Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 66
BUT GOD! (Rightly Dividing the Word) – Part 4
Matthew 6:33 and Various Other Scriptures
Again, we always like to emphasize to our television audience that we’re just a simple Bible study. I’m not trying to build an empire. As I said a few programs back, I have no intentions of building a college or anything like that. We just want to teach people how to study the Word of God on their own. I think we’re making some headway, I really do. Not I, but the Lord is masterminding the whole thing.
Okay, let’s continue on where we left off in our last program, how that Jesus sent the Twelve to the Nation of Israel, under the covenant promises. When Israel finally rejected everything concerning those covenant promises, God raised up the Apostle Paul, designating him as the Apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13) and in a complete opposite role of the Twelve.
Now of course, the Twelve were steeped in Judaism and even the term of proselytizing some Gentiles. But, you know, I always take away any emphasis on proselytes because of what the Lord said concerning proselytes. He said to the Pharisees, “You compass sea and land to make one proselyte, but when he is made he is three times more the child of hell than you are.” Well, what does that tell you? Proselytes were not any better off than the unsaved or lost Jew. So, I don’t put much on proselytes. But this man is not sent out to proselyte the Gentiles, he’s sent out to preach to them the Gospel of salvation and to see them totally saved on the merits of the cross.
Now Peter, James, and John, of course, haven’t quite accepted that. I guess in order to clarify, before we go back to Galatians where we ended in our last program, let’s just stop at Acts chapter 15. Many of you know what it says, but many of you many don’t. Acts 15, this is the parallel with Galatians 2. This is Luke’s account of the Jerusalem counsel as Paul’s account is in Galatians 2. But Acts makes it more clear what the problem really was. So, let’s look at it a minute before we go back to Galatians.
“And certain men which came down from Judea (which is Jerusalem) taught the brethren, (That is, Paul’s Gentile converts. We have to keep the language straight here. They taught Paul’s Gentile converts.) and said, Except (or unless) ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” Now, you want to remember that the Jerusalem church is ruled by the Twelve. So, these emissaries from Jerusalem could not have done what they were doing without at least the Twelve’s permission. I’m not going to lay the blame on them that they commanded them to do this, but they permitted it.
“When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto (What group of men?) the apostles…” See, I’m not reading anything in here that isn’t here. The Apostles were the key players. Like I said in the last program, if you want to get something done, go to the top. That’s exactly what Paul and Barnabas are going to do. They’re going to confront the Twelve in Jerusalem over this matter of their emissaries coming in behind Paul and saying, “You can’t be saved by Paul’s Gospel alone, you have to practice circumcision and keep the Law.”
Sound familiar? Well, maybe not the same items, but it’s still – oh, you can’t be saved by faith alone. In fact, one of the speakers, who I suppose was in direct opposition to what I had said over in Greece, said, “James says that you cannot be saved by faith alone, it’s works and faith.” Which shows James was still under the Law. Well, you know it’s pretty hard for me to sit still when I hear stuff like that, but anyway, that’s what we’re up against, but it’s always been this way. Way back here at the beginning of Paul’s ministry, they are already telling his converts, “Paul’s Gospel alone isn’t enough. You have to practice circumcision and keep the Law.” Now you say, well, that’s just in one verse. All right, read on, verse 3.
“And being brought on their way by the church, (That is the Antioch church, up there in Syria. I’m putting that in only for clarity.) they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: (That’s Paul’s ministry.) and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4. And when they were come to Jerusalem, (The seat of all their problems) they were received of the church,… (the Jerusalem Jewish church)“
Now, we’ve got to keep all these churches separate. The Antioch church is Paul’s Gentile church, a Body of Christ church, saved by grace through faith in Paul’s Gospel plus nothing. But they’re going up to meet the Twelve who are the head of the Jerusalem church, which is a congregation of Jews who are still keeping the Law. They’re still practicing Temple worship, but they’ve embraced Jesus as the Messiah. That’s the difference.
“And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and the elders, and they (Paul and Barnabas) declared all things that God had done with them. (among the Gentiles) 5. But (Even with all of Paul’s and Barnabas’ excited report of what God was doing among the Gentiles.) there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed,…” Now, you remember what Pharisees were. They were legalists, religious Jews. Some of them had been saved by believing that Jesus was the Christ and had become members of the Jerusalem church, but they still didn’t lose their legalism.
“…saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, (Now, keep track of who the pronouns are referring to. Who are the ‘them’? Paul’s converts. They had to be circumcised.) and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Now goodness sakes, what does that entail? Dietary laws. Saturday Sabbath. The ten percent tithe, or the one out of ten tithe, a tithe wasn’t ten percent; it was one out of ten. Big difference. But that was all part of the Law. Occasional temple worship. Feast days. The new moons. Now, why am I mentioning all of this?
Keep your hand in Acts. Come back with me to Colossians chapter 2. Now, this isn’t to confuse, I hope it’s to clarify. What a difference. Now, this is what Paul teaches the Gentiles in Colossi, and this is what they’re up against. The Judaizers wanted to cancel these things that Paul writes and put them all back under the Jewish Law. Verse 14, speaking of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection,
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us,…” Now, you all know what ordinances are. They’re rules and regulations. Here I’ve got to be careful. What did it mean to be “against us”? Well, all those rules and regulations were contrary to God’s grace-believing lifestyle. It was just contrary to it.
“…which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.” So, all these Jewish rules and regulations that were a heavy thumb of oppression upon the Jewish people, they were crucified at the cross, so far as the believer is concerned. All right, now verse 15, again in reference to His death, burial, and resurrection,
“And having spoiled (or defeated) principalities and powers, he (Christ) made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” In other words, in His work of the cross, He was made victorious over all of these things that were in opposition. Now verse 16, here’s why I brought you here.
“Let no man therefore judge you (or condemn you) in food, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon…” Now, you’ve got to know your Old Testament and Judaism in particular. What set Judaism on their schedule? The new moon. The Jews would have somebody sitting on the highest point in the area to look for the first sliver of a new moon. Then that would declare a particular part of their religious calendar. I think the Muslim world does the same thing. They’re always looking for that first sign of the new moon. All right, now Paul is throwing all of that out. So, we’ll read it again.
“Let no man therefore judge (or condemn) you in food, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon (the beginning of a particular religious schedule) or of the (What?) Sabbath days:” Now, I just shared that with somebody the other day. They’re always writing or asking if the Catholic Church changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday? No, the Catholic Church didn’t do it. Paul’s Gospel did it. The early church met on the first day of the week, resurrection day, not on the seventh day. It was all crucified with the cross.
Now, this is what I want people to see. As plain as English can make it – we are no longer confined to these things of Judaism. They were all nailed to His cross. But verse 17 says there was a day when they were valid, because it was part of the Old Testament picture of what was coming. So, they were what?
“Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (the Body of Christ) is of Christ.”
Okay, now I hope that clarifies what we’re talking about at the Jerusalem counsel. Paul says that we’re not associated with any of these things of Judaism. We’re under a whole new ball game, and it’s as separated as anything can be. But most of Christendom keeps mixing them up. Mixing them up and the world is in confusion. All right, back to Acts chapter 15, let’s read verse 5 to pick up the flow.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, (They were members of the Jerusalem church.) saying, (these Pharisees) That it was needful to circumcise them, (Paul’s converts) and to command them to keep the law of Moses. (Which I just covered in Colossians.) 6. And the apostles…” I don’t want to leave the Twelve out of this, because this is hard for people to believe that the Twelve apostles would be in such opposition to Paul’s ministry. Flagrant. Oh, maybe not up front. But they knew what these people were doing. That wasn’t all done in a corner.
You know, I had a young lady who came out of a religious system several years ago and she instantly became, I guess, one of my most avid students on her own. She came up with this tremendous thought, and I hadn’t even though it before, but it was valid. She said, “Les, didn’t the Twelve come awful close to the anathema of Galatians 1:6-9?” I’d never thought of it before. Yes, they came close. They didn’t go all the way. I’m sure they’re going to be in glory. You know what I’m talking about? No. Come back to Galatians again, because this is interesting. This is interesting. Even though they weren’t doing it directly, they were involved, or Paul wouldn’t have wanted to meet with them. But I’m sure they stopped short of it. But don’t worry, but there’s a lot of others that haven’t.
Galatians chapter 1, verses 6 – 9. I quote these verses constantly to people and especially to pastors and Bible teachers. Be careful, because the moment you add something to Paul’s Gospel of salvation, you’re under the anathema of God. And this is what she was questioning. Did the Twelve get close to this? Yes, I think they were close, but they didn’t get trapped in it. All right, here we go. Galatians 1 verse 6, where Paul writes to his Galatian believers, now, under this same set of circumstances that we’re dealing with in Acts.
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him who called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7. Which is not another; (It’s not something totally different.) but there be some that trouble you, (These false teachers that we’re dealing with in Acts 15.) and would pervert (or pollute or corrupt) the (What?) gospel of Christ.” Now, how do you pollute or corrupt something? You add something to it that doesn’t belong there. I usually use the illustration, scripturally, of watering wine. It was just an easy way to produce more without any extra cost, and you could sell it for double, but it was a corrupt product. Well, that’s what they were doing with the Gospel, they were polluting it. They were adding something to it that didn’t belong. Okay?
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Lost! Condemned. Anathema is the word in the Greek. That’s what’s waiting for people who pollute Paul’s Gospel of salvation. Now, this is frightening. I make no apology for it, this is frightening, but that’s what the Word declares, and I have to declare it. All right, then he repeats it for emphasis in verse 9.
“As we said before, so say I now again, If any (Now, the word man is italicized, it was added by the translators. But if any, man or woman or anybody…) preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, (That is from the Apostle Paul, in this particular case.) let him be accursed.” That’s strong language. And people just glibly gloss over it as if to say, oh, well, it doesn’t really mean what it says. Yes, it does!!
There’s another verse in Scripture that is just as adamant. You might as well go look at it. Revelation 22 and this is just as frightening, because you can see how many people are guilty. Verse 19, got it? Don’t ever forget that this is in your Bible.
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Strong language? Boy, you bet it is.
Now, I’m a firm believer in the security of the true believer. You know I teach it constantly. Paul says, there is “nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ, neither death nor life nor power, principalities nor things in heaven nor things in earth, nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Except, evidently, this. Because this is speaking of people whose names are in the book of life, and they’ll be taken out. I’m not the judge, God is, but the Word declares it.
Well, Paul says the same thing in Galatians, and I think this applies to preachers and teachers who are saved, but they blatantly add to the Gospel. They come under the anathema of God. Are they still under the security of the believer? I don’t know. But I would be awfully prone to think so, and consequently, you don’t know how I sweat over staying true to the Scriptures, without adding to or subtracting from, because I’m just as aware as anybody that this is anathema when you pollute or pervert the Word of God.
All right, in the few minutes we have left, come back to Acts chapter 15, because this is what we have to see so clearly in our mind, that here is one of these rightly dividing points. Jesus told the Twelve go NOT to a Gentile. To this Apostle Paul, He says, you go TO the Gentile. And in order to not have it mixed, He kept Paul from having anything to do with the Twelve until he had to meet with them to settle a problem, not to share their theology, but to settle a problem. Big difference. Okay, verse 7.
“And when there had been much disputing,…” Arguing. Yes, they argued over this, and the Twelve keep saying, “Paul, you can’t give these people this kind of a Gospel for salvation. You have to demand circumcision and keeping the Law.” And Paul comes back and says, “No way will I give in!” All right, so after, who knows, half a day or more, finally Peter rose up. Now, if language means anything, I think Peter was kind of out of the whole thing. I think he was just on the sidelines listening to all the hubbub. Finally God activates him and says, “Peter, don’t you remember what happened over at the house of Cornelius twelve years ago? Don’t you remember seeing Gentiles saved without circumcision, without Law-keeping? Don’t you remember that Peter?”
“…Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago…” Now, here is a point I like to make to just show how clearly the Scripture reminds us that Peter never went beyond the house of Cornelius to the Gentiles.
He went right back to Jerusalem and picked up where he’d left off. He got condemned for doing what he did, but he never made another move to go to the Gentile world. Not a one. But twelve years later and this is why I maintain that the whole Cornelius event was to come to Paul’s defense. Oh yes, God was interested in that Roman Centurion and his soldiers, but the primary reason was to get Peter ready for this day at the Jerusalem counsel.
“…Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago (Twelve years, that’s a long time in anybody’s thinking.) God made choice among us, (That is, among the Jews, the Twelve in particular.) that the Gentiles by my mouth, (the house of Cornelius) should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.” Now, we haven’t got time to go back, but if you remember the account of Peter preaching at the house of Cornelius compared to how he preached to Israel in Acts chapter 2 where the process was repent, be baptized, have the remission of sins, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. That was the process in Acts chapter 2. In that order. But in the house of Cornelius, it was reversed. While he was yet preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on those believing Romans, and then Peter says, “What hinders us from baptizing them?”
Completely reversed? Why? Because now we’re introducing the Gentiles to a whole new system of salvation. It is not through repentance and baptism and so forth, but by believing. That’s what Peter recognizes here. They heard the gospel. Now, it wasn’t Paul’s Gospel yet. We’ve got to clarify that. That hadn’t been revealed yet, but God can save them any way He wants to, and in this case, they believed Peter’s gospel that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, and when they believed it, the Holy Spirit fell on them, and they were designated in Peter’s sight as believers.
So, all of that took place so Peter, twelve years later, could come to Paul’s defense here at the Jerusalem council. So, Peter remembers, “Wait a minute. I recognize that when I was in the house of Cornelius, they didn’t do all the things that Judaism demanded. We didn’t circumcise Cornelius and his household. They didn’t agree to come under the Judaism Law.” So, now he says that God’s doing something different. Logic tells me that. Now, verse 8:
“And God, who knoweth the hearts,…” You know, a lot of times I get questions, phone calls, and letters, and you know what my favorite answer is a lot of times? “Let God answer that. I can’t.” That’s God’s prerogative. He’s the Sovereign One. He is once in a while going to do things that maybe we can’t figure out. He’s Sovereign. And Peter is saying the same thing. “Who am I to argue with how God is operating? He is seeing fit to save Gentiles by Paul’s Gospel alone, without Law-keeping and circumcision.”
“And God, who knoweth the hearts,…” What does that mean? You and I cannot look at somebody and determine whether or not they’re truly saved. We cannot, because we can’t look on the heart. Whatever you call “heart.” It’s that invisible part of us, but God can. So, Peter is using that as whatever you want to call it – a cop-out or an excuse or whatever, he said, look I can’t look on the heart, but God does.
“And God, who knoweth the hearts, bear them witness, (That is, his Roman soldiers in the house of Cornelius.) giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us;” Well, it took that to convince Peter that God was doing something totally contrary to what he had always been told. He would save Gentiles.
Now, you see, it’s hard for us to recognize the Jewish mentality concerning Gentiles. They just couldn’t accept the fact that the God of Abraham would forgive and save the pagan, immoral Gentiles, and they were. If you know anything about ancient history, they had no morality. They were worse than animals many times.
I was reading history while I was recovering from my hip surgery. I went back to Alexander the Great. He was constantly sacrificing animal after animal to his pagan gods and goddesses. Then, when he was ready to go into battle, he would just multiply it ten times over. That’s what the Apostle Paul was constantly up against.