Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Acts Study | Session 26 | 14:13-15:11

 We are continuing our study through the book of Acts by looking at the necessity of general and special revelation, how worldviews affect how we interpret our surroundings, Paul's understanding of his weaknesses, church leadership, and why it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and settle the issue of the necessity of the Law for salvation.

VERSE 13: Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. (14)  Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, (15)  And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: (16)  Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Of course, this is proof that this crowd was Gentile as the Jews never would have done this. Again, worldviews. Interestingly, when the Jews saw miracles, they pointed them to God, so too with the Gentiles. It is like we all have a default that is based on how we see the world. 

Of course, Paul encourages them to turn from these vain beliefs to the true and living God. 

VERSES 17-18: Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (18)  And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them. When he says that God left not himself without a witness, that speaks of general revelation. Revelation speaks of a disclosing of information that could not have been known otherwise. In regards to revelation, there are two types of revelation: General and Special. General revelation is by definition, "God's disclosure of Himself in nature as the creator and sustainer of all things." It comes through nature (Psa 19:1-6), conscience (Rom 2:14-15), and history (Deu 28:9-10). 

That is what Paul was referring to when he said in vv.15-17, "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness". He further concluded in Romans 1:20 that as such, it leaves all men without an excuse (Rom 1:20). One writer said that general revelation is that "natural knowledge of God that is the basis for divine judgment." No one can escape it. 

However, ultimately, general revelation is not enough. While it does indeed point to God, it is insufficient to reveal the totality of God and His ultimate plan. Special revelation is when God reveals Himself to men "directly in a personal way." It is information that cannot be learned any other way, but through God (1Cor 2:14) and it must be accepted by faith (Rom 10:17). 

Swindoll and Zuck point out that it was necessary as that it would have been impossible for Adam and Eve to just look around at God's creation in the garden and have been able to surmise from creation alone what God's will and purpose for their lives was. God had to have eventually communicated with them by using words. 

The conclusion would be that the ultimate form of special revelation is the Bible itself; for it is the Bible that contains the gospel that is necessary for salvation. Thus is the urgency of getting out the gospel (Rom 10:13-15). It is only through special revelation that we are able to "learn about God that cannot be known or discovered by general revelation alone."

VERSE 19: And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Notice that these unbelieving Jews followed him from Antioch and Iconium to persuade the people to stone him. What virulent hatred they must have had for him! 

In regards to the stoning, most people believe that this is what Paul was referring to when sharing in 2Cor 12:1-2. The Bible speaks of three heavens: the atmosphere where the birds fly, the stars and planets, and the abode of God (2Cor 12:3-6). 

I find it interesting that Paul often put himself down. It is apparent from Scripture that his appearance was nothing to brag about and he knew that (Gal 4:12-15). As a matter of fact, he saw himself as contemptible (2Cor 10:9-10) and the least (1Cor 15:9). 

Also, look at 2Cor 12:7-8. The thorn might have been physical in that he might have been weakened by an illness such as ophthalmia (inflammation of the eye) which he might have been referring to in (Gal 6:11). 

Also, look at 2Cor 12:9. Whatever it was, God used it to keep him focused. Does God use our weaknesses to keep us focused?

VERSES 20-22: Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. (21)  And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, (22)  Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. I can't help but notice that he turned around and went back to the very place that he was stoned! That is a calling! cf. Burden vs. Call. The safest place a child of God can be is in the will of God. The most dangerous place a child of God can be is out of the will of God. 

My next question did Paul says, we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God? I submit two possible reasons. 1. He had not as yet received any revelation in regards to God's complete plan for the Body of Christ, e.g., the Rapture. Again, there is no doubt that he seems to be referring to a future, physical, fraternal Kingdom that had been promised to the Jews. One teacher says, "Since the revelation of the mystery concerning the rapture of the church had not as of yet been revealed to the apostle Paul the Jewish believers were still expecting the kingdom to come at any moment." 2. There is an issue with pronouns. Notice that he says we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. The point is that he might have been referring Jews only in this statement (cf. v.19). It can make sense if we understand that at this unique point in time, we have both Kingdom and Grace believers at the same time in the same place which Paul was addressing. Therefore, we could be referring to Kingdom believers only in that statement (cf. v.23). 

VERSE 23: And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. These verses had become a bit controversial today in the realm of church leadership. Where they simply ordaining one elder in every church or multiple elders in each church? I do know that Paul when giving instructions to Timothy always referred to the singular elder, never plural. However, a pretty good argument could be made for a plurality with 1Tim 5:17. However, he did refer to deacons in the plural. 

The word ordained seems to indicate that it was done by vote. 

VERSES 24-28: And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. (25)  And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: (26)  And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. (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. (28)  And there they abode long time with the disciples. Here we see a precedent for churches sending out missionaries. This is one argument that I heard as a missionary against parachurch organizations assuming the responsibility of the local church. I do tend to lean that way as well because there are no parachurch organizations in the Bible.

Notice they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. My first thought is why was this such news-breaking information if Pentecost was the birth of the Body of Christ?

Chapter 15

The dating of this chapter is around 48AD to 50AD which would have been about fifteen years after Pentecost. Also, bear in mind that he had just proclaimed the Gospel of Grace for the first time at Antioch in Pisidia before the Jews stirred the people up and they fled to Iconium and Lystra where he was stoned. He then returns to Antioch to report to the church all that God had done among the Gentiles by opening the door of faith to the (14:27). Paul spoke of this in Gal 2:1-14. 

VERSE 1: And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. These certain men were the false brethren that Paul referred to in Gal 2:4. Naturally, they were teaching observance to the Law for salvation. This was obviously in opposition to the new gospel that Paul was preaching. 

VERSE 2: When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. Here it says that they went to Jerusalem at the determination of the assembly in Antioch, but Gal 2:2 says that he went by revelation. The issue is the wording of the KJV (cf. other translations). That means that, yes, the church at Antioch did sent him, but the subject was to be the revelation of the mystery. This, of course, will be the first time that he is sharing the mystery with the Twelve. The question was in regard to the necessity of the Law for salvation as mentioned in v.1. 

VERSE 3: And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. The brethren here is a reference to the believing Jews. Again, we tend to clump all Jews, believing and unbelieving into one to say that they had a problem with salvation being given to the Gentile. No, only the unbelieving Jews had a problem with it (Gal 2:4). 

VERSE 4: And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. Now they are making their way to Jerusalem and are received by the Jerusalem assembly including the Twelve and elders. They then declared all things that God had done with them. No doubt this included all that God had done during their journey through Asia Minor and more importantly the revelation that Paul had received in regards to the mystery. This will be the first time this information is shared with the Jerusalem church as we will see by the heated conversation that follows. 

VERSE 5: But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. Here we see Pharisees which believed. The context to me is saying that these were Kingdom believers and therefore believed, correctly so, that they were still under the Law that required obedience to circumcision. They were biblically right but dispensationally wrong. They had apparently missed the part that Paul said in regards to all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:39). 

VERSES 6-9: And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. (7)  And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. (8)  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; (9)  And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. What matter? That is was needful to keep the Law to be saved. The fact that there is much disputing indicates that it was a controversial subject. Of course, the Twelve taught the Kingdom Gospel that required Law and Paul was now teaching the new Grace Gospel that did not. 

Peter then reaches back in his past, a while ago, and reminded them what happened when Cornelius, a Gentile, believed and received the Holy Ghost just like they did at Pentecost and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Peter is by no means saying that he first received the Grace Gospel, but is merely pointing at that God was obviously offering salvation to the Gentiles as had happened with Cornelius through the Kingdom Gospel. 

Also, remember at that time, all of them, including Paul, preached the same gospel until he shared the new one in Acts 13:38-39. Notice also that Peter said that God purified their hearts by faith. Hearts have always been purified by faith in that works were just an expression of said faith. However, those works could never completely justify. And that is exactly where the Gospel of Grace comes in (Acts 13:39).

VERSE 10: Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? In other words, Peter is saying that if the Law was insufficient to completely justify us, why should we try to place them under it? Of course, the immediate issue is circumcision, but it speaks of the entire Law. 

VERSE 11: But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Thus ends the reading of the word as that these are the last recorded words of Peter in the book of Acts. Again, my mind, just like in vv.14:22-23, is drawn to the pronouns we and they. He does not say they are saved the same way we are, but we are saved the same way they are. Some would say that this is Peter's way of acknowledging that there had indeed been a dispensational change (2Pet 3:14-16). It seems that Peter is saying in v.15 that the postponement of the Kingdom is salvation not only to the Jews but also to the Gentile. 

Now with that being said, there is nothing in Scripture that shows that Peter or the other Eleven ever started preaching the Grace Gospel, instead, as we will see in this chapter, they will agree not to. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Acts Study | Session 25 | 13:32-14:16

Today we see from the text that the transition from Peter to Paul, from Jerusalem to Antioch, and from the Kingdom Gospel to the Grace Gospel is continuing to take place even more pronounced as Paul presents the the gospel for the first time, the unbelieving Jews turn on him, and the Gentiles begin to respond.

VERSE 32: And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, The promises to the fathers began in  Genesis 12:1-3, but obviously the context dictates that it is in regards to the Messiah specifically and the resurrection (Psalm 16:10). This is further proven by the next verse when he quotes from Psalm 2. 

Also worth pointing out here that the promises made to the fathers is a reference to the Jewish fathers in regards to salvation and restoration of the nation. All earthly, all physical, all Israel. 

VERSE 33: God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Paul is referring to Psa_2:1-7 which I have come to see as the outline of the Old Testament program. 

VERSES 34-37: And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. (35)  Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (36)  For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: (37)  But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Christ's resurrection was the proof that he was the only begotten Son of God (Romans 1:1-4). It was the power of God that raised Christ from the dead and proved that he was truly the Son of God. That is why the resurrection is the heart of the Gospel. Without the resurrection there would be no Gospel. We today walk in that power! 

Just think of Peter before and after. Before, he denied Christ before a child. After, he defied the Jewish leadership. The resurrection is the heart of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:12-17). 

VERSES 38-39: Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: (39)  And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Here it is! The first time in Scripture that the Gospel of Grace is taught. Previously, under the Gospel of the Kingdom, it was about keeping the Law and a baptism of repentance (Acts 2:36-38).

Just FYI, these is a slight difference between remission and forgiveness. Remission is the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty. Forgiveness is the action or process of forgiving, but root word forgive is to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake. 
Again, the words are similar but not exactly the same same. I am developing a strong opinion that one should not be confused and applied to the other. I believe that it is more appropriate to say remission in regards to the end result of the Kingdom Gospel and forgiveness in regards to the end result of the Grace Gospel. 

Also, notice that it says all that believe are justified from all things. First key word is all. That means everyone, not just the Jew. Second key word is justified. Peter clearly taught that justification came through keeping the law (Romans 2:13). Why? Because they were still under the Law! Examples include: They cast lots for Matthias in Acts 1:26. They still went to the temple at the hour of prayer in Acts 3:1. The receiving of the Spirit was contingent upon obedience in Acts 5:32. Ananias was a devout man according to the Law in Acts 22:11-12. Peter's vision before going to Cornelius' house proves that he was still under the Law in Acts 10:11-14. 

Paul teaches here that justification was the result of belief and belief alone (Romans 10:9). 

VERSES 40-41: Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; (41)  Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. Paul is referring to Habakkuk 1:5. Why? Remember that context is key. When Old Testament Scriptures are quoted in the New Testament, the original meaning can not be construed to say something else. It always means what it says when it was said. In other words, unlike what many commentators say, it can not be referring to a warning against rejecting of the Gospel of Grace because Habakkuk did not know anything about that. No one did, until it was revealed to Paul (Colossians 1:25-26). 

Instead, in Habakkuk, God was warning the nation that he was coming to bring judgment down on them at the hands of the Chaldeans because of their refusal to follow him, specifically because of their injustice and idolatry. Paul is simply reminding his audience here that God is capable of bringing judgment down again upon those who still refuse to follow him which is exactly what happened to the nation when they officially rejected the Kingdom offer and the Romans brought His judgement in 70 AD just like the Chaldeans did. Again, Habakkuk is not referring to the rejection of the Gospel of Grace, instead the rejection of the Kingdom which led to the destruction. 

VERSE 42: And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. After the Jews left, the Gentiles wanted to hear more about this Gospel of Grace. Bear in mind that before the Gospel of Grace, the Gentiles were without hope (Ephesians 2:12). 

VERSES 43-44: Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. (44)  And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. After the service was over, they continued to persuade them, Jews and proselytes, Gentiles, in regards to the grace of God. To persuade is to convince by offering arguments are proof. Convince them of what? Forgiveness of sins to all that believe and are justified from all things that could not be justified in the law of Moses (vv.38-39).

Notice that they are still meeting on the Sabbath. Why? Still under the Law. 

VERSE 45: But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. And here come the Jews with envy contradicting and blaspheming. Obviously, what Paul was preaching was different or they would not have responded this way. Blaspheming can be speaking against the work of the Holy Spirit or speaking evil of Paul. 

VERSES 46-47: 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. (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. The word of God was preached to the Jew first via the Kingdom Gospel under the hopes that they would except it and be the light of the Gentiles that he desired them to be (Isaiah 49:6). 

Paul here is not twisting that Old Testament verse an effort to apply it to his own ministry and calling. Remember that we have already said that when Old Testament Scriptures are quoted in the New Testament, the original meaning can not be construed to say something else. So, there is no way that verse had Paul's ministry in mind. However, he is saying it in that be now knew that God was going use him to do what they refused to do. 

Notice that he said that it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you. Paul also stated in (Romans 1:16). It seems to me from these verses that not only was the Kingdom Gospel taken exclusively to them, but also Paul tried to take the Grace Gospel to them first as well, but they rejected that also, e.g., he went to the synagogues first. But, in the end he says that they have proved themselves as unworthy of everlasting life in that they had rejected both gospels. The nation was continuing to blaspheme the Holy Spirit which was a sin that in its truest sense, only Israel could commit. Therefore, Paul, obviously under the direction of God, says that he is going to the Gentiles from now on. 

VERSES 48-49: 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. (49) And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. The word ordained is not a case for Calvinism or Predestination as some would say. Instead, it just means to arrange in an orderly manner, and of course, this happens as the Word of God is taught. As that is done, people chose to believe or not believe. It is not an altar call or a sinner's prayer, just belief. It is not water baptism or speaking in tongues, just belief. 

VERSES 50-52: But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. (51)  But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. (52)  And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost. And like clockwork, the Jews came out against him and they were once again thrown out. The shaking off the dust from their feet against them was a testimony to their rejection of the truth (Acts 20:26). 

Chapter 14
VERSE 1: And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed (Acts 13:51).  Interestingly, from this point forward, Luke uses the term synagogue of the Jews (Acts 17:1, Acts 17:10). Even if he doesn't use this phrase, he seems to want to indicate clearly who Paul is talking to. Also, the word Greek is Hellen indicating Gentiles and not Greek speaking Jews. 

VERSE 2: But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Understand that these unbelieving Jews are not those who had accepted the Kingdom or Grace Gospels. These were religious Jews, and I can tell you emphatically, nothing is more dangerous than a "religious" person. They always move and act in the flesh because that is who they are. Again, further proof that Paul is speaking something other than the Kingdom Gospel. They no doubt saw Paul's teaching as a perversion of Judaism. 

VERSE 3: Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Notice that they gave testimony unto the word of his grace. This speaks of the Grace Gospel. I can only assume that the signs and wonders were for the benefit of the Jews that were present (1 Corinthians 1:22). 

VERSE 4: But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. Now that the Gentiles were excited about hearing this new message, the unbelieving as already identified were still unbelieving Jews who were still causing division in the city. They were apparently still contradicting and blaspheming just like in Acts 13:45.

Notice that it says and part held with the Jews, and part with the the apostles. The apostles spoken of here has to be referring to Paul and Barnabas. However, more are mentioned in v.14. These can't be referring to the Twelve. We all readily speak of 13 apostles including Paul for sure, but the Scripture is pretty clear that there were more. However, with that said, none existed before Jesus nor after the rejection of the Kingdom offer. Also, as per the previous verse, they also performed signs and wonders for the benefit of the Jews I believe (1 Corinthians 1:22). One mark of apostleship was the performance of signs and wonders. 

VERSES 5-7 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, (6)  They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: (7)  And there they preached the gospel. On the run again. Notice the word assault. And, of course, they continue to preach the grace gospel. Timothy may have been converted on this trip (Acts 16:1). Preached the gospel literally means evangelized.

VERSES 8-10: And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: (9) The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, (10) Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. Remember back in v.3 that it said that they were granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Interesting that it says that Paul perceived that he had the faith to be healed. How he did this we do not know, but it says say that he steadfastly beheld him. Maybe it just means that Paul saw something in him as a result of his response to the other miracles that he most likely had witnessed. We just do not want to read something into the text that just is not there. 

However, I am not content with that. The phrase was often used in the Gospels: Matthew 9:21-22, Matthew 9:28-29; Luke 7:50; Luke 17:19; Luke 18:42. In regards to Mat 9:21-22, Albert Barnes said that "her faith, her strong confidence in Jesus, had been the means of her restoration. It was the “power” of Jesus that cured her; but that power would not have been exerted but in connection with faith. So in the salvation of a sinner. No one is saved who does not believe; but faith is the instrument, and not the power, that saves."

VERSES 11-12: And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. (12)  And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Their response is no doubt in full knowledge of the writings of Publius Ovidius Nasom, better known as Ovid who was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus, a contemporary of Virgil and Horace. He wrote the story of Philemon and Baucis, an elderly couple  who unwittingly entertained the Greek gods Jupiter and his son Mercury (also known as Zeus and Hermes to the Romans) as the only ones in their town to show them hospitality. In return they were rewarded with a wish for anything they wanted and spared the devastation of their village. 

This should also serve as a lesson to us that people always respond according to their worldview. A worldview can be defined as a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

VERSES 13-16: Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. (14)  Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, (15)  And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: (16)  Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Of course, this is proof that this crowd was Gentile as the Jews never would have done this. Again, worldviews. Interestingly, when the Jews saw miracles, they pointed them to God, so too with the Gentiles. It is like we all have a default that is based on how we see the world. Of course, Paul encourages them to turn from these vain beliefs to the true and living God. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

ACTS STUDY | SESSION 24 | 13:1-31

Today we continue go into Acts 13 with a brief introduction, discussing how Elymas and Sergius Paulus could be types, the doctrine of the Lord, and the coming conflict between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark, the churches in Asia Minor, the participants in the Jewish synagogues, the baptism of repentance, and the ignorance on behalf of the nation that led to the crucifixion our Jesus.

Introduction
Chapter 13 gets pretty interesting for me because for most, not all, it is the beginning of the Gospel of Grace as preached by the Apostle Paul, and that will become obvious when we get down to Acts 13:38-39. Now, if you were to ask me, "When did the Church, the Body of Christ begin? I would respond by saying, with the conversion of Paul. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 makes this abundantly clear to me.

However, there is disagreement in regards to when and/or how many times Paul was converted. Some will say that there was only one conversion in Paul's life and that was on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 and that is when the dispensation of grace began. Others will say, no, that was a Kingdom conversion and that later, when he received the revelation of them mystery, there was another, and that is the one that he is referring to in 1 Timothy 1:15-16.

Personally, and I have the right to change my mind after further study, I believe that Paul experienced two conversions: the first on the road to Damascus and the second after the revelation of the mystery sometime during or right after his three years in Arabia. Again, people disagree, and there are great and convincing arguments for both.

Chapter 13
VERSE 1: Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. Bear in mind that this was a predominately Gentile church that had grown under the teaching of Paul, and of which he was the first member (1 Timothy  1:15-16). This, in my opinion, is the Body of Christ that you and I are apart of that is made up of both Jew and Gentile, which began at the revelation of the mystery to Paul.

Notice that Paul is not the only teacher there either as we can see from the text.

VERSES 2-4: 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. (3)  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (4)  So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. Now God providentially decides that Paul and Barnabas need to be sent out to take the Gospel of Grace to the rest of the world in what would be known as the first of his missionary journeys. He would take at least three, possibly four, depending on how many times he was imprisoned. 2 Timothy 4:16-17 seems to indicate twice, but that is another study for another day.

VERSE 5: And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. Now, my question is, what did her preach to the Jews in the synagogues? Kingdom or Grace? Regardless, by the time we get to the end of the chapter, it will be obvious is is teaching the Gospel of Grace.

Notice John again, this is John Mark who penned the Gospel of Mark. The next verses get interesting and are the primary reason I believe Paul is now going to start preaching the Gospel of Grace starting with Sergius Paulus.

VERSES 6-8: And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: (7)  Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. (8)  But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. They run upon a Jewish false prophet who name was Barjesus, but Elymas by interpretation according to v.8. He apparently withstood Saul and Barnabas and sought to turn away the deputy from the faith.

VERSE 9: Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, From this point forward, Paul is never called Saul again. To me, this is the proof that Paul had already received the revelation of the mystery. Again, his name Saul is used 26 times prior and the name Paul is used 126 times after this verse. This to me is a strong indicator that it had already happened and the name change was the announcement.

VERSE 10: And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? When we use the word subtle today, it means that we are not being very obvious in our actions. However, in this verse, the word could be translated to mean craft, deceit, or guile. He is accusing him of using deception and dishonesty in perverting th ways of the Lord.

VERSES 11-12: And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. Some, including myself, see this verse as a type of the transition that was taking place from the Kingdom to the Gospel; from the prophetic to the mystery. In that case, Elymas would be a type of unbelieving Israel that is in temporary blindness and Sergius Paulus would be a type of the Gentiles that can now clearly see (Romans 11:7-15; Romans 11:25). This would also be the story for the rest of Paul's mystery in that in would be withstood by the Jews practically every where he went. No doubt, some listened, but most withstood and rejected Paul's apostleship.

I am also drawn to that final phrase of the verse the doctrine of the Lord. This is the only place in the Bible where this phrase is used. The only verse that even comes close is 1 Timothy 6:3. I believe this is a reference to the Gospel of Grace, i.e., death, burial, and resurrection. Remember, the Kingdom Gospel is Christ, but the Grace Gospel is the Cross.

VERSE 13: Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. This seemingly insignificant verse would set up a dispute between Paul and Barnabas later (Act_15:36-40) and led to Paul taking Silas instead. Now some will point to the fact that Barnabas disappeared from the scene right after that as proof that he was in the wrong, but that is speculation as far as I can tell. We are not sure why John Mark left and returned to Jerusalem. Most believe that he was just afraid.

Paphos was the capital of Syria. Perga was on the coast of modern day Turkey. The entire area is what we call Asia Minor today which is where, from what I can tell, all of the churches which Paul started and ministered were located, e.g., the seven churches of Revelation, Colosse and Galatia.

VERSES 14-16: But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. (15)  And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. (16) Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. Antioch of Pisidia is not the same Antioch as where they had come from. We will find moving forward that Paul always went to the synagogue first when he entered any city because he had such a heart for his people (Romans 9:3). He is now going to rehearse the history of the Jewish nation beginning with Abraham, through Jesus' earthly ministry and crucifixion.

When Paul says, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience, it is apparent that there were both Jew and Gentile in this synagogue. I have previously stated that Gentiles were not allowed into the synagogue; however, upon further study, it is apparent that they were (Acts 13:42; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:1-4; Acts 17:10-12; and Acts 18:4). So, obviously, while not allowed into the Temple, only to the Court of the Gentiles, they were allowed into the synagogues.

VERSES 17-19: The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. (18)  And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. (19)  And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. The seven nations included: The Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites (Deuteronomy 7:1).

VERSES 20-22: And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. (21)  And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. (22)  And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. (23) Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: Paul emphasizes David, because through him would come the Messiah who would deliver the nation.

VERSE 24: When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. It must be understood that the Savior that John preached was exclusively the savior of Israel through which he would use the nation to reach the world which was plan A. The baptism of repentance was for the nation of Israel only. We today, do not partake in this baptism. Anyone who teaches that baptism is necessary for baptism today is conflating the Kingdom Gospel with the Grace Gospel and teaching a works salvation (1 Corinthians 1:17-18; Ephesians 2:8-9).

VERSE 25: And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. John always pointed to Jesus (John 1:19-23).

VERSE 26: Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. It seems obvious from the text that Paul is speaking to both Jew and Gentile.

VERSES 27-31: For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. (28)  And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. (29)  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. (30)  But God raised him from the dead: (31)  And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. What Paul is talking about had occurred only twelve years earlier. Notice that he says that the people did it because they knew him not all the while reading the voices of the prophets every week in the temple and synagogues. Yet, in their ignorance, they fulfilled prophecy.

Peter addressed this in Acts 3:16-18. He was acknowledging that they had indeed put Jesus to death, but they did it through ignorance. Jesus said the same in Luke 23:34. As did Stephen in Acts 7:60. This is important to understand, because had they did it knowingly, justice would have been swift with no grace extended.

Also, we mentioned earlier, even the apostles themselves had been walking in ignorance in spite of the fact that Jesus told them emphatically what was going to happen to him. Even after the resurrection, they were still utterly clueless as to the resurrection that would follow, cf. the women and the disciples in Luke 24:13-27. The point is, the apostles, just like those who demanded the crucifixion, where walking in ignorance.

The law makes it clear that if someone knowingly, premeditatively killed someone, it was life for life. However, if it was an accident, grace was extended for the person to flee to the City of Refuge (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Acts Study | Session 23 | 11:26-12:25

Today we will be covering Acts 11:26-12:25 where we see Barnabas being sent to find Saul in Antioch, the death of the first apostle besides Judas, Peter's imprisonment and miraculous release, and the painful death of Herod.

VERSE 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.  There is still no indication that Saul had received the revelation of the mystery. But it must have happened somewhere during this time between Chapter 11 and chapter 13 because chapter 12 is parenthetical to Paul's story line in that it switches back to Herod in Jerusalem and the Twelve.

Interestingly, Saul's name change is announced in Acts 13:1-13. It is significant because the name Saul is used 26 times prior and the name Paul is used 126 times after. Saul is only used in regards to his previous life which is a very strong indicator that it happened no later than when his name change is announced.

Also, after Barnabas found him, he took him from Tarsus to Antioch where they continued to teach. Of course, up to this point in the text nothing really stands out as a benchmark. Sadly, the text just does not flat out say when and where it happened. But, it just seems to me that this is most likely where it happened somewhere between the time that he was sent out in Acts 9:30 which happened shortly after his visit to Jerusalem which happened three years after his escape in Acts 9:25. So, Acts 13:9 is the benchmark in my humble opinion.

Time wise, this is 10 to 12 years after Pentecost. Les Feldick says, "They were first called Christians at Antioch because these are Gentiles who are being saved by Paul's beautiful message of God's Grace." However, I might add, Paul preached the Gospel of Grace to Jew and Gentile alike at some point and that is where his problems began in earnest. After all, who cared what the Gentiles believed, they were always viewed as pagans. Some will point to Acts13:4-12 as a type of Israel blindness in that a Jew tried to lead a Gentile from the faith (Rom 11:15, Rom 11:25).

VERSES 27-30: And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. (28)  And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. (29)  Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: (30)  Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Here we find the church in Antioch which was predominately Gentile sending money to the all Jewish church in Jerusalem because of their actions in Acts 4:33-35.

As we finish chapter 11, we have seen the stoning of Stephen in chapter 8, were introduced to Saul and his conversion in chapter 9. He shortly thereafter ended up three years in Arabia after they tried to kill him during which time, or shortly thereafter, he received the revelation of the mystery. We have also seen Peter going to Cornelius' house in chapter 10 revelation to him that salvation was also being given to the Gentiles even though he still did not totally understand it. Then the church in Jerusalem sends out Barnabas to find Saul who took him to Antioch where they taught for 18 months and were first called Christians. Now chapter 12 turns back to the happenings in Jerusalem, after which Peter will slowly roll of the scene except for chapter 15 and the Jerusalem Council.

Chapter 12
This entire chapter, based upon the death of Herod, occurs in 44 AD. When it refers to Herod the King, it is a reference to Herod Agrippa I who was the grandson of Herod the Great.

VERSES 1-2: Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. (2)  And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. Which the exception of Judas who took his own life, this is the death of the first apostle. From now on, the only James referred to is the half-brother of Jesus.

VERSES 3-4: And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) (4)  And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Herod, just like out political leaders today, was trying to appease his base. The days of unleavened bread is a reference to Passover which was a seven day period. Now, many have attempted to make much ado about the would Easter here in this verse by saying that is a pagan reference to the goddess Estarte or Ishtar who was also known as the Mother of Heaven, the mother of Nimrod, Semiramis. However, the word in the Greek is pascha which means Passover. It also comes from the German word oester which means east which points to the rising sun on the day our Lord resurrected from the dead. I see no problem with the word.

VERSES 5-6: Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. (6)  And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. Peter was obviously being guarded for execution.

VERSE 7: And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. But God still had a plan for Peter that did not include his death just yet.

VERSES 8-9: And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. (9)  And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. The entire time, Peter thought that he was seeing a vision. Sounds like me before I have had my first cup of coffee.

VERSE 10: When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. Again, God still had tremendous plans for Peter. Reminds me of the old saying that we are immortal until God is through with us.

VERSES 11-17: And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. (12)  And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. (13)  And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. (14)  And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. (15)  And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. (16)  But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. (17)  But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place. I am sure that this story was shared and laughed about many times later. Term beckon in v.17 means to use a physical gesture. In this case and others, it seems to be just a waving of the hands to get the audience's attention. Also, notice that it says that they thought that it might be his angel.

Albert Barnes says of this, "This notion arose from the common belief of the Jews that each individual had assigned to him, at birth, a celestial spirit, whose office it was to guard and defend him through life (Matt 18:10; Heb 1:14).

VERSE 18: Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.  The emphasis in this verse is no small stir. These men were going to pay for this with their lives. Interestingly, the same rule should have been applied to the guards who were guarding the tomb of Jesus (Matt 27:62-66; Matt 28:11-15). Any one of the day would have known something was suspicious here because these guards did not lose their lives (Acts 16:25-30).

VERSE 19: And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode. Makes you wonder how God would allow these guards to be killed in exchange for the life of Peter. However, we must trust in God's sovereignty.

VERSES 20-23: And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country. (21)  And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. (22)  And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. (23)  And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. Sounds like something right out of a modern-day horror movie. A scientific journal that I read said that he died of a combination of chronic kidney disease and a rare infection that causes gangrene in the genitalia called Fournier's gangrene. They wrote, “The texts that we depend on for a close description of Herod’s last days list several major features of the disease that caused his death – among then, intense itching, painful intestinal problems, breathlessness, convulsions of every limb, and gangrene of the genitalia,” Jan Hirschmann, professor of medicine at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

VERSE 24: But the word of God grew and multiplied. Of course, we can only assume from the text that this word of God was the Kingdom message that they have been sharing since the Gospels.

VERSE 25: And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark. This return was to bring the gift that they had collected from the church in Antioch (Acts 11:27-29) thus fulfilling their ministry. Notice that they are also with John Mark.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Acts Study | Session 22 | 9:36-11:25

Today in our study we look at Acts 9:36-11:25 where we see Dorcas being raised from the dead, the conversion of Cornelius and its significance, and Peter's report to the church at Jerusalem.

VERSE 36: Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. Joppa is a small port town close to Lydda (2Ch 2:16; Ezr 3:7; Jon 1:3). Interestingly, the name Tabitha or Dorcas means gazelle.

VERSES 37-38: And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. (38)  And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. (39)  Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. (40)  But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. (41)  And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. (42)  And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. (43)  And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner. In these verses, Peter raised this woman from the dead. Again, we see the pattern, miracles followed by a belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. No one can honestly say that God works this way today. This was simply a different dispensation. We do not live under this apostolic dispensation today.

Chapter 10
VERSES 1-2: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, (2)  A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. It must first be noted that Cornelius was not a Jew, nor a proselyte into Judaism yet. He was a Roman Centurion. I view this as God preparing Peter for a meeting that he was going to have with Paul twelve years from now. However, make no mistake, Peter is still presenting him with the Gospel of the Kingdom because that is all that he knew.

Notice that even though he was a devout man, and one that feared God, he was still lost. Lest you think that strange, our churches today are filled with them. George Barna said a few years ago that statistically, 70% of the average evangelical church in America is lost. I have no doubt about that.

Peter shared this event in Acts 11:12-14. Of course, Peter is referring to these next verses.

VERSES 3-6: He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. (4)  And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. (5)  And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: (6)  He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. Cornelius was praying about 3:00 pm, an angel of God tells him that his prayers have been answered, tells him to call for Peter who is currently at Simon's house, and he would tell him what to do next. Interestingly, only the KJV says he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. And he does what the Lord tells him to in...

VERSES 7-10: And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; (8)  And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. (9) On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: (10)  And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, So, while these guys are on their way, Peter also receives a vision. He is sitting on the housetop around noon in prayer and apparently very hungry. The ladies may have been cooking at the time. Either way, God uses that hunger sensation to show him something.

VERSES 11-14: And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: (12)  Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. (13)  And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. (14)  But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, chapter 11, God had given the nation a list of what they could and could not eat, foods that were considered clean and unclean, and apparently some of these were on the unclean side of the menu. However, the point of these verses that I had missed for years is why did Peter respond the way that he did? The answer is because he was still very much under the Law almost eight years after Pentecost! If the church began, the age of grace began, why is Peter still observing the Law? Why? Because he is still under the Law! There is no Body of Christ at this point in the book of Acts.

VERSES 15-18: And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (16)  This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. (17)  Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, (18)  And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. Just to further makes his point, God repeats himself three times, and Peter still doubted what he had just heard. Some have suggested that this was the revelation of the mystery, no, that was given to Paul, not Peter.

VERSES 19-20: While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. (20)  Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. God is now getting ready to demonstrate first hand what He has been trying to tell Peter. Why do you think God used a traumatic vision to speak to Peter? Because, our Lord's entire earthly ministry was to Jews only, and he told his followers the same (Mat 10:5-7; Mat 15:22-24). I have heard for so long that the Jews was bigoted and just did not understand what God was doing and that is why they struggled so hard with taking the gospel to the Gentiles. Not so!

VERSES 21-23: Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? (22)  And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. (23)  Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. Even though Peter is still obviously confused, he is obedient and goes with them.

VERSES 24-26: And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. (25)  And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. (26)  But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. In preparation for Peter's arrival, Cornelius had gathered his kinsmen and close friends. That fact that Cornelius tried to worshiop him speaks of his spiritual state. Of course, the first pope didn't allow himself to be worshiped, that would come later.

VERSES 27-29: And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. (28)  And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (29)  Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? Now Peter recounts why he is there and wants to know why he had been sent for. Interestingly, Peter points to the Law to say that a Jew should not keep company with a Gentile; however, the Torah never directly prohibited that. Instead, Peter is most likely referring to the rabbinical teachings of the day. That, or he is referring to Jesus' command that they go not to the Gentiles with the Gospel of the Kingdom; probably the former though. Note: Gainsaying means promptly. In other words, he did not fight it.

No doubt, a transition is taking place which began with Saul's conversion in chapter 9, Cornelius here in chapter 10, when Peter returns to the church in Jerusalem and reports that the Gentiles had received the word of God, then sends Barnabus to Antioch to find Saul where they were first called Christians, in chapters 13 and 14 Barnabus and Paul head out of their missionary journeys, and finally in chapter 15 they are back in Jerusalem explaining God's continued work among the Gentile through the Gospel of Grace that had been revealed to Paul.

I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? indicates to me that Peter still had no idea why he was there. In other words, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to them was not what he was thinking of.

VERSES 30-33: And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, (31)  And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. (32)  Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. (33)  Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. Cornelius then explains that he is still in the dark as well and was only being obedient to the that man in bright clothing and that Peter was supposed to tell him what thou oughtest to do (Acts 10:6).

VERSES 34-35: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: (35)  But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. Now Peter is putting it all together, the Vision + Cornelius = Gospel. As such, many will say at this point that Cornelius was the first Gentile Christian. However, the content of Peter's message simply does not bear that out.

VERSES 36-37: The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) (37)  That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; He is simply sharing what had been and was going on in regards to the nation of Israel and the preaching of Christ. Apparently, it was so well known that he assumes that even the Gentiles had already heard of it. Again, nothing new here. Jesus' ministry began in Galilee after the baptism of the John the Baptist.

VERSE 38: How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. Again, referring to Jesus' baptism at the hands of John and his ministry thereafter that only proved that he was indeed their Messiah.

VERSE 39: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: In other words, we were there throughout his ministry and are witnesses to everything that he did in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem, before they slew him and hanged him on a tree. Again, our Lord's ministry was exclusively to the nation of Israel.

VERSES 40-42: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; (41)  Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. (42) And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. Of course, his resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that he was their Messiah. And they were witnesses chosen before of God. That doesn't mean that others did not see him (1Cor 15:6), but that they were chosen to be the ones who would bear witness of that resurrection as seen in v.42.

VERSES 43-48: To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (44)  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. (45)  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. (46)  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, (47)  Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (48)  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. This is the Kingdom Gospel and Cornelius' response in the next verse is a Kingdom response in that it was followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and baptism. So far we have seen the Holy Spirit come upon the Twelve, the other Jewish believers, the Samaritan believers, and now upon Gentile believers. Therefore, it must be concluded that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not a mark of the church, but an empowerment to preach the Kingdom Gospel (Acts 1:8).

Again, some will say that Peter was preaching and Cornelius was responding to the Grace Gospel, if that was truly the case, nobody told Paul, because he consistently argued that he was the first to hear about it and receive it (Gal 1:11-12;  Eph 3:2-4; Rom 2:16; Rom 16:25; Gal 1:15-17; Gal 2:2; 1Ti 1:16). Paul even said that when he did preach to the Jews prior to the revelation he only spoke of what the prophets and Moses said should come (Act_26:22).

Under the Kingdom Gospel, they only believed in the Messiah for eternal life and national salvation, but under the Grace Gospel, we believe in the completed work of Christ on the cross and thus receiving immediate and personal salvation outside of any Kingdom promises or requirements. This is not the message that Peter taught in this chapter.

Notice also that Peter commanded them to be baptized. Why? It was required. On the other hand, Paul said that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, let the cross of Christ should be made of none effect (1Cor 1:17).

Chapter 11
VERSES 1-3: And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. (2)  And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, (3)  Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. Notice Peter's reception when he returned to Jerusalem! Why were they upset with him if he was only obeying Matt 28:19? Obviously, it is because Mat 28:19 does not mean what we have been taught that it means.

VERSES 4-17: But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, (5)  I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: (6)  Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. (7)  And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. (8)  But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. (9)  But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (10)  And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. (11)  And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. (12)  And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: (13)  And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; (14)  Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. (15)  And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. (16)  Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. (17)  Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? These verses do not really contain any new information as that they are just Peter recounting the whole event with Cornelius. Some have speculated why Luke would be so repetitive in recounting the entire episode again, but I believe that he is just being true to the events as they happened. Peter's only conclusion for the naysayers was, what was I, that I could withstand God?

VERSE 18: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. When Peter finished his summation, they glorified God recognizing God had granted repentance unto life to the Gentiles as well. However, please understand that what Cornelius and those who were with him had accepted was the Kingdom Gospel. This was not a grace through faith not of works salvation, but instead a grace through repentance and baptism salvation.

VERSE 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. Here we see that even though Peter had taken the Kingdom Gospel to the Gentiles, the others who had been scattered after the stoning of Stephen did not. Just for context, the stoning of Stephen occurred in 33 AD and we are now in 41 AD. That is eights years gone by and they were still only preaching to Jews only. They were simply being obedient to Acts 1:8.

VERSES 20-21: 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. (21)  And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. These that were scattered from Jerusalem from v.19 came into contact with Grecians, or hellenistic Jews, who were part of the diaspora. We first saw these Jews in Acts 6. They were simply non-Palestinian Jews whose ancestors had been carried away by Babylon and never returned. Therefore, they grew up outside of Jerusalem. These are those spoken of in Acts 2 at Pentecost (Acts 2:7-8). And to these Jews, they preached the Kingdom Gospel.

Interestingly, the modern translations do not call these Grecians, but Greeks which would make them Gentiles. Again, I believe that bias has worked its way into the translations. Again, the issue is the underlying texts. The KJV comes from the Received Text which uses the word Hellenistes which is a Greek speaking Jew, while the modern versions use a manuscript that uses the word Hellen which is simply a Greek speaking person.

VERSE 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. It is worthwhile to mention here that it is obvious that the church in Jerusalem is in charge. A model that the Roman Catholic Church modeled from Rome.

VERSE 23-24: 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. (24)  For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Upon his arrival, Barnabas confirmed that what they had heard was true.

VERSE 25: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: Remember that Saul had been sent out in Acts 9:30 and not heard from since.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Acts Study | Session 21 | 9:15-38

Today we will be looking at Acts 9:15-38 where we see Paul receiving his sight and teaching Christ in Damascus that he is the Son of God, the three year period between Damascus and his visit to Jerusalem, and Peter's subsequent journey to Lydda and the healing of Tabitha.

VERSE 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: Notice that the Lord just says, Go thy way! and doesn't even attempt to respond to Ananias' objections. This marks the beginning of the transition in the book of Acts.

Notice that he is going to go to Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Some will contend that this is beginning of the Body of Christ with Saul's conversion, but that case simply can not be made from these verses. Saul is responding to the Kingdom Gospel in that he repented and will be baptized in v.18. As far as Saul was concerned, he was simply being chosen to take the Kingdom Gospel to the Gentiles, kings, and the house of Israel. Saul new the Old Testament prophecies about the nation being used as a kingdom of priests to the Gentiles.

VERSE 16: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. Going with the previous thought, God says, I will shew him meaning yet future.

VERSE 17-18: And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (18)  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. Now these is something different in these verses. In Acts 2, they repented, were baptized, and then received the Spirit. In Acts 8, they Samaritans repented, then baptized, and then received the Spirit at the hands of Peter and John. Here, some will say that Saul repented, received the Spirit along with his sight, and is then baptized. Or it could simply mean that he had repented, Ananius prayed over him to receive his sight, he was baptized, and then received the Spirit just as the others before. For now, I tend to go with the latter.

VERSES 19-20: And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. (20)  And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. Notice that Saul is teaching Christ, not the cross, in the synagogues. Of course, the only people in the synagogues were Jews. He was converted under the Kingdom Gospel and he taught the Kingdom Gospel at this point. Galatians 1:23 says that he preached the faith that he once destroyed.

If you think that Ananias was freaked out by this guy Saul who was coming to persecute them, can you imagine how tense it was to be in the same synagogue with him now?

VERSES 21-22: But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? (22)  But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. However, in spite of their concerns, God used Saul and he increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. Notice that Paul was proving that this is very Christ. This was the same ministry of the other apostles.

The word proving in the original means to drive together, unite, infer, show, teach. He was proving from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus was their Messiah.

VERSES 23-25: And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: (24)  But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. (25)  Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. Notice after that many days were fulfilled, the the Jews took counsel to kill him. Many believe that it was after this escape that marks the beginning of the three years in Arabia that Paul mentioned in Gal 1:16-18 before heading to Jerusalem in v.26. Paul also refers to this event in 2Co 11:32-33.

Some believe that it was during these three years in Arabia that God showed him the the mystery. However, I don't lean that way. Instead, I tend to think that it was some time after Arabia and sometime during the fourteen years later that he returned to Jerusalem for the council in Acts 15 (Gal 2:1-2). I just think that if Paul had received something he would have shared it with Peter the first time that he went to Jerusalem in v.26.

Now some do believe that it might have been just after Jerusalem that he received the mystery because when Paul gives his testimony in Acts 22:17-21 he was told that he was going to be sent to far hence unto the Gentiles. And by the time, he does arrive in Jerusalem in Acts 15 (Acts 15:23) fourteen years later, he mentions that there are churches that were made up of Gentiles in Syria, Silicia, and Antioch which is where he went after leaving Jerusalem.

VERSES 26-29: And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. (27)  But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. (28)  And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. (29)  And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Time wise, this is about 38AD and three years after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. However, it is no wonder that the disciples were still a little leary of Saul. Who wouldn't have been at this point. The dude had people killed!

This is when Barnabas, whose name means "son of consolation", steps to the plate and spoke of behalf of Saul to help remove the hesitancy that so many apparently had in regards to him. This was the beginning of ministry together. However, Saul still met tremendous amounts of opposition because of his insistence that Jesus was their Messiah. Nothing will get the dander up on a religious person more than challenging their strongly held unbiblical beliefs. Of course, their answer was to kill him.

VERSE 30: Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Here we find Saul fleeing for his life again. Not a very good start to ministry for sure. It is from here that the brethren brought him down to Caesarea as recorded in Gal 1:21. Tarsus was in Cilicia. These brethren are still those of the Kingdom Church as their is no suggestion that Paul has received anything different at this point.

VERSE 31: Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. Understand that these churches are still Messianic Jewish believers at this point. Randy White makes it a point to point out that only the KJV uses the plural churches while the others use the singular church and this is an example of them forcing their theology on the text.

VERSE 32: And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. After the introduction to Saul, there is a brief shift back to Peter who visited the saints which dwelt at Lydda. Again, so far we have seen nothing but Jews. You just can not insert Gentiles into these chapters without clearly displaying some bias. On another note, even if Saul did receive the revelation of the mystery by this point, there is no indication of it.

VERSE 33: And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. (34)  And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. (35)  And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord. The palsy was a disease that negatively affected the muscles and kept him from walking for the past eight years. As a result of the healing, all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron turned to the Lord. That means that they believed the Kingdom Gospel and became a part of the way. Many refer to those of the way as Peter's little flock referred to in Luke12:32. These were simply Jewish believers in the Kingdom Gospel.

VERSE 36: Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. Joppa is a small port town close to Lydda (2Ch 2:16; Ezra 3:7; Jonah 1:3). Interestingly, the name Tabitha or Dorcas means gazelle.

VERSES 37-38: And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. (38)  And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. (39)  Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. (40)  But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. (41)  And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. (42)  And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. (43)  And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner. In these verses, Peter raised this woman from the dead. Again, we see the pattern, miracles followed by a belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. No one can honestly say that God works this way today. This was simply a different dispensation. We do not live under this apostolic dispensation today.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Acts Study | Session 20 | 8:26-9:14

Today in our study we cover Acts 8:26-9:14. In this portion of Scripture, we see Philip meeting the Ethiopian Eunuch and his conversion after reading the text in Isaiah 53 that speaks of the Messiah and his rejection by the nation and Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus.

VERSE 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. Philip was then instructed to down from Jerusalem unto Gaza. Of course, he may not have understood why God told him to, but he was obedient to the call.

VERSE 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, Now, many will read this verse and immediately assume that this man is an Ethiopian; not necessarily. Just from the text, he appears to be a Jew, or a proselyte, in that he was going to Jerusalem to worship. He may have been in Jerusalem for one of the mandatory feasts.

He is working for Candace, the Queen of the Ethiopians just like Daniel in Babylon and Joseph in Egypt. After all, who better to watch your money than a Jew. They are famous for their abilities to handle money. Notice that he was a eunuch just like Daniel was. This was very common when men were placed in authority around women. However, the word could also mean that he was also an officer or counselor of state.

The name Candace does not denote a proper name, but a position. Just as there were pharaohs, there were candaces who ruled from the city of Meroe, the capital of Cush, now known as Sudan. The name itself referred to a female monarch.

VERSES 28-31a Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? It is obvious from the passage that he is reading from Isaiah 53 which speaks of the Jewish Messiah. Amazing how God purposely knew that this eunuch was going to need someone to help him understand that text. This is another reason that we need to be students of Scripture so that we can be there for those who are curious and have questions (2Timoth 4:2).

VERSES 31b-34: And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? He was looking at Isaiah 53:7-8. He wanted to know who these verses were speaking about. I have no doubt that he had heard of Jesus of Nazareth and had his suspicions. I wonder how many in the church today could 34nswer this question if posed to them.

VERSE 35: Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. Remember that the New Testament had not been written yet, let alone canonized. Philip had to rely on the Old Testament Scriptures to answer his question. Also, notice he still preached Jesus and not the crucifixion.

VERSE 36: And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? It is obvious that Philip was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to this man because he wanted to be baptized. It was the same baptism of repentance that John the Baptist through Peter preached.

VERSE 37: And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Make no mistake, the Kingdom Gospel required belief that Jesus Christ was who he said that he was. This led to repentance and baptism. Understand that faith is required for both gospels.

I can't but compare and contrast this eunuch believing with all of his heart with Simon in the previous verses whose' heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21).

VERSE 38-40: And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. There are only two baptisms mentioned in the Bible. One is by water and the other is by the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is not required today in the church under the Gospel of Grace. Anyone that teaches otherwise is guilty of not rightly dividing between the two gospels (i.e., those who teach baptismal regeneration).

Notice that as the eunuch comes up out of the water, Philip is then whisked away. The word translated caught is harpazo which is also used in 1Th_4:17 in regards to the rapture of the church. Many point to this as to how the 144,000 are going to be able to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom during the time of Jacob's Trouble fulfilling Matthew 24:14.

Chapter 9
VERSE 1: And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, Remember that Saul had become his campaign against those of the Way back in chapter 7. The disciples of the Lord is simply referring to those who had embraced the Kingdom message.

VERSE 2: And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. Who were in these synagogues? Jews! Why were believing Jews still in synagogues? Because they were still Jews! The First Baptist Church of Jerusalem had not been founded yet. These were not Christians. Instead, they were only called those of The Way because they had embraced Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah (John 14:6). They were faithful Jews who had no desire to break from Judaism.

Why did Paul want to bring them back to Jerusalem? It is where the Sanhedrin was and the seat of the Jewish faith. It is where the prosecution could take place. Unlike Paul, most were not Roman citizens and could be dealt with by the Jewish authorities.

VERSES 3-4: And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Oh boy! This is where everything changed for Saul! We must understand that Paul was a religious man. He thoroughly believed in the Old Testament Scriptures (Romans 11:1; Phillippians 3:4-6).

Randy White makes an interesting observation. "It is of interest that Saul is only called by this Jewish name prior to his conversion, after which he is called Paul. The use of the Jewish name could associate him with the rejection of God made by the Jewish people at the time of the selection of Saul as their first king (“they have not rejected you, they have rejected Me”). Saul represented the rejection of Jesus Christ by Israel. Graciously, God chooses the icon of rejection to become the bearer of the new Gospel to all the world."

Notice the question that the Lord asked him, Why persecutest thou me? There is no doubt that Saul knew exactly what the question meant because he was persecuting those who followed the man who claimed to be their Messiah.

VERSE 5: And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Some disagree as to who Saul is addressing here in his response. Either it was simply a term of respect or he knew that it was God. Of course, it would be hard for me to imagine that Saul didn't know that something supernatural was going on here.

And then Jesus drops the bomb on him! What does the expression it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. It means that he is working against God by failing to realize that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

VERSE 6: And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. This had to have hit Saul like a ton of bricks. The very Jesus that he hated. The very one that he thought he had to stamp out any memory of was the Jehovah God of the Old Testament! I can't help but think that he immediately knew the error of his ways. His immediate response is what wilt thou have me to do? God has a knack for taking men that are low high and men that are high low. Saul of the OT started low and went high and Saul of the NT started high and went low! Paul recounts this event in Acts 26:15-18.

VERSES 7-9: And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. Saul was blinded for three days. Some would make a comparison between Saul's three days without sight and Jonah's three days in the belly of the great fish. Both were changed men at the end with Jonah going to the Ninevites and Saul embraced the Jewish Messiah. Les Feldick makes another observation that should give a clue as to Saul's calling in that he is the only apostle called outside of the confines of Jerusalem.

Also, as far as I can tell, Saul was the only one that was a Roman citizen. These facts should be a clue that the 12 were called to Israel and Paul to the Gentiles. Saul was both a Jew and a Gentile by citizenship. Only he uniquely met these qualifications that would enable him to reach the Gentiles (Acts 21:37-40; Acts 22:24-29).

Sadly, far too many in the church today, don't see this, and even have the audacity to say that Peter got ahead of God in selecting Matthias. However, as we have discussed before, Paul never met the requirements (Acts 1:21-22). So, it had to be someone who been there during John's baptism (some would say had been baptized by John), followed Jesus during his three-year ministry, and had witnessed the resurrection (been present for the 40-day seminar). Saul came nowhere close to meeting any of these requirements! Paul was always distinct from the Twelve (Galatians 1:11-17).

VERSES 10-14 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. Now we are introduced to Ananias who was a disciple at Damascus. It can be assumed from the text that he was part of the synagogue there that Paul had received letters to arrest (Acts 9:2). With that in mind, is it any wonder that Ananias knew exactly who Saul was when he said Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem.

Paul will mention him later in his testimony in Acts 22:11-12 where he says that he was a devout man according to the law, and had a good report from all of the Jews that lived there. Again, obvious from the text that the believing Jews had not stopped temple worship. They maintained their Judaism but still had accepted the Gospel of the Kingdom. Paul also refers to this event in Acts 26:9-11.

Again, to me, these verses fly in the face of the notion that the Body of Christ was born in Acts 2. It is also important to see that this is the first time that we see the term saints mentioned in the book of Acts and it is referring to Jewish believers. This is also true when it is first mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew 27:52. In fact, the word saints, in mentioned four times in Acts and it is always referring to Jewish believers.

This important in studying the Bible. It is called the Law of First Mention and simply stated means that what is first means should be the primary meaning throughout. "The reasoning is that the Bible’s first mention of a concept is the simplest and clearest presentation; doctrines are then more fully developed on that foundation. So, to fully understand an important and complex theological concept, Bible students are advised to start with its 'first mention.'"