Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 19
It thrills us to see folks studying the Word of God, like the Berean Christians in Acts who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul and Barnabas said was so. Now the final verses in Acts 13:
“But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coast (or their borders). But they (Paul and Barnabas) shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples (these Gentile disciples) were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.”
Now in Chapter 14 they are going to stop at the little city of Iconium which is in the central part of Asia Minor. Verse 2:
“But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city, was divided: and part held with the Jews (that Paul and Barnabas were false teachers), and part with the apostles (and became followers of Paul and Barnabas). And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, They were aware of it, and fled into Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:” Well they go on up to the next little town which is Lystra and much the same thing happened. And now come down to verse 19:
“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.” Turn to II Corinthians Chapter 12. Because the timing is identical, I like to think that while Paul was unconscious, after being stoned and dragged out for dead, that God gave him an even greater experience: Paul got a glimpse of glory. I envy him, but God never let him share it.
II Corinthians 12:1,2
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord [and of course he shares them in various ways in his epistles]. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago [that’s identical to the time when he was in Derbe and Lystra in Acts Chapter 14], (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.”
Scripture has three areas called heaven. One is the atmosphere of the birds of the heavens. Another is the area of the stars and planets, and the third Heaven is the abode of God. That’s the three heavens of Scripture. So Paul now is caught up into the very abode of God. The Heaven of the heavens. Now verse 3:
II Corinthians 12:3-6
“And I knew such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth), How that he [Paul is speaking of himself] was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter [he heard the language of Heaven]. Of such an one will I glory [Paul would have liked to share it, but God wouldn’t permit it]: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory [or brag], I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth; but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.”
Paul often put himself down. Because of his appearance, he had nothing to brag about physically, and he knew that. Contemptible and the least, was the way Paul wanted to be remembered.
II Corinthians 12:7,8
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh (in other words, God allowed a human suffering on the body of Paul to keep him humble, lest he get proud and feel exalted), the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice (three times), that it might depart from me.”
But did it? No. God didn’t heal him of whatever it was. I’ve got an idea what it was (a repulsive disease; a painful disease) and yet he took it with him all the days of his life. Because God said in verse 9:
II Corinthians 12:9
“And he said unto me, `My grace is sufficient for thee (and we know it was. It carried Paul all the way through his ministry. Shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, cold and nakedness. God’s Grace was always sufficient. And that’s what you and I as believers must rest on. Regardless of what God sees fit to take us through, we know He’s going to take us through it, and He’ll be with us when we reach the other side); for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
When Paul said, “for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” this is why God chose never to use the great men of the world. He didn’t use wealth, and kings, but He always used the common man. He used the people who had nothing in their flesh to offer. In Genesis, Moses, the second man in Egypt, bless his heart, thought he was going to be God’s man. He had all the power and pomp and circumstance of Pharaoh behind him. He thought he could lead the children of Israel out of bondage. But God couldn’t use him in that position. So God sent him to the back side of the desert to herd sheep for forty years. Then as a lowly shepherd (probably kind of smelly), now God could say, “Moses I’m going to send you back to Egypt.” That’s the way God works. He can’t use the pomp and circumstance of this world.
Let’s briefly go through Chapter 15. It is in this chapter that Paul and Barnabas are called to Jerusalem, after their missionary endeavors throughout Asia Minor, and they are back at Antioch. More Gentiles are coming into that congregation and the news of it reaches Jerusalem. Peter, James, and John and the rest of them, just can’t comprehend that God is doing this with Gentiles. So in Chapter 15 we have what we call “The counsel at Jerusalem.” This took place in 51 A.D. twenty-some years after Pentecost. And these Jewish believers are still not ready to accept Gentiles being saved by Paul’s Gospel aside from keeping the Law of Moses. But Peter came to Paul’s defense, as he remembered that at the house of Cornelius, God indeed saved Gentiles. The multitude of Jews quieted down and gave Paul and Barnabas audience.
“And after they had held their peace (the Jewish believers), James (the moderator, the half brother of Jesus) answered, saying, `Men and brethren, hearken unto me:'”
“Simeon (or Peter) hath declared how God at the first (now when was that? Well just the chapter after Saul’s conversion. They were the first Gentiles that were approached) did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.”
The Church, the Body of Christ is now going to be called out of that mass of Gentiles. When Peter preached to the Nation of Israel, how many had to respond? Everyone. But when Paul goes to the Gentiles the Scripture says to save “some.” A calling out of a sampling of the masses of the Gentile people. He is going to call out a people for His Name. Now verse 15, you see the order?
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,” This comes from the Book of Amos.
“After this (well after what? The calling out of the Church, the calling out a people for His Name in verse 14. After that has been accomplished, and as Paul teaches, it has to be lifted off the earth. Then God can start working with the Nation of Israel once again. Do you see how plain that is?) I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David (the Temple), which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.”
This is all in Israel’s future. God’s going to finish what He started with Israel. The Jew in Palestine is the beginning of all this. They are coming from every nation under Heaven and God is getting the little favored nation ready for the appearance of first, the Anti-Christ, and then, seven years later, the true Christ.
“That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Know unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
When the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem gave an agreement that they would recognize Gentiles could be saved by Paul’s Gospel, aside from Judaism in adhering to the Law of Moses, they agreed to it provided that these Gentile believers were taught as in verse 20.:
“But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, (that doesn’t mean all that much to us today, because we don’t have rank idolatry around us, and people making sacrifices to pagan gods. But in Paul’s day everywhere they went that’s all it was. All these great temples to the pagan gods, were blatant idolatry. And these sheep and goats that these pagan offered would end up in the marketplace. So the Gentile believers were not to partake of those that had been offered) and from fornication (immorality in all of its form),and from things strangled, and from blood.” And that goes back to Genesis Chapter 9, when Noah and his three sons came off the ark. Up until that time nothing was ever killed to be eaten, they ate only that which grew naturally. But after the flood, God said they could eat the flesh of animals provided that it was bled. And God’s Law still holds. I’ve read in hunting and fishing magazines over and over, that if you want your game to be good eating the first requirement is to bleed them. It’s Biblical. God has mandated that man not partake of the blood of anything.
“For Moses of old time hath in every city (throughout the Roman Empire) them that preach him (the Law of Moses), being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. “
These Gentile believers could not just fly in the face of all that, because it would be destroying their testimony. It’s no different today. You know what the biggest detriment to true Christianity is today? Careless Christians. No wonder the world says they are a bunch of hypocrites. You can’t hide behind hypocrites, like my wife always says: “You’ve got to be smaller than they are.” And that’s so true. But nevertheless the world is watching us. Now verse 28:
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:” Then Paul repeats it in verse 29. Now verse 30:
“So when they were dismissed (with permission to go and preach that Gospel of Grace to the Gentiles), they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.” That they didn’t have to keep the Jewish Law. They were free from all of that.
“And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still (God knew that Paul and Barnabas were going to have a falling out, so He caused Silas not to go back to Jerusalem with the rest of them). Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.” Now from verse 36 to 41 we have the falling out between Paul and Barnabas, because of John Mark. Barnabas slips off the scene and Silas takes his place with Paul, and in Chapter 16 we are going to come all the way over to verse 6.
“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia (they have covered the whole central part of Asia Minor, now they are in Troas. Paul has plans to go back through Bithynia and I imagine back through Asia and then to Antioch where they had started from. But look what happens here at Troas. This is on the shore of the Aegean Sea), and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,” Now isn’t that something? God had something else in mind.
“After they were come to Mysia, they assayed (or had planned) to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia (that’s northern Greece), and prayed him, saying, `Come over into Macedonia, and help us.’ And after he had seen the vision, immediately we (Luke is with them) endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;”
Now what’s happened? God had long before ordained that this Gospel of Grace should not go east of the Orient, but to the west and Europe. And I’ve told my classes for twenty-five years now, that in your prayer time, you thank God that He sent Paul over to Europe rather than back to Asia. Because when the Gospel went to Europe, it went to our forefathers. And it was the Gospel that set everything moving in Europe. All the reformations and the industrial revolutions, all the technology that came out of Europe and later America, here’s where it all began. Christianity is what set everything free. Christianity is what gave mankind the freedom to pursue his own ideas. Christianity is what set the female gender free. That was the beginning of true feminism when Christianity put women on the same level in God’s eyes as man. And so over and over thank the Lord for this vision that said, “Go to Macedonia.”