Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 3 * BOOK 19
SAUL CHANGES TO PAUL
Let’s go right back into the Book of Acts and carry on our study of this Book of transition. I told you when were back in Chapter 10 that Peter by a Sovereign God was sent up to the house of Cornelius, a pagan Gentile. We know that God had more in mind than that little group of people in Caesarea. God had in mind the whole sphere of Christianity. And now in Acts Chapter 15, we also see the other reason for using Peter to minister to this Gentile. And I have told you before that Acts 15 is a parallel chapter to Galatians Chapter 2. Paul has now been out among the Gentiles for several years, establishing the churches up there in Asia Minor, and especially in Antioch. The believing Jews at Jerusalem are still not accepting that. They were still Law-keeping, and they still had that mentality that nobody should be going to the Gentiles unless The King and Kingdom had been established here on the earth. They were really having a problem with this.
“AND certain men (these were believing Jews from Jerusalem) which came down from Judaea taught the brethren (at Antioch), and said, `Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses (what?), ye cannot be saved.'”
Do you see that? This is now 51 A.D. That’s 23 years after Pentecost, and these believing Jews are still telling the Gentiles up there at Antioch that they cannot be saved unless they keep the Mosaic Law, and circumcision. Now verse 2:
“When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation (Paul and Barnabas had to just literally dig in and tell these fellows that they were wrong, and they couldn’t put circumcision and legalism on these Gentiles believers) 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.”
So Paul and Barnabas had to go with them to Jerusalem to settle the question. They met with the Twelve and the elders of the believing element of what we call the Jewish Church at Jerusalem.
“And being brought on their way by the church (that is the congregation at Antioch), they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church (the believing Jews), and of the apostles and elders (that would be the Twelve), and they declared all things that God had done with them.” That is among the Gentiles.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees (this was not the “whited sepulchre” Pharisees that Jesus had to deal with, but rather) which believed (they had believed that Jesus was The Christ. They were members of that Jerusalem Church), saying, `That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.'”
That’s what it says. Not just in my Bible, but it says it in your also. And this remember is 22 years after Pentecost, so time has been going by. Paul has been out among the Gentiles since 40 A.D. That’s after his three years down in Arabia, so for 12 years Paul has been laboring among the Gentiles Now verse 6:
“And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.”
“And when there had been much disputing (I don’t know how long this had been going on, but I think for several hours, they just couldn’t come to an agreement. Paul and Barnabas weren’t buying into circumcision and keeping the Law for their Gentile converts and finally), Peter rose up,…”
I think for most of this dissension and discussion they were on their feet. While this is going on, I can picture Peter sitting down off to the side. Maybe even sulking a little bit, because you have to understand that by now Peter has lost his role as the head honcho. He’s not even the moderator of this meeting. James, the half brother of Jesus is the moderator, and he wasn’t even one of the Twelve. And all this just shows how this Jewish system was slipping and we will see it finally just slips off the scene. In fact this Chapter is the last that is mentioned of Peter and the Twelve, until Peter writes his little epistle just before he is martyred in about 67 A.D. And you know that in 70 A.D. the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and the Jews were sent into dispersion to every land. The Jewish program was slipping through the cracks, and the sad thing is they didn’t know it. You can pick this up so graphically in Galatians Chapter 2 But now back to verse 7. Finally Peter takes the floor.
“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 (how long ago? Thirteen years since he had gone to Cornelius’ house) God made choice among us (the Twelve), that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;'”
Remember last lesson when the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household? And this was before they were even baptized with water. This is what Peter is referring to in verse 8. Now verse 9:
“And put no difference between us (as Jews) and them (as Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples (up there at Antioch), which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
What’s Peter saying? Even Israel couldn’t handle the Law. The Law was so severe, it was a yoke, it was bondage, and so Peter said don’t put something on them that we couldn’t comprehend.
“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (now verse 12, here’s the secret to the whole thing). 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 let’s go to Galatians Chapter 2, and see what Paul says about this situation. It’s the same event we have just read about. And here is how you figure out the chronology on some of these things.
“THEN fourteen years (he had just been rehearsing his apostleship and how he was commissioned on the road to Damascus, and we have placed that event at 37 A.D., and 14 years after that event you get 51 A.D., the disputing in Jerusalem) after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.”
“And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel (do you see how he identifies his Gospel?) which I preach among the Gentiles (see how he’s differentiating?), but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run in vain.” Now come all the way down to verse 5:
“To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour (what’s Paul talking about? The same thing that Acts Chapter 15 said: that there was much disputation and these Jewish believers were coming down on him trying to push circumcision and Law on these Gentile believers, but Paul says that they didn’t back down. Why?); that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” That is you, Gentiles.
Now here is what I’m trying to say. Why did God send Peter to the house of Cornelius? For this event right here. Because you see, if Peter had not come to Paul and Barnabas’ defense, the rest of those Jews would have squashed them, and it would have stopped Christianity in its tracks, and they would have been no longer able to go to the Gentile world with the Gospel of Grace. But Paul says, “I did not give in, I stood my ground.” Now read on:
“But of these who seemed to be somewhat [now what does he mean by that statement? Now that’s Holy Spirit inspired; Paul isn’t being nasty here. But you see the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem are not realizing that the whole Jewish program was slipping away from them, and the Gentile program was ascending. It was a transition, but they didn’t realize it. And that’s exactly what Paul is saying here], (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:”
What does “in conference mean?” When they really started to compare everything that had been unfolding. All the Old Testament promises and covenants, the revelations of Paul and his commission to go to the Gentiles with the Gospel of Grace, they put all of this together and compared notes and Paul could say, “It added nothing to me.” The Twelve couldn’t add anything to Paul’s revelations from the risen Lord. Paul had more than they did.
“But contrariwise [on the other hand], when they [the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem] saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision [that Gospel in verse 2 that Paul preached to the Gentiles]was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision [Jew] was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the Circumcision [Jew], the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)'” Do you see how plain that is?
“And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision (Jew).”
Now this was all decided in 51 A.D. Thirteen years after Peter had gone to Cornelius, and all this time those Jewish believers at Jerusalem are still maintaining Gentiles can’t be saved unless they become proselytes of Judaism. And you and I can thank God that we have this tremendous Gospel of Grace, because the Apostle Paul did not give in. Now do you get the picture? I also have another little analogy, that God did something way back in time for something that will come much later. And while we are looking at it, go to Galatians Chapter 4 for just a moment, for the two tie together. Remember Galatians was written for the purpose of telling these Gentile believers that they are not under the Law, but rather Grace. The Judaisers were following Paul everywhere he went, and they are not going to give up. They will still maintain that these Gentiles can’t be saved unless they embrace Judaism and keep the Law. So he had to hurriedly write this little letter to the Galatians, to admonish them not to give in. Now coming into Chapter 4 is one of my favorite studies. If I were ever given the opportunity to talk off the cuff for a few minutes, or give a devotion, this is the Scripture I would use. Paul says in verse 22:
“For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.” Who were they? The bondmaid was Hagar and she had a son named Ishmael, and the freewoman was Abraham’s wife Sarah and she had Isaac. Those are the two sons that are going to be used as an allegory.
“But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh (now you remember the setting? God didn’t tell Abraham to go into Hagar and have a child by her. That was Sara’s idea, and not God’s. And so it was of the flesh. But you see God had been promising the son Isaac for twenty-some years, and they had to patiently wait, and even when they were past time for child bearing, then God miraculously gave them Isaac); but he of the freewoman was by promise.” Even though Sarah was 90 and Abraham was a 100 years old.
“Which things are an allegory (they are a picture, but you see God set it all up. Paul couldn’t have written this if this hadn’t happened. But it did happen): for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.” Now that Covenant was “Law” The Mosaic Law of which Ishmael is the picture. Now verse 25:
“For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia (that’s where I get the idea that Sinai is not close to Egypt but rather out in Arabia. And Paul said he went there after Damascus) and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” Paul is writing this before the Temple is destroyed. The Temple in Jerusalem with all their animal sacrifices is still going full steam ahead at this point in time.
“But Jerusalem which is above is free (now what’s that? That’s the heavenly situation in which you and I are now situated. We are citizens of the heavenlies Paul writes) which is the mother of us all.” So Isaac is a picture of Grace! Now verse 28:
“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” Where does the promise come in? God promised Christ, that as a result of His going to that Roman Cross and dying and shedding His blood and being raised from the dead, this multitude of believers would be brought in.
“But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” And that is the way it has always been between the believers and unbelievers.
“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son:…” What do they picture? The Law and legalism. Now let’s go back in our minds at least to the Book of Genesis. Remember when Hagar was first pregnant? She hadn’t even had her child yet, and already she begins to torment poor old Sara. Making life miserable for her by gloating that Sara can’t have a child and that she can. And finally Sara can’t take it any longer, and tells Abraham to get rid of her. And Abraham did. He sent her away. But you see God intervenes. God goes out there in the desert and tells Hagar, “You go right back to Sara’s tent, and you just stay there.” Thirteen years later God would tell Hagar and Ishmael to go right back where he brought her from in the first place. Out in the desert. Now why? Well, if they hadn’t gone back to Abraham and Sara’s tent, and if Ishmael had not been on the scene when Isaac came, then Paul would not have the allegory. Have you got the picture? So way back there in Genesis, God set the stage for the two boys Ishmael and Isaac to be raised for a while in proximity and then set apart, so Paul could say, “Now look this is exactly what we have to do with the Law.” We have to treat the Law and legalism the same way that Abraham treated Ishmael. And remember, God didn’t tell Abraham to give Hagar and Ishmael a tent next door. But where did He send them? Clear out into the desert. What was the purpose? Law and Grace won’t mix. Now verse 31:
“So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” Now go into Chapter 5 verse 1:
“STAND fast therefore in the liberty (and remember, I always stress that liberty is not license. That doesn’t mean we are free to do as we please. But we are under the full exercise of our free will) wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” When someone tells you that you must keep the Law to be a child of God, then you run, because that is false teaching. Now verse 2:
“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised (that is for Salvation), Christ shall profit you nothing.”
Now that’s scary. That tells me that every individual, whether he’s a Church member, devout, sincere, or just like Cornelius, who prayed and gave; if he is doing something to fulfill his Salvation or put the frosting on the cake, he is as lost can be. The Book says so. Christ can profit you nothing if you try to receive Salvation any other way than believing the Gospel.“Faith + Nothing.” So we have to warn people, “Don’t depend on something that you can do.” I don’t care what it is. In this case it was circumcision, but it can be anything. It can be Church membership, it can be a baptism, it can be anything that you can do in the flesh. And when you do it as part of Salvation it is no salvation at all, and insults the work of the Cross. And always remember that. When Christ said, “It is finished,” He meant what He said! Everything that we need was accomplished on that Cross.