Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 19
PAUL’S JOURNEYS TO THE GENTILES
I never lift a verse out of the text and just comment on one verse. If I can’t leave everything together then I’ll leave it alone. And there are some places where I don’t have all the answers but I’m not going to twist them and try to figure out what I think they should mean. When I teach I leave everything exactly where it is. I had a letter the other day that asked the question, “Why are there so many contradictions?” There are none! There are no contradictions in Scripture. Now there is a change in operations, or programs. What God told Israel under the Law is a contradiction of what He tells us under Grace. That is why it is so important to understand where the Church is in the Scripture. Also remember that Law and Grace can never mix. Let’s go to Chapter 16. In the last lesson Paul and Silas have been called from Asia to Europe. It is the turning point of God going to the Gentile world. By virtue of this vision that Paul was not to go back to Bithynia, but to go to Macedonia. And they immediately did. So here they are at Troas, and they are going to go across and stop at Philippi, then over to Thessalonica, down to Berea, down to Athens and over to Corinth.
“Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city, abiding certain days. And on the sabbath (here is one of the occasions where Paul goes back to his Jewish background) we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.”
No doubt Philippi did not have a full blown synagogue. The Roman authority probably had given them permission to meet in a park along the river where they could have their devotions. Evidently there weren’t any men. It was just a small group of women, and so Paul and Silas approach them.
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God (like many people today who worship God, here is another person who worshipped God, was devoted, and sincere, but she was lost), heard us; whose heart the Lord opened,….”
As you pray for me and the ministry, I hope you will pray that as I teach, the Lord will open hearts as directed by the Holy Spirit. What I say means nothing. But if the Spirit opens hearts of people who need to see the light, then that is what it is all about. In the last week we have seen two people out of cult background that the Lord opened their hearts and now they can see they were totally wrong. I showed from the Scriptures the real truth of Salvation. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, and that’s where your prayers come in. The Lord opens hearts.
“…that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
A few lessons ago I said God didn’t leave The Word in the hands of Angels, but in the hands of mankind. He has almost always used one human instrument to lead another human to a knowledge of Salvation. That’s the way God works. That is why I want you to learn to be skilled in the Scriptures so when opportunity arises to share this with someone, you won’t stumble, but simply say this is what The Word says. Get a few verses and be able to show someone what The Word really says. In verse 15 she became a believer:
“And when she was baptized, and her household (in that transition period, baptism in the early days of Paul is still part and parcel each time he has a convert. We’ll see this again with the Philippian jailer, but I maintain as Paul goes into deeper and fuller revelations, the importance of water baptism drops away. Many won’t agree with me but that’s their prerogative. Here, he was still practicing water baptism the moment she believed), she besought us, saying, `If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.’ And she constrained us.'”
Now again we have the opposition of a demonically inspired young girl. Later, Paul will demand that the demon come out of her. But let’s be careful. This is still in the Book of Acts and none of Paul’s letters have been written yet. I think Paul’s earliest letter was written about 58 A.D. So all these things are taking place before he writes his epistles. Always keep that in mind when you are studying Acts. But as he has revelations and is instructed to write his epistles which become The Word of God, then you no longer see so much of this, as you do here in his early ministry. Just check it out. So now they are in Philippi, and have cast the demon out of this young girl. Paul never gives us instructions to cast out demons in any of his epistles. So aside from leading someone to Salvation, I personally think that we are to leave exorcism alone. I’ve seen people who got too involved with this and it totally destroyed their ministry. So just take that for what it is worth. Now verse 19:
“And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market place unto the rulers (now remember this is a Gentile city under Roman authority). And brought them to the magistrates, saying, `These men being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans:’ And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.”
“And when they had laid many stripes upon them (this is just one of several that Paul suffered throughout his ministry. And each stripe probably had eight or nine leather tongs with bits of metal on the ends, so when they got through with Paul and Silas they were like hamburger), they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely:” Now the jailer being what he is, if he is going to keep them safely, he doesn’t leave them up on ground floor, but rather down in the dungeon.
“Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.”
I’m sure it was wet, and cold; their backs like hamburger; no antibiotics and no soothing salve. Yet in the next verse we find Paul and Silas, in spite of their circumstances, are able to sing. That’s hard to comprehend, but that’s the Grace of God. I remember years ago, I asked a pastor, “What if real persecution should come, can I take it?” He said, “Don’t worry about it, today you probably can’t, but when the time comes the Grace of God will be sufficient.” I have never forgotten that. That must be the case, because how else did millions of Christians suffer the rack, burning at the stake, and they didn’t scream and carry on. I think God’s Grace so flooded these two men that they didn’t feel their wounds, or pain, and were able to sing praises to God. Now verse 25:
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”
God can even control the effect of an earthquake, doing nothing more than opening the doors of the prison and loosening everyone’s bands. Now that’s the God that we serve. And He hasn’t changed. Now God isn’t doing this kind of miracle today, I grant you, but He could if He wanted to. Here the prisoners didn’t lose their lives; they could have fled, but they didn’t. Amazing isn’t it. They all stayed right there in prison with the doors open.
“And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.” Under Roman law, if you lose a prisoner, then you are also a dead duck anyway, so you might as well hasten the operation. Now verse 28:
“But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, `Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,”
Now reflect a moment. This jailer was a citizen of Philippi. Where do you suppose he was that afternoon before he came on duty as the jailer? I personally think he witnessed the scourging of Paul and Silas. I think he heard them preach up there in the street. And so I don’t think it was totally new to the jailer when Paul and Silas approached him with what’s going on. Now read on:
“And brought them out, and said, `Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'”
I’m always emphasizing the pronoun `I’ here. For now let’s turn to Acts Chapter 2. This is what I call comparing Scripture with Scripture. I know a lot of the theologians like to take the Greek and twist it all out of shape to make it mean what they want it to mean. They can do it, but I refuse to do so. I’m just going to stay with what the translators did. I feel the King James translators were over two hundred years closer to the Greek than our scholars of today are. Granted, they didn’t have computers, but nevertheless I still trust the King James translators. Here in Acts 2:37 it says (Peter has been addressing only Jews through out the whole chapter):
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, `Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Notice the pronoun `we.’ That’s the Nation of Israel on trial asking, “What must we do?” Chapter 16 is Gentile ground, and we are dealing with an individual, so he says, “What must I do?” Do you see the difference? Now we are dealing with individual Gentiles. God does not save people in lumps. He saves us one at a time. That’s why we stress the personal aspect of Salvation. I made a statement that I think some people had a hard time swallowing. “When we believers get into eternity, I think we will have our own personal time with the Lord.” I don’t know how, but I think every believer is going to be an individual in God’s sight. Remember, eternity is a set of circumstances beyond our comprehension. We are victims of time. But in eternity there is no such thing as time. So things are possible in eternity that we can’t begin to understand, so I think that, just as sure as we were saved individually, we will be able to converse with Him individually. In Acts Chapter 16, the Philippian jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved.”
“And they said, `Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.'”
What was at the heart of Paul’s message? The Gospel, that Christ died for your sins and He arose from the dead. So when Paul merely says to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was he implying? That He died for you and rose again. (Ref. I Corinthians 1:23) Let’s make another comparison with Acts Chapter 2. The question is, “What must we do?” The answer is, “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” Do you see that? But Paul doesn’t say a word about repentance and baptism. He says, “Believe.” That’s not a contradiction, that’s a change in programs. We are on Gentile ground and under Grace. In Acts 2 they are still under the Law and Kingdom program. Nobody has said a word about stopping Temple worship, or that you are no longer under Law. But now this is all Paul knows. “You’re not under Law, but rather Grace.” So to the Philippian jailer who is a Gentile, Paul can say“Believe.” Believe everything has been accomplished that needs to be done.
“And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway, And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
He wasn’t just believing that God existed. He was not just believing everything that Paul had stated concerning God dealing with mankind. And that He was the eternal Creator God (we have to believe that He is, and we have to believe that He’s the one we have to deal with). There is only one way of approach and that’s through the work of the Cross. So this Philippian jailer had a full understanding of that. That’s why I’m sure he must have heard Paul and Silas the afternoon before they were thrown into prison. Now they want to get rid of Paul and send him out of town and what does Paul say? No way. You can’t do that, if you beat me openly as a Roman then you have to deal with me as a Roman. And that shook them up as they didn’t know that Paul was a Roman citizen.
“And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans (they had gone contrary to Roman law by punishing these men without due process), And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
In Chapter 17, Paul goes down the coast line of present day Greece. Then through Thessalonica, and from there to Berea. After being driven out of Thessalonica by the Jews who wouldn’t let them preach in the synagogue or elsewhere, they come to Berea.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews (as they always did in these early days). These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures. I love for people to check me out. I don’t want someone to say, “Well, that’s what Les said.” I want them to search the scriptures because that’s what they did here.
“Therefore many of them believed (they had searched the scriptures); also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
We’ve got to stop at Athens at verse 15, which was the very seat of culture in those days. Iris and I were at Mars Hill one evening and I could just see the little old Apostle Paul as he stood there, and looked out over that pagan city. On that path up to the Acropolis were all of their idols of gods and goddesses. I can just imagine that Paul’s heart sank, that the whole city was steeped in idolatry. To have this seat of learning, of intellectual people following false religions. How can people who are intelligent, people who can read, follow some of this stuff? How can they believe such things.
“And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed. Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him, And some said, `What will this babbler say?’ other some, `He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods:’ because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.” Paul never preached anything else. He never separated them.
“And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, `May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears; we would know therefore what these things mean.’ (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.). The world is the same today, ready for anything that tickles their ears or sounds good. It was the same way here. They were philosophers, they were intellectual, but they were pagan.
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill, and said, `Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions (systems of worship), I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD (they had an inkling that there was somebody out there they didn’t know about. Paul tells them He’s the One that he’s revealing to them). Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;'”
“That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.”