Act 9:15  But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

Act 9:16  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.


Simply and briefly put, I am persuaded from the testimony of Scripture that God began this present dispensation of His grace, and hence began forming His new creature, the church the body of Christ, when He raised up Paul as a brand new apostle, (as recorded in Acts 9), and made it evident that His program and dealings with Israel up until this time were now no longer continuing on as had been expected. I’ll briefly cite a few of the issues that persuade me that this is so.


Rom 2:4  Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Rom 9:22  What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:



1.) Through Paul’s epistles I understand that we are taught to recognize that this present dispensation of God’s grace involves, among other things, at least 3 highly and very distinctive identifying issues; a) the longsuffering of God being in effect instead of the prophesied, expected, and deserved day of the

Lord’s wrath (e.g., Romans 1:18ff; 2:4-5; 9:22-24; 13:12); b) the clear temporary suspension of Israel’s program, with them having stumbled and fallen (e.g., Romans 11:1-25); and c) the raising up of Paul as a brand new apostle, “the apostle of the Gentiles,” with the function of his new and different apostleship, gospel, and doctrine (e.g., Romans 1:1-5; 11:11-13; 15:8ff; Galatians 1-2). — Each of these three issues is put on display by God at the historical time associated with Paul’s encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.


Act 7:51  Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Act 7:52  Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

Act 7:53  Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Act 7:54  When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

Act 7:55  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

Act 7:56  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Joe 2:27  And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.

Joe 2:28  And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

Joe 2:29  And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.


Regarding “a”: Stephen’s testimony to Israel’s rulership in Acts 7 testified to the fact that God’s extension of mercy and forbearance to Israel following their rejection of Christ was over, and that with the Lord now standing at the Father’s right hand the time had come for His enemies to be made His footstool. The time had arrived for the Lord to begin to have His prophesied day of wrath and righteous judgment. It was the very next thing to be declared in accordance with the outworking of God’s program with Israel and the world, just as Peter, Stephen, and the rest of the remnant of Israel knew from such places as Joel 2, Psalm 2 and 110, from which they quoted in connection with the arrival of the prophesied “last days.” But as Acts 8-9 and following go on to show, the prophesied Lord’s day of wrath did not begin as had been expected. Instead the Lord began doing things completely unexpected, as Acts 8, 9, 10, and 11 specifically testify to, with one of them being God ‘enduring with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.’ Hence I am persuaded that with the beginning of God’s longsuffering in the face of the expected and deserved wrath of the Lord’s day of wrath, this dispensation of His longsuffering and grace was getting underway.


Act 8:25  And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

Act 8:26  And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

Act 8:27  And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

Act 8:28  Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

Act 8:29  Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.




Regarding “b”: In connection with the evidence of God’s longsuffering, God also gave immediate evidence that His program with Israel was no longer being conducted according to the prophesied program. Instead, as the Holy Spirit’s use of Philip in Acts 8 testifies, the program’s stipulations, instructions, and expectations were suspended, and God began to do things with the remnant of

Israel and show things to them that were in accordance with that fact. With this too, I am persuaded that this dispensation of grace was therefore getting itself underway at that time.



Rom 11:11  I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Rom 11:12  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Rom 11:13  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

Rom 11:14  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.


Regarding “c”: It is at this time with God now being longsuffering and having suspended the prophesied progress of Israel’s program that, (as Acts 9 historically records), the Lord Jesus Christ unexpectedly came back from heaven and raised up Paul as a brand new apostle; to be “the apostle of the Gentiles” in accordance with the dispensational change He was now making. Hence with these three particular distinctive and identifying issues occurring, I am persuaded that this dispensation of grace commenced at that time.


Act 22:6  And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.

Act 22:7  And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Act 22:8  And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.

Act 22:9  And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

Act 22:10  And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.


2.) In addition to these three particular identifying issues that testify to the existence of this dispensation of grace, there are other issues such as: Paul’s repeated hearkening back to the Acts 9 time when dealing with the reality of his special apostleship and this dispensation of God’s grace (e.g., Acts 22 and 26; I Corinthians 15:8–10; Galatians 1:15–17; Ephesians 2:17; I Timothy 1:11–16)


Act 11:19  Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

Act 11:20  And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Act 11:21  And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

Act 11:22  Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.

Act 11:23  Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

Act 11:24  For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

Act 11:25  Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

Act 11:26  And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.


3.) Also there is the testimony of Acts 11:19ff which, after chapters 8:1–11:18 have set forth the reality of God doing something different from continuing on with Israel’s program as had been expected, takes us back again to the time and to the events immediately after Stephen was stoned. And as 11:19-26 relate, back at that time was when “the hand of the Lord” directed those who were preaching the Lord Jesus to preach Him to the Grecians and no longer to the Jews only. Hence, Acts 11:19-21 confirms the fact that as soon as God became longsuffering following Stephen’s stoning; and as He was giving evidence that Israel’s program was not continuing on as had been expected; and in connection with having raised up Paul as the apostle of the Gentiles; back at that time He began having the Lord Jesus preached to the Gentiles. And as Acts 11:22-26 go on to show, it was to those Gentiles whom God dealt with at that time that God had Paul go following his personal edification.


Act 13:2  As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Act 13:3  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Act 13:4  So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.


All of these issues, including further details about them, along with some other issues, persuade me that God brought in this dispensation of His grace at the time when He raised up Paul as His brand new apostle, as historically recorded in Acts 9. Among ones who recognize the apostle Paul’s distinctive apostleship, gospel, and doctrine for and about this present dispensation of God’s grace, there are ones who point to events recorded in Acts 11, or 13, or even 28 and after, as the time at which they think God began historically forming the church the body of Christ. However, I am persuaded otherwise, as I have briefly set forth.


Regarding Acts 11; as I’ve already commented on, to me it clearly hearkens back to the events immediately following Stephen’s stoning as the time when the Lord’s “hand” moved from being with Israel to being with the Gentiles.


Act 14:26  And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

Act 14:27  And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.


Regarding Acts 13; I am persuaded that the “work” whereunto the Holy Ghost called Barnabas and Paul cannot be a reference to the beginning of this dispensation of grace. For as Acts 14:26 testifies, when the two of them returned to Antioch they did so having “fulfilled” the “work” which God gave them to do. The “work” of Acts 13:2 had a beginning and an end; and it was “fulfilled” when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch. Hence, I am persuaded that the “work” is a reference to the particular geographical way in which God designed for the gospel of the uncircumcision to spread, not either to the beginning of the dispensation of grace or to the beginning of the formation of the body of Christ. God designed the gospel of the uncircumcision to spread in segments and installments, so to speak, which is exactly what it did, as both the rest of the Acts account and Paul’s epistles testify.


Act 13:46  Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Act 13:47  For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

Act 13:48  And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Act 13:49  And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.


Regarding Acts 28; I am persuaded that it is not a reference to the beginning of anything, but rather the end of Israel’s “diminishing,” during which time God through Paul gave testimony of His displeasure to those of Israel in the Jewish population centers outside the land, and that this particular testimony concluded in Rome.


Act 28:28  Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.



Regarding consequences: To me the overriding consequence of the Acts 28 position is the negative consequence of needing to be dishonest and even deceitful with Romans through Galatians, where the simple, natural reading of what Paul says makes it plain and clear that the dispensation of grace is in effect when Paul wrote those epistles and those saints knew it; and the church the body of Christ was being formed when Paul wrote those epistles, and the saints addressed in those epistles are members of it and they knew it as well. But when someone says that this present dispensation didn’t actually begin until at or after the event of Acts 28, and that therefore the church the body of Christ of today was not being formed previous to that time, then he is forced to abandon the simple, natural reading and meaning of Paul’s statements to the contrary in Romans through Galatians, and through dishonest and manipulative handling of Romans through Galatians he is forced to change the meaning of such statements to make them fit the Acts 28 position.



Keith Blades

Enjoy The Bible Ministries

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