Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 2 * BOOK 5
Parenthesis and Dashes: The Interruption of
Old Testament Progress: Introducing Paul
Turn to Acts Chapter 7. In our last lesson, we were talking about the Old Testament prophetic program, how that over and over the Old Testament laid it out. At the particular prescribed time, Christ would come; He would be rejected; He would ascend; the Holy Spirit would come down, and then would come the seven years of Tribulation, and then Christ would return and set up His Kingdom. But, we know that historically, that didn’t all happen. There was nothing that was part of the Tribulation. After the Holy Spirit came down, the Old Testament program just came to a halt. God’s Time Clock stopped. Now, we’re going to try and show you, coming through the Book of Acts (and again this is not an in depth study of Acts, but rather, we’re just going to kind of skim it), how this program is going to be interrupted. This last part, from the Tribulation on, will be shoved out into the future. It is still future, and in that interim, God has, by way of the working of the Holy Spirit, been calling out a people for His Name.
To pick that up a little bit, let’s jump into Acts Chapter 7, and remember this is about seven or eight years after Pentecost. Peter and the 11 have been preaching their hearts out to the Nation of Israel, knowing that they could never go out into the ends of the earth and preach the Gospel, until Israel had first been converted. But, Israel is not converting. She is going more and more in the opposite direction. Now, in Chapter 7, we find Stephen, who is not even one of the Twelve. He’s one of the seven deacons that was appointed by the Twelve to take care of the mundane things of the church. But, Stephen is pointed out in this chapter as a man full of the Holy Spirit. Over and over it tells us he’s a man full of the Holy Spirit. He brings Israel to the place of realizing that through all of their history, God has been preparing them for the coming of their Messiah and they missed it. And so, he just comes down hard on them. And if you will come down to verse 51, where he accuses the nation (and he’s talking only to the Jews), Stephen says:
“Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One;…”
We went through this in a previous lesson. Someone brought up a question about the unpardonable sin. I always tell people not to worry about the unpardonable sin. That has nothing to do with us in the Gentile age. That was God dealing with Israel because when God sent Israel the prophets, what did they do with them? They killed them. Then, according to the parable that Jesus gave of the vineyard let out to husbandmen, who refused to listen to the servants sent to receive the crop. Finally, the lord of the vineyard said, “Well, I’ll send my son; surely they’ll listen to him. What did they do with the son? They killed him. That was the rejecting of the Father and the Son and now what are they going to do with the Holy Spirit? I think that’s in Acts Chapter 7; Israel is having the opportunity, now, to listen to, and come under the influence of, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit; and what did they do? They stoned him (that’s Stephen). We pick up where Stephen is approaching Israel, by way of the work of the Holy Spirit, and he says, “…they have slain them which shewed before the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and (what’s the word?) Murderers!” It’s as plain as you can put it. They killed Him.
[“You” (is implied)] “who have received the Law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. And when they (the Jews of his audience) heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, (and here it comes again) being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God, and(he saw) Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And (he) said, ‘behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man Standing on the right hand of God.'”
We always think of Him as seated at the right hand of God. But, the Jew also knew that if He was anywhere, He was to be seated. For Him to be standing, that implied that He was ready to return. The Old Testament spoke of it, that He would sit at His father’s right hand until His enemies were His footstool, and then one of the Psalmists said to the Nation of Israel, “then He would arise.” In other words, He would stand and He would be ready to come and deal with His people. And the Jews caught it. And so, when Stephen says, “I see him standing on the right hand of God,” then… when they heard that, “…they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord. 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.”
We are now going to see a change of operation. And here’s Saul – being introduced as the persecutor (he’s been heading it up) of these Jewish believers. It was a terrible persecution and so vicious that when you come down to Acts Chapter 8, verse 1, it says “…Saul was consenting unto his death. And, at that time, there was a great persecution against the church….“ Now, we have to be careful how you use that word, church. The Greek word is ecclesia. And all it means in the Greek is a called out assembly. And so, what you have to learn to do is use the word according to its setting in the text. Is it talking about, for example, the crowd at Ephesus, when they went into the amphitheater, and they had a mob rule and said, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” – the same word is used to describe them. They were in ecclesia. They weren’t a religious group or godly group. They were an ungodly group. That would be translated now, church. Theirs was simply called an assembly.
Stephen, in Chapter 7, speaks of Israel as being the church in the wilderness. Now, you know the Church wasn’t on the scene when Israel came out of Egypt. But what was Israel? A called out assembly. So be careful when you get into the actual Church Age, and what we call the Church. Paul almost always identifies it as the Body of Christ, which is the Church. Or the Church, which is His Body. See the difference? This assembly of course, is Jewish believers at Jerusalem. And it’s rightfully called a ‘called out assembly.’
“As for Saul, he made havock of the church,(or these called-out Jewish believers) entering into every house, and haling men and women (and) committed them to prison.”
In other words, Saul was just so intent on stamping out anyone who was following this Jesus of Nazareth. Why? Saul was a tremendously religious man. He had been taught at the feet of Gamaliel, the greatest rabbi of the day. Saul of Tarsus honestly thought that Jesus was an imposter, a blasphemer. And the best thing that could happen to Israel was to have everything connected with Jesus stamped out and put out of memory. So he was what we would call today, a religious zealot. A fanatic to the extreme. But, he thought he was doing his God a favor. The reason I’m painting this kind of picture of Saul of Tarsus, is because we’re going to see in Chapter 9, this man as the one who is going to literally turn the world inside out. All I wanted to show you in chapters 6, 7, & 8 was the introduction of him. In fact, I was encouraged that one of our national news magazines, U.S. News and World Report, had a lead article on some of the men who had been most influential in changing the direction of human history, by one way or another. And believe it or not, one of the men that they listed was the Apostle Paul. And they gave Paul the credit for being the instigator, or the beginning, of Christianity as we know it.
Now, most will just say that Jesus was the one who started Christianity. Jesus is the foundation of it, no doubt! Yet, who built upon that foundation? The Apostle Paul! And so, I was encouraged that there are a few people starting to recognize that Christianity would not be where it is today had it not been for the Apostle Paul, the previous Saul of Tarsus. So this religious fanatic, trying to stamp out anything that had to do with Jesus of Nazareth, is met in Chapter 9 on his way to Damascus.
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
You have to remember that when this scripture refers to the synagogues, that this is all Jew. Gentiles didn’t worship in the synagogues. There may have been an occasional proselyte, but not very many. And so, he wants to go to Damascus where he can bring those Jewish followers of Christ in His earthly ministry, and in His Messiahship, and bring them, it says, bound unto Jerusalem.
“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
God is sovereignly working to interrupt His Old Testament program in order to make room, to call out a Bride, a Gentile Bride, for the Son. That’s why we are taking all these references and taking the time to digress from the Book of Genesis for a few lessons.
“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
It was Saul who said, “…Who art thou, Lord…?” Now, I hope I’m not violating the Scripture, and I certainly don’t think I am, when I say that there was only one Lord, so far as a religious Jew of Christ’s day; and who would that have been in the Old Testament? Well, Jehovah, wasn’t it? Now, I like to think that Saul of Tarsus, religious fanatic that he was, when he saw that intense light come from Heaven, and heard the voice from Heaven, who did he immediately, naturally think it was? Well, Jehovah. That’s the God that he knew intricately, he thought. That was the God he thought he was serving – the God of Abraham – Jehovah. So, I like to think that when Saul saw all of this happening, he just cried out,“Who art thou Jehovah?” And now, look what Jesus (or Jehovah, if you please) answers: “And Jehovah said, I am Jesus.” Can you get just an inkling of how Saul must have felt when he heard the very person that he thought was a blasphemer, and an imposter, and somebody that he had to stamp out, tell him that He’s Jesus? I think Saul, as we know he did, just melted. He was converted on the spot:
“…Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?…”
There was no more argument or debate. He suddenly realized that he was dealing with that Jesus that he thought he hated, and recognized Him for Who He really was – The Jehovah of the Old Testament. That’s why I’m always teaching back there. Never lose sight of the fact that Jehovah, God the Son in the Old Testament, is Christ in the New Testament.There is no difference in their personality. The only difference is He has become flesh, and has become, as Paul says in Colossians, “…the image of the invisible God,…“ But, it’s the same person. And Saul sees it; he has no argument and his immediate response is, “…Lord, what would you have me to do?…“ You know the rest of the story. Let’s go to verse 10:
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Behold I am here Lord.’ And the Lord said unto him, ‘arise, and go into the street which called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for behold, he prayeth. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.’ Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.’ But the Lord said unto him (Now watch this – this is before Saul even has come out of his temporary blindness, and the Lord tells Ananias) Go thy way (in other words, don’t argue with me, just go do what I tell you): for he (Saul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before (who?) the Gentiles,…”
If you have any idea of how the Jew felt about Gentiles, turn with me, if you will, to Chapter 22, just to get an idea of how the average Jew, at that time, felt about Gentiles. You should keep in mind, the Jews were steeped in all of this. They were steeped in the Covenant that God gave Abraham, and in the Law that God had given to Moses. And even thought they didn’t understand much of it, yet they did realize that they were a chosen, Covenant people and that the Gentiles had no part in that relationship. Now, let’s look at verse 17 of Chapter 22, where Paul, as we now call him, is addressing again, a tremendous Jewish crowd there in Jerusalem. He’s explaining, as best he can to his Jewish cohorts, how that God had showed him who Jesus was and he rehashes again, his conversion experience and now he comes down to verse 17:
“And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance: And (I) saw him (this Jesus) saying unto me, ‘Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they (the Jew) will not receive thy testimony concerning me.’ And I (Paul) said, ‘Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.’ And he said unto me (Jesus now), ‘Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.’ And they gave him audience (they listened to him) unto this word, (what word? – Gentile! And when he as much as breathed the word ‘Gentile,’ look at what happened) and then lifted up their voices, and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.'”
That was the mentality of the Jews of that day. And they weren’t all that far wrong. Now, go back to Acts Chapter 9. And, of course, Saul ends up under the roof of Ananias and in verse 17 says:
“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.’ And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”
(And of course, that was right in line with the Jewish program that began with John the Baptist.) Then Paul received food.
“And straightway, he preached Christ (where?) in the synagogue…”
He didn’t go out into the Gentile marketplace and approach Gentiles. He goes to the synagogue. He is still Jew only. He goes to the synagogues and he preaches Christ, that He is the Son of God, who died for me and rose from the dead? That’s not what it says, is it? That’s what a lot of people think it should say. But does Paul, or Saul, know anything of a Gospel based on death and Resurrection? No! Just to show you how this was in perfect alignment with that which has been on the scene ever since Christ’s first appearance, or even John the Baptist, go back with me to Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 16. Here we have Christ having almost finished His three years of earthly ministry. The Twelve had been with Him almost constantly, and it’s about time to go up to Jerusalem and be approached for the Crucifixion. At this point, they are still up there in the area of Caesarea Philippi, north of Jerusalem:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, ‘Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ But he saith unto them, ‘But whom say ye that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art The Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Who died for me and rose again? No! That’s not what it says. So, what does Peter know? That Jesus is The Christ, The Messiah, The Son of God. That’s all he knows. Now, was Jesus satisfied with that answer? Of course He was – that’s all that Peter could know up to that time. Now, read on:
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed are thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
Now, turn to Acts Chapter 8. This, of course, is taking place before Saul’s conversion in Chapter 9. That’s an important fact to remember. In Acts Chapter 8, Philip has been up to Samaria. He’s been preaching there that Christ is The Messiah. The Holy Spirit directs him down to the South in Gaza. He runs across this Ethiopian eunuch, who has been to Jerusalem, to worship there (verse 27):
“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, ‘Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.’ And then Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, ‘Understandest thou what thou readest?” You know the account, how Philip explained to this Ethiopian eunuch who Isaiah was talking about. Go to verses 35 – 37:
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him”
Christ crucified? No! He preached unto him ‘Jesus.’ He doesn’t preach Christ crucified. That’s what I want people to see. We assume so much. Now, when you get into Paul’s writings, what does Paul say? But, we preach Christ crucified. You see, they can’t do that yet, because it hasn’t been revealed as Gospel. And so, Philip is in perfect accord with even what Peter understood, that Jesus was The Christ: “Then Philip opened his mouth,…and preached unto him Jesus…”
“…and the eunuch said, ‘See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest…” Now, look at the eunuch’s confession of faith. …And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'” Who died for me and rose again? No! “..that he is the Son of God.” And that was their profession of faith. They understood who Jesus was. Now, come across to Chapter 9, Here we find Saul has received his sight. He’s been baptized right in accord with all the rest of them:
“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”
Could God let Saul, later known as Paul, go and preach that message? Of course not. That wouldn’t be the Gospel for the Gentiles.
“But all that heard him were amazed, and said, ‘Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?’ But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the (Who?..the) Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is (the) very Christ.”
What is Saul leaving out? Anything concerning the Crucifixion and Resurrection. He’s just simply proving from the Old Testament that this is the promised Messiah. Now, look how God sovereignly enters in. He can’t leave Saul there under those circumstances:
“And after many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:” Now, what is old Saul going to have to do? He’s going to escape, and we know what happened:
“But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.”
And now he must flee. Where does Saul go? You would normally think that since the Twelve disciples had been with Christ for three years and knew Jesus and his ministry, most people would think that Jerusalem would have been the logical place to go. It would have be logical for Saul to have gone back to Jerusalem, and said, “Hey fellows, fill me in. Tell me everything you know about The Christ so I can go out and preach.” But does he? No, the Scripture makes it so plain that’s the last place he would have gone. So where does he go? He goes down to Mount Sinai in Arabia. We are going to see that Saul is providentially moved from Damascus. He is not permitted to go to Jerusalem to the Disciples. He goes down to the desert to Mount Sinai, and we’ll see in Galatians what happens.