Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 2 * BOOK 68
BUT WHEN – THE FULLNESS OF THE TIME – PART 2
Galatians 4:4; Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 2:4
Again, we’re glad to have everybody back. I see you’ve all gotten your coffee, and we’re ready to hit another “But Now.” This one is in Galatians chapter 4 verse 9.
Again, we’re just an informal Bible study. My only hope is to help people to study the Word on their own. You don’t have to just sit there and fold your arms and listen to me or listen to some preacher. Get into the Book, because after all this is where your spiritual food lies. I had someone call yesterday, and she said, “I’ve been a believer for 17 years and off and on I’ll try to read my Bible. I didn’t understand it. I would just lay it aside. But I caught your program a few weeks ago, and now I’m learning how to study.” Well, that’s the best news I could ever hear. So, that’s the whole premise for our teaching. It is to show you how to take the Word and compare Scripture with Scripture, because the cults build all their false doctrines on isolated verses. But we want to use the whole Book cover to cover, because it all fits. It all dovetails together.
All right, Galatians chapter 4 going on a little further down the page to verse 8 where Paul writes:
“Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them who by nature are no gods. 9. But now,…” All right, what’s the “But Now?” After you’ve become a believer.
Now, I always have to back up and give the historical backdrop. Before these people became Christians, or believers, what were they? Pagans. Idolaters. Gentiles. Galatia is up there in Central Turkey. Like all the rest of Paul’s churches and audiences, it was predominately Gentile. There might have been a sprinkling of Jews, but it’s mostly Gentile, and they were pagan. They were idolaters. They followed all the gods and goddesses and all the immoral and stupid ramifications of it.
You know, I can’t help but use the word, because I remember when I was reading the book by Homer, years and years ago. The whole thing is just saturated with how these sailors, including Odysseus, were all hung up on the control of the gods and goddesses. Everything, the winds that blew and the ocean and the enemy of warfare, was all resting on their gods and goddesses. Well, that’s the kind of people Paul dealt with. The same thing. They had no moral standard. They had no understanding of a One True God. They were steeped in all the foolishness of gods and goddesses, with an idol to that god, an idol to that female god and so forth. All right, so this is what Paul is saying here in verse 8 – “back when you knew not the God of Scripture, the God of Israel.” All they knew were gods and goddesses of mythology.
“Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them…” My goodness, do you have any idea how the pagan worshipped? Why, sacrifices after sacrifices if they could afford it.
I think I shared this on the program several months ago. You know I love history. So, while I was going through my hip replacement recuperation, I did a lot of sitting and reading. I read the whole gambit of Alexander the Great. All the way from when he began to when he finally died at the age of 33. I was just flabbergasted at how that young man was constantly sacrificing animals to his gods and goddesses. If he was ready for battle, he would sacrifice 200-300 of them! Unbelievable! Now, that was the mentality, then, of these people that Paul brought into the faith of Christ.
So, you have to get an understanding of that. They were slaves to their religion. They were constantly making offerings and oblations and everything to their idols. Whether it was on a high hill, or whether it was in a grove, or whether it was in their house, they were always worshipping some idol. All right, so he says:
“…ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.” They’re just wood and stone. They’re figments of somebody’s imagination. A sorry state of affairs, isn’t it? Yet the world isn’t all that much different even today. Now, I hate to say it, but it’s the truth. Now then verse 9, that’s the crux of the thing.
“But now, (Since you’ve become a believer. Since you’ve come out of all that false worship and–) after that ye have known (the one true) God, (as a result of trusting Paul’s Gospel) or rather are known of God,…” You know what I like about that? When we become a believer, we not only know God, but what? God knows us!
He knows us in a way intrinsically different than He knows the rest of the world. In His omniscience, sure, He’s aware of everybody. But when we become a believer, we are intrinsically His! He knows all about us. He knows our yesterday. He knows our today. He knows our tomorrow. All right that’s what Paul is trying to show these people, that here as believers now, not only do they know the right and true God, but God knows them. Now then he says:
“…how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements,…” Now, that takes some explanation, doesn’t it? What was the purpose of the Book of Galatians? Well, his Galatian believers were being hoodwinked by Judaizers from the Jerusalem Church. They were being told that they couldn’t be completely saved with Paul’s Gospel alone – of believing in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and rose again. The Judaizers told them they had to practice Judaism.
Now, I’ve got to show that from Scripture, otherwise people just look at it. I always go back to a large church in North Carolina. Several years ago I taught this in their Sunday morning Sunday School hour. It was a large class, well over a hundred. When I finished that morning, they just surrounded me. They said, “Les, I never knew this was in our Bible.” I’m sure that’s typical of most church people. They don’t even know this is in their Bible.
All right, here it is. Acts chapter 15 and we’ll start at verse 1. Now, this is what was behind Paul writing the letter to the Galatians. That’s why he said in the verse we looked at, that now they’ve come out of paganism, yet they’re turning back to the weak and beggarly elements which were part of Israel’s law. I’m going to make further comment on that when we get back, if I’ve got time. But anyway, Acts chapter 15, this was the crux of the problem Paul’s Gentile congregation was having, verse 1.
“And certain men who came down from Judea (that’s Jerusalem) taught the brethren (Paul’s Gentile converts) and said, Except (or unless) ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye (What?) cannot be saved.” My, that’s terrible! That would be just like if I would come in here and tell people unless you do this and unless you do that you can’t be saved. That’s what they were doing. They were doing this to Paul’s believers. And they were falling for it. That’s human nature. All right, read on in verse 2.
“When therefore (Because of what these guys were doing.) Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension (or argument) and disputation with them, they (The church people up here at Antioch where this is all taking place.) determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to (What city?) Jerusalem unto (To what group of people?) the apostles and elders about this question.” Because after all, who were the controlling element of the Jerusalem church? Well, the Twelve. You want to remember, Paul hadn’t yet had the revelation of the Body of Christ church, so there is no mention of bishops and elders and deacons in this Jerusalem church. See how obvious it all is?
You know, one of my number one rules of study is be just as aware of what it does not say as what it does say! Well, there’s nothing in early Acts, nothing concerning some of the offices that Paul teaches. I’ve already said it, and I’ll say it again. Peter and the Twelve know nothing of bishops and elders and deacons. Those are Pauline terms. See how obvious it is? So, who were the leadership? Not bishops and elders and deacons, but the Twelve apostles.
All right, so if you want to get something done, I’ve said it on the program before, and I’ll say it again, if you want to get something done even today, where do you go? You go as close to the top as you can get. You know, I get a kick out of people when they call and ask the girls out in the office about something and they say, “Well, we’ll let you talk to Les.” Well, they can’t believe that they can talk to me. Yes, you can! I can pick up the phone and answer their questions. Well, they’ve gone to the top, so far as this ministry is concerned. If you’re going to get something done, that’s the place to go. So, who are the “top”? The Twelve. So, they’re going to go to the Apostles and elders about this question. All right, verse 3.
“And being brought on their way by the church, (The Antioch, Gentile Body of Christ church) they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4. And when they were come to Jerusalem, (Boy, now it’s a different thing.) they were received of the church,…” Again, I’m going to qualify that. The Jerusalem church is not a Body of Christ church. It is not a church based on faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and that only.
It’s a church based on Jewish believers that had believed that Jesus was the Christ, and again, they are still under the law. They are still practicing Temple worship. Never forget this. There’s not a word throughout all of Christ’s earthly ministry, not a word in these first eight or nine chapters of Acts, which indicate they’re not under the Law. Not a word. Never is someone told you don’t have to bring sacrifices anymore. You don’t have to come to the Temple anymore. Never! They are still law keeping Jews, but they are separated from the mainstream of Judaism and Israel, and they have formed the Jerusalem Jewish church. All right, so verse 4 again.
“And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the (Jerusalem) church, and of the apostles and elders, (Now, I said they weren’t elders, not the way Paul uses it. They were probably men designated just under the Twelve for whatever role. Now then, Paul and Barnabas and others from the Antioch church–) and they declared all things that God had done with them.” With regard to what people? Gentiles! Now you want to remember, this is unheard of in Jewish thinking. The Gentiles never had any part of Israel’s religious life. Maybe an occasional proselyte, but you know I always qualify that. What did Jesus say about proselytes?
He said to the Pharisees, “You compass land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he’s made, he is three times more the child of hell than you are.” Boy, now that’s strong language. Now, you think I’m kidding! I’ve got to go back and show you! Matthew 23, I’m afraid some people may sometimes think, “Well, he acts like he’s quoting Scripture, but he isn’t.” Yes, I am! This is what it says. Matthew 23 verse 15, if you’ve got a red-lettered edition, it’s in red. The Lord Himself is speaking it. And I repeat. That’s why I don’t put much emphasis on proselytes. They had no real religious influence in Israel. I want you to see it for yourself.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold (I’m sorry, I said threefold but–) ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Boy, now that’s strong language, isn’t it?
I always tell people don’t ever tell someone they’re going to Hell, but the Lord could. But I never will, because that’s not my prerogative. I can’t look on anybody’s heart. Only God knows that. But nevertheless, Jesus could tell these guys that they were children of Hell, and the proselytes they brought in were just as much so.
Well anyway, now that threw me a curve. I just about forgot where I came from. So, come back to Acts 15. We’re still dealing with what Paul is writing to the Galatian churches about the emissaries from the Jerusalem church under the, at least the permission of the Twelve, if not the direction. Paul knows that the only way to deal with this thing is go to the top, to the Twelve. It didn’t do any good to try to tell these men who are coming to his churches – be gone with you, you’re false. No, that wouldn’t do any good. So, he goes straight to Jerusalem, to the top.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed,…” In other words, they had come to the place of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. They were saved by it. They were cleansed and became members then of the Jewish Church at Jerusalem. But these Pharisees still had more legalism than the rest of them, so listen to them.
“…saying, That it was needful to circumcise them,…” Now, who are we talking about? Paul’s converts. Paul’s Gentile believers. Now, it wasn’t just in Galatia. It was probably Antioch, all across Turkey. We have no indication that they got over into Greece, but it wouldn’t surprise me if their teachings got there one way or another. We’ve got much the same thing today. Even though it isn’t circumcision, there are a lot of other things that people are trying to force into Paul’s Gospel that are not there. All right, reading on in verse 5.
“That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them (Not suggest, they were commanded.) to keep the law of Moses.” Now listen, what did the Law of Moses entail? The whole nine-yards! The feast days. The Temple worship. The sacrifices. The food laws. They expected these poor Gentiles to come under all that. No wonder Paul had a fit. And he did. It just drove him up the wall that these Jerusalem Judaizers were trying to unload all of their religion on his grace believers. And that’s what they were. Remember, they were saved by God’s grace through faith and faith alone in Paul’s Gospel. But these Judaizers are trying to convince them that they had to also embrace the Law.
“And the apostles and elders (That is of the Jerusalem church now.) came together for to consider of this matter.” My, as far as I’m concerned, there was nothing to consider. It should have been a done deal, but it wasn’t. I’ll tell you what – tradition and religion is a tough nut to crack. Many of you are finding it out. I am encouraged, because we’re getting more and more letters now from pastors and preachers who are beginning to see this. I have to think of a couple in particular who called in one week. Seventy-one years old and retired. I won’t name what areas or what denomination. But what a thrill to hear these guys open up everything they had learned. Mostly off of our stuff on the internet. And I’ll never forget the one gentleman said, “Les, do you think God will give me a little more time to undo all the damage that I did for forty years preaching the wrong stuff.” Well, we’ll hope so. But listen, we are making some headway. We’re encouraged by that. That people will begin to consider what is not in here and what is.
Well, now Paul was all exercised, because they’re trying to bring some things into the plan of salvation for his Gentiles that were absolutely inappropriate. All right, now verse 7, just to show you what’s taking place in Jerusalem.
“And when there had been much (What?) disputing,…” What’s the other word? Arguing! My, I imagine the better part of a day was spent with the Judaizers trying to pummel Paul and Barnabas that this is what God had always demanded and God doesn’t change. God is still…sounding familiar? Yes, it does. We hear the same thing. Well, who are you? Who are you to change? This is what the church has been doing for 1900 years. And I realize it’s a valid argument. But look, Satan has kept a lot of good people blind. I stand here without apology to say that. They have been kept blind. As I mentioned to my class Monday night, how many millions of good church people are going to end up in the wrong place because they have ignored Paul’s Gospel? People don’t like that.
On your way back to Galatians, stop at chapter 2. Before we go back to chapter 4, here’s Paul’s account of this same meeting up at Jerusalem convincing the Twelve that they had no right trying to put his Gentile converts under Judaism. All right, I have to do this rather quickly, the time is just about gone.
“And I went up (That is to Jerusalem.) by revelation, (by God’s direction) and communicated unto them (That is the leadership at Jerusalem, the Twelve and some of the other elders, as they’re called in the Book of Acts.) and I communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them who were of reputation,…” Now again, you’ve got to be able to understand language. If you’re going to talk to some few, who evidently were more authoritative than others, you probably went into a side room or something like that. And who were the ones that were the most authoritative? Well, the Twelve, naturally. All right, so he says, we went and took them aside.
“…lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” Now for sake of time, I’m going to bring you on down to verse 5.
“To whom (That is evidently to the Twelve.) we gave place by subjection, (In other words, we did not give in to their pressure. We didn’t give in to their arguments.) no, not for an hour; (For what purpose?) that the truth of the gospel might continue (remain) with you.” He’s writing to these Galatian churches. He’s writing to Gentile believers. He’s writing to you and me.
What do we have to be aware of? There are going to be false teachers that are going to bombard us, but you stand. You don’t give in. Because we are resting on the Gospel that alone can save. That is, of course, what Paul says in verse 2, “That gospel which I preached amongst the Gentiles.” All right, now I’m going to bring you, again, for sake of time, down to verse 8. Just for sake of time. I like to use all these verses, and I have before, but now look at verse 8.
“(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, (or the Jews) the same was mighty in me toward (What people?) the Gentiles:) (See, here we have that separation, now, of Jews from Gentiles.) 9. And when James, Peter (or Cephas), and John, who seemed to be pillars, (That is of the church at Jerusalem.) perceived (or understood) the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; (They shake hands on the deal.) that we (Paul and Barnabas) should go unto the heathen, (the Gentile, the non-Jewish world) and they (The Twelve would maintain their ministry–) unto the circumcision (Jew).”
How much plainer can English make it? Here’s their agreement. Paul and Barnabas would go to the Gentiles, like they’ve been doing, with their Gospel of Grace by faith plus NOTHING, without Judaism, without all the ramifications of the Law. Peter and the rest of the Eleven will stay with Israel, and they’ll be headquartered there in the church at Jerusalem. Plain English. I can never imagine how people can miss it, but they do, constantly. Now, come over to chapter 4 in our closing remarks, for the minute or two that’s left.
Reading in verse 9, now this is Holy Spirit inspired. This isn’t Paul with a word of vengeance or a word of meanness toward these Jewish teachers up in Jerusalem. But by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, look how he refers to the Judaistic Law. Unbelievable!
“But now, (After you have known God. You have come into this salvation by trusting the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.) after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? (And a result of those elements is what?) 10. Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” Which is all part of what? That was all part of Judaism. Part of the Law! And what does the Holy Spirit refer to it as? “Weak and beggarly.”