Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 2 * BOOK 33
SALVATION BY GRACE + FAITH + NOTHING – PART 2
We’re going to start where we left off in Galatians chapter 2 where Paul and Barnabas have finally gotten the okay from the leadership at Jerusalem that they can continue their ministry to the Gentiles and Peter and the leadership there would continue their ministry to the Jews. But the Jewish leadership is going to put some stipulations on it. Number 1 they wanted Paul to remember the poor saints in Jerusalem who were destitute as we discussed last lesson. So God is now providing for them providentially with the offerings from Paul’s Gentile converts. Now let’s read verse 9:
“And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars perceived (understood) the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, (Gentiles) and they unto the circumcision. (Jews) 10. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.“
Now, come back to Acts 15 and we’ll see that they also added a couple of other little strings to the whole deal. It’s kind of interesting that Peter had finally come to Paul’s rescue. And if he hadn’t, then Paul’s Gospel would have died right then and there, but of course God is Sovereign. He had Peter ready to defend Paul, and I maintain that the biggest reason that he had sent him up to Cornelius’ house 12 years before, was not only for the house of Cornelius, but that Peter would be in a mental position to come to Paul’s defense at this conference in Jerusalem these 12 years later.
You know, we see the near term, but God always see the big picture, and we’re going to see a graphic illustration of that a little later in the Book of Galatians. But Peter suddenly realized that, yes, he’d gone to the house of pagan Gentiles and he hadn’t brought them under the Law, he hadn’t introduced circumcision, and while he was yet speaking what happened? They believed. And of course they didn’t believe Paul’s Gospel, that hadn’t been revealed yet, but they believed that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, and God saved them under those conditions. Now looking at verse 12.
“Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”
Now there’s another point I need to make. Remember what I Corinthians 1:22 says? Let’s go back for a moment and look at it. There is no way that you can escape this. It just constantly comes up in front of you. And I suppose that most people just casually read over these verses, but what a graphic statement.
I Corinthians 1:22a
“For the Jews require a sign…”
Now God knew that and He put up with that all the way up through the their history. We all know that. Remember when Moses was first confronted? He was a typical Jew and he said, “God they’re not going to believe me. How do I know?” And what did God have to do? Showed him a sign by having him throw his rod on the ground. And when Moses got to Pharaoh, and the only way that he could convince the children of Israel that he was legitimate was by signs and miracles. Why have I always said that Christ performed all those signs and miracles during His earthly ministry? To prove to the Nation of Israel Who He was. I think that He so graphically showed the difference in the mindset of Jews and Gentiles because back in His earthly ministry He told the citizens of Capernaum:
“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted into heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the might works, which have been done in thee, and been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day, 24. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, then for thee.” They wouldn’t have had to say, “Well show us a sign.” They were Gentiles they were ready to believe just by being able to hear it, but the Jews required a sign.
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written this book: 31. But these are written, that ye (Jews) might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
Well now back to Acts chapter 15. So again I am positive that if Paul and Barnabas could not have rehearsed some miraculous signs and miracles in their ministry these Jews at this conference would have never bought it. But since they could according to verse 11 and 12 they were convinced because this got the Jews attention. Verse 13.
“And after they (the Jews) had held their peace, James (the half brother of Jesus) answered, (you would think that Peter was the moderator, but it looks like James was.) saying Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14. Simon (Peter) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16. After this (after calling out a people for His name, ) I will return, and will build, again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:” Referring to His second coming. And now let’s skip all the way down to verse 19.
“Wherefore (in light of all that has just taken place) my sentence (or decision is as the moderator) is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollution of idols, and from fornication and from things strangled, (things not killed properly) and from blood.”
Now you see in a way it’s amazing that these things were repeated and in another way it isn’t because you see these things still hold true today. God still has never given the human race permission to do any of these things. These things are still anathema to Him, and I’ll show you why in just a minute. Verse 21 gives the reason.
“For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”
In other words James is saying, “Now look, if you’re going to go out into the Gentile world and preach this Gospel of Grace that’s well and good but for the sake of Jews who are in those pagan communities at least make your converts understand that some of these things are still fundamental going all the way back to the Law of Moses.” And that of course Paul agreed with, and I’m sure that he taught it as such. Now verse 22.
“Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23. and they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greetings unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:” Now go to verse 29 and the Holy Spirit has seen fit to repeat it. This is part of that written agreement that went to from the Jerusalem church up to Antioch.
“That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”
Now for a moment let’s go back to the Old Testament and see what they were referring to. That would be in Leviticus chapter 17 and 18. Even though this was part of the Law yet it was such that God could sanction it’s going right on through the Gospel of Grace. And as you know I firmly believe that we’re not under Law but rather Grace, but God is still holding us accountable for not doing any of these things. Now it’s interesting that for those who get involved in Satan worship this is where they begin. This is usually part of their initiation process, that they drink blood and become immoral and all the rest of it and here’s the reason in this chapter.
“And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. (now this is God speaking) 11. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: (this is why the Blood had to be sacrificed for the remission of sin. It was death for life.) and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
Now I’m going to make a point. What had to happened to the blood in the Old Testament sacrifices, as well as Christ’s Blood for the atonement of sin? It had to be applied. It had to be sprinkled on the altar, it had to be sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant’s mercy seat, and Christ also had to present His Blood remember where? The Holy of Holies in heaven. So it follows all the way through and for this reason God still demands that even under Grace we do not partake of these things. Now the other point was not to practice fornication or immorality. Now I know I have a lot of little kids watching my program and I’m not going to read it because it’s rather graphic, but you get into chapter 18 and God explicitly lays down these various immoral sins that believers are to have nothing to do with. Why? Because you see in verse 3.
“After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, (that is in the slavery) shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, (when they came in after Joshua) whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. 4. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.”
Then beginning in verse 6 God stipulates graphically all the immoral sins of the Canaanites and the Egyptians, and that believers are to have nothing to do with these sins even today. Just because we’re under Grace doesn’t mean that we are now free to eat blood, and practice immorality, or worship idols. Absolutely not! They’re forbidden! Now come to Galatians chapter 2.
Now we’re going to come an interesting situation, and I always have to clarify myself lest I be accused of not having a warm place in my heart for the apostle Peter. Yes I do, because I understand Peter’s position. Peter was still steeped in legalism, Peter still had not had his eyes totally opened to these Pauline truths and so Peter was in perfect accord with his Lord as far as it went. I’m not taking anything way from the man’s spiritual aspect whatsoever, but Peter could not comprehend what it was to be totally out from under the Law. So sometime after the Jerusalem counsel, and this had all been supposedly settled that these Gentiles, under Paul’s ministry who had been saved like you and I by the Gospel of Grace, were free to eat whatever they wanted to eat. They were not under any dietary law whatsoever, and Peter comes up to visit the Antioch Church and now look what happens.
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, (sometime after the Jerusalem counsel) I withstood him to the face,…”
Paul may have had to have gotten on a soap box to look Peter in the face because I think Peter was a tall Galilean, and Paul a typical Jew. I’m almost positive that he was much smaller in statue than Peter. So Paul withstood him to the face publicly. My that must have been an embarrassing thing for Peter and now look what goes on.
“…because he was to be blamed. (Peter was at fault. Now this isn’t the first time that poor old Peter stumbled, nor do we get to the place where we don’t stumble. Peter was just as human as all of us, and here he stumbled, and Paul called him on it. Now here is the whole reason.) 12. For before (in time-wise) that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.”
James is now the head man in Jerusalem and when emissaries came from James’ congregation, before they arrived Peter ate with Paul and the Gentile believers regardless what the meal was. But after these Jewish people arrived what does Peter do? Hey he’s scared of them, he’s afraid of them. And so to continue on and maintain the testimony of Paul’s Gospel of Grace that he could prove to these Jews from Jerusalem, “Hey fellows we are free to eat whatever we want to, we are no longer under the dietary laws, we’ve been set free from all that.” But instead of standing his ground for these Gentile believers, Peter gives in to his Law-keeping background. Isn’t that something? Peter gave in and refused to go in and eat with Paul’s Gentile converts.
Can you imagine what this did to the apostle Paul? Now I know Paul had that little short temper side of him. He has to apologize for it. I think Paul just got real upset with Peter. “Now Peter you’re being two faced.” That’s what we’d say today. “When there wasn’t anybody from Jerusalem here, you didn’t have any problem eating with my Gentile converts, but as soon as those people came from Jerusalem then you say, `No I’m a good Jew, I can’t do that.'” So Paul calls him on it. Looking at verse 12 again.
“For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, (these Jews from James congregation) he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.“(the men from Jerusalem)
I’ve always given Peter credit, and I still do. Remember, leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and suddenly when Peter saw Christ arrested and when he denied he knew the Lord those 3 times. He even swore, and do you know why? He was afraid of the powers that were. But I’ve always made this point. After Peter witnessed the resurrection and the power of it, what happened to him? Peter was a different person. He was no longer afraid of anybody. He stood up to the Jewish religious leaders, he stood up to the Romans, and no doubt took a martyr’s death because of it. But here in this situation as an ordinary practicing Jew in a moment of weakness among these Gentile believers he blows his testimony again, and Paul has to call him on it. Now verse 13.
“And the other Jews (because of what Peter did) dissembled (or withdrew) likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas (Barnabas that had seen everything that Paul had accomplished with the Gentiles) also was carried away with their dissimulation. (or hypocrisy that they couldn’t eat with these Gentiles.) 14. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly (Peter not walking uprightly? Not here he wasn’t. He was failing miserably) according to the truth of the gospel….”
What Gospel? Paul’s Gospel of Grace which sets us free from these dietary rules and regulations. There is now no difference between Jew and Gentile, and Peter was not yet ready to recognize that. Let me show you what I’m talking about in II Peter, and I think this is such an enlightening verse. You know I taught for a long time before I found it, but what a verse. Now remember this just shortly before he and Paul were martyred. This isn’t at the beginning of his ministry this was clear at the end. He’s had all of these years of being in contact with Paul and Paul’s message and still he writes by inspiration the following.
II Peter 3:15-16
“And account (or understand) that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation: even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; (What things? salvation up in verse 15. The Gospel of Grace) in which (these epistles) are some things hard to be understood,…”
Now it’s hard for us to imagine that Peter could say anything like that isn’t it? After all these years Peter still can’t quite comprehend what Paul is driving home. I tell you why he couldn’t. Peter was so steeped in Judaism that it just didn’t come through. Peter wasn’t the only one that didn’t understand. My look at the multitude that is encompassed in the last part of this verse.
II Peter 3:16b
“…which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (or twist. What’s Peter still talking about? Paul’s epistles. So the unstable, the ones who don’t comprehend the Scriptures are still twisting them ) as they do also the other scriptures (And what’s the conclusion? They’re doing it but, it’s ) unto their own destruction.”
So when preachers and teachers ignore or delete the writings of the apostle Paul they are, according to Peter, signing themselves up for their own destruction. And that’s exactly why Paul wrote such strong language in the first chapter of Galatians, that if someone is going to preach any other Gospel for salvation than his Gospel let them be accursed. Now that’s strong language, but I didn’t put it in there, the Book says it and we have to stand on what the Book says. Now back to Galatians chapter 2, and looking at verse 14 again.
“But when I saw that they (Peter, and Barnabas, and these other Jews) walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel. I said unto Peter before them all, (this was a public rebuke) If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, (if you’re going to admit that the Grace of God has set you free from the Law) and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”
Do you see what he’s saying? Listen, it’s no different today. Oh I know the rhetoric is a little different, but the concept is the same. People are adding things that do not belong to the Gospel of Grace and then they wonder why people have a hard time comprehending it.