“To This Agree the Words of the Prophets”: A Critical Monograph on Acts 15:14–17 -- By: Charles Zimmerman
GJ 4:3 (Fall 63) p. 28
“To This Agree the Words of the Prophets”:
A Critical Monograph on Acts 15:14–17
Winona Lake, Indiana
Abridged by the Author
“Simeon hath declared how God at first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name, And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” (Acts 15:14–17)
The significance of this passage lies in the use of Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messianic kingdom by the Apostles of the early Church. Its dispensational implications have been under debate for some time and from many quarters. This can be made clear by citing two contrasting statements. Scofield writes, “Dispensationally, this is the most important passage in the New Testament.”1 On the other hand, Bruce argues that the passage “has been given an exaggerated ‘dispensational’ significance far beyond the implications of the text.”2 Without doubt there is an interpretation which would be most harmonious with the total context of Holy Scripture and would be acceptable to a serious student of the Word.
At the outset it should be recalled that Christianity was an outgrowth or development of the true, genuine Hebrew religion. Christ himself was a Hebrew after the flesh. His ministry was exercised among Hebrews. Following Pentecost the Church growth had been almost exclusively Hebrew. There may have been exceptions as scattered disciples preached Christ here and there and Gentiles heard and believed. However, the general movement was Hebrew. Therefore, the Church experienced a violent perturbation upon the admission of Cornelius, a Gentile, as recorded in Acts 10. This was only the beginning of a threatening, long-continued controversy. The problem was doomed to come to a head in the not-too-distant future.
The crisis occurred upon the return of Paul and Barnabas to Antioch from their first missionary journey. They found that certain men had come down from Judea and were insisting that circumcision and submission to the Mosaic law were necessary for salvation.
The danger of this course was clear. The fundamental principle of the Gospel, salvation by grace through faith, was at stake. The practical question of fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians also lay in the balance.
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