Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 16
INTRODUCTION TO ACTS
Turn to John’s Gospel Chapter 21. I’ll use this last chapter of John just exactly as it is in your Bible, and that is as an introduction to the Book of Acts. People are letting us know they are anxious for us to start in the Book of Acts, and here is the beginning of it. We have been talking about Jesus’ forty days of post-Resurrection.
“AFTER these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias (Galilee); and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.”
That’s five if I’m counting right. Now this next statement as I’ve said before is so classic. I think Peter was maybe older than the rest, maybe up in his forties, and the rest in their early thirties.
“Simon Peter saith unto them, `I go a fishing,…'”
Here Peter is reverting back to his old lifestyle, as a fisherman. I think old Peter just loved that Sea of Galilee, and those of you who have been there can understand why. It’s a beautiful setting, with plenty of fish. Even though Peter has seen the resurrected Lord, he still doesn’t understand the picture. I think what Peter says here is, “I’ll just go back to where I came from.”
“…They (the other four) say unto him, `We also go with thee.’ They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. The Jesus saith unto them, `Children, have ye any meat?’ They answered him, `No.'”
Remember the account of how Jesus had them cast on the other side of the ship and their net was full of fish. And yet the net didn’t break. We taught this as the eighth sign – and remember the number “eight” is always the sign of new beginnings. And what we have here is the picture of the Nation of Israel coming back into the Kingdom – every Jew that is supposed to be in the Kingdom is going to be there. God won’t lose one of them, as Peter lost none of these 153 fishes that were in the net. Come down to verse 12. And as they bring this great net full of fish to shore, Jesus already has fish cooked for breakfast.
“Jesus saith unto them, `Come and dine.’ And none of the disciples durst ask him, `Who art thou?’ knowing that it was the Lord.” I’m sure they would have really liked to have asked just to be sure. Have you ever been in that predicament? You’re sure you know somebody, but still you’re not sure. I think that is where they were.
“Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, `Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?'”
Who is Jesus referring to when He asked Peter, “…lovest thou me more than these?” I believe He is looking at that net full of fish knowing Peter’s old profession was a fisherman. The Lord is putting old Peter on the spot. “Peter do you love me more than your fishing?”
“…He saith unto him, `Yea Lord: thou knowest that I love thee.’ He saith unto him, `Feed my lambs.’ He saith to him again the second time, `Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?’ He saith unto him, `Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee, He saith unto him, `Feed my sheep.'”
All of my statements are not locked in concrete, but I like to make you think on these things, and search the scriptures. But it’s my impression that the “sheep” here are the Jews. Now the reason I say that is because when we get to Paul’s teaching about the Body of Christ which is the Church, he never refers to us as The Lord’s sheep. But you see all the way up through the Old Testament we have that analogy. The sheep and the shepherd. I think the same thing here. I think when Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep” and, of course, He said it three times in a row to compensate for what other three? Peter’s denial. First he denied The Lord three times and now The Lord gives him the opportunity to come back and compensate for that by promising three times to feed his sheep.
Now why do I say that? I think Jesus is confining Peter to the Nation of Israel and we have the answer back in the Book of Galatians. This will also help you when we study the Book of Acts, which I look at quite differently than a lot of people do. And that doesn’t disturb me, because when it comes to the things of the spiritual the majority is almost always wrong. It has always been that way. The majority said there was no flood. The minority said yes there was. Remember Elijah thought it was down to a minority of one concerning the prophets of Baal. But God said, “No, Elijah, it’s not quite that bad, there are 7000 that have not bowed the knee to Baal.” But what was 7000 compared to the 5-6 million Jews at that time? Then The Lord Jesus made His own analogy in that classical verse in Matthew 7:13,14:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Never lose sight of that. The majority is usually not right. Galatians Chapter 2. I think The Lord is confining Peter’s ministry to the sheep, the Jews, the Nation of Israel – and we are going to see The Lord do that in the Book of Acts. But in this passage, Paul is rehearsing an event that took place about 51 A.D. which would be about 22 years after the Cross. And look what they agree on. Let’s start at verse 6. We have Paul up at Antioch, the place where believers were first called Christians, and they have been preaching the Gospel of Grace to Gentiles. His message for salvation was to believe that Christ died for your sins, was buried and rose from the dead, I Corinthians 15 1-4, and to his Jewish converts not to keep the Mosaic Law since they were now under the Age of Grace.
The believing Jews down at Jerusalem were having a problem with this. They believed for salvation, John’s baptism of repentance and that Jesus was The Christ, and they kept the Law, and ministered to Jews only (All of this is in Acts 2 through Acts 15:1-29). So these Jerusalem believers call Paul and Barnabas on the carpet to set the record straight about their ministry to Gentiles.
“But of these who seemed to be somewhat [Paul’s making reference to the leaders of the Jewish believers at Jerusalem], (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepted no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:”
In other words, when they brought Paul down to Jerusalem and stood him on the carpet as to his ministry to these Gentiles, Paul was having to defend his actions. So the Holy Spirit is here instructing Paul to write about that incident.
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles) was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision (Jew) was unto Peter;”
“(For he [God] that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision [The Jew or the Nation of Israel], the same [God] was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)”
“And when James, Cephas (Peter) and John, who seemed to be pillars (leaders at Jerusalem), perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship (they shook hands as an agreement); that we (Paul and Barnabas) should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they (Peter, James, and John) unto the circumcision (Jews).”
That’s plain as day. If your Bible doesn’t say that you had better get another one. This is the old King James and it makes it so very plain that there was that stark difference. Peter and the Eleven confined their ministry to the Jew. Paul, Barnabas, and later on Silas, went to the Gentiles. Come back to John Chapter 21, and this will all begin to make sense. How Jesus knows the beginning to the end. He knows when they come into the Acts account it’s only going to be to the Nation of Israel (See Acts 11:19). And I’ll show that so vividly when we get there. The language is so plain a sixth grader can read it and understand that there is no language in there addressed to Gentiles. It’s all to the Jew. And it all comes back to this setting right here where Jesus says to Peter, “Feed My Sheep” – the house of Israel.
Let’s look at a verse in Matthew Chapter 10 so you will know where I’m coming from. Jesus has just chosen the Twelve up in Galilee.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, `Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”
So all through Jesus’ earthly ministry, He has that analogy that Israel is the “sheep.” And as I said before, we also see that in Psalms 23. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t use those verses for comfort, but in its original setting it was The Lord dealing with His Covenant people Israel. Now back to John Chapter 21:
“…Jesus saith unto him, `Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee (Peter), When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old (Peter’s probably in his forties), thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.'”
“This spake he (Jesus), signifying by what death he (Peter) should glorify God (which we know by legend at least, that Peter was crucified upside down. But nevertheless Jesus comes back now in the last part of the verse and says). And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, `Follow me.'”
Everyone is human, even in Scripture, and Peter is no different. He hears these words that don’t fit too comfortably and he looks at the younger man, John, and says to Jesus, “Now what about him?”
“Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, `Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?’ Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, `Lord, and what shall this man do (John)?’ Jesus saith unto him, `If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.'”
Now verse 23, and look how people misconstrue the language back then, just like we do today.
“Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, `He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?'”
In other words Jesus had said, “Peter, it’s none of your business whether John lives to be a hundred or lives until I return.” Well, we do know that John lived to be almost a hundred. And then verse 24, with John closing his Gospel account:
“This the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”
Now then we are going to go right on into an introduction of the next Book in your New Testament, the Book of Acts. We have seen the unfolding of the Gospel accounts, Christ’s earthly ministry, His Crucifixion, and Resurrection, the forty days after Resurrection and we are now about to see His ascension. The first thing I like to do is comment that you have to realize that the Book of Acts is transitional. I remember several years ago the table game “Trivial Pursuit” came out, and there was a segment of that game called “Bible Trivia.” One of my students came into class one night and said, “I’m glad I come to your class, I won Bible Trivia the other night because of this class.” I wanted to know what the trivia question was, and she told me, “What Book in the Bible was transitional?” And the answer was the Book of Acts, and indeed it is. Now what is a transitional? When you are going to move from one state to another. So we are going to be moving in this Book of Acts from God’s dealing with the Nation of Israel, which has been going on since Genesis Chapter 12, all the way up through the Four Gospels.
Everything has been predominantly Jew only, with very few exceptions. So we begin the Book of Acts all Jewish. No mention of Gentiles whatsoever. But all of a sudden we get to the point when Israel is continuing to reject everything, and then God does something that I have stressed so often had been kept secret in the mind of God that no one could comprehend, and that is that He would turn to the Gentile without the Nation of Israel. That is why it was so hard for Peter and the Twelve to comprehend this. They knew that all through the Old Testament the only way the Gentiles could come to their Messiah, was if the Nation of Israel (the Jew), brought them, and they couldn’t bring them until all the Jews became believers. Then as a nation of priests, Israel could give them the knowledge of their Jehovah God. But they couldn’t do that until all Israel believed. Which we know they never did. That was the whole purpose of calling the Jews out and setting them apart, and making them His Covenant people. Now some of you are looking at me with a question on your face. That means we need to look at some Scripture. Go back to Isaiah Chapter 42.
“BEHOLD my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he (Christ the Messiah) shall bring forth judgment (Rule) to the Gentiles.” Now verse 49:
“And he (The Lord in verse 5) said, `It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob (Israel), and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.'”
Now we have the Messiah in Chapter 42 Who is going to be the light, but we also have the Nation of Israel who is going to be the light. Now verse 7:
“Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, `Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.'” Now Isaiah 59:
“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion (Jerusalem), and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. `As for me (The Lord says), this is my covenant with them,’ saith the LORD; `My spirit that is upon thee, and my words… shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.'” Remember He’s speaking to the Jews the Nation of Israel.
“ARISE, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee (Israel), and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light (Israel), and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
Do you see the connection? Once the light would come to the Nation of Israel, the two in concert would be the light of the world to the Gentiles. Peter knew the light had come to Israel, but Israel hadn’t fulfilled their part. And we are going to see Peter try to make the Nation of Israel realize this in the Book of Acts. Now let’s look at one more passage over in the Book of Zechariah.
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; `In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.'”