Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 20
LAST STUDY IN ACTS
Let’s turn to Acts Chapter 18. Paul has begun his journeys among the Gentile world of Asia Minor in Western Turkey. He’s crossed over into Greece, then down the coastline to Athens. He has moved a few miles to the city of Corinth. Being a port city, Corinth was a bustling commercial city, but it also was wicked and grossly immoral. But to this city Paul comes with the Gospel of Grace among the Gentiles. And beginning with verse 1 we find:
AFTER these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius [the emperor] had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them [Aquila and Priscilla], and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.”
It was work that required hand work, probably stitching and sewing. I like to equate this with women who have quilting clubs, and they get around that quilting frame and talk. So I can just envision these three people talking as they labor. I’m quite sure that the primary figure was Paul. He was sharing all of his new revelations with this Jewish couple that had come to Corinth from Rome. Paul had a way of disseminating everything that God had revealed to him to anyone who would listen. And he must have been a master teacher because he refers to that in his letters when he would say, “I said such and such to you, and you know this is what I told you, and you remember what I told.” So they had grasped it. As he was working with Aquila and Priscilla, he evidently shared all these revelations. Paul goes on his way, then in verse 26 of this same chapter we find that this Jewish couple has also moved on from Corinth over to Ephesus. Ephesus was on the western shores of what is now Turkey. It was there that Paul had started a Church and that letter to the Ephesians was to that congregation.
“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria (in Egypt), an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.”
Remember there is not a New Testament yet. So what Scripture was Apollos mighty in? The Old Testament. This Jewish fellow comes from the area of Alexandria, Egypt. He was eloquent, what we would call a silver-tongued orator. He had all the right expressions, the right charisma, and could captivate his audience.
“This man (Apollos, a Jew) was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
In other words, Apollos knew nothing of believing for salvation in Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection (faith in Christ’s work plus nothing else, as taught by Paul). He was still back in Christ’s earthly ministry. That is the way he had been instructed. I always like to compare Scripture with Scripture in order to make my point. So turn to the Book of Galatians. I want you to see the graphic difference in the language. In Chapter 1 verse 11, we find Paul writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (as all of his writings are), although it reads like it is coming from his own thinking, but it isn’t. It is inspired by the Spirit of God.
“But I certify (I guarantee) you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man (in other words, he didn’t go to school or seminary some place and learn it). For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the (instruction? No, but rather the) revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Can you see the difference? That’s why I’m always stressing be careful when you read. Don’t just read to be reading. Every once in a while you hit a word like this that makes all the difference in the world. Paul says that he wasn’t taught it, and that’s why he’s separating himself from the Twelve throughout these first two chapters of Galatians. He wasn’t taught it by the Twelve or anyone else, but rather everything that he lays down in his preaching, teaching, and writing, he received by revelation. Apollos was a mighty man in the Scriptures, but he had been instructed. Someone had taught him. Now that should tell us that even though The Lord has ascended back to glory, Paul makes it very plain that he saw Christ face to face. And I don’t think that it was only on the road to Damascus, but in other areas of his revelation. The Lord revealed these things to Paul in such a way that even when you go on into Galatians Chapter 2, Peter and the eleven couldn’t comprehend what Paul was talking about. It was way beyond anything they had ever heard. And that’s what we are talking about: Paul operates by revelation, and Apollos by instruction. Let’s return to Acts Chapter 18. Apollos knew only that which took place under John the Baptist’s preaching, which was that Jesus was The Christ, The Messiah, repentance, and baptism. Now look what happened in verse 26:
“And he (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard (they sat and listened to him), they took him unto them (probably took him home for dinner after the service), and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly (or more completely).”
What’s happening? Aquila, and Priscilla had been sitting there with Paul, for we don’t know how long, weeks at least, and Paul had been teaching them this tremendous Gospel of Grace. How that everything that man needed for Salvation was accomplished on the Cross, and in the power of His Resurrection, and Apollos knew none of that. I’ve always encouraged my class people that when they feel their pastor is missing something in Scripture, they should kindly show him from the Scripture what they believe he’s missing. Then, if he’s an Apollos, he should be able to take it like a man, and say, “I never saw this before.” That’s what Apollos did. Apollos, highly educated, polished, eloquent in the Scriptures, suddenly realizes from these two common tent makers that there was a lot he didn’t know. We pick this up in the next couple of verses. That as Apollos finishes his ministry there at Ephesus he took to heart the things he had learned in turn from this Jewish couple.
“And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who (Apollos), when he was come, helped them much which had believed(not through John’s message but rather) through grace:” And where did he pick it up from? Aquila and Priscilla. Where did they get it? From working with Paul.
“For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”
Now Apollos could go beyond that Christ was the Old Testament Messiah. Now I’m sure that he was able to share, especially when you see that word `Grace’ in verse 27, that Christ died for the sins of the world, He was buried, and He arose from the dead. Do you see the difference? Remember, it took two common, ordinary people to bring that man to this further revelation. And that’s where you and I come in. We can approach people who are not teaching more perfectly or completely, and say, “Now wait a minute, you are missing so much.” But never do it with pride, or sarcasm, but just humbly and by the Grace of God. Be skilled in the use of this Book. Be able to say, “This is what The Book says and you’re missing it.” And if they are an Apollos, they will take it to heart. Then you will not only have gained a more informed teacher or pastor, you have gained more love for you and for his congregation.
Let’s touch on the final chapters of Acts. Paul goes to Jerusalem, contrary to a lot of warning, which gives rise to a lot of discussion. Was he being pig-headed, should he have listened, should he have stayed away from Jerusalem, or was this everything God intended? I feel Paul got to Jerusalem in spite of all these little road blocks, because here is where he had to make his final move to the Nation of Israel. Again, they had to make their final decree, “Away with him.” They didn’t want any thing to do with Paul or his message. He has to appeal to the Roman authorities, and they come to his rescue. And as you come on through the succeeding chapters and you get to Chapter 27 of this tremendous Book of Acts, we find that Israel continues to reject her Messiah. And as we will see in Romans Chapter 11, because of their rejection of the Messiah, and their fall, salvation goes to the Gentiles: you and I.
But in Chapter 27, Paul has not succeeded in making any dents in the hard armor of the Jewish people. He had to appeal to Rome after spending a year and half in prison in Caesarea and so now Paul is on ship headed for Rome. I think it’s amazing that this little Jew in face of everything could, almost without fear, go right into the very capital of that pagan Roman Empire which was now beginning to turn on Christianity. Why did the Romans put up with the Jews and their religion even though the Jews gave them a lot of problems? Sometimes they would come down on the Jews rather harshly. But for the most part the Jewish people had their freedom. I was reading awhile back that even between the Crucifixion and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. huge sums of money would come from far ends of the Roman Empire to the Temple; the tithes and offerings of the Jewish people. Rome never intercepted a dime of it. If anything, they gave it safe protection.
So more or less the Romans protected the Jewish religion, but they began to persecute Christianity. Why? Well, the best answer I have found is that the Romans were steeped in paganism and mythology themselves, and had respect for anyone else’s religion if it was ancient. But Christianity was new, and on top of that they were claiming a King of power above Rome, and that infuriated them and precipitated this tremendous persecution. But Paul, under arrest, goes right into the heart of all of this. He probably had Roman soldiers chained to him. Now, in Chapter 28, we find Paul at Rome, under house arrest. They are going to let him live in his own rented house, but always with Roman soldiers at his side.
“And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together (notice, not the heads of the Christian community. He still has that heart for Israel, so he called for the chief of the Jews): and when they were come together, he said unto them, `Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people (Israel), or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained (or forced) to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.'”
“For this cause therefore (in other words, Paul had nothing to be ashamed of, he had no reason to be under arrest, and for this cause) have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” Never lose sight what Paul says in Ephesians Chapter 3.
“FOR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,” But in Acts 28:20 he still has a burden for the Nation of Israel. The reason he was arrested at first was for appealing to the Jews at Jerusalem. And it caused such a riot that they had to bring him under what today we would call protective custody. From there he had to appeal to Caesar. Now closing the Book of Acts at verse 23:
“And when they had appointed him a day (where he could meet with these Jewish leaders at Rome), there came many to him into his lodging (he had quite a bit of freedom); to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God,…”
That whole sphere which is under God’s Sovereign control. The Kingdom of Heaven is that which was promised to Israel from the time of Abraham, and the Kingdom that will yet come upon the earth. It is within the Kingdom of God. When Paul was in Athens he explained to them that The God they had called “the unknown God,” was The God that he was presenting. He was The God that provided all man needs, and The One Who made everything. And it’s the same way here when he began to tell these Jewish leaders about the Kingdom of God. He didn’t leave a stone unturned.
“And some (these Jewish leaders) believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves (again the Jewish leaders), they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, `Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive (God spoke this in Isaiah 600 years before Christ): For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them(Spiritually and maybe also physically).'” Verse 28: that crowning statement that will carry all the way to our own present day.
“Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house (today we would say rented house), and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”
When we address The Lord Jesus Christ, that title is everything that He is to you and I in His post-Resurrection experience. He is Lord of Lords. Absolutely He is. He is still the Jesus of Nazareth, The God-Man; but He’s also The Christ, The Messiah of Israel. For you and I today, the most inclusive title we can give our Lord is The Lord Jesus Christ. Even the Twelve never referred to Jesus only by His Name Jesus. And I still do not feel it’s appropriate. When we refer to the name of Jesus we should include the word Lord, and if you want to be all inclusive, then call Him The Lord Jesus Christ.