Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 17
ACTS CHAPTER 3, 4, & 5
Let’s go back to the last verse of Acts Chapter 3 and begin. This is shortly after Pentecost and if you watch the language you will see that Peter is still addressing Jew only, the Nation of Israel. And as we saw in the closing part of the last lesson Peter is still very much on Covenant ground. Now when I say on Covenant ground, remember I stressed that Abrahamic Covenant when we were back there in Genesis. Because I’ve found out in my own study that the Abrahamic covenant was really the bedrock of everything that God has been doing in order to redeem mankind.
After 2000 years of a hopeless race of humanity coming out of Adam, destroyed in the flood, and right back into paganism at the Tower of Babel, God in so many words at 2000 B.C. says, “I’m going to do something totally different. I’m going to call out one man. And out of that one man I’m going to bring to me a little nation, and I’m going work through that little nation and prepare them and through them I will take Salvation back to the whole main stream of humanity.” And that of course was basically the Abrahamic Covenant. He promised Abraham a nation of people. He would put them in a geographic area of land and then at the appropriate time He would bring them their King, their Government and their Kingdom, and Israel could be the evangelization of the nations. But Israel rejected all that when they crucified and killed their King.
But even as we study in these early chapters of Acts we find God hasn’t given up on them. I think that is what you must see in these early chapters of Acts. We like to normally think that as soon as Israel crucified their Messiah, The Christ, then God was through with them, and turned to the Gentiles, but that’s not the case. And that is why I’m constantly showing you from Scriptures that Peter is still pleading with the Nation of Israel. He says, “The one you killed was the one you should have accepted as your King. But God raised Him from the dead, God has called Him back to glory, and God is ready to send Him back and still be your King, if you will just believe that that’s Who He is.” Pick that up in our closing remarks in our last lesson, verse 25, where Peter says to the Nation:
“Ye are the children of the prophets, and (the children) of the covenant which God made with our fathers (remember Peter is just as Jewish as the rest of them), saying unto Abraham, `And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.'”
Now in the seed of Abraham, we can also go all the way back to Genesis 3:15. The seed of the woman. And Who was the Seed of the woman? Who was the Seed of Abraham? The Christ! So this was all tied all the way back as part of God’s plan of redemption for the whole human race. But it was going to be through the Nation of Israel. And Peter is pleading with them. You’re the Covenant people, believe it, accept Him as your King, and as your Messiah, and God would yet send Him again. Then verse 26:
“Unto you first (do you see how plain that is?) God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away (how many?) every one of you from his iniquities.”
Now that was the secret to the whole thing. Every Jew had to believe and be converted and understand that Jesus was The Messiah, their Christ. They could have had the Tribulation and The King and Kingdom just that quick, and then they could have evangelized the whole Gentile world as the Old Testament prophesied. We have looked at that Scripture so often in Zechariah 8:
“yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. 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.'”
But Israel rejected all of that, and it all fell through the cracks temporarily. Israel is still going to have her day in the sun, but in the meantime God has now been dealing with us Gentiles. But remember the secret to these passages. Everyone of the Jews had to believe who Jesus was and turn from their iniquities.
“AND as they spake unto the people (the Jewish nation), the priests, and the captain of the Temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,” No Gentiles involved here. “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”
We must be careful here. Especially the Sadducees, because the Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection. You lived like an animal and died like one. That was their doctrine. Here is the one group most concerned about Peter’s preaching that Christ is alive and is yet able to come and be their King. The Sadducees are saying to Peter, “How dare you teach something that flies in the face of our doctrine? There’s no such thing as someone coming back from the dead.” So what did these Sadducees do?
“And they laid hands on them and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of men was about five thousand.”
So you see there is a fair number of Jewish believers at this time. Three thousands in Chapter 2, others in the interim, and now we have the figure of 5000. But out of several million people, how many is that? Just precious few. It’s just a sprinkling. Now verse 5 through 12 we will just skim, because here we have Peter and the others arrested.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them (disciples) in the midst, they asked, `By what power, or by what name (do you see that), have ye done this?'” How they healed the lame man was still the point of controversy.
“Then Peter filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them (now watch this, who is Peter talking to here? I’m just asking that you read what it says), Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,” Who were Israel’s rulers? Their religious leaders.
“If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent (or crippled) man, by what means he is made whole;” Peter says if this is what we are on trial for:
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified (remember Peters tells Jews they killed Him. Paul tells us Gentiles that He died for us. Do you see the difference, it’s like day and night), whom God raised from the dead (Peter says this for the Sadducees), even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.”
Remember, there are no Gentiles in anything we have studied in Acts so far. You and I are not in there. Just read it in that light. Our risen Lord didn’t put the Gentiles in there and we shouldn’t put ourselves there. Now reading on:
“This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.”
All through Scripture, who is the Stone or the Rock? Christ is. Daniel Chapter 2, when he sees the Stone cut out without hands smiting King Nebuchadnezzar’s vision. Who’s the Stone? Christ. When Moses struck the Rock out there in the desert, and out came water, Who was the Rock? Christ again. And all through Scripture, the analogy is that He is the Stone or Rock. And when He said to Peter, in Matthew 16 the following:
“And I say also unto thee, `That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;…'”
Who was the Rock? Christ was. He’s the Rock of our Salvation. Here Peter is using an Old Testament analogy how that He was to be the Chief Corner Stone, He was to be the Head of the Corner, and He was the Stone they needed to hold everything together.
Legend has it that as Israel was building Solomon’s temple that the cornerstone was brought in first, but the builders didn’t know what to do with it so they dumped it out in a vacant lot. Grass grew over it and people would stumble over it as they cut across the lot. The cornerstone was used to hold every thing together. But they threw Him out into a vacant lot and He has become a stumbling stone even to this day. Now in that same light the Scripture says that “Jerusalem will also be a stone of stumbling.” And isn’t that exactly what it is? All the nations of the world are stubbing their toe on Israel and Jerusalem. And it’s going to be the stone of stumbling right up until the last day. But here Peter is saying, “You builders should have recognized that Chief Corner Stone. You should have known that He was the One that would hold the whole thing together. Instead you pitched Him off to the side and didn’t know what to do with Him.” This is exactly what he is saying. Let’s read it again.
“This is the stone which was set at nought (or count for nothing) of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
This subject always comes up in our classes. What about Muslims? They are devout. They’re sincere, some are probably better people than most of us, morally and every other way. But what’s their downfall? They do not recognize the name of Christ. And so there is no other name. Salvation has to be centered on the finished work of the Cross of Christ. Now verse 13:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John,…”
Remember I told you that after the Resurrection that the disciples were very bold, because they saw what power there was in the Resurrection. Before, they scattered at Jesus’ arrest. But after the Resurrection they become very bold, and were afraid of nothing. Let’s turn for a moment to Acts Chapter 8, and let me show you. This is seven years after Pentecost. Saul’s persecution has been running rampant, especially in the area of Jerusalem against Jewish believers. And here they have just put Stephen to death by stoning.
“AND Saul was consenting unto his death, And at that time there was a great persecution against the church (the assembly) which was at Jerusalem (Jewish believers); and they (these Jewish believers) were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
Two things should just shock us. One, in spite of the terrible persecution that was coming in upon these believers, that Jesus was The Christ, these twelve men did not run. Everyone else is fleeing for their life, but these twelve men sit tight. Two: if the great commission was kicked in gear like we think it should have been, then why are these twelve men still in Jerusalem, seven years after Pentecost (have you ever thought of that? Most people don’t). They should have, according to most of our understanding, been out among the Gentiles a long time ago. But the apostles are still looking for The King and the Kingdom. And they weren’t about to go any where except to Jerusalem. Because that is where Christ is going to return to, and it didn’t matter how tough it got they weren’t going to leave Jerusalem. Also in Chapter 11 we find:
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.”
Do you see that? At least seven years after the Cross and it’s still “Jew only.” And for these Jewish believers that is all they knew and that is all that was expected of them, because of the Abrahamic Covenant. They all had to be converted and become a nation of priests before they could do that. So don’t be too hard on them. But the main thing I want to impress upon you is we all have the idea that these Jews were going out into the ends of the earth with the Gospel. They weren’t as you can see. We’ll cover that in more detail later. But come back with me now to Acts 4:13 again:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men (hey, that’s me. And I’m not apologizing for it one bit. I don’t stand here with a long list of degrees behind my name, but neither did these guys. And yet God used them. Some people will say to me, who are you to be doing what you’re doing? You haven’t had an education in all of this. And they are right. But did Amos? Or David? What were they? Basically what I am – they came off the ranch. And God used them. And if God used them, He can use me. If He can use me, He can use you. When Christianity started going down the tube and lost its power, I maintain it was when congregations wouldn’t even consider a man for the pulpit unless he had a Doctoral degree. And don’t think I’m against education, because I admire people that have got it. But when that becomes the sole criteria for being qualified to preach and teach The Word, I feel they are out in left field. These disciples were uneducated and ignorant men. And until we recognize that is what we are, God can’t use us.), they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” That three years with Jesus was better than fifteen years in a seminary, or the University of Jerusalem, and they recognized that.
“And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, `What shall we do to these men? (they were up against it) for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.'”
Under normal thinking today, this council should have been commanding that they speak no more that Christ died for the sins of the world. That He was buried, and rose from the dead. (Our Gospel today) It doesn’t say that. All they said was, “We can’t let them preach in this name.” That’s what the Book says in these early chapters.
“And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, `Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye, For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'”
“So when they had further threatened them (probably with prison and a beating) they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people (and here the man on the street came to their defense, because they haven’t done any thing worthy of prison): for all men glorified God for that which was done.”
“For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.”
Now I’m going to have to stop here. Why do you suppose the Scripture sees fit to give the man’s age as forty something? Remember Israel’s time of testing over and over was 40 years. It doesn’t have to be an exact forty years. And the same today, Israel has now been back in the land since 1948. We are in “forty something.” And I don’t set dates, but there is something very important in the time scale of forty years, when you are dealing with Israel.