The Transition Problem in Acts -- By: Roy L. Aldrich

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 114:455 (Jul 1957)
Article: The Transition Problem in Acts
Author: Roy L. Aldrich


The Transition Problem in Acts

Roy L. Aldrich

The Book of Acts covers an important transition period in Bible history. It bridges the gap between the Gospels, which deal primarily with the life and ministry of Christ, and the Epistles, which deal with the doctrine and service of the church. It is a vital link in the progress of doctrine from Judaism to Christianity, from law to grace.

The first part of Acts through chapter 12 deals largely with the ministry of Peter with brief references to others. He and his associates preached entirely to the Jews until Philip went to Samaria and Peter to the house of Cornelius. The official opening of the gospel to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius took place about seven years after Pentecost.

The last part of Acts from chapter 13 to the close deals mainly with the ministry of Paul who was chosen to go to the Gentiles. Wherever he had opportunity he preached first to the Jews, but his ministry was most successful among the Gentiles. It is only in this last part of Acts that the gospel is seen going out to all the world according to the pattern outlined by the Lord in Acts 1:8.

This transition in Acts, with its related problems, has been variously explained. Liberal critics maintain that it is evidence of a doctrinal conflict between Peter and Paul. Ultradispensationalists attempt to solve the problem by making part or all of Acts a separate Jewish dispensation distinct from both the former age and the new period of the church. Most conservatives believe that the church and the new age began at Pentecost, but recognize that the transition to the order and doctrine of the Epistles took considerable time.

Factors Requiring the Transition

Doubtless the old age of Mosaic law came to an official

close with the crucifixion (Col 2:14; Gal 3:13). The new age began officially at Pentecost, but actually a number of years passed before its permanent outlines were established and recognized. Several factors enter into this transition problem and explain its existence and necessity.

The first is the ever-present natural inertia and resistance to change. It was not an easy transition from the traditions and doctrines of Judaism to the new light and glory of grace. The history of Acts and the Epistle to the Hebrews abundantly testifies to this difficulty.

A second factor was the Scriptural necessity of preaching the gospel first t...

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