Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 46
Hebrews 2:3 – Part 2
Now as we begin this our fourth lesson for the afternoon, we’re still in verse 3, but hopefully we’ll finish this verse in this half hour. Remember in our last program we were speaking of this great plan of Salvation:
“…which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, (Himself) and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him:”
Remember in the last lesson I took you all the way back to when God confronted Satan or Lucifer, and how that He then turned to the Abrahamic Covenant and brought everything up through the Nation of Israel to bring about the coming of the Messiah and Redeemer. Then, through Israel’s unbelief and rejection, Christ was crucified. Then we moved on up to the Apostle Paul. But now I want to take you back to Acts chapter 7 where Stephen, who was now in consort with Peter and the other eleven there at Jerusalem, approaches the religious leaders of Israel, and the whole idea is the same as what Peter has been trying to do, and that is to convince the Nation of Israel that the One they crucified was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. And that, through faith in Him, they could still have Him as their King, and He would bring in the Kingdom. So now in verse 1 we can get the idea where this is being preached or taught.
“Then said the high priest, Are these things so? (in other words what Stephen had been saying up in chapter 6) 2. And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham,…” Now that doesn’t include a Gentile. Stephen is speaking to the whole nation, but in particular to the religious leaders. So he says:
“And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham,…”
And Stephen brings them all the way up through Israel’s history, how that Joseph was not recognized the first time when his brethren went down for grain. But when they went the second time then they understood who Joseph was. He was their redeemer of physical things, as they needed grain. Then the next one was Moses. Moses, too, appeared to the Nation of Israel as their deliverer, but they rejected him the first time. Then he had to come back 40 years later, and then Stephen makes the point that the second time he came to them, they recognized that Moses was indeed the God-sent deliverer, and he led them out of bondage.
Then Stephen takes the story of Israel on up, and he tries to culminate his sermon with the fact that this One they crucified was the Christ. Now verse 57, and Stephen is coming to the end of this whole dissertation.
“Then they (these Jewish leaders in particular, and the Nation of Israel in general) cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him 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.”
Here we have now a high point in Israel’s rejection of everything pertaining to Jesus of Nazareth, and we’re introduced to the next major player on the stage of God dealing with mankind and that was Saul of Tarsus. Now verse 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. (died)
Alright that was Israel’s final act of rejection concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Now like I said, we were introduced to the next player on the stage and that’s the Apostle Paul – and we knew him first as Saul of Tarsus. Now I’m not going to rehearse his conversion on the road to Damascus, as most of you are well acquainted with that, but I want you to come down to see how definitively the Scripture points out that here is this fork in the road. Up until now it’s been all God dealing with His covenant people Israel. We know Peter appeals to Israel, and Stephen appeals to them, but now after they’ve rejected them, God does something totally different. So let’s begin with verse 10 of Acts chapter 9. Here Saul is being dealt with just outside the city gate, and the Lord has appeared to him. But now the Lord appears to this Jew who was one of the leaders of the synagogue in Damascus:
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; (now you always have to remember that the word ‘disciple’ does not always mean one of the Twelve. A disciple was a follower, and so we know Ananias was certainly not one of the Twelve, but simply a believer that Jesus was the Messiah) and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. (He gets his attention) And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth. 12. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:” He’s persecuting them. Putting them in prison, putting them to death if possible. Now verse 15, and what’s the first word?
“But…” It’s the flip side, as God’s got another side of the coin.
“But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he (Saul of Tarsus) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles,…”
Now I’m not going to take time to do it, because I did it a few programs back, but do you remember when Paul had now been out among the Gentiles, and had a lot of converts, and had started little congregations of believers, but he had always had that heart for the Jew. So, he went back and appealed to that great Jewish audience there in Jerusalem. Remember they listened to him until he said one word, and what was that word in Acts 22:22? Gentile! When he said Gentile, they just erupted into a mob. They threw dust into the air, and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.”
Well, you see Saul of Tarsus’ mentality was the same. They could see nothing good in those pagan Gentiles, but now the Lord says to him, “I’m going to send you far hence to those Gentiles.” Well, can you imagine how that struck into the heart of that good Pharisee Jew, Saul of Tarsus? But this is what the Lord had commanded, and after that experience he had on the road to Damascus, Saul had no argument with that command. But here in Acts chapter 9, this is what I wanted you to see, that for the first time in the Scriptures, here in the New Testament we’ve got God showing openly that He’s going to now turn to the Gentiles, and remember that was unheard of. My, the Jew had no concept of going to the Gentile world.
For example, turn with me to chapter 8 and I’ll show you what I mean. Many people can’t believe this. They think Jesus ministered to Gentiles, but no He did not! The Scriptures only record that He did that twice. And the Twelve didn’t have a ministry to the Gentiles either. You remember the verse we read in Matthew chapter 10 in the last program, when the Lord commanded them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans, enter ye not:” So the Twelve disciples also had nothing to do with Gentiles.
But you see mankind today seems to think that just as soon as you get into the New Testament, God is dealing with Jew and Gentile, and nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s been dealing with only the Nation of Israel, based on those Old Testament covenants, with those two exceptions, and if you think the Twelve disciples ran out preaching the Gospel to the whole world, then I’m afraid you don’t know your Bible. The Twelve stuck in Jerusalem, and here’s the proof of it in Acts chapter 8 and verse 1. This is probably 7 or 8 years after Pentecost. I don’t claim that I’m right, but that’s when I think the setting for these verses is.
“And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen’s) death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church (assembly) which was at Jerusalem: (under the persecution of Saul) and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
See, the apostles don’t flee. Now their life is in danger, but they’re not about to leave Jerusalem. Why? Because Israel is at the hub of the matter, Israel has to be converted, and they’re not about to go out into the Gentile world. Now let me give you another one to prove my point, so turn to Acts chapter 11 verse 19. Years and years ago this is the verse that opened my eyes and made me begin studying. And this just says it in plain English, and there’s no way of twisting it or lifting it out of context, as it says what it means and it means what it says.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word (now you’ve got to stop for a moment. How much Word was in print at that time? Just the Old Testament. So they went everywhere preaching the Old Testament) to none but unto the Jews only.”
Now just look at that. Underline it, highlight it. They went everywhere in that then-known vicinity on the eastern end of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and up into what is now Turkey, and they were definitely preaching the Old Testament, the record of how that Christ had come, and that He had been crucified, but they preached to none but Jews. Isn’t that funny that people can’t see that? They weren’t about to go to Gentiles, but always remember, a Sovereign God is still in control. So you get down into the very following verses, and my goodness, now what happens? Gentiles are getting interested in Salvation, by God’s Sovereign Grace of course. But when the news got back to Jerusalem that Gentiles were getting involved, what do you think the Jerusalem leadership thought? Uh Oh! There’s something wrong here!
I always like to use the analogy here of something I read several years ago about one of our major denominations who was headquartered here in the Midwest, heard of gross heresies being taught in one of their churches down in one of the southern states. Well, what do you suppose the hierarchy up here in the Midwest did? They sent people down there pronto to check it out. Are those people really teaching that kind of heresy in one our churches? Well now that’s just natural to do that, and that’s exactly what the Jerusalem leadership did. Gentiles getting interested? Hey, there’s something wrong with that. We’re not supposed to be going to Gentiles, and so look what happens in verse 22.
“Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church (assembly) which was in Jerusalem: (over which Peter and the eleven were in charge) and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.”
Well, for what purpose? To check this rumor out, that these Gentiles were getting interested in the things of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that’s basically what the Scriptures are saying here. Now read on in verse 23, but before we do, isn’t it amazing how God always gets the right man, at the right place, at the right time? I maintain, had any of that Jerusalem leadership except Barnabas gone up to Antioch, they would have squashed it right then and there. But you see Barnabas was the right man, in fact he was the perfect right man for that particular time, and verse 23 says it all.
“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, (how that God in His goodness was reaching down to these pagans.) was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 24. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.(they’re being saved, Gentiles as well as a sprinkling of Jews. And as soon as Barnabas sees what’s going on, again, Sovereignly, by God’s direct leadership, what does Barnabas do?) 25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:”
Isn’t that amazing? Now if you think I’m stretching the point, come back over into chapter 11 verse 1. And this portion of Scriptures follows Peter going up to the house of Cornelius in chapter 10. And remember Peter wasn’t too hot on that idea either, but the Lord forced him to do it. But when Peter saw the evidence of these Gentiles at Cornelius’ house being saved, my, Peter was awestruck. He and the men that were with him were astonished, because they had never seen anything like this before. But now come down to chapter 11 and verse 1 and see what happened when they got back to Jerusalem and shared this with the believers.
“And the apostles, and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision (the Jerusalem believing assembly) contended with him,”
Hey they didn’t slap him on the back and say, “Hey Peter, great Job. My isn’t it great how God is using us Jews to go to the Gentiles.” NO! But quite the opposite, they contended with him.
“Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and (horrors of horrors, what did they do?) didst eat with them.”
The Jerusalem leadership just was baffled. “Peter, you of all people, how could you do that?” Well, then Peter had to rehearse how God had worked both ends to the middle, worked with Cornelius, and worked with him, and brought the two together so that Peter could proclaim Salvation to that Gentile house. Now all this to show then, that when Saul of Tarsus was commissioned in chapter 9 to go to the Gentile world – that, hey, this had never been known before. This is something totally, totally different.
Now, as a result of him being commissioned by the words and deeds of Ananias, let’s look at Paul’s own words and own account of it in the Book of Galatians chapter 1. Now remember, I’m just trying to reconstruct this great Salvation that began with the Lord Himself. It began way back when the Lord made the promised Seed of the woman back in Genesis 3:15. Then gave the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that through the Nation of Israel would come a Redeemer. But Israel rejected all of that, and God then turns to the Gentiles through this man, and now he gives the account of it here in Galatians.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but (where did Paul get this Gospel that saves us today? We know he didn’t get it from the Twelve, or any of the Old Testament writings, but rather) by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Now when you read Scripture you’ve got to keep everything in perspective. Where is Christ at this time of the revelation? Well, He’s in glory! And so from that ascended position in glory He reveals to this apostle these revelations. Now, maybe at some point in time Paul had a face-to-face confrontation. I’m not saying that he did or didn’t, but he had the revelation from the ascended Lord. Now verse 13, Paul writes:
“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, (he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees remember) how that beyond measure I persecuted the church (or that assembly) of God, and wasted it: 14. And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15. But when it pleased God,…” Do you see what that says? God is Sovereign! God is in control of every minute detail, and at the exact right time. Not only was Christ born of a woman, as we see in chapter 4 of Galatians.
“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,…” But Paul says the same thing was part and parcel of his birth at just the right time, he was born into that Jewish family in Tarsus so that he was ready to be the apostle of the Gentiles at the exact right moment in human history. But you know what? You are the same way. You were born according to God’s Sovereign timetable. You’re not an accident. Every one of us is in that intrinsic working of a Sovereign God. Now come on down to verse 16. Why did He commission this man, this good Jew?
“To reveal his Son (the One we’ve been emphasizing in Hebrews) in me (and for what purpose?) that I might preach him among the heathen; and immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; (Paul went in the opposite direction) but I went into Arabia,…”
He probably went to Mount Sinai, and then after the 3 years of revelation of these things of the Gospel of the Grace of God, then this apostle is ready to go to the pagan Gentile world. Now in the couple of minutes we have left, let’s go back to Hebrews. We’ve got to keep checking with home base.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us (Paul is including himself) by them that heard him:” Now let’s come back to I Corinthians chapter 15, and I think these verses just tie it all together, and we’ll start at verse 1.
I Corinthians 15:1-8
“Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2. By which also ye are saved, (saved and Salvation are synonymous) if ye keep in memory, what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3. For I delivered unto you first of all (they had never heard this Gospel before) that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; (now resurrection was a tough item for a lot of people to believe, so here comes the proof of the resurrection) 5. And that he was seen of Cephas, (Peter) then of the Twelve: 6. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep, (died) 7. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (or one born before his time)