Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 18
GOD’S SECRETS – PART 2
Acts Chapter 4 where we left off at verse 11. Never rest on what I say, but rather what The Book says. I’ll never forget one of the first teaching experiences I had a long time ago. Our pastor was aware of a couple coming into our church who were married but from diverse church backgrounds. They were having marital problems over it. He asked me to go to their home each week and teach them from The Book. The first opposition I got from the lady was, “Well Les, we have always been taught that it isn’t the Bible that is the authority, it’s our church.” Now how are you going to overcome that? It took a lot of patience as her husband had a totally different view. Between the three of us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, within about 6 months, we finally got them squared away and they both came to know The Lord. And to this day they are both active in a local church, and their children are all believers. Every time I go see them, it’s so nice to think that I had a small part in all of that. But it was such a learning experience for me.
I have said so often, you can’t go by what someone else tells you. But open The Book, and read carefully. Look at every word. See what’s in The Book and what’s not in The Book. There are lots of groups that go strictly by what the church and/or pastor tells them. And you can’t do that. A couple of years ago, a class member came back from her denominational convention, and said, “Les, just read this first paragraph because this is shocking.” And the long and short of that paragraph was this: “Don’t you try to interpret Scripture on your own – wait until you hear it from the pulpit.” That is where people are getting led down a primrose path. Some pulpits are all right, but there are many that aren’t. So you need to get to the place where you can discern the Scriptures. I never want people to say, “Well, that’s what Les said.” I want people to be able to see where I’ve shown them what the Scriptures say and then they can say, “This is what it says.” And that is the reason I teach, to get people into The Book. Now back to our study, verse 11. Peter is continuing his message to the religious leaders of Israel.
“This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.”
There is an interesting legend about the cornerstone of Solomon’s Temple. It’s not in Scripture, but is certainly applicable. When they were building Solomon’s Temple, there was never a hammer sound at the Temple site. It was all done out at the quarry. Every stone was so perfectly pre-cut that they could just set it in place. In ancient architecture, especially arches, the final stone that goes in is the one at the center of the top of the arch. The rest of the arch rests against that one, and it becomes the chief cornerstone. Legend has it that this chief stone had come to the building site and for some reason they couldn’t find a place for it. Not knowing what to do with it, they dragged it out into a vacant lot, where the weeds grew up around it and there it lay. But every time someone would go through that vacant lot to take a shortcut, they would stumble over that stone. Now, that story is a legend, but is so apropos. This is the analogy that Peter is using.
Israel was the builder of God’s kingdom and their Christ was to be The Messiah of it, the Chief Cornerstone which would hold it all together. They rejected that Stone and like the builders, threw It out into a vacant lot. And what has Christ become to the Nation of Israel ever since? A Stone of stumbling. Over and over, beginning back in the Psalms, Israel is warned that their Chief Cornerstone would be rejected and laid aside, and He would be their Stone of stumbling. There is so much departing from the truth of Scripture that people can be saved outside of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is dangerous. There is no such thing, according to Scripture. I know that it’s a narrow concept but it’s a narrow Book.
I remember talking to a man whose particular group was vast in numbers. He was convinced his was the only group that had Salvation. I said, “Wait a minute Jimmy, I have a Scripture verse that proves you wrong.” He said, “Show me.” We sat down and checked the verses where Jesus said in Matthew:
“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 which find it. “
This is a fact of Scripture and of the whole human race. God has only had a remnant. Even in Israel, the Covenant people, how many Jews were true believers? Only a small remnant. And even today there may be a lot of talk and a lot of preaching, but how many are genuine believers today? It’s getting fewer every week. Because we are getting so much false teaching coming in and people are flocking to it. People will always flock to the false before the truth. So Peter says so clearly here in verse 12, that which still spills over into our Gospel:
“Neither is there Salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
There’s a lot of good sincere folks who are following cult leaders – Buddha, Mohammed, or whatever. This verse is narrow. It brings it right down, that there is only one way. For the Jew in this particular time that Peter is dealing with, they had to recognize that Jesus was The Christ. And only Jesus. It’s amazing that the Jews of our present day, for the most part, the orthodox especially, refuse to admit that the Jews ever followed Christ. But we know that thousands of them did. Archaeology is proving it. A lot of Jews embraced Christ as their Messiah and their Redeemer. But granted, the vast majority rejected Him and God went to the Gentiles without them. Now continuing on with verse 13:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men (in other words, they weren’t taught by the rabbi’s. They hadn’t been in a seminary, but they had been in the presence of Christ for three years), they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”
“And beholding the man which was healed standing with them (proof positive that they had a power the religious leaders couldn’t touch), 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? 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…'”
You see how Satan uses religious people to stop the truth. Human history abounds with wars that were fought over religion. War after war. Yugoslavia’s war, what is it? It’s religion. The Middle East. The basic controversy is religion. And so it hasn’t changed. Religious people will often be tools of Satan to resist the truth of God. These rulers thought they were keeping the Law. But when we get to the Book of Romans we’ll see how futile that is. That human beings can’t keep the Law. Now verse 18:
“And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”
It would have been easy for Peter and John and the others to agree and say, “Well, alright, we’ll go back to our fishing and just mind our own business.” That’s what a lot of Christians do today. It’s easy to give up and say, “Well, alright. Let them have their way.” But that’s not God’s will for any of us. Jude says that we are to contend for the faith. Now we’re not to be contentious for its own sake. But we are to contend or stand up for the truth of the Word of God. And God gives us the Grace to do so. Verse 19:
“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, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done (the healing of that lame man. And now we find him again in verse 22). For the man was above (or over. And there’s that number. How old?) forty years old,…”
Again, what did this man’s life span indicate? A time of testing. And Israel is on trial here, and is going to be on trial until we come to the end of the Book of Acts. God is not going to wait all the way to the end of their forty years to start calling out a people for His Name as we’ll see in Chapter 15. Now those of you who watched the tapes of our programs two or three years ago, saw we digressed a little bit from the Book of Genesis and went to Acts 15. We’ve had such a response to that tape (which is number 6). James in Acts 15 recognized that Paul indeed had a ministry among the Gentiles that Peter and the others knew nothing of. So he made that classic statement that, “Yes, God is going to call out from the Gentiles, a people for his name.” And that is what He has been doing for the last 1,900 + years. Whereas Israel has been blinded. And now, of course, we see the stirring of a nation preparing them for God to pick up where he left off. Now back to the text. Verse 23. Peter says:
“And being let go, they (Peter and John) went to their own company,…” Back to that group of believing Jews in Jerusalem.
I want to make you search the Scriptures. Now I read a lot of good men’s works – all the famous authors that you know. Over and over I see these men refer to these Jewish men as Christians. Now I’m going to give you something to look for. You find in your Bible that the Word of God calls them Christians, and then I’ll admit that you were right and I was wrong. But the Word never refers to these Jewish believers as Christians. Acts 11 says that the Gentile believers up there at Antioch, were first called Christians.
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 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.”
That’s what The Book says. But the best of theologians are constantly ignoring that statement and are calling those Jewish believers Christians. I refuse to do so. They were Jewish believers under the Covenant promises, the same as John the Baptist’s followers. The same as those that came under Christ’s ministry. Those that were saved at Pentecost, and those that were saved under this Jewish economy. And you cannot call a person a Christian who has not been saved according to the Gospel of the Grace of God: That Christ died for our sins, He rose from the dead and He has ascended. What a difference. All right, let’s go on:
“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, `Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hadst said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? (Psalms 2) The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ (do you see how that involved both Jew and Gentile? Psalms 2 says the same thing). For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles (Peter is tying Jew and Gentile together? It isn’t just Israel. The whole human race is guilty), and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.'” We’ve looked at that in Acts 2:23 before but let’s look at it again. It’s very important. And most people never see it, but here it is.
“Him (speaking of Jesus of Nazareth) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” Was God caught by surprise? No. Did anything happen that God didn’t foreordain? No. It was all in eternal purpose. He came to be Israel’s King. Now Ephesians Chapter 1, verse 11. And the Apostle Paul is writing this. After all these further revelations and here it comes.
“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:”
Now did you catch the word purpose in there? According to his own purpose. Let’s see what that purpose is that Paul is talking about. II Timothy Chapter 1, verse 9. Paul is writing to a fellow believer, a Gentile with the name of Timothy. Though he may as well have been writing to us. Look what he says:
II Timothy 1:9
“Who (God, of verse 8) hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works,… In other words, our merit doesn’t mean a thing. He didn’t call us as people who have earned something, but the call goes out to every son of Adam. He has not called us according to our works, …but according to his own purpose…”
If you are a child of God, do you know why you are a child of God? Because it was in the purpose of God. You were saved for a purpose. You were saved for a reason. Everyone of us. We have to understand that we were already in the mind of God before He ever created Adam. So we have a distinct purpose. I have a couple in my class who, in God’s Divine Sovereignty, came half-way across this country to a place they would never have thought to live in. The only reason they started coming to my class was because the husband was running for mayor. He heard that there were usually forty or fifty people meeting every Tuesday night, so he thought that would be a good place to go and gain some votes. That’s the only reason he came and he’s not embarrassed to tell everybody this. But God had more than just a run for mayor in mind. God had two people in mind. He brought them from Phoenix, Arizona to a little town in Oklahoma so that they would hear The Gospel. And that’s the eternal purpose of God.
I imagine that all of us can look back and see how God meticulously brought us along and got us to where He could get hold of us. There’s another gentlemen who wouldn’t mind me using him as an example either. He came to my class for three years, ungodly as they come. He will tell you he was. Ungodly, and yet he would still come. Finally he said, “Les, we’ve got to talk.” He came up to the house one night and we took him down the Roman road and led him to The Lord. And what a change in his life!
One night I was teaching, where Martin Luther had made the statement that the work of the Holy Spirit is the hound of Heaven. Any of you who know anything about Beagle hounds know they don’t give up until they get their quarry. So he used that analogy. I went back and used the Psalm, where David said, “My heart panteth after thee oh Lord, like a deer panteth after a bubbling brook.” And we had a gentleman come up afterward who said, “You know, that was me. I was doing everything but what God was wanting me to do. Finally He latched on to me and now I can’t get enough.” He said, “The last thing that I do before I fall asleep at night is to study this Book.” Imagine! The most ungodly man in the community, but that’s how God works. Back to Acts. They’ve now rehearsed with their fellow believers all that has taken place.
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
Now verse 32 to the end of the Chapter. Read it carefully, word by word and tell me if this is the local church that we are associated with. I made a statement that if you found a perfect church, like in Acts Chapter 2 and 3, I’ll join it. Somebody afterwards said, “Don’t you do it Les, because that would spoil it.” And that’s so true. If there were a perfect church out there and you or I were to go and join it, it would no longer be that good. Because there is no perfect church. And if your church measures up to this then I’ll say I was wrong. But I don’t think it does.
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul (in other words, no argument): neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”
This is pure Biblical socialism. They sold what they owned and put it in a common kitty. They shared it out as needed. You find a Church that does that today and then I’ll tell you that I was wrong. This isn’t Church language. We know better than that.
“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus (yes, that He was still alive and that He could still be their kings): and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things there were sold, And laid them down at (who’s feet? Not the pastor and the deacons’) the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation), a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land (clear out there in the Mediterranean, on the island of Cyprus), sold it, and brought the money, and laid it (where?) at the apostles’ feet.”
Now is that church language? Not the way I understand church language. This isn’t what we are expected to do. I’ve never had a Pastor ask me to sell my land and cattle and bring it to the Church.