Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 5
Law and Grace: Time Line: Isaac
Isaac: Genesis 24
In our last lesson we studied how that the Old Testament, and even Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel during His ministry on earth, gave no indication of what we have come to refer to as the “Age of Grace.“ Peter and the eleven, when they were sent out prior to the Crucifixion to preach, never preached Christ crucified! They didn’t understand that He was going to have to go to the Cross for us! They had no indication of anything other than the Old Testament program (illustrated above) as we saw in Psalm 2. We said last lesson, that though Jesus told them clearly that they’d be going to Jerusalem; that He’d be put to death and would rise again on the third day; they comprehended it not. They had had no idea that He was going to die; and after He was dead, they had no idea that He was going to rise again. Else, why weren’t they there that Sunday morning. The only one that did show up at the tomb that morning was Mary Magdalene, and she certainly wasn’t there to see if He’d come out of the tomb! She was there to carry out the custom of anointing the body with spices and so forth. So they had no indication, even after three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, of His pending death, burial and Resurrection, which is the very heart of our Gospel today. We have to realize that they did not preach Christ crucified, buried and risen from the dead.
Turn to Acts 1. We’ll continue that theme for a while. The eleven (Judas Iscariot, of course, was gone and his spot had not yet been filled by Matthias) were all meeting on the Mount of Olives, and Jesus was about to ascend, as Psalm 110:1 had said He would. The Father had, in effect, said to Him, “Look, they’ve rejected You, they won’t listen to You, so come sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The “until” there referred to the time when God would send Christ back to be The King of Kings.
“When they therefore were come together (the eleven and Jesus), they asked of him, saying, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’”
Note the use of the term “restore again?“ in that verse. Those eleven men were remembering David and Solomon’s glory, and they were wondering whether Israel at that time would have a kingdom like unto Solomon’s. Their question was appropriate. But why would they have the kingdom uppermost in their minds? Let’s look briefly to the Gospels for the answer now, even though we will be studying them in depth at a future time. Turn to Matthew 19:27. In this passage, the Twelve are still part and parcel of Jesus’ earthly ministry. I often think of those times in Scripture, as we’ve already seen in Genesis, when Abraham had received all the promises of God, but had not yet seen them fulfilled, and he finally got to the place of saying to God, “Yes, but how do I know?” Here in Matthew 19, Peter was doing much the same thing:
“Then answered Peter and said unto him, ‘Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?’”
They had left their families and fishing, or other businesses, to become part of Jesus’ ministry, so this was a logical question for him to ask. He wasn’t talking about Salvation. They knew they had that. But Peter’s question concerned the idea of, “Lord, what more is in this for us? What does the future have for us?”Now look at Jesus’ answer in verse 28:
“And Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’”
In this case, Jesus was specifically talking only of the eleven, since He already knew what Judas was. The term “regeneration” refers to remaking something that already has been over and restoring it to it’s original condition, just like it was before. So what He was saying, was that when the time comes that the curse is lifted and the Kingdom set up; when the earth is restored to the condition it was in at the time of the Garden of Eden, prior to man’s fall; then Christ will sit on an earthly throne and rule His kingdom in glory. The disciples, also, would sit upon twelve thrones ruling or judging the Nation of Israel. Do you think Peter and the others ever forgot that? Not for a moment! This was uppermost in their thinking. Now, let’s go back to Acts 1 and look at verse 6 again in the light of what we just saw in Matthew:
“When they therefore were come together (the eleven and Jesus), they asked of him, saying, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel (so that we can rule the twelve tribes)?'”
How did Jesus answer him? Does He upbraid him for not realizing that He was talking about something way out of this world? No! Again He answered them with the perfectly legitimate statement, saying in effect, “It’s not for you to know when, but the time is coming. You’re still going to rule the twelve tribes of Israel, but it’s not for you to know when.”
“And he said unto them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.’” Verse 8 starts out “But” – in the interim until it becomes a reality,
“‘But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.’”
“You shall receive power(!)…” That’s the whole idea of the Holy Spirit’s coming on the day of Pentecost – to give the Jewish believers the power to continue the ministry that Jesus had been accomplishing for three years – signs and miracles beyond human understanding. That sounds to us very much like what we call “The great commission” back in Matthew 28. From this we have gotten the idea that as soon as Christ ascended here in Acts 1, and the Holy Spirit came down in Chapter 2, that these Jews would begin going around the world preaching the Gospel. Did that happen? I guess not! Let’s go to Acts 8. Please realize that this is just an overview, rather than an in depth study. I am trying to set the stage for going back to our analogy of Isaac’s bride and Christ’s Bride – the outcalling of the Gentile Body of Christ. Acts 7 gives us the story of Stephen’s martyrdom, and of Saul of Tarsus egging the persecutors on:
“And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen’s) death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
We need to get a time frame in here. This is about seven or eight years after Pentecost. A heavy persecution was going on against the assembly of called-out, believing Jews who believed that Jesus was the true Messiah. They were, however, still deeply entrenched in Judaism; they still practiced the Law; they still worshipped in the Temple; but they were also a set-aside group who had recognized their Messiah and put their faith in Him.
Look at those last three words in the verse; “except the apostles.” If those men who had been with Christ for three years couldn’t understand the Word of God and their commission, who could? But they did understand, and that was why they “sat tight” in Jerusalem. Seven years had elapsed since that commission, but they were still in Jerusalem, rather than being out among the Gentiles. All the other Jews had been scattered because of the persecution, but those twelve men stayed in Jerusalem. But why? Let me give you an illustration. A few years ago I had some meetings and I went alone at first, but near the end of the week my little wife came to join me. I was to meet her at the bus depot, but the bus was late. Right across the street from the depot was a coffee shop and I really wanted some coffee. But I knew that just as soon as I went over there and got some, the bus would come and I wouldn’t be there to meet her. As I was sitting in the car mulling all that over in my mind, I thought of this verse.
This was exactly the state of mind of these men. They weren’t about to go down to Cairo or Rome or anywhere else, because they were convinced that just as soon as they’d leave Jerusalem for someplace else, The Messiah would come again, and they wouldn’t be there to meet Him. So, in spite of all the pressure of that horrible persecution, they stayed on in Jerusalem. This was not contrary to the Word of God, because Peter understood that he had no ministry to the Gentiles until Israel’s King was in place. This is kind of hard for some folks to swallow, and I know it took me a long time, even from the Word, to be ready to pass it on, but once you see it, The Bible just opens up clear as a bell. You can see that Peter and the eleven saw that they couldn’t go out and evangelize the Gentile world until the Kingdom had come to fruition. Now to Acts 11:19 and we’ll back up what I’ve just said.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto Jews only.”
The ones “…which were scattered….“ refer to the ones we’ve already talked about in Acts 8:1. The Antioch referred to here was the one north of present day Beirut, Lebanon. Notice that they preached the Word only “to the Jews.” Even seven years after Pentecost, nobody was going to the Gentiles. The Word is so plain. But why hadn’t they gone to the Gentiles? Because the Old Testament program was the only plan they knew.
Now, look at what happened in Acts 9. Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was converted on the road to Damascus, where he was headed in his religious zeal to persecute the church – to stamp out the followers of the “imposter” Jesus of Nazareth. Saul was going to wipe them out at any cost, but on his way there, he had that confrontation with the ascended, glorified Lord of Glory. Look at verses 11-15 where Christ talks to Ananias – that believing Jew in Damascus.
“And the Lord said unto him, ‘Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.’ Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:”
“‘And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, ‘Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:”
God hadn’t forgotten the Gentiles. He did know that Israel wasn’t going to fulfill that Old Testament program, because she was continually rejecting The Messiah. So God said, “I’m going to do something totally different! We need to remember that the “Age of Grace” was predominately for the Gentile, even as the time before was predominately for the Jews, but the Jew was not locked out of Salvation during this time. So some could be, and have been saved.
“‘For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.’”
Look down to verse 20. This Saul of Tarsus, having just realized who Jesus really was – the God that he had thought he was serving by persecuting the followers of Jesus – this same Saul in verse 20, goes to preach Christ in the “synagogues.“ He was still “Jew only!“ He had no idea that God was going to go the Gentiles with a different program. All he knew was the Old Testament program. Remember, it was almost 100 years after Christ before the New Testament began to come together. And even then, it didn’t come together as a canon of Scripture for another three to four hundred years. At this point in time, there was no New Testament written. All they had was the Old Testament, but they really knew that Old Testament, and they knew that program. They knew the promise of The King and the Kingdom, and that was when Israel could evangelize the world.
So, as we see in verse 20, Saul went straight to the synagogues to preach. But he didn’t know any more about the death, burial and Resurrection as God’s plan of Salvation, than Peter did, back before Jesus was crucified. We must understand this. Remember, faith is taking God at His word, but you can’t take Him at His word until He speaks it. You can’t assume what He’s going to say. We must wait until God gives explicit instructions; then we can take it and believe it. So, here was Saul of Tarsus, filled with wonder to know that the One whom he thought was a blasphemer and imposter was, indeed, his Jehovah, and that He had died and been raised from the dead. What he was preaching was that Jesus truly was The Messiah.
If you’ll read on, you’ll find that God took supernatural means, immediately, to get Saul out of Damascus. There came a threat on his life, so that he had to be let down over the wall of the city at night in a basket, to escape. And we saw a few lessons ago, in Galatians, that Saul then went down to Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula (we think), because he says that he went down to Arabia, and in another place referred to it as Sinai in Arabia. There, he spent three years alone with his ascended Lord, and God poured out on that man all the doctrines that were to go out to the Gentiles – totally new and totally different doctrines. This is why he used the language he did in his letters. Paul was specifically commissioned to go to the Gentiles, as we’ll see in the following verses.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation (administration) of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [How did Paul get it – to give to us? By revelation!] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.)”
That’s the difference between revelation and instruction. When one is instructed he is taught by another human being. Paul never claimed to be taught by anybody. He received everything by revelation. Go now back to Acts 18:
“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 had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome); and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he (Paul) abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.”
I like to compare Paul’s working with Aquila and Priscilla to that of a group of ladies around a quilting frame. While they are quilting, they are talking, visiting, discussing. I believe the same thing happened with Paul and his friends. While they were sewing on that tough, old canvas, Paul was telling them all about what God had revealed to him – laying it all out for a purpose. Turn to verse 24:
“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures (the Old Testament), came to Ephesus. This man 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.”
This is why I wanted to use this as an illustration. This man had been taught, probably in a seminary. But his education was limited. He, too, knew nothing more than the Old Testament program. He hadn’t heard of the Gospel of Grace, but look what happens.
“And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”How could Aquila and Priscilla teach this learned man anything? They’d been with Paul, and look what Apollos was gentleman enough to do – listen! He learned from two “little lay people.”
“And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia (part of Greece), the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:”
How could Apollos have helped those “Grace believers” without having been taught the things of Paul? He couldn’t have! Now then, for comparison purposes, go back to Galatians 1. This was Paul’s account of where he got his information.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
He didn’t go back up to Jerusalem after his conversion and say, “Hey, fellows, teach me everything you know about this Jesus, since you were with Him for three years.” No, he says he received it by “revelation of Jesus Christ.” There’s the difference between revelation and instruction. So, Saul knew nothing about the Gospel of Grace until God separated him down to Sinai and gave him, by revelation, the great new doctrines of Grace that would go to the Gentiles. Next time we’ll show you on our timeline how these things were pushed out into the future to make room for the “Age of Grace.”