by Herman R. Rocke

"...a good man..." (Acts 11:24)
"...the least of the apostles..." (1 Cor.15:9)
"no...boasting except in the cross" (Gal.6:14)


THE GRADUAL INTRODUCTION of the truth for this present administration of God's grace is brought before us in a variety of ways in the Word. The apostle through whom it came describes his ministry as a continual change from glory to glory (2 Cor.3:18). Not only that, but his associates were also changing. There are five characters which give us a biographical outline of the transition from Pentecost to the present: Barnabas, Paul, Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus. Undoubtedly, the record we have of their lives is limited to those features which illustrate the trend of the truth.

      Among the five, we see a constant descent in physical standing. Barnabas, the Levite, held almost the highest place the flesh could have in relation to God. He was not only of the seed of Israel, but belonged to the one tribe which monopolized nearness to Ieue in the divine service. Paul was a Benjaminite, not so high in the physical scale, yet far above the despised aliens, such as Timothy whose father was a Greek, and the uncircumcised Titus and the slave Onesimus, the lowest in the social scale.

      But for two things Barnabas might have been the logical channel to make known the truth for the present. He had a high standing in flesh, since he was a Levite. He was not a great sinner, like Saul, hence could not be the chief example of grace. These two advantages disqualified him. If the present grace flowed through Israel, as was to be expected in the early chapters of Acts, Barnabas would be an ideal channel. The Levites were teachers. Good men like him will be missionaries to the nations when the kingdom is set up. His name means "Son of Prophecy", which took on the sense "Son of Consolation" in Aramaic. He was a regular spokesman for God so long as blessing, was through the chosen nation. He was a consolation in the midst of the prevailing apostasy (Acts 4:36).

      Those who read the opening chapters of Acts with discernment will notice one great lack. In the kingdom of God to be set up on this earth blessing will not be confined to Jews and proselytes. They are to have the more blessed place of being a blessing to the other nations. Yet in Pentecostal days the nations were never reached. They heralded the word to no one except to Jews only. In Antioch in Syria, they evangelized the Lord Jesus also to the Hellenists, i.e. to those Jews who had taken up with Greek customs (Acts 11:19-21). Peter and Philip went to proselytes, and among the seven attested men, picked out of the Hebrews and Hellenists, was Nicholas, a proselyte (TOWARD-COMER) of Antioch (Acts 6:1,5; 8:29; 10:20).

      The question is, While they were so intent on their own blessing, was God preparing a suitable channel for carrying the message to the aliens in these early days? We believe that those who look beneath the surface can see plain indications that He was. Barnabas was the one qualified for this service.

      There was one thing against him so far as his standing in Israel was concerned. Like Saul of Tarsus, he was born in a foreign land. He was a native of Cyprus (Acts 4:36). He was a living evidence of Israel's disobedience and dispersion. His parents should not have left the land which Ieue gave them. Yet he himself evidently returned to Jerusalem, and we find him first under his personal name, Joseph, evidencing his faith in God's promised kingdom by selling some property of his own and bringing the money to the apostles in Jerusalem. Others also did this, but he is the only one mentioned by name. His act is in contrast with that of Judas, who bought a freehold, and also with that of Ananias and Sapphire, who dissembled and were judged.

      His foreign birth, however, favored a foreign ministry. He would be at home among the Greeks, and have perfect command of the language which was understood in foreign fields. His name, Joseph, is another intimation. Joseph was a type of Messiah blessing the world. Of old, Joseph not only saved his own family from the famine, but also was the saviour of Egypt. The action of the apostles in surnaming him "Barnabas" (Acts 4:36), is indicative of their lack of interest in the welfare of the nations, and the ministry for which he was fitted. Like the one hundred forty-four thousand who will carry out this ministry in the millennium, Barnabas was a celibate (1 Cor.9:5). In all things he was suited to this service. The mention of the name Joseph is, perhaps, the earliest hint in the book of Acts indicating God's intention of evangelizing the nations.

      Barnabas is intentionally brought before us as the most commendable character in the book of Acts. No other man is called "good" (Acts 11:24). His championship of Saul at Jerusalem was mistaken, but we cannot blame him for his ignorance. His journey to Tarsus (Acts 11:25) to bring Saul to Antioch must be regarded as an important step toward present truth. It is difficult to understand his career unless we consider him as the vessel tentatively chosen to reach the nations through Israel, depending on their reception of the Messiah. As their defection spreads, Barnabas gradually yields to his chosen friend, Saul, who was not called until Israel had given very definite indications that they would reject the evangel of the kingdom.


      On so great a subject there is much to say, but we will simply seek to point out those incidents in his career which constitute the long ascent to present truth. Like Joseph, or Barnabas, his connection with the nations is suggested by the place of his birth. Both were born in foreign lands, near the sea, which is a type of the nations. Possibly there is no more blameless character in the Hebrew Scriptures than Joseph, and few worse than Saul, the first king of Israel. The same is true of their namesakes. Barnabas was a good man and Saul was very bad. We have no reason to believe that Barnabas ever opposed Messiah or His people. But Saul distinguished himself as the most malignant of His enemies, and the fiercest persecutor of His saints.

      This is a most important point. Paul is not only our apostle, but our pattern. If grace is to be the principle ingredient of this economy, it must be manifested first of all in the call of Saul. Grace could not be called into play in the case of Barnabas. His sins were not great enough. His background was not black enough. Only a religious, self-righteous, murderous fanatic like Saul could rank as chief of sinners. Add to this the notable fact that he was allowed to persist in his course until he went outside the land, and we have a perfect premonition of God's present work: transcendent grace outside the pale of Israel. Saul had committed the "unpardonable" sin and was doomed to eonian extermination. Nothing could save him in the land.

      Saul's commission to the nations is too obvious to need more than a mere mention. But the fact that he did not immediately align himself with the leaders in Jerusalem, but went off to the Arabian desert, he himself deems a strong argument in favor of his special ministry. It was three years before he met Cephas in Jerusalem (Gal.1:18). He met very few of the saints in Judea. At first they were afraid of him. Barnabas befriended him, so that he was acknowledged. But his encounters with the Hellenists, or foreign Jews, soon made his stay in Jerusalem impossible, and he went back to his native city, Tarsus. In the providence of God, he could not labor in Jerusalem. Circumstances separated him from the Circumcision.

      His next field is a contrast to this. Barnabas again befriends him, but takes him to Antioch this time, where "a vast number" of Hellenists have believed. This is more in line with his commission, hence he remains there a whole year, teaching "a considerable throng." Then Barnabas and Saul take their contribution for the relief of the starving brethren to the elders in Judea (Acts 11:20-30).


      Among the many intimations, in the book of Acts, that Israel is apostate, is the world-wide famine which came under the Roman emperor Claudius. Israel, with their soulish blessings, which were promised to those who keep the law of Moses, should never fail to have food. Even the most unspiritual of the Jews should have read this sign. It was unmistakable evidence that they had forsaken Ieue. They should have been in a position to help the other nations. Instead, the disciples in Antioch send help to Jerusalem. Undoubtedly this is the outward physical indication of their inward, spiritual condition (Acts 11:27-30).

      The religious, or spiritual failure of Israel is not fully documented until the close of the Acts account, but the end is already apparent in the twelfth chapter. Herod, the king, not only put forth his hand to ill-treat some of the ecclesia, but he assassinated James, the son of Zebedee, John's brother, one of the twelve apostles. Hitherto they had been protected by divine power. The religious authorities, led by the chief priest, could not kill them. But now the political powers turn against them, to please the people (Acts 12:3). Peter is jailed, and delivered by a messenger, but he had to go underground, as we say nowadays. This probably foreshadows the persecution at the time of the end, the great tribulation, when the nations turn against Israel. A further picture is furnished us by Herod Agrippa, who gives us a glimpse of the coming antichrist who will accept divine honors and suffer destruction for his inhuman pride (Acts 12:21-23).

      Thus closes the central crisis in the book of Acts. Religiously Israel is set aside in the land, as they later were fully repudiated in Rome (Acts 28:25-28). The ministry of this phase practically ceases. The twelve apostles disappear. Peter is heard from only in connection with the nations (Acts 15:7). The heralding goes forth to the dispersion outside the land by means of Saul of Tarsus and others, though it is not adapted to the salvation of the nation of Israel, but to make them jealous and to save some individuals among them, who have the transcendent privilege of joining Paul in the secret administration which was committed to him to fill in the period of Israel's apostasy.

      Soon after the central crisis in the book of Acts, which showed that the heralding of the kingdom in the land had failed (Acts 12:3), Barnabas and Saul met a false prophet, a Jew, named Bar-Jesus, who withstood them, seeking to keep Sergius Paul from the faith (Acts 13:6). Then Saul, who is also Paul, denounced him to his face, and blinded him temporarily. To anyone who is saturated with the grace which is ours in Christ Jesus today, Paul's action seems very harsh, if we do not note the crisis in which it occurred, and the place that Bar-Jesus plays as the representative of apostate Judaism.

      God had blinded the chosen people, who had turned into a false prophet by refusing His grace, and into a hindrance to its heralding to the nations, and Paul, as his name now becomes, was merely imitating God's action by blinding an individual in place of the nation. (Isa.8:9,10). At that time Paul blinded Israel, as it were, yet later he enlightens all who join him, Jewish individuals as well as those out of the nations.


      It is said that the custom of the Jews of the dispersion was to give their children both a Hebrew and a Gentile name. It is not intended to question whether this is accurate, but rather to point out the aptness of the two names which the Scriptures use to designate Saul of Tarsus, who was called Paul.

      In the use of the two names in the Scriptures we note that they lie on either side of his severance as given in Acts thirteen, and none of the epistles coming through this person use the name Saul. Further, a close attention brings out the fact that the name Paul is associated with three ministries -- Justification, Conciliation, and the Administration of the Secret--which are the great doctrines characterizing the present administration of the grace of God.

      Those who use the CONCORDANT VERSION will be acquainted with the meaning of the name Paul. It comes most probably from the element PAU, meaning CEASE, which is responsible for our English word pau-se. God ceased direct dealing with His people Israel. At present Israel is thrust aside, but in the future God will take them back and He will consummate to them His promises. There is a pause in the ways of God with Israel; the ensuing interval between God's past and future dealings with them is filled by the ministries of a person whom the Scriptures begin to name CEASED (Paul). The cessation of God's operations with and for Israel is an essential feature required by such teaching as equality of blessing among believers, whether out of Israel or out of the nations. God's promises of old, the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Twelve, necessitate the continuance of Israel's ascendancy among the nations of the earth. But there is a hiatus, and this idea is enshrined in the name Paul.

      However, the first name in the Scriptures which brings this person before us is Saul, and the meaning of this is likewise notable and distinctive, both at the moment of its first occurrence and in other connections.

      The name Saul is Hebrew, and it occurs in a Greek declined form, and also a form following the indeclinable Hebrew, the latter used only by the Lord when meeting Saul on the Damascus way, and Ananias when visiting Saul.

      Students will be familiar with the Hebrew word pronounced sheol, but may not realize that Saul in Hebrew only differs from that word by the pointings of the Masoretes, being Shaul. If we omit the pointings, then we have exactly the same letters for both, i.e. Shaul.

      Each of these words belong to the Hebrew word-family represented by the root SH A L, the meaning of which is ASK. The u (or vav of the usual grammarians) is a frequent feature of Hebrew words, and often changes the verb to a noun, thus shal is the verb and shaul is the noun; other members of this word-family are formed by adding e to shal, thus shale, which gives us the feminine; another form of this group prefixes m, which is largely equivalent to our nouns ending in "ing", hence ASKING. Though Shaul is used as a proper name, yet its meaning remains.

      We ask regarding that which we do not possess, or that which is unknown, or is not immediately within the range of the senses; it is unseen. The Hebrew "sheol" is the same as the Greek "hades", the imperceptible, the unseen. A king was unseen in Israel; they did not have a king as other nations, so they asked for a king, and Saul was given. The name marked the details of the situation. So also Saul of the Acts. He was not seen at the beginning of the record, nor was he seen with the Twelve, and even when introduced into the account, he is largely unseen so far as association with the Twelve is concerned; in fact it was years before he met them, and the name had been dropped long before the occasion when he goes to Jerusalem for the conference (Acts 15:4).

      Saul's doing at the point in the record when he becomes seen (Acts 7:58-8:3) are such that he would be unseen in the kingdom; for Saul's attitude against that Prophet like unto Moses was such as to lead to his utter extermination from among the people (Acts 3:22,23).

      In Acts thirteen Saul is severed (FROM-SEEIZED) for special work. The literal Greek of this word "severed" is very suggestive when considered together with the meaning of the name used at that point, Saul, unseen. Saul has been brought on the horizon (SEEIZED when transliterated) in Acts nine, but now (Acts thirteen) he is taken from the horizon (FROM-SEEIZED when transliterated), and definitely defined to become Paul, the interval. Thus the prior name, together with the second, suggest an unseen interval, making possible a ministry such as has arisen through the Apostle to the Nations.

      The foregoing is offered as an alternative to the customary explanation which sees little beyond domestic reasons for the duplicate names.


      "The power of sin is the law" (1 Cor.15:56). To be under it, is to be held consciously in the grasp of sin, to be shut up as hopeless prisoners of our own misdoings. There is no escape from this calamity. The matter stands otherwise with faith. The evangel, being the power of God, can deal effectively with the flesh. Yes, it makes an instrument of the very flesh, which defied the law of God, and betrayed the man to the bondage of sin and death. There is a ring of triumph in the words, "With Christ have I been crucified, yet I am living; no longer I, but living in me is Christ. Now that which I am now living in flesh, I am living in faith that is of the Son of God, Who loves me, and gives Himself up for me" (Gal.2:20).

      The impossible has been accomplished: The body of death becomes the organ of the spirit of life. The flesh -- the despair of the law--has become the vessel of grace. "Now those of Christ Jesus crucify the flesh together with its passions and lusts" (Gal.5:24).

      The death of Christ was no legal subterfuge to carry out a substitutionary compact; it was representative. "If One died for the sake of all, consequently all died" (2 Cor.5:14). When He died God condemned sin in the flesh. Humanity's sin is already destroyed in principle. Faith unites us to the Crucified One. The scene of the cross is inwardly rehearsed in every believer. The stroke of God's finger which destroyed sin crucifies the flesh. It dies a slow, lingering death, but it dies, slowly, yet surely.

      Paul, the faithful herald and defender of the cross, stands before us a living example of its power. "Now may it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal.6:14).

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