Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 17
ACTS CHAPTER 3, 4, & 5
It’s so nice to hear from so many of you who tell us not to change a thing in our teaching. Just keep it simple so we can understand it, and that is what we intend to do. We trust we are reaching hearts that probably would never otherwise be reached. We also know that a lot of folk are having their eyes opened to a lot of things that they never knew were in this Book. Now today we are going to jump right in where we left off in our last lesson, and that would be Acts Chapter 2. We finished verse 38 in our last lesson, but for a short review let’s back up to verse 36 so we can get the backdrop of this tremendous chapter.
Pentecost has now come, 50 days after the Crucifixion, and I maintain that it is one of the seven Jewish feast days that we find in the Book of Leviticus Chapter 23. It’s a Jewish crowd with a Jewish speaker, and I know that 90% of Christendom has been taught it is the birth of the Church, the Body of Christ. And I taught it that way for ever so long, and I was never comfortable teaching it that way, because there were so many things that just didn’t fit. The language in this chapter does not correlate with what we understand as church doctrine. So I make no apology for the fact that I’m going to be pointing out some things that are probably contrary to tradition. But don’t think for a moment that I don’t know what traditional teaching is. Traditional teaching tells us that here at Pentecost we have the beginning of the Gentile Body of Christ, but how can it be, because of the language, and setting. But now as we look at Chapter 2, look at some of the language that Peter uses. It’s plain English for us.
“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” There are no Gentiles here.
“…Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:”
“Ye men of Israel,…” Now that doesn’t include Gentiles as I read English. These were all Jews, at a Jewish feast day in the Temple area.
Now come down to verse 36. We have Peter speaking, and he told these Jews how they had crucified their Messiah.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly (Peter doesn’t say, “And you Gentiles,” – he leaves it at that), that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
I never want to be accused of being anti-Semitic by pointing out that Peter puts the blame upon the Nation of Israel. I am by no stretch of the imagination anti-Semitic. And I know that here in Acts Peter will over and over, lay the blame for the Crucifixion on the Jewish Nation. And of course they did precipitate it. But also never lose sight of the fact of what Psalms Chapter 2 said in verse 1:
“The Kings of the earth (Gentiles) set themselves, and the rulers (Jews) take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,”
So the whole human race is guilty of having crucified The Messiah. But here Peter is dealing with the Nation of Israel on Covenant grounds, and he is pointing out that they who should have known better, rejected the One that God sent to fulfill that Abrahamic Covenant as well as the other Covenants that are associated with it. So I don’t want to be misunderstood when I point out that Peter said they killed The Christ. Now verse 37:
“Now when they heard this (the Spirit is convicting them), they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
The pronoun here is `we.’ God is dealing with the whole Nation of Israel. So the question was so appropriate. “What shall we do…?” And remember we compared Peter’s answer with that of Paul with the Philippian jailer.
“Then Peter said unto them, `Repent, and be baptized every one of you..'”
We’ll see that “every one of you” again in Chapter 3. The idea was that if every Jew would have repented of their national sin; recognized that the One they killed was indeed their promised Messiah and King; then Chapter 3 tells us God would have sent Christ at that time to be their King and would yet set up the Kingdom.
As I teach these early chapters of Acts, I want you to remember our Gospel of Salvation, and that is to believe that Jesus died for you, was buried, and rose from the dead. I want you to see if you find that Gospel as a means of Salvation in any of these chapters. Look for it. But I promise you that you have to look real hard, because The Lord hasn’t revealed that yet, and won’t reveal it until we get to Paul. And if it’s not there, we have no right putting it there, because The Lord certainly didn’t. We often think, “Well, The Lord surely meant for it to be in there, so I’ll put it in there to make it complete.” But when we put our Gospel of Salvation in these early chapters we do great harm to the Scriptures. Just leave all Scripture exactly where it is, see who the Scripture is addressed to and you will be on solid ground. The emphasis in all of these early chapters was that the Nation of Israel was to believe in the name of Jesus Christ, and what did the name imply? Who He was. This goes all the way back to Matthew 16:13:
“…Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” And then Jesus, I think, pointed right at Peter and asked him:
“…But whom say ye that I am?” And what was Peters answer?
“And Simon Peter answered and said, `Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'”
Peter doesn’t say the One Who died for me, was buried and rose from the dead. Why? It hadn’t been revealed that this was going to be the Church Age Salvation message. So the whole premise of the earthly ministry to the Nation of Israel was they were to keep the Law, because He never told them they weren’t under the Law, He lived under the Law, Israel was under the Law, but along with that they were to believe Who He was. He was The Christ, their Messiah. Peter hasn’t changed one bit. The only difference now is that Christ has died, had been buried, and was raised from the dead and ascended back to glory, but not a word yet that Salvation has been made available because of it. So in verse 38 all Peter says is to repent and be baptized for the remission of sin, because the Nation was guilty of killing their Messiah. Now verse 39:
“For the promise is unto you (remember He came to His own but His own received Him not), and to your children, and to all that are afar off (some think that is a reference to Gentiles. I don’t see that, because the Jews were from one end of the empire to the other. Many were still dispersed even as far back as the Babylonian captivity. Remember, only a few thousand came back during that time. And even earlier, part of the ten tribes were taken up into Syria and never came back, so Jews were all over the then-know world), even as many as The Lord our God shall call.” Now verse 40:
“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, `Save yourselves from this untoward generation.'”
What was this generation of Jews guilty of? Rejecting and crucifying. And he says, “Don’t identify yourself with those people, come out from that thinking that He was an impostor and blasphemer and separate yourself, and come to realize that He was Who He said He was. The Christ!” Now verse 41. Here is another verse that I used to twist as far out of shape as anybody could do it. I used this verse for years to get people people to do something.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Now what did John the Baptist do? As soon as they repented, he baptized them. And those believers became a separated group of Jews. And we have the same thing here. It’s a furtherance of that same message. Only now the finished work of the Cross has been consummated, so that God could now save these people based on the shed blood. There is nothing here to indicate that these people are believing for their Salvation in what we call the Gospel. You know I’m talking about the Gospel that was revealed to Paul. Reference I Corinthians 15:1-4. Paul tells us that’s the Gospel by which we are saved during this Church Age we are now living in. This Gentile Body of Christ. But here we don’t see a word that they were to believe for their Salvation that Christ died for them. But rather the message was they killed Him. What a total difference. We are going to define the Church, and what it is all about in the New Testament, in a lesson in the near future.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine…”
What apostles are we talking about? The Twelve. And what did these Twelve men know? Not much more than that Christ had come, and fulfilled all the Old Testament promises. He had presented Himself as The King, The Messiah, but Israel had rejected Him. And that is all they knew. Rather than being misunderstood, I would like for us to turn to II Peter, the last chapter. We have a lot of people out there, with good intentions, well-churched, but they don’t know these verses are in their Bible. And remember, Peter is writing these epistles shortly before he is martyred, so this takes us up to about 66 A.D. And in 70 A.D. the Temple is destroyed, and these same Jews and their children that Peter is pleading with go out into dispersion. Paul’s letters have already been written for the most part, they may not have been circulated that much as of yet, but they have been written. Now look what Peter writes:
II Peter 3:15,16
“And account (understand, take it to heart) that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation (The Lord’s not willing that any should perish); even (Peter says) as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;”
“As also in all his epistles (Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Galatians, and so forth are his epistles. Peter says in all those epistles), speaking in them of these things (what things? Those that pertain to Salvation as referred to in verse 15); in which are some things hard to be understood,…”
Now this is Peter writing by inspiration. And bless his heart, at the end of his life, he still can’t quite put everything together that Paul has brought on the scene. So when people tell me they haven’t heard this before, I tell them not to feel bad, because Peter spent three years with The Lord Himself; Peter preached from Pentecost on, filled with the Holy Spirit; and yet when Paul came on the scene, and had written his letters, Peter by inspiration had to admit right here at the end of his life that there was so much of that he couldn’t comprehend. That’s what The Book says, I’m not saying it. That is also implied in Galatians 2:7-9, where Peter and the eleven would go to the Jews with their message and Paul would go to the Gentiles with his message. Now read on:
II Peter 3:16
“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (or twist. That is what people have been doing with the Scriptures ever since Peter wrote it. They twist the Scripture so that it fits what they think it should say), as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction,”
If people would only leave Scriptures where they are. God put them in the particular order they are in for a purpose. They try to fit Paul’s doctrines and teaching with Peter and the eleven and they just won’t fit. Our Lord and Saviour didn’t do it as He inspired the writers, and we shouldn’t try. Satan uses every avenue to confuse the Truth of God’s Word. And he is doing a mighty good job of twisting the Scriptures.
I remember hearing an evangelist relate a story of what is happening even today. He was a young man of about 13 or so and in a group that did not believe in the literal, physical Second Coming of Christ. So, this young man went to the pastor and showed him the verse in the Book of Zechariah 14:4 that says, “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives,” He asked the pastor what he thought of that. The pastor looked at the verse and said, “Young man that verse doesn’t mean what it says.” So the young man turned around and left, and figured the pastor should know. He said when he reached the age of twenty, again he was bothered why this verse was totally ignored by his people. And by then, he had a different pastor, so he went into that pastor and showed him the verse, and said. “Now pastor, what do you do with a verse like this?” The pastor answered, “Ah, don’t let that bother you, that’s Apocalypse.” This young man said that was a great big word that went right over his head, but he thought the preacher must know what he’s talking about, so he dropped it for a while. He went on to tell us by the time he was twenty five The Lord had opened his eyes, and he saw that he had been misled. And he could see what he saw at the age of thirteen was more right than the people that he was questioning. And this is what we are plagued with today.
We are plagued with traditional views. People hear them from the pulpit and say they must be right because the preacher said so. Well, you don’t go by what the preacher says. You don’t go by what I say, but rather you must learn to search the Scriptures to see what they say. And I don’t claim to have all the answers. Often I will put things out over television, and I don’t expect people to say, “Well, that’s the way it is, this guy know The Book.” No. But I do expect people to search the Scriptures, and see if I’m right or wrong. I have so many tell us that for the first time in their life they are studying their Bible.
Peter then, at the end of his life, recognizes that Paul now has the answers to questions that he himself still can’t quite comprehend. Now come back to Acts Chapter 2:42. So they are continuing in the apostles doctrines which of course included none of the revelations given to the Apostle Paul later. And this is where I always maintain that Scriptures are a progressive revelation. The Scriptures tell us that God has the ability to hide things until it was time to reveal them. God doesn’t unload everything back in Genesis as some think. He didn’t put everything back there in the Old Testament, and He didn’t tell everything in His earthly ministry. But as He sees fit, He reveals these certain truths and it’s up to us to discern what and when they are. So here we have simply the “apostles doctrines and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayer.” Now that is all very normal and common. They were now separated from the mainstream of Judaism and so the only place they could really talk together was in their own group of fellowship. And they would have their meals together.
You can know someone for a long time with a casual relationship, but you don’t really get to know them or their family until you are invited into their home for a meal. We have experienced this so often, that when you are invited in for a meal everything is most generally just laid out. We get an idea where their kids are and who they are married to, and everything about the family. And I think that is the same situation here. They were coming together in a fellowship that they had never enjoyed in Judaism. Now verse 43:
“And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”
Remember this is still very appropriate. They are an extension of Christ’s earthly ministry. That’s what He told them in Acts 1:8, that they would receive power. A kind of power that would continue to do what He had done while in their midst. Now verse 44. If you think this is a Church chapter, does your Church practice the next verse? I have never seen a Church that sells all their individual goods, cash in all their C.D.’s, sell their real estate, and cars and all they own and put it into a common kitty. But this is what they did.
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men (“men” is italicized so it has been added), as every man had need.”
Every one is now living out of that common kitty which was probably very large starting out. Why were these people so ready to get rid of all their possessions. We are going to see in Chapter 3, that even good old Barnabas was a land owner and sold his land on the Island of Cyprus. Turned it into cash and brought the money to the kitty in Jerusalem. Now why were they so ready to do that? Because The King and Kingdom are just over the horizon. They can see the Nation of Israel responding to it like they did. And Peter tells them that if the whole Nation responds, that Christ would return and they would have The King and Kingdom and who would need houses and land once the Kingdom is set up? The Old Testament promised that the Kingdom would be a utopia, there would be no poor, or no need for food. It would be the perfect environment that man is looking for. And that was just over the horizon. So they sold them gladly, thinking that this was in the immediate future. Now verse 46:
“And they, continuing daily with one accord (where) in the Temple (The Temple hasn’t locked its doors. God hasn’t said a word about staying away from it. There had not been one word uttered by anyone that they were not under Law. But we have all been instructed through the years to assume that these people are now under Grace and not Law. Don’t ever assume anything, just search the Scriptures. And if you can find in the Scriptures that Peter and the eleven are saying that these Jews are not under Law, and can forget about Temple worship, that they are free from that, if you can show me that, then I’ll change my way of teaching. But I’m not worried because you can’t), and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,”
Now I have never been in a Church congregation that is that good. Have you ever been in a Church where everyone is agreed on everything? When you find a Church like that let me know because I’ll drive a hundred miles to join it. There is no such thing now, but here in Acts it was! Why? Because this is not the Church as we understand it. This is a called out group of Jewish believers. The Spirit had been poured on them; they were all of one mind. They were all living out of one common kitty. And I know that kitty had to be kept going by new believers coming in and adding to it or else it was going to run out. What did happen? It ran out. And God in His Grace and goodness covered that situation with the Apostle Paul. Wherever Paul went he took up a collection for the poor and needy Jewish believers at Jerusalem. Why were they poor? Well, the kitty had been emptied.