I received the following question:

I was wondering how Paul could even be writing a God-inspired letter to Philippi if his God-given miracle of knowledge had been taken away from him as well.  Paul’s gifts were obviously being taken away from him, as you state, but why would he still be able to write a God-inspired letter to Philippi?  Or would he have a special grace period to establish the Word for those in the dispensation of grace?  Where would evidence of that be found in Scripture?

The gospel itself was apostled, true.  But that did not end the work of divine inspiration.  The first thing that had to happen was that the gospel had to be written down.  During the Acts period, when only an apostled person could preach the gospel to anyone, it would have been wholly inappropriate for the gospel to be put down in written form.  What good would it have done, since no one could read it and believe, because you could only believe if you heard an apostled preacher?  Thus, I believe that all four gospels were written within about two years after Acts 28:28.  (Both Matthew and John were probably martyred soon after writing their books.  Mark sounds very similar to Colossians in announcing that the gospel was preached “everywhere,” and Luke was probably written just prior to Acts, which was published two years after Acts 28:28.)

So once the gospel was written down, people could believe it.  Yet God also needed to do some other things as well.  He needed to “clean up after Himself,” if you will, in finishing up His work of the Acts period.  Specifically, He needed to record the fact that that work was ended, why it was ended, when it would be taken up again, and how those who were a part of that work were to respond.  Also, he needed to reveal what His new plan was and how it differed from the plan that came before.  Look at the confusion we are in from mixing up the Acts period books with the post-Acts ones…think if the Acts period books were all we had!  Then, indeed, us understanding anything would seem almost hopeless.

In order for the Lord to do all these things, He had to violate some of the principles of the dispensation of grace that have been true ever since.  Inspired books are not written during this time period.  God is managing His people in complete secrecy.  So, we can see that this time we live in did not come into being instantly.  There was a time period…we might call it a transition period…wherein God was bringing in the new dispensation, cleaning up from the old one, preparing the gospel in written form, and writing down His instructions for the new dispensation.  During this time, there appeared on the earth two distinct groups of believers…one that had been saved during the Acts period, and one that had been saved after Acts 28:28.  These two kinds of believers were very different, and, though God’s work to begin the dispensation of grace may have ended earlier, we cannot say that this transition period was totally completed until the last of the Acts period believers had died and the last remnants of that work had totally disappeared from the scene.

Now what I’ve said above should not be confused with the mid-Acts dispensationalist’s idea of a transition period.  They believe that the second half of the book of Acts, starting from Acts 9, Acts 13, or whatever place they think is the start of this dispensation, is a transition period.  They then end their transition period at Acts 28:28.  They point out things that are the same in the Acts period as they are today, and say that these prove that God’s work today had begun.  When it comes to things that are clearly not true today, they say this was a transition period, with Israel and the Kingdom on the way out and the Mystery and the Church Which is His Body on the way in.  They usually are more likely to apply this idea to the book of Acts itself.  They tend to view all Paul’s books as being totally meant for us today, whether or not they were written before or after Acts 28:28.  (They would probably violate this when it comes to tongues and such things in I Corinthians, but this is generally what they believe.)  They have some points, but the way I see it, if we stopped asking ourselves, “When did God’s work today begin?” and instead asked ourselves, “When did God’s work with Israel end?” the difficulty would be cleared away, and the question could be positively answered.  It was at Acts 28:28 that Israel lost its preferred place.  Though some things might “carry through” from the previous dispensation (like the gospel, and other truths about salvation,) and some things might still change after Acts 28:28 (like whether or not inspired books can be written,) the major changing point was Acts 28:28.  Other changes occurred, like when the last book was written, but that is the primary changing point, and all other changes can be put in their proper place when measured against that point, and whether or not they occurred before that single change took place.

Now Paul certainly lost his Acts period ministry as an apostle at Acts 28:28.  That does not mean he could not be apostled in the dispensation of grace…at least, in the transition period leading into it.  “Apostle” means one “sent with authority.”  It was not an office.  It was a job.  And though the written Word now had the job of spreading the salvation-bringing message, God could still call men as apostles for other works He might have for them to perform.  That is what He did with Paul every time that he wrote a book in the post-Acts period.  Notice that many of the post-Acts books of Paul start out, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.”  (A few mention “bondservant,” or “prisoner” instead.)  This is not a statement of an office Paul held.  Rather, it is a confirmation by the author at the start of his letter that he was given a commission by Jesus Christ Himself to write the letter he was about to pen.  Each time Paul (or any other author) wrote a book in the post-Acts period (or the Acts period itself, for that matter,) he did not do it on his own, or sit down himself and decide to write.  Rather, he was given the job and commissioned to write by Jesus Christ Himself.  This was consistent with God’s work in the transition period into the dispensation of grace.  It is no longer a work that God will do for any individual, no matter how faithful.

As for gifts, God was no longer dispensing them after the Acts period.  However, He didn’t yank away things that He had given previously.  For example, He did not erase from your mind any knowledge He had given you.  If He had given you an intimate knowledge of a foreign language, you would retain that knowledge after the dispensation changed.  If He had given you skill in performing some particular task, like “governments,” He would not take that skill away, though He would no longer divinely support it.  Gifts like healing, however, would have disappeared instantly, for there was no actual skill or knowledge passed to the one bearing the gift, but only permission to use God’s power.  So though God stopped giving gifts after Acts 28:28, those who received gifts that included the impartation of things like knowledge could still reap the benefits from them, even after the divine support of the gifts was gone.

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