Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 18
1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-4
Let’s go back to where we left off in our study of Acts a couple of lessons ago and start in verse 28 of Chapter 5: After the High Priest had said in verse 28:
“Saying, did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?… Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, `We ought to obey God rather than men.'”
“The God of our fathers (notice the language here is all Jewish. That term didn’t apply to Gentiles. The God of our fathers was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) raised up Jesus whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” And we told you earlier that goes back to Deuteronomy 21:18-23 And then verse 31:
“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour (He was going to be the political King, as well as the Spiritual Savior); for to give repentance to Israel (see any Gentiles in that? No, only Israel, that’s what The Book says. I’m not twisting it, I’m just leaving it where it is), and forgiveness of sins.”
That reminds me, come back again to Luke Chapter 1, and see how appropriately this all fits together. My, if only folks could just understand that the Scriptures are like a fine-tuned watch, and I’ve used that analogy more than once. It is so meticulously put together, but so many people throw monkey wrenches in it and try to move the Scripture around to make it fit their belief. Just let the Scriptures sit where our Lord intended them to be. Now here in Luke Chapter 1 compare with what Peter has just said in Acts 5:31. That He was to be a Prince and Savior, and to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sin. In Luke 1:67, Zechariah one of the believing priests, the father of John the Baptist, says:
“And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Ghost (why? Because what he says is not going to be just the mouthing of a good Jew, but the Word of God coming forth. The Spirit is prompting him to say what he says), and prophesied, saying,”
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,” Who are His people at this time? The Nation of Israel!
“And hath raised up a horn of Salvation for us (Israel) in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world (Age) began: That we should be saved from our (not sins in this verse but what?) enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us,”
Their enemies then were the same ones that are their enemies tonight. The same ones who had been their enemies for almost 2000 years. They included the Romans, Greeks, and everybody else that lived around them. They all hated the Nation of Israel, and so Zechariah is just speaking in plain language again.
“To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant (what Covenant?); The oath which he swear to our father Abraham.”
This is all Covenant ground and what I’m referring to when I say that everything is on the basis of the Covenants made to Abraham. And Zechariah is repeating it by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies (physical enemies), might serve him (This King, and Messiah, This God) without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways (now look at verse 77); To give knowledge of Salvation unto his people (Israel) by the remission of their sins,”
Notice nothing has changed between here and Acts Chapter 5. Peter is saying practically the same thing in Acts, that Zechariah did in Luke Chapter 1. That Christ had come to give them remission of sins but also to be their King, if they would just repent of what they had done, and that was having killed their Messiah. Then everything would still come along as God had intended it.
“When they (the religious leaders who have Peter and the eleven on trial) heard that, they were cut to the heart (oh, the Spirit is working, even on these religious leaders. And remember religionists always hate the truth. And religionists only have one way to deal with their enemies and that is what? Kill them. That’s what religion does. Now this may shock a lot of people but this Book never uses the term religion in a good way. Never. Religion is a bad word according to this Book. When Paul says in Galatians Chapter 1, how he profited in the Jews religion, it was bad thing. And the same way here. These people were the religious leaders of Israel, and as soon as they saw the truth of what Peter and the eleven were proclaiming, they have only one option), and took counsel to slay them,”
“Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, (he’s the one who taught the apostle Paul Judaism) a doctor of the Law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space: And said unto them, `Ye men of Israel (do you see the language), take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.'”
And then Gamaliel goes on and gives examples of what had happened before. It didn’t amount to anything, and nothing came of it. So Gamaliel says of this present situation, “Don’t worry about it. If these guys are nothing but a bunch of heretics and a bunch of loonies, forget about them. Nothing is going to come of it. We don’t have to do anything drastic.” And in verse 38 he says this:
“And now I say unto you, `Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.'”
We were looking at a verse last night that speaks to you and I today. Let’s look at it now because it just comes to mind. And what a promise! We are in such a minority that we almost get a little fearful, and get a little timid, and I’m probably as guilty as anybody, but look at the promise here in God’s Word. Just like Gamaliel said concerning the Twelve, Paul says we can take the same approach.
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Oh men may dare, and they may get by for a while, but listen God is Sovereign, He’s in control, and He is going to be the final Avenger. That’s why Paul says in this same Book of Romans, “Avenge not yourselves.” We don’t have to, God will do it for us.
“He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Well, if God was willing to give the best that ever inhabited Heaven, if God was willing to put Him to the shame and the suffering of the Cross for you and I, is there anything else that He can withhold? No. He will give us everything that we need.
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect (to the believer)? It is God that justifieth.” In Acts, in the Jewish economy, it’s the same God. God hasn’t changed. Just because He changes His program of dealing with the Jew to the Gentile, God doesn’t change. Now back to Acts Chapter 5:
“And to him they agreed (these religious leaders listened to Gamaliel): and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.”
There again, they were not to preach the Name of Jesus. Now had they been dealing with Paul, I think they would have said, “Don’t you ever again preach death, burial, and Resurrection.” There were many people who couldn’t believe in resurrection. But here they tell the Twelve not to ever again teach in the Name of Jesus.
“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the (where?) Temple,…”
The Temple was still operating, and still the center of Jewish life. That hadn’t changed. Oh, I want you to see that. Now when we get to Paul I know there is going to be a time or two when he is going to take a Jewish vow in order to reach Jews. But you see Paul has nothing to do with the Temple in his missionary journeys. He doesn’t tell his new converts up there in Asia-Minor (which is present day Turkey) to be sure and get to the Temple the first chance they get. No, he doesn’t do that. But instead what does he do? He sets up little congregations of believers in homes, small groups of believers. I have been blessed now for over twenty years by being able to teach these small groups outside the church environment. I’m not against the church, not at all, and those of you who know me personally know that. I have never told anyone to quit going to their church. Quite a few years ago, I was teaching in a college here in Oklahoma. It was an evening Bible class in their adult education section. We always had a paid enrollment of between 40 and 45 people in that college class room.
We taught there for thirteen years, just exactly the way I teach to you. No opposition at all. The dean of academics would come when he could. One night after class he said, “You know Les, I had an interesting experience several weeks ago, my own pastor stopped me on the street and said, `Doctor what kind of a kooky Bible class do you have there at your college anyway?'” And the dean told me that he didn’t even try to argue the point with him. He just said, “Pastor, I’ll just get a roster of Les’ class, and the next time I see you I’m going to show it to you.” He said about three days later he met the Pastor on the street again and said, “Oh by the way, Pastor, that kooky Bible class you were asking about? Here’s Les’ roster of class people.” The Pastor went down that roster, almost turned pale, and said, “That’s mostly Deacons and Sunday School Teachers.” But this is exactly what most of my classes have been. Most of you are active in your various churches. I have never encouraged anyone to leave their particular church, and they certainly don’t have to leave to follow me. We teach so they can go in and teach and share these things with other folks.
But getting back to the original Church. Paul didn’t set up huge congregations on a corner place, but rather a little group of believers in a home. I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe there’s a reason for teaching small groups, as there are many at the present time doing that. I’m always reminded of Watchman Nee. He was a Bible teacher in China, just before the communist took over. And he did much the same as I and many others are doing. He never taught that much in the local organized church. He taught in little home Bible classes, all over Shanghai in particular. And he was preparing them, without them knowing it, for the day when the organized church doors were locked. But these little Bible studies could just continue on. Consequently, when we went back into China a few years ago, because the doors had somewhat opened, the western world was aghast at all the believers that were in China. Why? Because of these underground little home Bible studies.
We may face the same thing in our own beloved America some day, where our churches will be locked, and we will be forbidden to worship. But it will be difficult for them to stop three or four families to meet and study the Word in homes. But anyway, that’s how the Church was started by Paul. It was small group meeting in a home atmosphere. In verse 42 they are still meeting in the Temple. They’re still under Judaism, but have separated themselves from the mainstream of Judaism, by recognizing Who Jesus was. Now remember they have been selling all their goods, and land they have been cashing in their C.D.’s and they are putting all their money in the common kitty, and they are all living out of it. Now everything has been going just great for about 7 years after Pentecost now. No discord, no disagreement of doctrine, the Twelve are under complete control of the whole thing. And now in Chapter 6, I call it “The first signs of trouble in paradise.”
“AND in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, (quite a few thousand of them) there arose a (what?) murmuring (now you haven’t seen language like that in the first five Chapters. It said they were all of one mind, and in one accord. No one lacked anything, everyone had all they needed because the kitty was full. But I don’t imagine they had 20% interest in those days either, and so what happened? The kitty was getting a little short. So now we have the first sign of trouble) of the Grecians against the Hebrews, (now here is where we have to be careful. Definition is so important. Greeks are pure Gentiles. The Hebrews are self-explanatory – that’s the Jews. A Grecian was simply a non-Palestine Jew. Remember all the Jews didn’t return from the Babylonian captivity. They went into many different countries. After they had become citizens in those various nations, naturally they would take that nation’s language for their own, but kept their Judaistic practices. Those people who would come to Jerusalem were the Grecians! They were Jews but they had been a generation or two outside the land of Palestine) because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” So these Grecian widows were being cheated, they were being pushed aside. They were what we call today `outsiders.’
“Then the twelve (notice the Twelve are in control of all of this) called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, `It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.'”
I know a lot of people and commentaries will say the first deacons were selected here. The Bible never calls the seven men deacons. They played much the same role as a deacon, but The Bible doesn’t call them deacons. It just says we need someone to serve tables, because we need to continue to preach the Word. Read on:
“Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost (watch this language) and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business (to bring back fairness in the distribution). But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen(now watch this language), a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
These Jews were responding to Peter and the eleven and are becoming part of the Jerusalem assembly of Jewish believers.
“And Stephen, full of faith and power did great wonders and miracles among the people. The continuation of that same Jewish program. It was an extension of Christ’s earthly ministry.
“Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephens. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, `We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council (they were like a mob, and brought him before the religious leaders), And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the Law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.'”
What had Stephen been talking about? The coming of The King and the Kingdom, and naturally, when The King would come this whole format of the Mosaic system of Law and Temple worship would fall by the way side, because The King, and the new Covenant would become a reality, and they would no longer have to study and witness. Everybody would be in the right relationship with God. And when Stephen and the rest of these Jewish believers were proclaiming that, the religious section of Judaism said, “No way! We are not going to let anything change the way we have always done things”