thoughts, to form pictures. And it is these words that man is to take and proclaim today (2 Timothy 4:2). Only through this means can and will God’s message be presented in a completely clear and correct manner.