Sunday, August 23, 2020

Acts Study | Session 28 | 15:32-16:31

Today in our study, we see that the council in Jerusalem thought it good that Judas and Silas be sent along with Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to verify everything that had taken place, a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas in regards to John Mark, the beginning of the second missionary journey, the circumcision of Timothy, the conversion of Lydia in Philippi, the casting out of a demon, Paul and Barnabas' imprisonment and miraculous deliverance, and salvation of the Philippian jailer.

VERSE 32: And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. Notice being prophets also. This is clearly comparing them to the last prophet spoken of in v.15; i.e., Amos. Remember that these two were sent along with Paul and Barnabas to confirm everything that was determined in the counsel. Also, it is obvious that there were prophets at this time, at least in this early stage of the church, However, I believe that this office, as well as that of the apostle, are no longer. Some would even argue that while the office themselves are closed, their functions are fulfilled in the missionary and pastor. 

VERSES 33-34: And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. (34)  Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. Bear in mind that their entire function was to simply bear witness to the decision that had been made by the Jerusalem Council. Notice that Silas decided to stay. It would seem that this might be because he had already established a relationship with Paul which would be the subject of the contention in the next verses between him and Barnabas. 

VERSES 35-36: Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (36)  And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. Paul now proposes that they go back and visit all of the churches established on their first trip to see how they do

VERSES 37-41: And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. (38)  But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. (39)  And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; (40)  And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. (41)  And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches. For some undisclosed reason, Paul was determined not to take John Mark. Albert Barnes comments that John Mark was the son of a sister of Barnabas. Whatever the reason, they did later reconcile (2Tim 4:11). 

Some will, erroneously, in my opinion, say that the fact that Barnabas was never heard from again is proof that he was in the wrong. That is ludicrous in my opinion. It is very difficult and dangerous to read into the Scripture. These same ones will say that they should have chosen Paul instead of Matthias to replace Judas with the same reasonings. Well, using that same reasoning, the same could be said of Andrew, Philip, and Bartholemew. 

I believe in the end, Silas was a good match for Paul for the period. Remember, at this unique time in history, there were both Jews and Gentiles, both believing, and both serving the Lord together, but under two different programs. herefore, having Silas with him was a good match. 

This is another key to interpreting Paul's writings in that he is addressing both of these people at times and that is the challenge that I have found, especially in reading books like Ephesians and Corinthians. You have got to pay attention to the audience, and many times that comes down to just being aware of the pronouns. 

Chapter 16

This chapter begins to cover Paul's second missionary journey.

VERSES 1-2: Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: (2)  Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul and Silas now come to Derbe which was the last place that Paul had visited on his last missionary journey (Acts 14:20-21). As I stated earlier, that may have been when Timothy first came under his teaching (1Timothy 1:2).

VERSE 3: Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. Timothy's mother was a Jewess and his father was a Greek. It must be noted that if Timothy had been a Gentile, this would not have been an issue since Gentiles frequented the synagogues, but he was a Jew by his mother, therefore it was expected that he be circumcised. 

This was also another indicator that Paul did desire a ministry among his brethren even though most of the Jews had rejected him (Acts 13:46; Rom 1:16). 

VERSES 4-5: And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. (5)  And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. We see hear that as they traveled they shared the decision of the Jerusalem Council with the assemblies which were still a mix of Kingdom and Grace believers. Remember this was a unique period in history that passed with the death of the Twelve. 

VERSES 6-10: Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, (7)  After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. (8)  And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. (9)  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. (10)  And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Notice that they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. Asia referred to here would have been the province of Asia which included Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, etc. Instead, the Spirit directed them toward Europe through what is commonly referred to as the Macedonian Call. The Gospel would later be preached there, but it apparently was not the will of God for Paul and Silas at this time. Instead, the Holy Spirit pushes them into the West. This journey would take them Troas, Phillipi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens to Corinth.

VERSES 11-13: Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; (12)  And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. (13)  And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. Historically, Philippi was a Roman outpost. 

On the sabbath, they go down to the riverside where prayers were being made by a group of women, most likely Jewish, but the text doesn't say. Some will point out that they were by the river because there were not enough men there for a synagogue which required ten. 

VERSE 14: And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. As Paul began to speak, a lady from Thyatira named Lydia took notice. 

VERSE 15: And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. What I see is that in Paul's early ministry, baptism still played an important role because it was expected, but as he gains further revelation, he moves away from its importance. 

Understand that at this point Paul had not written any of his epistles. The first ones were not written until around 50 AD to 53 AD. Interestingly, those were probably Thessalonians and Galatians. Thessalonians was about the confusion around the Rapture and Second Coming and Galatians was about a false gospel. 

There is no doubt that Paul is having new revelations as he goes and pens them in his epistles (2Cor 12:1; 2Cor 12:7). It is hard to conclude that he received everything he needed to know at once, i.e., he most likely did not understand the totality of the postponement of the Kingdom. I believe that is why who still moved in both gospels. 

Either way, she believed first and then was baptized. Many say that she was the first convert in Europe. I believe that Lydia had apparently believed both the Kingdom and Grace gospels simply by the fact that she was already praying when Paul come upon her. But again, there simply is not enough text here to reach a conclusion. 

VERSES 16-18: And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: (17)  The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. (18)  And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (19) And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, Notice how Luke inserts himself into the story in v.16 and v.17. 

This young lady apparently brought income to her masters by pretending to tell the future. I say this because the Devil does not know the future because he is not omniscient. There is no doubt that he knows more than we do. All power forever and always comes from one of two sources. 

This girl was demon-possessed. Interesting that what she was saying seems to be true, but it was getting in their way of ministry; an impediment if you will. Either way, the Devil was using her. 

On another note, Paul never gave us instructions on casting out demons in his epistles. I have seen whole ministries destroyed over an obsession with this. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation, not one of casting out demons. 

Paul realized this was demonic and commanded the evil spirit to come out of her. 

VERSES 20-22: And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, (21)  And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. (22)  And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. This is obviously a Gentile city under Roman authority. 

VERSES 23-24: And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: (24)  Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. This is just one of many things that Paul would suffer in his attempt to preach the gospel (2Cor 11:16-30). And notice how Paul and Silas responded in the next verses. 

VERSE 25: And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. It takes a lot of trust and courage to sing in dispair. Music is very important in Judaism and Christianity as an act of worship. 

VERSE 26: And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. This would also be the first of many in which the Lord will miraculously deliver Paul. This was obviously a supernatural event for what earthquake also makes one's bands fall off. I really do struggle with those who constantly try to make the supernatural natural. 

VERSES 27-29: And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. (28)  But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. (29)  Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, Again we see the threat of life for life in regards to a Roman afraid of losing his own life for losing a prisoner. Rome was pretty tough in this area. Peter's guards were not so fortunate in chapter 12 when they were put to death upon his escape (Acts 12:18-19). 

VERSE 30: And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? The pronoun "I" says everything here. Unlike the Kingdom Gospel which was for the nation, the Grace Gospel is for the individual (Acts 2:37). 

VERSE 31: And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Notice also that Paul's response was nothing like Peter's (Acts 2:38). It is not a contradiction, but a different program. God changes not, but his methods of dealing with man have. There is no way you can convince me that these are not two different gospels. Thy house does not mean that his whole house would be saved, but that they could be saved. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

ACTS STUDY | SESSION 27 | 15:12-31

We are continuing to work our way through the book of Acts verse-verse. Today we see the conclusion of the council that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised or come under the Law in any way. However, it was determined that there were certain "necessary" things that they deemed should not be done by the new Gentile believers lest they should cause a rift with their Jewish brothers.

VERSE 12: Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. Now, after Peter's final words, Barnabas and Paul interject one more thought in regards to the work that God was doing among the Gentiles before James takes over in the next verses. 

VERSES 13-14:  And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: (14) Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. Notice that after they had held their peace (this seems to be referring to Peter, Paul, and Barnabas since they were the last to speak), James (who seems to be the moderator of the meeting who was the half brother of Jesus) answered, saying, `Men and brethren, hearken unto me: (now he begins to recount what Peter had already said in regards to Cornelius) Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

No doubt, as we have studied through the book of Acts we have seen that the first Gentiles to be offered salvation were Cornelius and all of them who heard the word with him (Acts 10:44). 

Notice Simeon has declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles. Understand, context is key, James is not talking about Paul's ministry here, but further elaborating on Peter's in regards to the conversion of Cornelius.

VERSES 15-17: And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, (16)  After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: (17)  That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. To back up what he is getting ready to say, he quotes from one of the prophets, Amos. He is simply saying that it was always in God's plan to reach the Gentiles through the Jews (Amos 9:11-12). Amos is speaking of the Kindom that would come for both Jew and Gentile. 

If you read Amos 9:12 and Acts 15:17, you will see that Amos says remnant of Edom and James says residue of men. Why would he do that? They do not appear to be the same. Edom and Adam are the same words in Hebrew. James actually seems to have quoted it the more accurate way, i.e. residue or remnant of Adam (mankind). Either way, James is speaking of the Kingdom. 

VERSE 18: Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. In other words, he is saying that either way, through the preaching of the Kingdom under Peter, or the preaching of Grace under Paul, God knows what he is doing and the Gentiles are being reached. 

VERSE 19: Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: Now, James gives his summation about what needs to be done in regards to the Gentiles that come to faith, and it is obvious from what he says in the next verses that he is referring to the Gentiles who come to faith through the Grace Gospel because it is all about them not having to keep the Law. 

If any man could speak to this matter, it was James, considering he had already or would pretty soon written his epistle to the Kingdom believers that required them to keep the Law from the first verse to the last verse. 

VERSES 20-21: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (21)  For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. James goes on to recommend these things because they were highly offensive to the Jews who were still very much under the Law of Moses, believing and the unbeliaving, and would only serve as a distraction if Paul, and those who responded to his new Grace Gospel, were to violate them in front of them. This is what Paul meant in 1Cor 8:13. There is still a principle here for all time. 

VERSE 22: Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: First, we see a bit of a congregational style of government here. Second, we are introduced to Silas for the first time. He would become very important to Paul in his next missionary journey which would begin in v.36. 

This verse is also notable because it makes it very clear that the Twelve were in agreement with Paul and the Grace Gospel that he taught to both Jew and Gentile. This is apparently obvious in that they sent Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren with him. Barsabas and Silas were obviously Kingdom believers. 

VERSES 23-24: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: (24)  Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: The council denies sending out any words that indicate that the Gentiles should be circumcised and keep the Law. 

VERSES 25-27: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, (26)  Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (27)  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. In ecclesiology class, I learned that this verse indicates the autonomy of the local church. These men that they had chosen were to be eyewitnesses for anyone who questioned Paul and Barnabas' account of events. 

VERSE 28: For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; Again, these things are not necessary for salvation, but they are, as he said in v.21, that the Jewish believers who sit in the synagogues where the Law of Moses in preached be not offended. 

VERSE 29: That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. They include: abstaining from meats offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. Why these? All of these would offend their Jewish brothers in such a way that it might hinder both of their ministries. In regards to meats, Paul addressed this further in 1Cor 8:4-13. In regards to blood, it was about the sanctity of life Lev 17:14. Some would say strangling is a violation of that sanctity. In regards to fornication, this spoke of all sexual sins. 

The counsel simply believed that if the Gentiles would guard against these things, it would make their ministry easier, and fellowship between the two would not be hindered. Understand, this whole conversation began over the issue of circumcision as a requirement for salvation. That was ruled out, and these burdens, v.28, were considered to be necessary so that ministry could continue. An example of this will be found later when Paul will actually ask Timothy to be circumcised in Acts 16:1-3. Not salvific, but deemed necessary that the ministry may go on. 

VERSES 30-31: So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: (31)  Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. Upon sharing this letter with the church at Antioch, they were relieved that they were not being asked to place themselves under the Law. In the end, the outcome is that both the Kingdom and the Grace believers are confirmed (Gal 2:7). 

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.