Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 16
INTRODUCTION TO ACTS – PART 2
Now we’re ready for the final chapter in this Book. Turn to Acts Chapter 1. As I said in the last program the Book of Acts is a transitional Book. The first eight chapters are predominately Peter preaching to the Nation of Israel about their condition. Remember they had sent their Messiah to the Cross, and Peter is not going to let them forget this. Then in Chapter 9 we have the conversion of the Apostle Paul, then in Chapter 10 we go back to Peter and the Jews in Jerusalem. And then after Chapter 15 Peter is no longer on the scene, and it’s all Paul.
As you know I always like to show a timeline and this goes for the Book of Acts also. How that chronologically, in time, all these things happen which fit this whole transition. Remember Christ was crucified in 29 A.D. and of course 50 days after His Resurrection you have Pentecost. Then seven years later you have the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts Chapter 7. So it was seven years from Pentecost till the death of Stephen. Then it’s only one year later when Saul of Tarsus is converted on the road to Damascus. Then a year after Saul’s conversion we find Peter in 38 A.D. going to the house of Cornelius in Acts Chapter 10. The Holy Spirit does this so Peter can come to Paul’s defense in Acts Chapter 15.
Then in 40 A.D., which is three years after Paul’s conversion, we find Paul has been to Arabia three years for seminary training with The Lord as his instructor. After that, for three years, from 37 A.D. to 40 A.D., he meets with Peter at Jerusalem, just for two weeks. Then Paul goes on up into his old Arabia of Tarsus. He ends up at Antioch and starts converting Gentiles to the Gospel of Grace. Then after he has been ministering up at Antioch and has been taking his Gospel to the Gentiles, the Jerusalem believers get all shook up and they call him and Barnabas down to Jerusalem for the counsel of Acts Chapter 15. And that Jerusalem counsel is also referred to in Galatians Chapter 2. This takes place in 51 A.D., which is about 22 years after the Cross. When we come to it verse by verse, we will see that at this point in time in Acts 15, Peter, remembering now what took place at the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, comes to Paul’s defense saying:
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, `Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago (it had been 13 years) God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should here the word of the gospel, and believe.'”
Now in that 13 year interval has Peter been going to Gentiles? No. He went right back to Jerusalem. He is still dealing with the Jew only, as we see in Acts 11-19. But after Chapter 15, we find the Nation of Israel is falling away and the Gentiles are coming to the front, as Paul is starting the Gentile Church and the Age of Grace. Now Paul, of course, writes his letters within this time frame from approximately 46-49 A.D. to 67-68 A.D. when he is martyred. Then in 70 A.D. the Temple is destroyed. Now that’s the Book of Acts, and it is 40 years in length. But always remember the first 7-8 years it’s still God dealing with the Nation of Israel. But as we study just notice, they will slip completely off the scene, and the Apostle Paul will take the spotlight.
I think most of us have always had it hammered into us (I know I did), that the Book of Acts was the account of the birth of the Church. Well it is, but primarily I prefer to look at the Book of Acts as the fall of the Nation of Israel. Because here we will see that Israel finally rejects their Messiah completely. They’ll not have Him to be their King and God puts them into a dispersion, takes away their Temple and turns to the Gentiles through the Apostle Paul. Now that’s not exclusively to the Gentiles, there will be some Jews that will believe Paul’s Gospel, but for the most part the last 1900 + years have been God calling out Gentiles comprising the Body of Christ. But as we come into the Book of Acts we are not to that point yet. Remember, the first eight chapters deal only with the Jew, the Nation of Israel.
So that’s enough introduction and for the next few minutes let’s take the first few verses. Acts is written by the same gentleman who wrote the Gospel of Luke.
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus (his gospel account), of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,” Luke makes mention of the fact that his Gospel only dealt with Jesus’ earthly ministry.
“Until (from the time of Jesus earthly ministry until) the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:” Now who were the chosen apostles? The Eleven! Judas is out and so there are eleven left.
“To whom (these Eleven) also he shewed himself alive after his passion (His death, burial, and Resurrection) by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days (now look at what He has been speaking especially to the Eleven about), and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:”
And remember the Kingdom is the Kingdom is the Kingdom. Where the King is, is where the Kingdom is. And after the Tribulation comes, He is going to set this Kingdom upon this earth, and He’s going to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! And, yes, you and I are already citizens of that Kingdom tonight according to Philippians 3:20. Also Colossians 1:13 tells us that we have been translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son. And when He returns and sets up His Kingdom on the earth, you and I are going to be part and parcel of it.
Now as we go on into the Book of Acts you will see that Peter and the other disciples are so much in expectancy of the King setting up His Kingdom now, that this is going to fill every moment of their existence. Why? Because Jesus had promised that they would sit on the twelve thrones ruling and reigning over the twelve tribes in the Kingdom. Peter almost burns himself out in these early days after Pentecost, preaching to the Nation of Israel that the One they crucified was indeed their King. If they could just believe it, the King would yet return and they could have the Kingdom, and all these Old Testament promises of going to the Gentiles would have been theirs. But God in His foreknowledge knew they wouldn’t do it. They are going to reject it, but again it was offered to them. So after forty days of talking to the disciples about the Kingdom and their role in the Kingdom, we need to look at that and see why these men were excited.
“Then answered Peter and said unto him, `Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?'” See how human they are?
“And Jesus said unto them, `Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me (these last three years), in the regeneration (which is still future. That’s the Kingdom, of course)when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Now we have a dilemma. We need twelve men and we only have eleven. So what’s going to be the first order of business? Filling that vacant position. That’s only logical. However, I have read over the years good men who have castigated poor old Peter and have blamed him for getting in a hurry, running ahead of God. They say he should have waited for Paul. Listen, Paul wouldn’t have fit in that slot any more than a square peg in a round hole. Paul didn’t fill the qualifications. And so Peter was in perfect accord with the will of God when he immediately took steps to fill that twelfth slot. Because Peter is expecting The Lord’s return in short order. Peter doesn’t see 1900 + years down the road. Peter sees that Old Testament program that, after Christ was rejected, He would be raised from the dead. He would be ascending to the Father, and then after the Tribulation, the King would return and set up His Kingdom. So this is what drives these 12 men because of the promise made here. Now back to Acts Chapter 1 and continuing:
“And being assembled together with them (that’s Christ), commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, (The Father, Jesus is speaking) `ye have heard of me.'”
“For John truly baptized with water (this is Jesus speaking ); but (now you have the flip side. There is going to be a change) ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
Let’s go back to Matthew Chapter 3. Drop down to verse 11 where we are dealing with John the Baptist. Matthew is quoting what John the Baptist says.
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but (there’s that flip side again. There’s going to be a change) he (speaking of Christ) that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:”
Now, again, who is John the Baptist addressing? Jews, there are no Gentiles in his crowd. Jesus, The Christ, he says is going to baptize you with, or into, the Holy Spirit. Now let’s put this in legal terms. As you read this verse you will find Jesus is going to be the baptizer. And He’s going to baptize the Jews into the Holy Spirit. When did Jesus do that? Well, at Pentecost. That was a Jewish feast day. The Nation of Israel was gathered and down came the Holy Spirit with power. And it was the Jews valid offer again to experience that power of the Holy Spirit to do what? Miracles, signs and wonders, as Jesus had done. So this was the Nation’s prospect that they could just literally carry on as individual believing Jews what Christ had been doing for three years. And how would He manifest it? By placing them into the very power of the Holy Spirit. We will get into that in the next lesson when we get to verse 8, when He said, “You will receive power.”
So that was the whole concept that Jesus would be the baptizer, and Israel would be the one being baptized. Let me show you the flip side of that. We must turn to I Corinthians Chapter 12 and we will start with verse 12. Here Paul is writing to the Gentile Church at Corinth. And here he comes up with a term that is strictly Pauline. Jesus or the Twelve never spoke of the Body of Christ. So here in verse 12 Paul is using our human body as an illustration.
I Corinthians 12:12
“For as the body (our human body) is one, and hath many members (your hands, feet and so forth), and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”
He’s making the allusion to the Body of Christ, the Church. We’ve got all these different people who are making up the Body of Christ. We have rich and poor, black and white, whatever from all around the world, they have come into the Body of Christ. They all have their different cultures. But if they have all been saved by the same power and Gospel, then what are we? We are “one” in Christ.
I dare say that you and I could go to the Philippines tonight and we could go into a class of believers there and in five minutes feel right at home. We could have people from any country in the world, and if they are believers they could come right into this class and feel right at home. Why? Because we are one in Christ. How did we get there? Here is the crucial question. How did we get into this unique living organism that we call the Body of Christ? Now verse 13:
I Corinthians 12:13a
“For by one Spirit (The Holy Spirit) are we all baptized into (not the local Church, but) one body (the Body of Christ, the Church),”
Remember, no unbeliever can go into the Body of Christ. You can baptize many people and make them members of the local church, but they can be as lost as a dog. They’re baptized, but they’re not in the Body of Christ. But the true child of God, the moment he believes, is saved by the work of the Spirit, He is baptized by the Holy Spirit into that Body. And that is the one that counts for eternity. And it doesn’t matter what way you have been baptized, by Jordan River water, or a country pond, or a Church baptistry, it makes no difference. But when you have been baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit you are His. You are safe for eternity. Remember, Paul is the only one that uses that terminology. He will say the Church, which is His Body, or the Body of Christ which is the Church.
Now remember early on, as we come out of the Four Gospels and into the Book of Acts with God dealing with the Nation of Israel, Christ is the Baptizer. He is placing the Jews, as they believe, into the power of the Holy Spirit to perform the signs and miracles that would continue Christ’s earthly ministry. But when that fell apart, when Israel rejected it completely, God turned to the Gentiles through the Apostle Paul – and now we find the Holy Spirit has become the Baptizer and He places us into Christ. This is not the only verse where you find this, there are many verses Paul uses. For example, in the Book of Colossians it says, “You are hid in Christ in God.” Well, how did you get in Christ? Not with water baptism, but when the Holy Spirit baptized you into Him.