I received the following question:

I’m taking a “Dispensational Theology” course taught by my pastor. The textbook, by the same name, brought out by Grace Publications, of Grand Rapids, MI., in 1999 in the latest printing, is by Charles F. Baker, former pastor of Fundamental Bible Church, now Grace Bible Church of West Allis, Inc. In it on pages 7-8, he lists reasons why this dispensation did not begin at or after Acts 28:

I have already dealt with most of Mr. Baker’s points in previous articles. I will deal with his final point about similarities between the pre-prison and post-prison books of Paul here.

8. Both the pre-prison and the prison epistles of Paul:
   (1) Link this One Body with One Spirit and One Baptism (Eph. 4:4,5; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13).

The substance of Christ is given through the Spirit of Christ, so of course the two are connected. I Corinthians 12:13 mentions a baptism, but it does not mention “one” baptism.

(2) Teach that this One Body is composed of believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:16; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13).

Greeks are not the same thing as Gentiles. A Greek was a description of one who believed that the Greek way of life was the superior way of life. It was an ideological viewpoint, similar to our “conservative” or “liberal.” There were many among the Israelites who were living outside the land who had taken up the Greek way of thinking, and thus had adopted the Greek culture, the Greek religion, the Greek gods, the Greek language, and so forth. The faithful Israelites distinguished these by calling them “Greeks,” whereas those outside the land who were faithful to their culture and heritage were called “Jews.” The Body in Corinth was made up of Jews and Greeks, not Jews and Gentiles. There were a few Gentiles who believed, as we know from Acts 18:7-8. Yet did these become Body of Christ? That is hard to say. But I Corinthians 12:13 is not referring to these when it speaks of Greeks.

There is no such thing as ceasing to be a nation once you become a believer. So when Paul says in Ephesians 2:11, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands,” we can see right away that something strange is going on. How could these have been “once nations,” yet not be any longer? The Greek here reads that they were once toward the nations. This is talking about ancestral Israelites who had turned their back on their culture and were aligned rather with the nations around them. This had all changed when the wall of partition was broken down, and all were made one in this dispensation. There was no longer any difference between Jews living in the land and those living out of it. They were all one in substance, one in essence, through the cross, and the enmity between the law-keeping Jews in the land and those outside it who could not keep the law had come to an end. That is what Ephesians 2:16 is teaching.

(3) Teach reconciliation of believing Jews and Gentiles on the basis of the Cross (Eph. 2:14-16; cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-21).

The mid-Acts dispensationalists make much of the fact that the gospel that Paul preached remains pretty much the same after Acts 28:28 as it was before then. They fail to recognize that much the same thing was taught by Peter at Acts 2. What changed at Acts 28:28 was not the gospel.

As for reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles on the basis of the cross, I assume he is basing this mostly on II Corinthians 5:19, though you can certainly feel free to read the entire passage.

19. that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

The question, then, is “What is meant by ‘the world’ here?” The Greek word is “kosmos,” and means an orderly system or arrangement. God did the work in Christ on the cross that will result in the reconciliation of the world unto Himself. Yet that has never yet happened. Our world is no more reconciled to God now than it ever was. When God’s kingdom comes, this world, the very order and system of men and life on earth, will be reconciled, that is, made congruous with God, and everything in it will flow in accordance with His good pleasure. Yet this has never yet happened. Not in the Acts period. Not now. This has nothing to do with the reconciliation of BELIEVING Jews and Gentiles, but has to do with the reconciliation of the very system of men on earth, whether they are currently believers or not. That reconciliation will only happen when He brings in His kingdom.

As I look through the rest of the verses from II Corinthians, I honestly do not see anything that would tell me whom Paul meant when he mentioned those the apostles had ministered reconciliation to. To find out who he means, we would have to discover whom he was speaking to in writing II Corinthians. If it is the same group as he wrote I Corinthians to, we know that he is writing it to those whose fathers were with Moses, as we read in I Corinthians 10:1-4.

I do not believe the Lord is talking about Gentiles in Ephesians 2, but about those of Israelite ancestry who were “toward the Gentiles” previous to the time Paul was writing. That all nations are now equal before God is a truth taught in Ephesians 3, not in Ephesians 2.

(4) Associate the message with God’s purpose which He purposed before the ages (Eph. 1:3,4,9; cf. 1 Cor. 2:7).”
 
Ephesians 1:3,4,9. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4. just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 9. having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

I see nothing about “before the ages” in Ephesians 1:3,4,9. I assume he refers to the part where He “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” The meaning of this phrase should be studied out, as it has great significance. Most assume that “foundation” means “creation” and “world” means “earth.” Neither of these assumptions is correct. The world is not the same thing as the earth. The earth is the planet on which we live. The world, on the other hand, refers to a system, order, or arrangement of men upon the earth. We speak of the “world of sports,” because sports is an orderly world or system, operating according to certain rules and so forth. We would not think, however, of speaking of the “earth of sports.” When someone seems to have a skewed sense of reality, we might say he is “off in his own little world.” We wouldn’t say he’s in his own little earth. We use this word correctly, even if we don’t completely understand it.

There is a world, a system or arrangement, on earth right now that could be described as the current, evil world. In many respects it runs contrary to God and all He stands for. Yet there is coming a new world, one that God will found, that is coming in the future. That world is the world of the kingdom or government of God, when all will run according to His good pleasure. God has chosen us in Him before founding that future world. This has nothing to do with some choice He made before the creation of the earth.

I Corinthians 2:7. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

The word here for “world” is not the same word as in Ephesians. Here, it is the word aion, and is apparently why Mr. Baker called it “before the ages” in his argument. The word is not aion in Ephesians, however, and no one could argue that kosmos means “ages.”

I have no idea if Mr. Baker knows the truth about the word aion, as he does not seek to define it. If he checked it out, he could find that there is a Hebrew equivalent, the word olam. If he checked this out, he would find that life during the aion to come was the hope of every Israelite. I believe that aion is nothing less than the kingdom of God. So this does speak of the same thing as Ephesians 1, though it calls it by a different term.

However, when it comes right down to it, both of these passages are speaking of things that happen before the kingdom comes. Since both the Acts period and the dispensation of grace today are before the kingdom comes, at least in full, to the earth, this really proves nothing about Acts 28. There is nothing here to tie Paul’s books before and after Acts 28 together.

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