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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

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Thursday, June 13, 2024

We Are Living in the Great Parenthesis of Ephesians 3 Until Israel is Used of God Again

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv (which is the second month), he began to build the house of the Lord.

-1 Kings 6:1


In First Kings, scripture reckons the start of the fourth year of Solomon's reign, when he began building the temple. So, the 480 years covers the time from the Exodus through the third year of Solomon's reign (the fourth year having just begun, but not completed). 

Some have tried to argue that this is in contradiction to what Paul states in Acts chapter 13. Now, Israel is God's timepiece from the time of Abraham to the start of the current age (Post Acts) and will soon be again. God is not done with Israel and he will fulfill all his promises to the nation in an age to come. 

So, let's look at Paul's timetable in Acts 13.


Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt, and with great power He led them out of it. For about forty years He endured their conduct in the desert. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave them their land as an inheritance by lot. “After about four hundred and fifty years, God gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they requested a king. And God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. When He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, of whom He testified, saying, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will fulfill My entire will.’

-Acts 13:17-22


Here we have 40 years in the desert. Then we have another 450 years of the time of the judges until Samuel. Then 40 years of Saul, 40 years of David, add the three years into Solomon's reign to start building the temple. This gives us 573 years from the exodus from Egypt to Solomon and the temple as noted in 1 Kings 6.

How do we explain the seeming 93 year discrepancy? 

We first have to turn to the prophet Hosea.


Then the Lord said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I am not your God.”

-Hosea 1:9


During Israel's history, there are periods during which God pictures them as "not My people." Of course, Paul reckons all the time from the Exodus to Solomon as Israel's history. We see that while God may put up a parenthesis in His dealings with Israel, when it comes to the earthly plan and hope, Israel (the seed of Abraham) is still at the center of God's plan.

So where are the missing 93 years? They're in the Book of Judges during times Israel was "Lo-Ammi" or "not My people."



The children of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia. The children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim for eight years.

-Judges 3:7-8

 


Then the children of Israel once more did what was evil in the sight of the Lord... The children of Israel served King Eglon of Moab for eighteen years.

-Judges 3:12,14

 

When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel once more did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. The Lord sold them into the hands of King Jabin of Canaan, who ruled in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera. He lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. The children of Israel cried out to the Lord, for Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots and had forcefully oppressed the children of Israel for twenty years.

-Judges 4:1-4

 

The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian for seven years.

-Judges 6:1

 

Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

-Judges 13:1

 


8 + 18 + 20 + 7 + 40 = 93 years



Note Paul's words in Acts 13,“Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt..." Paul clearly still recognizes and Israel and identifies with them. He also recognizes the Gentiles among them ("and you who fear God"). These are still distinct groups. Israel was still Israel and Gentile believers in the God of Israel were still separate (unless they became proselytes). 

Paul going to the synagogue, to the Jew first, is his pattern all through the Acts and in the Acts Age epistles. Paul always went to the synagogue first in every city with Jews ("as his manner was"). Romans 9 clearly states that the promises, covenants, etc. are still for Israel, independent of any idea of new creation Gentile "church."

The Gentiles in the Acts Age were "grafted in" to specifically "make Israel jealous." And just as Gentiles could be grafted in to Israel, the could be "cut off" from Israel (Romans 11). To the end of the Book of Acts, Paul was in chains "for the hope of Israel" (acts 28:20). And he said this to "Jews" who he calls "Brothers" and identifies with them and "our fathers" (28:17).

There are some antisemites today who take the verse condemning "those who say they are Jews and are not" from the Revelation and try to place that charge on Jewish people today. They do this because of the error of believing the current "church" or Body began at Pentecost or at Acts 13. All the way until the end of the Acts (seen also in the epistles written during the Acts), Jews remain Jews, Israel remains Israel.

After the Book of Acts, Israel is temporarily set aside as we look to the heavenly hope revealed by Paul in Ephesians chapter 3. We are currently living in that parenthesis. But Israel will soon be back at the center of God's plan for the Earth.




Related:

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Paul Addressing Jewish Believers in Galatians 3

 In our previous we looked at Galatians chapter 4 through the lens of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15). I alluded to chapter 3 for more context, so today we will take a quick look at that chapter. But to do so, we need to go back to Galatians chapter 2 for even more context.


We are Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. Even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, rather than by the works of the law. For by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

-Galatians 2:15-16

 

A we have noted in previous studies, it is important to recognize pronouns. But here the pronoun "we," while emphasizing the point, is not even needed to see the audience Paul is addressing. 

Some Jewish believers were still confused as to the role of the Law and the relationship of Gentile believers to the Law. Remember, in Acts 15 and in Acts 21 the Apostles (with the approval of the Holy Spirit) teach Gentile believers that they were to keep the "necessary things" taken from Leviticus (Acts 15:28-29; Acts 21:25). 


As for the Gentiles who believe, we have written and concluded that they should observe no such thing, except that they abstain from food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled animals, and from blood.”

-Acts 21:25


Now, do we have this problem today? We certainly do not. Does your church claim to an "Acts church?" Do you believe the "church" of this age started at Pentecost? If so, Acts 21 is well into the Book and well into Paul's ministry. In Acts 26 Paul will testify that he taught "no other thing than that which was taught by Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 26:22). In Acts 28 he will say he is in chains for "the hope of Israel." In Ephesians Paul will state that he is a prisoner "for you Gentiles." 

The Acts Age was very different from the current age. Galatians was written in the Acts Age when there was still a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. 

So, when we read Galatians 2, we note Paul is specifically correcting "Jews." No Gentile believed he was "justified by the woks of the Law." And if one did, this would certainly correct him. But the greater point (as we saw in our previous study on Galatians 4) is the distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers in light of the earthly hope of that age (which was continuation of the earthly hope of the Gospel age and the Lord's earthly ministry).

It is tempting to go through the entire chapter, verse by verse, to emphasize these points and to pull out both truth and context, but for our purpose here I will simply note that Paul refers his Jewish audience back to Abraham (who was redeemed and declared righteous 430 years before the Law). Abraham is mentioned in 67 verses in the gospels, Acts, and Acts Age epistles. He is never mentioned in the seven Post Acts epistles of Paul.

The hope of Abraham was two-fold. He was promised a land (length and width, Gen 13:17) and looked for a city whose builder and maker is God, Heb 11:10, (length, breadth, and height, Rev 21:16). Our hope is heavenly (breadth and length and depth and height, Eph 3:18). The hope of Ephesians being revealed to Paul alone after the "wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile was removed (Eph 2:13-15).

We looked at the Acts Age, Jewish believers and Gentile believers, in light of circumcision in Galatians 4 (and Acts 21) last study. We noted the distinctions in Paul's audience. As we have already seen here in part, that distinction goes back to Galatians 2 and 3. 

As Paul makes his argument that the Law cannot redeem and that those under the Law are also under the curse of the Law, he makes this curious argument:


Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

-Galatians 3:21-22


While the Law cannot annul the promise of justification given to Abraham centuries before, and while the Law only can condemn, Paul states that it is not against the promises of God. The Law is not against the promises of the Land, the Kingdom, or the New Jerusalem.  

Paul's context here is the justification by faith alone exemplified by the promise to Abraham. Jewish believers, while still practicing the non-sacramental Law (and Gentiles still practicing the "necessary things" from Leviticus for strangers living among Israel), needed to make the distinction between keeping the Law for the sake of priesthood of the Covenants and keeping the Law thinking it justifies a person. Note again the pronouns.


But before faith came, we were kept under the law [Gentiles never had the Law], shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For you [plural] are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you [singular] as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you [plural] are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you [plural] be Christ’s, then are you [plural] Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 
-Galatians 3:23-39

 

Paul is clarifying for his fellow Jewish believers that in justification there is neither Jew nor Gentile. There isn't even male nor female! Want to claim that as a "church truth?" 

Israel will serve as a royal priesthood and a holy nation in the future when God establishes a believing Israel in the land. That is part of the earthly hope.


Thus says the Lord of Hosts: I will deliver My people from the eastern lands and from the western lands. And I will bring them, and they will reside in Jerusalem, and they will be for Me as a people, and I will be for them as God, with faithfulness and righteousness.

-Zechariah 8:7-8


Thus says the Lord of Hosts: In those days ten men from every language of the nations [Gentiles] will take hold of the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

--Zechariah 8:23


And we know this is yet future as Israel has never acknowledged the piercing of the Lord.


And I will pour out on the house of David and over those dwelling in Jerusalem a spirit of favor and supplication so that they look to Me, whom they have pierced through. And they will mourn over him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly over him as a firstborn. 
-Zechariah 12:10



Thursday, May 30, 2024

So Why Not Get Circumcised? It's a Bible Command! (Spoiler: You Shouldn't)

And when a stranger [Gentile] shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.

-Exodus 12:48


The idea in this verse concerns the "stranger" (Hebrew: gêr). This concerns one, not of that nation, who is traveling among Israel who desires (wills) to keep the Passover feast. If he wants to keep the Passover and wished to honor the Lord in that way, he had to be circumcised. That is, he had to become a proselyte Jew. He did not need to be circumcised to have Life from the dead. Keeping the Passover had no bearing on that. 

We briefly step back and note that "keeping" any holy day or feast does not have anything to do with the gift or resurrection life. The Law had no connection to the gift of Life. Neither Adam, nor Abel, nor Noah, nor Abraham ever kept the Passover. None was circumcised. None kept the Feasts. The Law of Moses came some 430 years after Abraham was given his promises regarding the land and his faith which declared him righteous before the Lord. Abraham was given his promised while in uncircumcision.


Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many; but, referring to one, “And to your offspring,” which is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

-Gal 3:16-18

Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”

Is this blessing pronounced only upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised? We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

-Romans 4:4-10

We note that Abraham was justified in uncircumcision, centuries before the Law. We also cannot miss the quotation in Romans from the Psalms. This connects the doctrines of Romans to the doctrines of the Hebrew scriptures. The doctrines of justification were not new, they were just made clear and made possible in Christ. Romans and Galatians rely heavily on Moses and the Prophets. Romans 15:8 teaches us that Christ was sent "to confirm the promises made to the Fathers." Those promises include the promises to Abraham and to the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. They also include blessings for Gentiles.

We pause to marvel at God's grace and his assurance that he will keep his promise based solely on the work and perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Law had no effect on God's promises to Abraham. We read later in the Greek scriptures that one's place in the New Jerusalem and one's closeness to Abraham in the Kingdom on Earth will be dependent on one's strength of faith and one's service, but the Kingdom is assured and Life is assured. Nothing can annul that. No Law and certainly no decree of man. Works have their place, but not in regard to the undoing of the curse of death. We must rightly divide the hopes and rewards as we do all of scripture (2 Tim 2:15).

We note again here that the Law and the Feasts are particular to Israel and the covenant as laid out in Exodus 19:5-7. The "stranger" who wants to be included in the blessings of the nation of priests had to be circumcised, but it was merely an option, not a requirement for anything else. These receive no threats of damnation or anything like it if they are not circumcised or do not participate in Israel's feats. 

Thus, we make a clear delineation between the doctrines of justification unto Life from the dead and the doctrines of blessings under the covenants with Israel. Never the twain shall meet. And when it comes to the blessings in the Kingdom of Priests (as the covenant states), we are firmly planted in an earthly promise spoken by Moses and the Prophets SINCE the foundation (the overthrow) of the ages (not "before" as we have with the hope revealed to Paul).

We now look back at Exodus 12:48 and note the Passover came before the formal giving of the Law. This feast given to Israel through Moses in captivity in Egypt is addressed again in the Law in the Book of Leviticus. The truths concerning circumcision and the option for "strangers" living among them is made clear. These are truths for Israel and part of her promises connected to the promised land. 

And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.

-Leviticus 12:2-4


This is quite an interesting requirement as no children of Israel were circumcised in the 40-year wandering. It was Joshua who circumcised the generation that entered the promised land. We surmise that the generation that first practiced the Passover (Ex 12) was circumcised in Egypt. Quite the picture.


And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.

-Joshua 5:3-5

 

But let us go back to the beginning of Leviticus chapter 12.


And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

But we know that no child was circumcised during the wilderness experience. 

The scriptures do not teach that those who are not circumcised shall be condemned before the Lord. Their disposition remains as one foreign to the blessings of Israel, not denied Life. This idea is carried into the Book of Acts. In Acts 21, there is an accusation made of the Apostle Paul that he was telling Jewish believers to no longer circumcise their boys. Paul takes great offense at the idea that he was NOT teaching these things. He certainly was. But as Paul continued to teach that Jewish believers should be circumcised, he warned Gentile believers to NOT be circumcised, lest they be obligated to keep ALL the Law. The practice and its connection to the Law had no place in any doctrine of justification unto Life.

On the following day Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. After
greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law.... Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them.

-Acts 21: 18-24,26

Paul taught Jewish believers to continue to circumcise and to observe the feasts. There was "nothing" that was true in the rumors about Paul. Paul, as a Jew, observed the Law.  How do we square that with what we see in Galatians regarding circumcision and the Law?

Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 
-Galatians 5:2-4

Why would Paul be adamant in Acts 21 that Jewish believers keep the Law and the Feasts, while here stating that circumcision would "sever" one from Christ? Is Paul contradicting himself? Did Paul teach error for the sake of some fake "unity?" Was he just ignorant? Galatians was probably written before the events of Acts 21. 

We must clearly saw what Paul was addressing in Galatians. Jewish believers were already circumcised (or  they would not be wring to become circumcised, See the case of Timothy's Circumcision). But a grafted in Gentile should recognize God's two-fold grace in that age. He had the free gift of Life as all who had faith. He was justified by faith alone. But if he became "bewitched" into thinking he could have a "better" salvation as a proselyte, he would be denying what Christ had already accomplished for him and he was bound to then keep all the Law as Paul was obligated. It would no longer be a witness to Israel to make them jealous. 

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched [deceived] you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?


-Galatians 3:1-3

We must be careful in chapter 4 of Galatians to see the distinction Paul is making which he started at the end of chapter 3 (which we will look at next time). In the opening section is speaking to the Gentiles in Galatia of his own people, Jews.

Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ from a servant though he is lord of all. But he is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father. So when we were children, we were in bondage to the elements of the world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

-Galatians 4:1-7 

 

Gentiles were never under the law. 

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 
-1 Corinthians 9:20-21

Gentiles were those who worshiped the false gods of Greece and Rome. Paul switches his attention to them in Gal 4:8 to compare and contrast with the Jews who had the Law.

Previously, when you did not know God, you served those who by nature are not gods.

In Acts 17 we see this contrast and we see Paul's different approach to each group. In Thessalonica and Berea he visits the synagogues and preaches from the Hebrew scriptures ("daily examining the Scriptures, to find out if these things were so"). Yet when the Apostle visits Mars' Hill in Athens, he makes no case from the Hebrew scriptures, but addresses the UNKNOWN GOD they worshipped among the many gods ("who by nature are not gods"). This is the context for Paul's argument in Galatians. He had to address Jewish believers and grafted in Gentile believers in that age.

Today, we have many who come to Christ by faith, rejoice in his unfathomable grace, and then turn back to the weak and beggarly elements of the law. Israel has been set aside in this age (after the Acts Age) and all today are essentially Gentiles. Paul, in the Acts, went from being in chains "for the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20)  as he testified that he taught "no other thing that was not preached by Moses and the Prophets," (Acts 26:22) to being "the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles" post-Acts (Ephesians 3:1).

The answer to Paul's position in regard to Gentiles in the Acts Age is also found in the Law and in the verse I skipped in Acts 21. Remember, the stranger living among Israel was not obligated to keep the feasts. The Law was part of a covenant with Israel in regard to a kingdom and a priesthood for the nations. As the Lord goes through the Law, he commands Moses to "say unto the children of Israel" and similar. When he addresses the stranger, he does so in regard to his place among Israel (while remaining separate from Israel).  

“For the life of every creature is the blood of it; therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off. And every person that eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

-Leviticus 17:14-16

We note here the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. This teaches that the symbolic wine and bread of the Passover feast become the literal blood and body of the Lord at the words of the priest. This would be an abomination to the Lord who was "born under the Law" (Gal 4:4). In the Acts Age, Gentiles, while not being put under the entire Law, still were required to keep the "necessary things" of Acts 15 and Acts 21 taken from Leviticus for "strangers" living among Israel.

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put on you [Gentiles] no greater burden than these necessary things: Abstain from food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled animals, and from blood. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. 
-Acts 15:28-29

 

Whoever from the house of Israel, or from the strangers who sojourn among you, who eats any manner of blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people (i.e. cut off from Israel). 
-Leviticus 17:10


Both Israel and sojourners were restricted from consuming blood. But was this cutting off tantamount to damnation to eternal death? Of course not. It was a separation from the blessings of Israel and the promises in the covenant in the promised land. These are all earthly issues. They are connected to an earthly hope and earthly promises. Our hope in the current age is a hope in the far above the heavens (Ephesians).

Paul warns Gentiles in the Acts Age who had been grafted into the root which is Israel that they too could be "cut off" (Romans 11). Cut off from what? The context is cut off from the root which is Israel, not cut off from Life. Lose the free gift Paul just spent 10 chapters explaining is free? The gift he states just before his warning that cannot be lost? Paul emphatically writes:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Would he then turn around and warn ONLY Gentile believers that they would be "cut off" from grace because of their works? Of course not. They cannot be cut off from a free gift, but they can be cut off from the blessings of Israel.

For I speak to you Gentiles... Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

-Romans 11:13,22 


We pause to emphasize that Paul is making a distinction among believers as was the pattern of the Book of Acts, a pattern we no longer follow since "the middle wall of partition" was taken down Post Acts when Paul revealed the Mystery of Ephesian 3.

Note, too, that the "sojourner" (Hebrew "gêr" again, stranger) in Leviticus17 is juxtaposed against the "native" (Hebrew "'ezrâch" native-born of Israel). The Lord makes a difference. The Lord is not making a Law for the saved and unsaved (that makes no sense), but rather a Law connected to the nation in the land for natives and those living among them. God distinguishes Jew from Gentile with no inference of either being saved or lost.

We have these distinctions throughout the Greek scriptures. The Gentile centurion is juxtaposed against the "children of the Kingdom" in Matthew 8. And as we're seeing here, the Gentile believer is juxtaposed against he Hebrew believer in the Acts. But we are not contrasting their way to Life. That has always been by grace alone through faith alone. What is contrasted are promises, hopes, and callings. And we today must also compare and contract the promises, hopes, and callings of this present Age with the Acts Age. Compare the things that differ.

Now, let's look again at the repeated instruction from Acts 21, the chapter in which Paul defends himself against accusations that he is not teaching Jews to circumcise. .

As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” (v.25)


We see that gentile believers are distinguished from Jewish believers AGAIN in Acts chapter 21. After the Jewish believers complained that the new Gentile believers were not keeping the Law ("The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses”). Did the Apostles say as some today, "No! Nobody had to keep the Law after Pentecost!"? Or did they say as others today say, "Jesus desired all his followers to be Torah observant!"? These are two popular answers in our day, but unknown to the Apostles. Both are in error and the root cause of these errors is a failure to rightly divide the Word of Truth, to distinguish between the earthly hope and the heavenly hope.

And as we dismiss both these errant theological systems, we must also dismiss any gathering that claims to somehow be an "Acts Church."   

The apostles' answer was to turn to Leviticus 17 (the Law) and keep Gentile believers separate in practice from Jewish believers. Jewish believers were to continue to circumcise and Gentile believers were to observe the "necessary things" of Leviticus 17. Do you now see how this would make Israel jealous? Making Israel jealous is the expressed reason God grafted Gentile believers into Israel in Acts 10. This pattern of the "Acts Church" has no place in the current age or plan.


Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, "I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

-Romans 10:19


So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

-Romans 11:11

The error of some Jewish believers in Acts 15 was that one had to keep the Law "to be saved" (Acts 15:1,5). This was a reasonable misunderstanding. The keeping of the Law was connected to one's place in the Kingdom. There are good servants and bad servants in that House. What they failed to distinguish is that the gift of Life (resurrection from the curse of death) is separate from the Law. As Paul will clarify here (and specifically in Galatians and Romans) is that Life is by grace alone for all regardless of race.


Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”


Why, then, do the apostles, including Paul, give out a separate set of rules for Gentile believers? And later in Acts 21 why was Paul still teaching circumcision and feast-observance for himself and for Jewish believers? So much so that he took a vow. Would the writer of Galatians who warned against circumcision so vehemently turn around in cowardice in the face of James?

The answer is again found in the Law itself. As we noted, they applied Leviticus 17. And this was approved by the Holy Spirit himself. We keep coming back to this, and related points, because almost all local gatherings of every denomination imaginable thinks its a successor to the Acts church.


It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you [Gentile believers] with anything beyond the following requirements...


The "following requirements" referenced being the Law of Leviticus 17 which is quoted in Acts 15 and again in Acts 21. The Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius in Acts 10 (before he was baptized, for the record), which is what amazed Peter. He had seen Gentile faith in Matthew 8 ("greater faith than all in Israel") and Matthew 15. He saw the Samaritan woman and the Samaritans have faith. What he never saw was the power of the gifts in a Gentile before Cornelius. This was the beginning of God's plan to "make Israel jealous."


“Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?"


Many today would lay a yoke upon believers that they cannot bear. The Law was not the means of cleansing. The Law could and can only condemn if it is applied that way. In its proper place, it is part of a priesthood covenant with Israel, not a means of either being granted Life or maintaining Life in Christ. If so, "Christ had died in vain." But Christ has not died in vain! He saves to the uttermost! He is all sufficient!

The foolishness of trying to add the Law, in any way, to one's gift or resurrection life is even more profoundly foolish in the this Post-Acts age. Our blessings are from "before the foundation of the ages." Before Adam. Before the laying down of the current creation. Certainly no Law given to an earthly people for an earthly priesthood could annul these blessings "in the heavenly places." 


For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

-Col 3:3


Our life is "hid with Christ in God." It is untouchable. The Lord already sees us in the flesh as "dead." He sees us already in our risen life (Col 3:3) We are not subject to days and feasts or Sabbaths or things of the earth. We carry our bodies of death in dignity and seek to walk in the new nature and not according to the lusts of the old nature (the flesh), but this is not for a place in a priesthood in an earthly kingdom. We no longer walk in the shadow of Israel's blessings. That plan has been temporarily set aside. We walk in the light, in the new nature (spirit), and we let no man judge us according to the Law, not even the Law of Leviticus 17 for "strangers" among Israel.

 

And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of 
no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh.

-Col 2:13-23


Before we leave, we turn back to the full passage in Exodus 12 where we began. 


The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover. No foreigner shall eat of it, but every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then shall he eat of it. A foreigner and a hired servant shall not eat of it. It must be eaten in one house. You shall not carry any of the meat outside of the house. Do not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. When a stranger lives as a foreigner with you, and would like to keep the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it. He shall be as one who is born in the land; but no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. One law shall be to him who is a native, and to the stranger who lives as a foreigner among you.”

Exodus 12:43-49


Can the Law more clear here? You must be circumcised to partake in the feasts. Are the self-proclaimed Torah-observant of our day holding to this Law, clearly stated? And we cannot miss the last verse which lays out one Law for all in the matter of the Passover Feast. Both native Israelite and the stranger living among Israel have the same requirement for the feasts: circumcision. The Lord states clearly that the "Lord's Supper" IS the Passover (Luke 22:8-15). This is why believers in Corinth were keeping that feast (1 Cor 5:7-8; 11:23-24). We have no such feast (or any feasts) in the current age (Col 2:16-17). 

There is no hint in Exodus of the gift of resurrection life. As we have seen, the Law cannot annul the promises to Abraham. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. There is no idea here or anywhere that obedience to things like feasts have any effect on one's free gift of resurrection in Christ. And just the thought is blasphemous. That's a strong word, but anything anything, even the good and holy law and covenants, that is added as necessary to what Christ alone accomplished deserve a strong word (and condemnation).  

 

  

    

   /body

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Error in the Apostles' Creed

One of the sad ironies of the Evangelical community is the rejection of the foundational doctrine of Sola Scriptura (by the Scriptures Alone). We noted in a previous post how those hardcore Reformed believers at The Dissenter (formerly Reformation Charlotte) invoked "Sacred Tradition" (by name) in their ill-focused defense of church buildings.

The level of incredulity this former Catholic had when he read the words "Sacred Traditions" as a supposed defense of truth by heresy hunters like those at The Dissenter is off the charts. How far have we fallen? How much blood of believers has been shed over the truth of Sola Scriptura for even the most hardcore Reformed to invoke the Catholic doctrine of "Sacred Tradition" as defense of truth?

But there is another insidious error which permeates the professing church, the error of the so-called Apostles' Creed. It is held almost as if it's scripture, yet the very first line is heretical.


Jesus said no to the devil's offer, but the bishops of the Christian church in the fourth century said yes, and Christendom was born.

It's staggering how many people hold the "Early Church Fathers" essentially on the level of scripture. This exaltation of these corrupters of the faith is frightening, but it explains much of why many fail to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" and fail to understand the message of the Mystery revealed to Paul in Ephesians for this current age. Even Calvin himself questioned the ECF, something many of his followers refuse to do. 

As noted, the very first line of the creed is in error.

I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.

Scriptures teaches that all things were created by the Son.


his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 

-Col 1:13-17


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

-John 1:1-3
Etc.

Even Calvin understood this.


The design is, to show it to have been necessary that the restoration of mankind should be accomplished by the Son of God, since by his power all things were created 
-Calvin's Commentary on the Bible (John)

 

I challenge anyone who fellowships at an assembly of believers that uses the Apostles' Creed to point out this error to your pastor or to the elders. I'm almost certain that nothing will change, and "Sacred Tradition" and "Early Church Fathers" will be held as equal to or even above scripture itself.

For those keeping score at home, the Nicene Creed makes the same error. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

This Reformed Chart Accidentally Confirms the Dispensational Position


Reformed extremists like to post this chart. Actually, it's one of the best arguments for the Right Division position! It's not perfect, of course, and it makes a few assumptions. I'll just point out one issue. 

Number 16 argues that Ephesians and 2 Cor teach the same body/bride. However, Corinthians teaches local bodies which have their own head and Ephesians teaches a single (male) body with Christ as the head.


And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 
-1 Corinthians 12:16


Ephesians uses the picture of the place of the wife, but it does not teach that the Body is the Bride. Let's look at their reference, 


Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

-Ephesians 5:22-24


This teaching is for wives to submit to the headship of their husbands AS Christ is head of the Church. It does not equate the wife with the Church. The passage states that Christ is head of "his Body." 


We'd have to go to the prophets and the Revelation from here to establish that Israel was and will be again the wife of the Lord ("Virgin Israel" again). Too much for this short study. Simply put,  we are the Body (singular) made up of Jew and Gentile (with no distinctions unlike in the Gospels and Acts Age) with Christ as the Head. The hope of the Body is "in the heavenly places" and not in the land nor in the New Jerusalem (which is figured as wife as it is the hope of the Overcomer in Israel). 


I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.


The New Jerusalem  ("the city whose builder and maker is God" that Abraham hoped for as taught in Hebrews 11) comes down to earth. It is a heavenly city, it is a reward, it has the names of the 12 tribes and 12 Apostles to the Circumcision (not Paul) on it. The 12 Apostles will "sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel." It is an earthly hope. Our hope is in "the far above the heavens."


Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

-Matthew 19:28


And now I stand on trial for hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God day and night.  

-Acts 26:6-7


One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came to me and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, her light like a most precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were written: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb

-Rev 21:9-13


Note the verse in Acts is very late in the book. And at that trial, Paul testified that he taught nothing you could not find in Moses and the Prophets (the Hebrew canon). This differs from Ephesians wherein he writes under inspiration that he was given a special revelation unknown to  the Prophets. 


I continue to this day, testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen  

-Acts 26:22


At the end of the Acts, Paul says he was in chains "for the hope of Israel." In Ephesians, after the "wall of partition" is removed, he says he is in prison "for you gentiles." 


The earthly hopes and promises (restoration of Paradise, the promised land) were revealed since the foundation of the ages, but the heavenly hope of Ephesians for The Body was hidden. 


To me [Paul], the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the incomprehensible riches of Christ, and to reveal for all people what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation [overthrow] of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love


The Kingdom hope was spoken FROM the foundation (overthrow).


Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world


As we have seen repeatedly, the promises to Israel (the Parousia of the Lord and the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel) spoken by the Prophets, spoken by Christ, promised by Peter in the Acts age, and expected in the Acts epistles of Paul are exemplified in the chart above. 

There are other assumptions in the chart we could dissect. For instance, the use of the word "church" is deceptive. The word ("ekklēsía") means a called out company and is used of a mob and of local councils in the Acts, but the translators try to hide the word as it conflicts with their theology. We also see this in James. In both places, the Reformed translators use the word "assembly." In the Acts they avoid the word "church" and in James they avoid the word "synagogue." Anything to deny Israel her promises and covenants. 

So, Israel was a called out company, the local gatherings of Jewish and grafted in Gentile believers were called out companies and "the body, the church" of this age is a called out company. And, again, if we understand the expectation and hope of the Acts age was the same as the earthly hope of Israel, the chart confirms the consistent dispensational position.  

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Is the Book of Acts Descriptive and Prescriptive for the Current Age?

 An Objection

In our most recent study (Is Acts 2 a Pattern for Today? How About the Red Letters?) we looked at the clear prescriptive instructions of the Lord in the gospel accounts as well as in Paul's epistle to the Romans (the "duty" of Gentile believers to support Jewish believers in Jerusalem). But we will gladly address the legitimate claim that Acts 2 and Acts 4 are merely descriptive. But we won't stop there. In our quest to be CONSISTENT in our interpretation and application, we will expand our look at the Acts and beyond. 

Some will argue that they do not hold the actions of believers in Acts 2 or Acts 4 to be for all believers. They will say that the passages are "descriptive" and not "prescriptive." That is, all the passage is telling us what they did, not revealing a command that must be obeyed. 

Whereas we can see the reasoning, it doesn't quite explain what we see in Acts 5 in regard to the sale of property by Ananias and Sapphira. 


Now a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a part of it and placed it at the apostles’ feet. (5:1)
 
The Geneva Study Bible assumes sin from verse 1:
Luke shows by contrary examples how great a sin hypocrisy is, especially in those who under a false pretense and cloak of zeal seem to shine and be of great importance in the Church.

They seem to be assuming a "cloak of zeal" and a desire to be seen as "of great importance in the Church." This isn't a wild assumption nor does it do violence to the text, but it is not based on the text itself. This is not necessarily an illegitimate way to interpret certain verses or passages, but it must be done carefully. As assumption of greed is reasonable as well, but we don't want to lose the focus of the actual series of events and the implications therein. 

We must also pause to ask of what "Church" do they write? Do they not hold that the "church" of Acts 5 is the "Church" of today and every day since Pentecost? If so, we have a consistency issue. As we will ask: what has changed, why did it change, when did it change? 

Looking to verse 3, the Geneva Bible makes a rather stunning argument:

For when they had appointed that farm or possession for the Church, they were foolish to keep away a part of the price, as though they were dealing with men, and not with God, and therefore he says afterwards that they tempted God.

Form the text we can glean that they were foolish to lie to God, but Peter clearly states they were under no obligation to either sell the property or to give the proceeds to "the church." 

Remember, the writers and theologians behind this commentary believe "the Church" of Acts 5 is the same church to which they belong. We keep reiterating because it is essential if we want to interpret scripture consistently. They must therefore believe that when we deal with "the Church" today we are dealing, not with men, but directly with God as they were in Acts 5 and, thus, we are subject to the same punishments. If that is not the case: what has changed, why did it change, when did is change?


While it remained unsold, was it not your own? And when it was sold, was it not under your authority? Why have you conceived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to men, but to God.” (5:4)

 

I don't want to wander off into the weeds here. We know thus far that Ananias and Sapphira were not obligated to sell their property and not obligated to give all the proceeds to the Apostles. But even one hold that this passage is merely descriptive, he has to explain the direct act of God. If God does not act in the same way today, what has changed, why did it change, when did it change?

Peter tells the couple in verse 4 that they were apparently under no obligation to sell the property and that even if they chose to do so, the proceeds are 100% theirs. Right here, we can toss out any idea of a  "pattern" set for all believers of all ages from Acts 2 and Acts 4. The argument for "Church Socialism" is therefore not a command or even expectation of God. We solidify both the "descriptive" argument and our conclusions from our previous study.

But that is not the argument we are addressing in this section. The authors and theologians behind the Geneva Study Bible are conceding that. This is their commentary on verse 4:

By this is meant an advised and purposeful deceit, and the fault of the man in listening to the devil’s suggestions.
OK. The couple did plan to deceive. They very well could have been tricked by Satan. My sense is that it simply was an act of the flesh. The flesh (the old nature) can be used by Satan, but it is certainly evil and greedy and full of lust on its own. So, let's say that, in general, I have no problem with the larger assumption here: they purposefully and selfishly lied. Let's even concede for now that the couple listened to the devil's suggestions. Do we then limit that possibility to then and there? If so: what has changed, why did it change, when did it change?

On hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great fear came on all those who heard these things. (5:5)... About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for this amount?” She said, “Yes, for that much.” Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” At once she fell down at his feet and died. (5:7-10)


Here is where we're going to run into the "pattern" problem. If selling the land and not giving all the proceeds was not a command, but the decision to tell "the Church" that was your plan makes you bound to your word upon the threat of immediate death at the hands of God: what has changed, why did it change, when did is change? I ask assuming we all can see this is hardly what happens today. Even if not "prescriptive," the results of their decision are surely possible today. Surely many believers lie to God. Prescriptive or not, we do not see God acting this way today. Something has changed.

Are we thus arguing that the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira are simply "descriptive?" One could certainly argue that. But where do we stop with this interpretation in looking at the Book of Acts and even in the epistles? Do the actions taken by the Apostles (approved by the Holy Spirit) and given in "prescriptive" form in other parts of the Acts and Acts epistles no longer apply today? If not: what has changed, why did it change, when did it change?


For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put on you no greater burden than these necessary things: Abstain from food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled animals, and from blood. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

-Acts 15:28-29

 

These commands (taken from the Law in regard to Gentiles living among the Jews) are reiterated in Acts 21. We are now in the Acts  ministry of Paul and well into the Acts age. In Acts 21 Paul is accused of teaching Jewish believers not to circumcise their sons. This appalls the Apostle. Paul then he clearly states, under inspiration, that Jews would continue in the non-ceremonial law (as the perfect sacrifice was complete) and Gentiles would continue to observe the instructions (prescriptive) from Acts 15, which were taken from the Law of Moses. If these prescriptive teachings are no longer applicable, what has changed, why did it change, when did it change?


Take these men and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may have their heads shaved. Then all will know that what they were told concerning you is nothing, but that you yourself [Paul] live in observance of the lawAs for the Gentiles who believe, we have written and concluded that they should observe no such thing, except that they abstain from food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled animals, and from blood.”

-Acts 21:24-25


This is not simply describing voluntary acts. The Jewish believers were to "live in observance of the law" (prescriptive) and gentile believers were to "abstain" (a command) etc. If this is no longer applicable: what has changed, why did it change, when did it change?

The Geneva puts forth the common argument that Paul's conformity to the law and the separate instructions were to appease the unlearned among them.

In things indifferent (of which sort the traditions of the Pharisees were not, but rather the ceremonies of the Law, until the time when Christian liberty was more fully revealed to the Jews) charity exhorts us to conform or apply ourselves willingly so far as we may, to our brethren who do not stubbornly and maliciously resist the truth (but are not thoroughly instructed), especially if the question pertains to a whole multitude. (21:20)

The appeasement argument would then teach us that appeasement is approved and seems good to God.

The idea they proffer is that some were not ready for the deeper truth of full liberty in Christ. That may seem reasonable, but Paul's gospel was taken solely from the Law and the Prophets. That is, there were truths there concerning the eventual blessing of Gentiles through Israel (this is the thrust of Romans 15) and that the Messiah and his ministry was prophesied. 

So these truths were clearly in the revealed texts of what we call the Old Testament, but not clearly seen. They are given in picture form in the Law but not clearly understood. No other truths were revealed. The focus is still the plan for Israel and the plan for the land/earth.

The gospel of Ephesians, the blessings in the far above the heavens, and the pulling down of the wall of separation ("the middle wall of partition") between Jew and Gentile (revealed to Paul alone, Eph 3) was not yet made known.

Paul testified truthfully as late as Acts 26:

 

Therefore having obtained help from God, I continue to this day, testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen: that the Christ must suffer, that He would be the first who would rise from the dead, and would announce light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”

-Acts 26:22-23


As late as Acts 28 Paul declared he was in chains "for the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20). The hope of Israel is how the Book of Acts opens (Act 1:1-8), the risen Lord teaching the enlightened Apostles (who were promised to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19) for forty days about the coming Kingdom. They asked one question after 40 days of Kingdom teaching by the King, "will you, at this time, restore the Kingdom to Israel?

Those Apostles were still dealing with a plan for Israel, God's plan for the earth. They knew nothing of a Gentile church. Those apostles never went to Gentiles save once (Peter with the Keys of the Kingdom to graft in Gentiles for STATED purpose of "making Israel [ not "the Church"]  jealous"). After Peter reported that Gentiles received the same spiritual gifts as the Jews, they were astonished and went out a "preached to Jews only." 


When they heard these things, they were silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then God has granted to the Gentiles also repentance unto life.”Now those who were scattered by the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the word to no one except Jews...
-Acts 11:18-19

If the distinction today between Jew and Gentile has changed: what has changed, why did it change, when did it change? 

The apostles in Jerusalem waited for prophecy concerning Israel to be fulfilled. This is Peter's testimony in Acts there wherein he promises "You men of Israel" that if they repented, the Father would send back Jesus "to the restoration of all things." (Acts 3). Peter knew of no "New Israel" called "the Church." Paul certainly knows of no such thing when he speaks of Israel in Romans.

Peter and the twelve were commissioned as "Apostles to the Circumcision." They never went to Gentiles (except the one time by Peter as noted). James wrote his epistle to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" and Peter wrote his epistles to "the dispersion." 

Peter's words to Israel in Acts 3 (after Pentecost) were not merely "descriptive." The offer was very real. The hope of the Book of Acts (and the Acts epistles and the Gospels and the Revelation) was and is the restoration of Israel, the cleansing of the Virgin of the New Covenant, and the fulfillment of all the words of the prophets in regard to a faithful Israel.

The Apostles knew nothing of some spiritual Gentile Church becoming "spiritual Israel."  


Prescriptive Isn't Always Prescriptive

And just one final note along these lines. We've shown how even prescriptive verses from the New Testament are no longer prescriptive  today and we've tried to answer the "why" and "when" questions. I'd like to address briefly how modern theology often gets close to the truth while failing to see the final step. That is, they stop short of a consistent interpretation of scripture, often without even attempting an explanation. 

To wit: I watched a video on a YouTube channel which rightfully exposes false prophets of today. These false prophets of prosperity often claim the words of the Lord and randomly grab verses and passages from anywhere in the Bible. We're never told why one can't do that. He does expose how some verses are ripped from their contexts, but often fails to explain why some verses used areen't applicable to believers today, especially those from the red letters.

Several times he uses red letters to contradict what a "prophet" has used from the red letters. 

They will quote (for example):


Give, and it will be given to you: Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will men give unto you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you. (Luke 6:38)


And he will respond, as he did on one occasion, with:


Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)


Both are clearly true. Just quoting from the so-called "Lord's Prayer" doesn't explain Luke 6. It doesn't explain other very prescriptive things in Matthew 5-7 either! 

The YouTuber is right to expose these charlatans. But as part of his condemnation of them he quotes on several occasions Deuteronomy 18:


But the prophet who presumes to speak a message in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods—that prophet must die. And you may say in your heart, “How can we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not occur or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him.


There is no doubt that this passage is very prescriptive. God commands that the false prophet must die. The YouTuber does not call for the death of these false prophets of today (after exposing the failure of their prophecies, given in the name of God, fail to come to pass). By doing so, he rightly acknowledges that even clearly prescriptive passages in scripture are not for all people of all ages.  

As with all these things, we ask again: 

  • what has changed?
  • why did it change? 
  • when did it change? 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Is Acts 2 a Pattern for Today? How About the Red Letters?

Should we be looking to Acts Chapter 2 (or Acts Chapter 4) as an instructional guide for the Christian life in 2024? Are Christians to live communally is some sort of Socialist or Marxist paradigm? 

They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. Fear came to every soul. And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need. And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart...

-Acts 2:42-46

The note that they continued "daily... in the temple" should immediately clue us in that this is not soem of Bible command for all people of all ages. It wasn't even practiced by all believers in the Acts, as we shall see. I only note it here to suggest the idea that it is universally applicable should be questioned immediately. But we will ignore the Israeli temple attendance and focus on the communal livng.  

The communal practice in Acts 2 and 4 worked for Jewish believers living with the Apostles in Jerusalem, but it was not a "pattern" and certainly not a command. As we will see, Gentile believers didn't do this, nor did others outside of Jerusalem. 

And as with the attendance, daily, at the temple, we must also notice what these particular believers with the proceeds from the sale of their good. When we see this practice in action in Acts chapter 4, we see the proceeds being laid at the Apostles' feet. (This is, of course, impossible today despite charlatans claiming the title of Apostle.)

All the believers were of one heart and one soul, and no one said that what he possessed was his own. But to them all things were in common. With great power the apostles testified to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. There was no one among them who lacked, for all those who were owners of land or houses sold them, and brought the income from what was sold, and placed it at the apostles’ feet. And it was distributed to each according to his need.

-Acts 4:32-35

We should note there that when the "pattern" was violated, the death penalty was immediate. I don't see those claiming this for the "church" either selling all their goods or dropping dead for not bringing all the proceeds to the apostles (if that were even possible). As an aside (which we will address in our next study), Peter tells Ananias and Sapphira that they were under no obligation to sell their property OR to give all the proceeds to the Apostles. Both the home and the proceeds remained under their own "authority." For this study, we note it to show that communal living wasn't even a command in the Acts church.  

Now a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a part of it and placed it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to deceive the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, was it not your own? And when it was sold, was it not under your authority? Why have you conceived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to men, but to God.” On hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great fear came on all those who heard these things. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

-Acts 5:1-6

The next problem in trying to maintain that communal living is some pattern for all believers of all ages everywhere is that Paul knows of no such pattern when he write to the Roman church (which was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers). He has a very different command there (a "duty"), and that command was specific to Gentile believers. This is not mere "descriptive" of what they did, it was a "duty" to which they were bound (i.e. it was "prescriptive")

Greek: opheílō = duty = to be under obligation (ought, must, should) (Strong's #3784)

A definite patter of the Acts age is the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Never in regard to the gift of Life (which had not changed since Adam), but in regard to practice, place, and expectations. 


But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Jews] spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them [Jews] in carnal things 

-Romans 15:25-27


The Gentiles still owned carnal things, thus making it possible to support the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to whom they were in debt spiritually. We don't make these distinctions today. And Paul did not ask the Roman Gentiles to sell all they had. These three verses are packed with Acts age truth

  • Not every believer sold all and lived communally
  • Gentiles were under obligation and positionally second to Jewish believers 

In first Corinthians there are references to eating at home (11:34) and asking one's husband while at home (14:35). This would be odd if it were a communal home. But even if that was the case, in the post Acts age we see even more individual references to the home.

But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety at home and to repay their parents. For this is good and acceptable before God.

-1 Timothy 5:4


Likewise, older women should be reverent in behavior, and not be false accusers, not be enslaved to much wine, but teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, and to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.

-Titus 2:3-5

And the only Apostle the Gentiles had was Paul. As such, the Gentiles would be selling all and laying the proceeds at Paul's feet. We never see this once in the Acts age or in the Post Acts age. Paul was not managing communes and collecting proceeds from land sales across the Roman Empire. In First Corinthians 11 Paul specifically refers to believers going back to their individual houses and individual families.

Do you not have houses [plural] to eat and to drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?

Strong's
Greek: oîkos = house, home - From G3624; properly residence (abstractly), but usually (concretely) an abode (literally or figuratively); by implication a family (especially domestics): - home, house (-hold).


That said, the idea used in Acts 2 and Acts 4 of sharing our assets with believers is admirable. If a believer has a large home and plot of land in the mountains, say, it would be a blessing for him to try and house and feed other believers there should the need arise. But there is no scriptural call or command for him to sell the property and lay the proceeds at anyone's feet.

We need to try to be consistent in our interpretation of scripture. We must discern between learning from actions and being expected to obey the commands of an age. Fact is, for those who claim the "red letters" and the words and commands of the Lord for themselves, they should have already sold everything, given to the poor, and should be waiting for the Lord to provide (after they quit their jobs).

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, nor for your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouses nor barns. Yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds? Who of you by worrying can add one cubit to his height? If you then cannot do what is least, why are you anxious about the other things? “Consider how the lilies grow. They neither spin nor weave. Yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you will eat or what you will drink, nor be of an anxious mind. For the nations of the world [Gentiles] seek all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be given to you. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms. Provide yourselves purses that do not grow old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

-Luke 12:22-34

We don't obey this command or follow these teachings because they are not for us. We cannot dismiss them as merely "descriptive" either. There is clear a prescribed action by the Lord to those of his "flock" (i.e. believers, disciples). The chosen apostles of the Lamb sold all ("Peter answered Him, See, we have left everything and followed You. What then shall we have?" -Matt 19). The "red letter" Christian must take this for himself as well.

These who are taught to sell their possessions are also instructed that, as they go from town to town, to stay in the houses of individual believers who obvious did not also sell everything nor did they leave their homes to follow the Lord. Only certain believers in that age "obeyed" the "red letters." Does that mean they were disobedient? Of course, not. Not all were instructed to sell all. The Lord commends some who would not sell their homes for housing the homeless apostles on their journey according to their calling in Matthew 10:5-10. This would seem odd if the commands of the red letters in Matthew were/are for all believers.

In whatever city or town you enter, inquire in it who is worthy. And live there until you leave. When you come into a house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
-Matthew 10:11-14
 
None of this is for the current age, The Gospel of the Kingdom they were sent out to preach is not for this age. The Lord exclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom in Matthew 4 and Matthew 9. He didn't even reveal to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to die until Matthew 16 (and they don't want him to go!). Clearly, the gospel they were sent out to proclaim in Matthew 10 was not the gospel we preach which was given to us by the Apostle Paul.

Are there things we can learn and profit from here? Certainly. But we must learn to rightly divide the context (to whom, when, where, why, etc.). There are some who say Paul corrupted the gospel of the Kingdom. But to those who want to hold such a position, are you proclaiming the gospel of Matthew 4 and 9?

Late leftist Pastor, Tony Campolo, (who liked to yell at Christians for not accepting homosexuals and every cult member as fellow believers and claimed "the red letters" for himself and for us today), he who used the words of the Lord in the parable of the sheep and the goats (among other words) to yell at me for not turning Christianity into a social program, that Tony Campolo died with a net worth of $4 million. 

"Jesus said to His disciples, Truly, I say to you that it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."


He neither sold all, as the red letters say, nor did he heed the warning about the wealthy not gaining easy access to heaven, as the red letters warn. Again, these passages are not for today nor to all believers of all ages, but if Campolo and the "Red Letter Christians" want me to take them seriously, they need to actually follow the red letters they claim I must follow.

If we're going to take some of the Lord's words as directly to us, we're going to have to explain why we don't take all, or why some and not all. If I have to visit the sick (the least of Tony Campolo's brethren in Matthew 25) to make God my debtor for eternity in heaven, why didn't Tony "Sell [his] possessions and give alms?" Because he liked to pick and choose what he would obey. Yes, that's my assessment, but what else can I conclude in light of "sell all" and the warning the "rich man" being red letters to a man worth millions as he preaches the red letters?

They must answer (as will ask more pointedly in our next study): 
  • what has changed?
  • why did it change?
  • when did it change? 

We do not follow Matthew 10 nor Matthew 19 nor Matthew 25 nor Mark 10 nor Luke 12 nor Acts 2 nor Acts 4 nor Acts 15 nor Acts 21 nor Acts 26 nor Acts 28 nor Romans... nor any of the Gospels or Acts or Acts-age epistles as directly to us. They are certainly for us, but not to us. Again: what has changed, why did it change, when did it change? 

No Red Letter Christian, nor any professed believer I know, is not headed to Jerusalem to the temple for the Passover sacrifice next month. Why not? It is a BIBLE COMMAND (prescribed) and the PATTERN is in the red letters!

Observe the month of Aviv and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Aviv the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. Therefore, you must sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, in the place where the Lord shall choose to place His name.

-Deuteronomy 16:1-2

This next is better because it several elements to it. This is after the instruction to "sell all" in Luke 12:

He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’ ”

-Matthew 26:18
 
 

  • The Lord was keeping the Passover
  • They did not bring an animal for sacrifice to the priest in the temple
  • He was at someone's house that they had not sold 

How do we reconcile all these seeming discrepancies and inconsistencies? By recognizing that scripture does not always address all people of all ages. We ask: what has changed, why did it change, when did it change?  None of us today nor anyone else but the chosen twelve apostles would claim the following promise (at least I hope not):

Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


This is why we must practice the right division of the Word (2 Tim 2:15). We must recognize distinctions among the families of God and the commands and instructions and promises of God in scripture. The theological word for this "dispensationalism." Satan has done has his best to vilify this word. But not only is it God's way of interpreting His Word, it's a biblical word. We live in "the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to Paul for us Gentiles" (Ephesians 3:2). We live in the dispensation of the revelation given to Paul to fill-up [complete] the revelation of God (Ephesians 1:10, 25). 

There are no "prophets" today, no new "word from the Lord." 

If you choose to ignore the lines God has drawn in scripture, you will have either a shallow Christian understanding or a confused life of possible disobedience. If you claim the red letters, you must claim ALL the red letters. The only way to do that and not live in contradiction is to not look too deeply or to not take your own supposed convictions seriously.

Tony Campolo left $4,000,000 in net worth behind and a bunch of books and teachings yelling at me for not living up the red letters. He was a hypocritical and selective servant as are all who try to claim the Law, the Ten Commandments, the prophets, the Gospel accounts, or the Book of Acts and its epistles for themselves. 

This short study addressed the idea that the actions of the believers in Acts 2 and Acts 4 is God's expectation for this current age. We have seen that is clearly not the case. The idea is inconsistent with the actions of some believers in Book of Acts itself, the commands of the Lord in the Gospel accounts, and in the Acts Epistles. There is no Marxist command in the Acts and there is no Marxist pattern in the Acts.

There is another objection worth considering, however, which we briefly alluded to which  we will try to address next time. That objection is the interpretive guide which asks us to discern between the "descriptive" passages (those that simply tell us what is happening) and "prescriptive" passages (those with clear instructions or commands). 

In this study we looked at the clear prescriptive instructions of the Lord in the gospel accounts as well as in Paul's epistle to the Romans (the "duty" of Gentile believers to support Jewish believers in Jerusalem). But we will gladly address the legitimate claim that Acts 2 and Acts 4 are merely descriptive. But we won't stop there. In our quest to be CONSISTENT in our interpretation and application, we will expand our look at the Acts and beyond.