Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 32
GALATIANS 1:1 – 1:14 – PART 2
Now we’re going to pick up where we left off in verse 13. Remember, as we introduced the Book of Galatians, Paul is frantically responding to false teachings that have come into the congregations that he had established up in Asia Minor, which is what we call today, Turkey. Galatia was pretty much in the middle of Turkey and especially the Galatian churches were probably in the Southern half of that part of Turkey. They were being bombarded by false teachers who were claiming that they couldn’t be saved by faith and faith alone, but they also had to be circumcised, and they had to keep the Law of Moses or they couldn’t be saved. Does that ring a bell? Well, we don’t have circumcision as such, but we’ve got a lot of other things that are required that are in the same category. It’s that which you can do and that which is of works and it does nothing but bring down the anathema of God Himself. Now verse 13.
“For ye have heard of my conversation (manner of living) in time past in the Jews’ religion,…”
He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, he says in the Book of Philippians. I’m positive that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, and, as such, he must have been a husband and father or he wouldn’t have been a member. I feel that way because he says, in Acts Chapter 26, that when they were persecuting these Jewish believers, and they were brought before the religious counsels, he, along with others, voted to have them put to death or have them thrown in prison. So that tells us quite a bit right there. So Paul was high up in the echelons of Judaism as it was known at the time of Christ with the Temple worship. Now reading on:
“…how that beyond measure (it was despicable) I persecuted the church (assembly) of God, and wasted it:”
Now I use the word `assembly’ here on purpose because too many people get confused by thinking that the word “church” always means what we call the Body of Christ, and it doesn’t. Always remember the word translated `church’ in our New Testament is the Greek word `ecclesia’ (it can be spelled with two c’s or two k’s). All that word meant in its true translated form was “a called out assembly.” It doesn’t mean something with pastors, and bishops and deacons necessarily, although when Paul speaks of the Body of Christ and the local Church, then, yes, it does. Now the word `ecclesia’ then was what Stephen referred to in Acts Chapter 7 when he said “The church in the wilderness.” Remember that? Well, that wasn’t a church, but it was a called-out assembly because God called Israel out of Egypt unto Himself. And it was called an ecclesia.
The group of Jewish believers in Jerusalem was a called-out assembly, or ecclesia, in Jerusalem because they had separated themselves from the run-of-the-mill Judaisers. I maintain they were not yet the Body of Christ. Back in the Book of Acts there was another instance, when it’s anything but a spiritual group of people, when they rioted in Ephesus. They ran into the theater, they were a mob, they were rioting because of what the apostle Paul had been accomplishing among those pagan people and what’s it called? An ecclesia. Now, fortunately the King James translators didn’t use the word `church’ for that, so what did they use? Assembly. So the assembly was being addressed and warned that the Roman authorities were going to call them into question. So we have to be careful how we let these terminologies either confuse us or set us straight. So when Paul says:
“…I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:”
I prefer the word `assembly’ because that’s what it was. It was a called-out, separated group of Jews who I do not feel were, as yet, under the terminology of the Body of Christ which is something so different. Take that for what it’s worth; you may not agree with me, but that’s fine. So Paul persecuted the assembly and wasted it. Let’s go back to the Book of Acts and get the Scriptural account, and you can see for yourself what he is talking about. Let’s turn to Chapter 7 verse 57. Here we have Stephen now, who has addressed the leaders of the Nation of Israel. He has gone through that whole historical record of the nation, and he brings them all the way up to Christ’s crucifixion and rejection. He proclaims as Christ Himself had been doing, and as Peter had done at Pentecost, that He was the Christ, the Messiah of Israel. But remember Peter said back there in Chapter 2 that they had murdered Him.
“…ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”
“And killed the Prince of life,…”
Peter goes on to say that God raised Him from the dead, and He is still in a position to be your King. And like I said earlier: when Saul of Tarsus, that religious practitioner of Judaism, saw the inroads that Jesus of Nazareth and the Twelve were making into Judaism, he just about went into orbit as we would say. And he fought it tooth and nail and was trying to stamp it out. Saul was sincere – sincerely wrong; but he was sincere in hating these Jews who had embraced Jesus of Nazareth. Look at Stephen’s account in Acts 7.
“Then they (these Jewish leaders) cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him (Stephen) with one accord. 58. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. (now he’s thirty something. He was about the same age as Christ.) 59. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, `Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, `Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Recently we had one of our television watchers send us a tape of their preacher’s Sunday morning sermon. The sermon that he preached was a gem, and I just listened to it from start to finish, it was a good one. He made several points and one of those points was, “It is not appropriate for us in this age of Grace in the post-resurrection era to refer to the Lord as simply“Jesus.” That was His name in the flesh of humiliation. This preacher made the point and that’s why I’m repeating it. Never in all of the scriptural accounts did the Twelve address Him as “Jesus” They called Him either “Lord” or “Master,” but they never called him Jesus. Now the ridiculers did, but His followers never did, and it’s the same way here, do you see it? Look at verse 59 again.
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, `Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'”
I’ve said before that the only appropriate address for Him today is either Christ, or the Lord Jesus, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Lord, but don’t ever approach Him as just Jesus because it is not a scriptural application. Looking again at verse 60:
“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, `Lord,…'”
Now it’s the same way with the apostle Paul with a couple of exceptions. I know in I Thessalonians Chapter 4 he will say, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again…” But most every place else he uses the term Lord Jesus Christ, or Jesus Christ but never Jesus alone. It’s just not appropriate now after His resurrection. Now come over to Chapter 9 and we’ll pick up a description of Saul of Tarsus in his hatred for anything connected to the followers of Jesus Christ.
“And Saul, (the one we just read about in Chapter 7) yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter…”
Now remember, I’ve mentioned in a lesson or two that the Judaistic religious people had clout with Rome. They had quite a bit of clout. In fact, it was just their own obstinacy that brought down the city of Jerusalem by Titus. But the Romans had a lot of respect for Judaism. The reason they persecuted the Christians so was because it was something totally new and so the Romans treated it like a sect or something. But Judaism had the respect of the Roman authorities, because it was considered one of the ancient religions.
Also remember that the Jews from one end of the Roman empire to the other would send vast amounts of money to the Temple as offerings, and never was a dollar lost. Never did they lose an ounce of those gifts because Rome recognized and protected it. Now, as I said before, they also had enough clout with the Roman Government that they could demand extradition of Jews that they wanted to deal with in their own religion, and bring them back to Jerusalem. And that’s why Saul had the authority to go Damascus which was outside of Israel, and yet Rome permitted them to do just that. Now read on:
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest. 2. And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues,(see he wasn’t going to bother the Syrian population, all he wanted was these Jews who had embraced faith in the Messiah.) that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
Saul was vicious, he had no mercy. He didn’t care whether they were young or old, or men or women; if they had embraced Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah, then Saul’s attitude was, “They’re not worth living, get rid of them, they are nothing but a threat to my religion.” Have you got the picture? Now come back to the Book of Galatians. And the poor man never got over that for hurting so many. I imagine as he suffered all of the ramifications of his apostleship he must have constantly remembered it’s coming around. What goes around comes around, and his was coming around. Now verse 13.
“For ye have heard of my conversation (manner of living) in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted (how I chased them to the ends of my authority)the church (assembly) of God and wasted it:”
What does wasted it mean? Utterly destroyed wherever he went. Now he had evidently made so much headway in the area of Jerusalem and Judea that he thought he had pretty much cleaned house, and there wasn’t anything left to do so he said, “Okay, High Priest, let me go to Damascus, because there are still some of these people up there and we know there are.” A lot of these Jewish believers who had to flee Jerusalem, for fear of Saul of Tarsus and the other religious persecutioners, did migrate up into the area of Galilee and some as far north as Damascus. Now verse 14. Not only was Saul a religious zealot who had no mercy, who had no compunction in putting these Jewish believers to death, on top of that he was motivated for money. Does that ring a bell?
“And profited in the Jews’ religion…”
Now I’ve told my classes that you can go into any religion of the world, and you go into their headquarters, their upper echelons, what do you find? Wealth. Tremendous wealth, and where have they gotten it? From the peons down there on the lower level. Judaism was no different. Why did Jesus drive out the money changers in the Temple? What was going on? Hey, it was corruption. These poor people living out in the small alleys and huts of Jerusalem couldn’t afford to go out into the Judean hills and buy a nice beautiful lamb, and bring it to the Temple. Nor did they have whatever it took to do that. So what did they have to do?
They had to buy some kind of a sacrifice for some kind of a peon’s wage in order to fulfill the demands of their religion, and so what were these religious leaders setting up? A market place right in the Temple. And they would try to charge high prices for whatever these poor people had to have, whether it was a turtledove, or maybe a little lamb that had something wrong with it. And remember God required a lamb without blemish so this was also a controversy between God and Israel. But these rascals of Israel were taking advantage of the poor people and selling them the off scouring of stuff that they could use for a sacrifice, and charging them bloated prices, and why? The same motivation that people have today. To get rich! Old Saul was right in the middle of that. He was making big bucks – if you don’t believe me then you need to go with us to Jerusalem.
Usually we get a chance to go down and see the home of Caiaphas the High Priest. His home has been dug out of the archeological diggings, and it’s quite a few feet below street level. But even after all of these 2000 years of laying under the dirt and sand of the Middle East, you can see by the materials that were on their walls, and with all the bathrooms that they had, they lived sumptuously.
In fact, in one area of that house you can see three or four layers where our guide pointed out that Caiaphas’ wife must have gone to Athens and she came back and said, “Honey we’ve got to have this on our walls because after all that’s what all the rich people in Athens have. And you can imagine old Caiaphas saying, “Okay, Okay.” So maybe a year or so later she went to Rome and saw something there that was even prettier and came back and said, “Honey, you’ve got what it takes, I’ve got to have this new material on our walls.” And he says, “Well, well Okay.” So there was about four layers and you could see that each one was beautiful.
They must have cost tremendous amounts of money. They lived sumptuously. Why? Because they were feeding off the income of that religion. Hey, religion has always been that way. I tell people to look at any religion on the face of the earth tonight, go up into the higher echelons and you’ll find the same thing. It hasn’t changed. The human race hasn’t changed one iota in 6000 years. As they get more they get more corrupt, remember total corruption breeds total corruption. The more corrupt people get, the more corruption there is, and corruption just keeps feeding. Listen, this was Saul of Tarsus. This is the point I wanted to make. This guy was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was corrupt in the religion, he didn’t have any mercy for those who opposed it and so he could drag them into the dungeons or commit them to stoning, it never bothered him then. Now read on about his account.
“And profited in the Jews’ religion…”
You know I detest the word `religion.’ The Bible always uses it in a bad light. I think in the Book of James there is probably an exception, but for the most part the word `religion’ in scripture is a bad word, just like it is here. Paul says, `I was profiting in the Jews’ religion,’ because it was a bad, corrupt system. Now I don’t have to tell you that. All you have to do is go back and read Jesus’ account with the Pharisees, and what were they? They were corrupt.
Remember when one of them smote the apostle Paul on the face? What did Paul call him? You whited sepulcher. That’s pretty strong language, and he had to take it back, because he didn’t know that he was talking to the high priest. I think there’s more there than reads between the lines, but anyway that’s what he called him. Now finishing the verse:
“And profited in the Jews religion above many my equals in mine own nation, (he was probably making more bucks than most of them) being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”
Always remember this, “Religion always banks on traditions rather than doctrine. And when we get a little further in Galatians, I’m going to show you that things haven’t changed one bit in the past 2000 years. Oh we’re not dealing with circumcision, or Pharisees, and Judaism, but we’re dealing with the same kind of mentality. It’s the same thing, it’s religion, and all of its demands on poor unsuspecting people. But look what he says:
“…being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”
In other words, Saul was proud of his genealogy, and he probably was even able to chase it clear back into the Old Testament economy. Remember, his father must have been some kind of a man of influence as a Roman citizen, because Paul, remember, was also a Roman citizen, so that tells you something about his father and probably his grandfather. All of these things come into play when you look at the man’s religious fanaticism. If he could stamp out all of these Jews who had followed Christ then he thought he was the winner.