The Word and the Spirit
"The Law was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made...which is Jesus Christ" (Gal. 3: 16, 19).
The dispensation of the law was to last only until the beginning of the ministry of the Lord Jesus--"the law was added until the seed should come...."
Sir Robert Anderson wrote, "Every one recognises that the advent of Christ marked a signal 'change of dispensation,' as it is termed: that is, a change in God's dealing with man" (Anderson, The Silence of God [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1978], p. 177).
He also wrote that "In the Mosaic economy, religion and morality had prominence...These were like guides which were followed in the darkness till the goal was reached to which they led. The Mosaic economy was a state of tutelage which ended with the coming of Christ" (Ibid., p.136).
John the Baptist was sent as a forerunner of Jesus to preach the gospel that the kingdom of heaven is at hand:
" In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt.3:1-2).
Anderson says that the gospel first preached by the Baptist "was afterwards taken up by the Lord Himself, and in due course entrusted to His Apostles. The popular belief that it was meant to herald what we call the 'Christian dispensation' is utterly mistaken. 'The kingdom of the heavens' (for such is the right rendering of the Greek words) occurs three-and-thirty times in Matthew, and nowhere else in the New Testament. What are we to understand by the phrase? It cannot mean that God would soon begin to rule the heavens! And the only possible alternative is that the time was near when He would assume the government of earth" (Anderson, Misunderstood Texts of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1991], p. 15-16).
After announcing that the "kingdom is at hand" the Lord Jesus began to declare, in the Sermon of the Mount (Mt.5-7), some of the principles of the kingdom of heaven. Anderson says that " "Our Lord was there unfolding the principles of the promised kingdom, and giving precepts for the guidance of those who were awaiting its establishment...And what a meaning the prayer for daily bread had for those who were enjoined to carry neither purse nor scrip, but to trust their heavenly Father to feed them as He feeds the birds; for, like the birds, they had 'neither storehouse nor barn.' Principles are unchanging, but the definite precepts recorded in such passages as Matt. v. 39-42 and vi. 25-34 were framed with reference to the circumstances of the time, and to the special testimony which the kingdom disciple was to maintain" (Anderson, The Silence of God, p.178-179).
According to Anderson the testimony at that time was of a "twofold" nature: "the testimony had a twofold accompaniment. 'The Sermon on the Mount' is recorded as embodying the great truths and principles which were associated with the Kingdom Gospel; and the attendant miracles gave proof that all was Divine" (Anderson, The Coming Prince [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1957], p.160).
The Lord Jesus' testimony was the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom and included the miracles which testified that all was of God. He was given the power to do miracles at the time He was annointed with the Holy Spirit:
"God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him" (Acts 10:38; NIV).
Miracles are described as being gifts of the Spirit:
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant...now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit...for to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom...to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles" (1 Cor.12:1,4,8-10).
Next we see that the Lord Jesus sent His Apostles to preach the "gospel of the kingdom" and the healing and miracles which they were able to do gave proof that all was of God:
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter not; But go, rather, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons..." (Mt.10:5-8).
Later, He sent out "seventy" of His disciples to preach the same gospel and these disciples were also empowered by the Spirit of God. He told them to "heal the sick that are there, and say unto them, The Kingdom of God is come near unto you" (Lk.10:9).
However, there were some who began to deny that the miracles which He did were empowered by God:
"And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, 'He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons' " (Lk.11:14-15; NASB).
After seeing the Lord Jesus perform one of his many miracles the leaders of Israel decided that He must die:
"Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him" (Mt.12:13-14).
They then "delivered up and denied" the Lord Jesus, and "cried out, away with Him...crucify Him" (Acts 3: 13; Jn. 19: 15). At last they "killed the Prince of Life".
Because of these actions of Israel the Lord would be justified in destroying that nation. However, due to the Lord Jesus intecessory prayer upon the cross, Divine forgiveness was secured for Israel:
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23: 34).
After His resurrection the Lord told the believers to remain in Jerusalem so that they would receive the "power" bestowed by the Holy Spirit (Lk.24:49; Acts 1:5,8). On the day of Pentecost the Lord did put His words in the mouths of the Jewish believers when they began to speak in tongues. The Apostle Peter said that what was happening fulfilled the prophecy of Joel:
"For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:15-17).
On the same day the Apostle Peter offered the kingdom to the unbelievers of the nation of Israel and their religious leaders: "Ye men of Israel...Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, and the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ" (Acts 3: 19, 20).
But instead of repenting, the leaders "laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison" (Acts5:18). They next brought spirit-filled Stephen before the Great Council and set up false witnesses against Him..."and cast him out of the city, and stoned him" to death (Acts 7: 58). We see that these leaders would not believe the Word of God and they "resisted the Holy Spirit". Stephen told them: "Ye stiffed-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7: 51).
Throughout the ages God had remained on good terms with the nation of Israel. However, due to the crucifixion of Christ all this changed. Sir Robert Anderson writes, "We see every claim which the creature had on God was forever forfeited, and every tie forever broken. Promises there had been, and covenants; but Christ was to be the fulfiller of them all. If a single blessing now descend on the ancient people of His choice, it must come to them in grace" (Anderson,The Gospel and Its Ministry, Kregel Publications, 1978, p. 14).
It was no accident that "standing by and consenting" unto Stephen s death was Saul (Paul), the leader of the rebellion against Christ, who was chosen by God to usher in the dispensation of the Grace of God.