Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 2 * BOOK 32
THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION
Now back to Galatians Chapter 1, and we hope you take your Bible and study with us. We don’t want people to say, “Well, that’s what Les says.” I want people to say, “My Bible says such and such.” Be able to confirm whatever you may be sharing with someone from the Word. This Book is the authority; this is the only thing that we have to go on. I always emphasize that I am a firm proponent that this is the inspired Word of God from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Remember when Paul speaks in the first person it is still inspired of God, and it is God’s Word and we can rest upon it.
So let’s begin our study, and in our last lesson we left off at verse 18, where Paul had now finished his three-year hiatus, evidently with the Lord alone down in Mount Sinai in Arabia. I had someone ask me, “Why would it take three years to get the revelations?” I answered, “It probably took 2 1/2 years to get Judaism out of his system.” And this lady said, “That makes sense, because it took me forever to get my old religion out of my system.” And this is a possibility because Saul of Tarsus had been a Jews’ Jew, a Hebrew of the Hebrew, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and educated at the feet of the greatest rabbi of that time. So you know he was saturated with Judaism. He was more religious than many of his peers, and he was human. We’re all human, and when we’ve had something drummed into us for years and years, it takes the power of God to cleanse us of all that.
There is such a stark difference between Judaism (and all of it’s rules and regulations and Law-keeping, and Phariseeism on the part of Paul) and the Grace of God (receiving all of this free for nothing without lifting a finger). Hey, that flies in the face of human thinking, but this is where we have to begin. Now we don’t stay there, but that’s where we begin. That’s where salvation comes in, when we just say, “Lord there is nothing that I can do, but I believe You’ve done it all, and I believe that on top of dying for me, You also rose from the dead. I believe it with all my heart.” Then, yes, God expects us to move out and live a life of service, and that’s the thrilling part of it.
There is a man in our television audience in a distant state who has just come out of one of these binding religions, and he is so thrilled. He’s called just about every time that he sees another truth. He can’t get over the fact that he’d been blinded to all this for so long. Now he’s begun a Bible study on his own, and I think last night was his third Bible study, and he was so thrilled. He said “Les, I just can’t wait until tonight.” Well that’s the way it goes when you come out from underneath all that pressure of a religion of having to do something. Then, to step into the freedom of Grace, it’s just like setting a bird free out of its cage.
Now this is where the apostle Paul is coming from. He has been weighed down with Judaism and all of its demands of a religious leader, and now he’s been set free. So Paul has had three years to shed himself of all that, and to absorb some of the mysteries. I maintain that the things that he shares with us in the prison Epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, he probably had revealed to him while in prison in Caesarea before he got to Rome. Because, by the time he gets to Rome, all these new revelations are fresh on his mind as he begins to write those letters. But back here in his earlier Epistles I think of all of these tremendous doctrines that are so separated from legalism, and Judaism, and yet they all fit. It isn’t something that’s just like a thorn in all the rest of scripture. No it all fits so beautifully. In fact, I know I’ve shared it with some of my classes about the lady who called and told me that the scripture that her preacher used for Sunday was out of Matthew 19:16,17.
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, `Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’ 17. And he said unto him, `Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.'”
She said, “This morning I was watching you and you said we weren’t under the commandments, but rather Grace.” She said, “I’m confused.” Well, I gave her a one-on-one Bible study. I brought her up all through the Abrahamic Covenant, and Christ’s earthly ministry, and the Nation of Israel’s rejection and the raising of Saul of Tarsus who became the apostle Paul, the apostle to us Gentiles. And the revelation of the mysteries that was given only to him, and how that now, since the work of the Cross was complete, He has been resurrected from the dead, He’s gone back to glory and revealed these truths. How that now there was no need to work for salvation because it’s all done. After I explained all this she was silent for a moment and said, “It’s so logical isn’t it?” Yes, it’s so logical that if it’s all done then why try to work, work, work to still do more. Now this is what the man is trying to get across so he says in verse 18:
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days, (that’s only two weeks and a day) 19. But other of the apostles (the other eleven) saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. 20. Now the things which I write unto you, (the Gentiles up in Galatia. He’s writing to us even today) behold, before God, I lie not.”
Does that sound familiar? What did he tell the Corinthians in their letters? “I didn’t bring you a corrupt message. I didn’t bring you something that has been adulterated.” Now here we have it in a little different language, but it’s the same thought. Now verse 21.
“Afterwards (after he had been to Jerusalem, and the three years with the Lord at Sinai, and after he is ready to fulfill that commission to go to the Gentiles that we saw in the last lesson in Acts Chapter 9 then) I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;”
Now I think most of you know your Bible geography well enough to know that Cilicia was just around the corner of the Mediterranean Sea, up in the area of Saul’s home town of Tarsus. So he’s not that far removed from Palestine, but yet he is in total Gentile territory when he begins his ministry after the two weeks with Peter. He goes from Jerusalem directly up to his home area of Cilicia. Verse 22:
“And was unknown by face unto the (assemblies or) churches of Judaea which were in Christ: “
Now why did the Holy Spirit inspire the man to make a statement like that? Why is he letting us know that he had nothing to do with those Jewish congregations in Palestine? Because this man is going to be separated from all of that. He has no ministry to the Jews there in Judaea. No more than the Twelve had a ministry to the Gentiles when Jesus sent them out. Do you see the difference? It’s just a complete fork in the road. This man is going to be sent to the very opposite direction that Peter and the other apostles were sent. So he goes up into a totally new Gentile area, and no doubt there were some Jews in these areas as they were in areas of the whole Roman empire. Now verse 23:
“But (these Jewish believers down in the area of Jerusalem and Judea) they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24. And they glorified God in me.”
Of course they did, for after all it’s the same God, it’s the same Christ – but whereas the Jewish believers had come in by virtue of the kingdom economy and the kingdom Gospel, yet this man is going in a different direction but still serving the same God. Never lose sight of that because someone sent me an article the other day about theologians who are trying to promote the theory that the apostle Paul, even though he was the founder of Christianity, was in complete contradiction and in opposition of what Jesus taught. I know that promotes book sales, but how can you come to such a conclusion. It’s not in opposition, but it is a difference in His program. It’s no longer under Law, but it’s the same God, it’s the same Christ. So how can they say that Paul was in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ when in Ephesians Chapter 3:1 Paul says:
“For this cause (because of what he has written in Chapter 2) I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ (but for what purpose?) for you Gentiles,”
Paul is not in opposition to the teachings of Jesus; it’s an extension of them. Now that the life of Christ was culminated there at the Cross, and then picked up in resurrection power, of course that makes it different, but it’s still the same God. Now back to the Book of Galatians, and we’re ready for Chapter 2. Now remember we’ve seen him saved on the road to Damascus and we’ve seen him spend three years either divided between Arabia and Damascus or, as I feel, all down at Arabia. And so he says:
“Then fourteen years after…”
After what? His conversion. Once in a while the Lord has seen fit to give us the time element, and the chronologers can jump on this and they can pretty much reconstruct the whole time-table even though there is nothing definitive; and, consequently, I have not found two chronologers that agree. They are always at least a few years apart on their estimation of some of these things. But in this verse here is a benchmark as Paul says:
“Then fourteen years after (his conversion) I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.”
Well where did Paul hook up with Barnabas? Up at Antioch. And when did he get to Antioch? After he had been up to Cilicia. So we know there’s a time frame in there between his conversion and this counsel in Jerusalem. Now I think, again, that most chronologers feel that this counsel in Jerusalem was somewhere around 51 or 52 AD. Now, you want to remember that Christ was crucified, and Pentecost took place, in 29 AD. Then I feel (and again some chronologers also feel) that there was a seven-year interval between Pentecost and the stoning of Stephen which would be in 36 AD. This was when Saul was at the height of persecuting those Jewish believers, and had brought about the stoning of Stephen. Then in the next year (37 AD) we have Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Then adding three years for Arabia it would take us up to 40 AD when he returned to Cilicia. But if he went back up to Jerusalem here in Galatians Chapter 2, then 14 years after 37 AD would take you up to 51 AD.
Now the only reason I do this is to show that all during the Book of Acts time is moving on. This isn’t all happening just in a year or so. Time has been going by, and now here we are 14 years after his conversion. He has been out in the Gentile world preaching his Gospel of Grace, and in the meantime, as we saw in the Corinthian letters in our previous program, the Judaisers from Jerusalem are opposing him at every turn. Whether they were believing Jews, whether they were under the influences of Peter and the eleven, or whether they were from the Orthodox, it made no difference. They would come into these Gentile congregations and say, “You can’t be saved by Paul’s Gospel alone. You also have to keep the Law, and practice circumcision or you can’t be saved.” All right let me show you where the Scripture makes that so plain. We have to go back to the Book of Acts again for that. I know when we taught Acts, we used Galatians, and, when we teach Galatians, we’ll use Acts. That’s sensible, isn’t it? Back to Acts Chapter 15 and verse 1. I maintain (and not everybody is going to agree with me), that this counsel in Jerusalem is Luke’s account, whereas in Galatians Chapter 2 it’s the same counsel, but it’s Paul’s account. And they all go together. Now then, let’s go back to Acts 15 first. I’ve got to take my time here. I have to force myself to slow down because otherwise you’re going to lose the thread.
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren,…
Now look at that. Analyze it. What kind of Jew would come into a Gentile congregation and begin to teach them? Well, not the orthodox, nor the Pharisee. They wouldn’t have anything to do with something like this. After all, what were Gentiles in the mind of a Pharisee? They were dirty dogs! So they certainly wouldn’t. So who must have been coming into these Gentile congregations? Jewish believers that believed that Jesus was the Christ. Now they weren’t believers in Paul’s Gospel. They were still believers that Jesus was Who He said He was. He was the Messiah of Israel. And so they are still under the Law. Now a lot of people don’t realize that. Those early Jewish believers, under Peter’s preaching, were still Law-keeping Jews.
It’s so evident that I don’t have to show you the scripture. You remember when Peter had the vision of the sheet and all these creatures were in there and they came down. And what did the Lord command Peter to do? “Rise Peter. Kill and eat.” And what did Peter answer? “No way, Lord. Why, I’ve never eaten anything unclean.” Why hadn’t he? Because he’s a Law-keeping Jew. It had to be kosher or Peter wouldn’t eat it. And then a little later he gets up to the house of Cornelius and he is full of trepidation, and I’ve always put it this way. From Joppa, where the Lord revealed all this to Peter until he gets up to the house of Cornelius, some 80-90 miles up the coast, I’ve always said there must have been heel prints in the sand where the Lord just pushed him and pushed him because Peter didn’t want to go. No more than Jonah did.
And so he gets to the door of Cornelius’ house and still full of trepidation, what’s the last thing he said before he steps in? He said, “Now Cornelius, you know it’s an unlawful thing for me, a Jew, to keep company with a man of another nation.” Well why does he say something like that if he’s set free? He wasn’t set free. He was still a Law-keeping Jew.Now those same kind of believing Jews who were under Peter’s control there at Jerusalem, they had maintained a separation but they were still Temple worshippers. You can’t ever prove to me that they weren’t. And they were still legalistic Jews, but they had recognized Christ as the Messiah. Now back to Acts 15.
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, (these Gentile brethren) and said, (now look at it carefully because you’re Bible says it as sure as mine) `Except (unless) ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.'”
That’s what your Bible says. But it’s quoting these Jewish people from Jerusalem who are now up there in the Gentile area of Antioch. They were saying you couldn’t be saved by Paul’s Gospel. Does that sound familiar? You bet it does! We don’t use circumcision as a prerequisite today, but, instead, use a host of other things. People will tell you that you can’t be saved by what Les is teaching. You’ve got to do this and that. Hey, there’s no difference. Read on:
“When therefore (because of this kind of false teaching coming into their midst, which Paul had to constantly refute) Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension (arguing with them)and disputation with them, they (all of them together) determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem (to Peter and the eleven) unto the apostles and elders about this question.”
Now jump all the way down to verse 5. They get to Jerusalem and they ride into this big meeting of the Jerusalem believers, that believe, for salvation, that Jesus was the Christ – the ones that Saul had been trying to stamp out.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees (what kind of Pharisees?) which believed…”
They had embraced Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. They’re not the whited sepulchers who were religious, but had nothing. No, these were Pharisees who had seen the light that Christ was Who He said He was. That’s what it says, “they were Pharisees who believed.” Now continuing on.
“…saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
Not only were they to be circumcised, they were to be commanded, like I pointed out in Matthew 10:5 that Jesus did to the Twelve. He commanded them to go not into the way of the Gentile. These Pharisees are commanding these Gentile believers of Paul’s Gospel, based on faith alone, that not only were they to practice circumcision, but they have to keep the Law. They have to keep the Law or they couldn’t be saved. Now reading on. And here is the bone of contention between the Jerusalem Jewish believers and these Gentile converts that Paul has now won up there in Antioch.
“And the apostles and the elders came together for to consider of this matter.”
Can you see the argument? Listen, we’ve got to understand this because this is where Christianity is at today. We are being deluged with these same demands. “Oh yeah, we believe the gospel, but it’s not enough alone. You’ve got to do this and that. You have to come this way or that way.” Listen, Paul’s gospel will have none of it. God, through Christ in this Age of Grace, will have none of it. And we’ll see that later when we get to Galatians Chapter 5. But here was the need for this counsel to consider this. And now let’s come back to Galatians Chapter 2. So, here we are at 51 AD It’s a long time after Pentecost. That makes about 22 years after Pentecost, and they are still debating, “Can you be saved by faith alone? Or do you have to keep the Law of Moses and practice circumcision.” Now verse 2:
“And I went up by revelation, (the Lord spoke it. Evidently the Lord told Paul, `Now Paul it’s time to get up to Jerusalem and confront the Twelve. We have to settle this matter, otherwise we’ll never be able to move out into the Gentile world.’) and communicated unto them that gospel (if you don’t mind, underline the word `that.‘ You might say that’s not an important word, but in this verse it’s all important. Because it was that Gospel ) which I preached among the Gentiles,…”
Not just that Jesus was the Christ as Peter preached, but now that he also died for your sins, He was buried, and He rose from the grave for you.