Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 5
Parenthesis and Dashes: The Interruption of
Old Testament Progress: Introducing Paul
Now back to Acts Chapter 9. Remember Saul of Tarsus, that religious zealot. He was nothing but a renegade, and was doing nothing but upsetting everything. So get rid of him! Or at least punish him severely. Instead, what does God do? He saves him! What do you call that? Grace! That’s what I want you to see. That is why he is not only the apostle of Grace, but also the epitome of Grace. If anyone was deserving of nothing, it was Saul of Tarsus. Are we any different? Isn’t that exactly what we were before we were saved? We were rebels; we were lost; we were condemned. But what does God do? He saves us by His Grace. But, as we saw in the last lesson, Saul of Tarsus went straight to the synagogue and preached that Jesus was The Christ. There was no mention of the power of the Resurrection, or His having fulfilled the Law, by His death on the Cross. Then we noticed God had to providentially get Paul out of Damascus. He hadn’t gone up to Jerusalem.
What about in Chapter 9 verse 26, where it said that Saul had come to Jerusalem. Verse 25 said they let him down the wall. Now, you have to know your Scripture and know how to study. Because Paul says so clearly in Galatians that he did not go to Jerusalem until a long time later. So what you have to understand is that between verse 25 and 26, is probably a three year gap in time. I’ll go back to Galatians to pick that up. This is probably one of Paul’s earlier, not earliest, epistles, and I like to compare Galatians with the Book of Romans. It’s fundamental, and is the very rudiment of our Grace Age doctrine. Yet it does not get into those higher levels of Church standing as Paul finally brings about in Ephesians, Colossians, and so forth. But, here in Galatians he’s going to start the very rudiment of our Christian period of Grace.
“Paul, an Apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)” Look at the change in language from what Peter and the Apostles have been saying compared to what Paul now writes. What is he already emphasizing? The Resurrection.
“And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ (always watch your punctuation marks), Who (speaking of Christ) gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” Notice how he doesn’t say they were called into the Law, but Grace of Christ, and he said you’re going to (what’s the next word) ‘another’ – a different gospel.
“Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you,and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” Let’s look at that word, pervert. In other words they had been taking the Gospel and had been perverting – or adding to it. And, in our day and time, they do both. They add to and take away. It’s sad to say, but oh listen, this is strong language in the next verse:
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
That’s very strong language. In verse 9, he repeats it. Every word Paul writes in his Epistles is as inspired by the Holy Spirit as any other portion of Scripture. This is God speaking through this man to us. And he repeats all this in verse 9. Let’s look at it:
“As we said before, so say I now again, ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.'”
“As we said before, so say I now again, ‘If any….'” (now, the word ‘man’ is italicized and what does that mean?…It’s been added by the translators so it’s not in the original. I like it better left out.)
“…If any preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Let’s go back to I Corinthians 15 and pick up what Paul calls his Gospel. Or, as I pointed out several lessons ago in Romans 16:25, Paul calls it the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery which had been kept secret since the age began. What is that mystery Gospel? That which was never revealed until it came to the Apostle Paul. Well, here it is in I Corinthians Chapter 15:1-4. Simple? Absolutely. So simple a five-year-old can understand it and yet so complex we could live to be a hundred and never comprehend it. It is just both extremes. But here it is:
I Corinthians 15:1-4
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.”
Look what he says: “I declare unto you THE GOSPEL.” Now the article, the, instead of the article “a,“ designates what? One. That’s what I want you to see. There’s only one Gospel! I sat with a fellow several years ago at a football game in which our kids were both participants. We got to talking about some of these things and I was aghast. He said, “You know, I look at this religion bit sort of like our cow paths out in our pasture. They come from every which direction down to that pond, where they can get their water. And that’s the way it is with all these churches and religions. They’re all coming from a different direction, but they all come to get that same drink of water.” Imagine! Here in The Bible Belt, a man who has been in church all his life, making a statement like that. I couldn’t believe it. There aren’t 15 different paths to Heaven. There are not so many different ways to approach God. The Bible says there is ONE WAY! And a Moslem has to admit that it’s the only way. A Hindu had better admit that it’s the only way. And everybody else had better admit it’s the only way, because IT IS the only way. And yet we’re so glib and ready to say, “Oh well, if that’s the way you want to believe, that’s alright.” You know, I have heard people even in my own denomination say that. Listen, there’s an eternal lake of fire waiting for such people.
I’ve said through the years, if Christians were as adamant and energetic as the Communists were when Communism was taking over the world, we would have made an impact. Because when a communist got off work, where would he go? To party headquarters and give the rest of his day to the party to enhance communism. What are Christians doing? We’re sitting on our seat and most of us are just blase. I don’t believe in a militaristic Christianity. Not by any means. I know that we can’t force these things on people. But listen, most Christians today could care less about their neighbor. And I suppose I’m as guilty as anybody. But oh, listen, the Gospel is the only Gospel and it’s up to us to let the world know what it is. Let’s look further at these verses in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15. In verse 1 Paul says, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand (positionally):…” We stand in our assurance of Christ’s presence in our lives, and we also stand in the assurance we are His in the life to come. It’s positional. “By which also ye are (what?…) saved.”
Years ago (I hadn’t been teaching very long) we were having our coffee break. One of the ladies sat next to me and said, “I wish you wouldn’t use that word, ‘saved.’” I replied, “Why not?” And she said, “Well, it sounds like such a narrow word.” I said, “What would you prefer I use?” She replied, “Well you could use ‘converted;’ there are a lot of things you could use without using the word saved.” I picked up my Bible and went through Paul’s letters – and over and over what does he say? Saved!!! It’s the preaching of the Cross that is to those who perish, foolishness. But to those of us who are saved, it’s the power of God unto Salvation. So, ‘saved’ is a Scriptural word and Paul uses it over and over. It is just another English term from the root word, ‘salvation.’ We use it in everyday language. If someone is in dire straits financially, and all of a sudden he has a rich uncle die who leaves him all of his estate: what would you say about the guy’s financial affairs? “Oh, it was his salvation. He was saved from bankruptcy.” And that’s the way the word is used here. We are saved from the eternal doom that is waiting for us if we do not believe.
Now I Corinthians 15:2. “By which also ye are saved, if you keep in memory (and that just simply means if you know and understand) what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” In other words, you have to know what you believe. You can’t just hope that God thinks that you know. You are supposed to know! And then he says, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received.” (We’re going to go back to Galatians in just a moment.) And where does he receive this Gospel? From the ascended, glorified Christ. Let’s go on: “…how that (and here comes the Gospel) Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…“ Now, what scriptures is Paul referring to? Old Testament! All of this was promised in that prophetic program, that Christ would die. Psalms depicts his burial, his Resurrection. Psalms 110:1 says of his Ascension, come sit at my fathers right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.
It’s all back there, so Paul can rightly say that all this is according to the Old Testament Scriptures. Looking at verse 4 again: “And that he was buried,…“ Christ was really dead! He didn’t just go into a swoon, like some would like to say. He didn’t just go into an unconscious state. He died, and that was the reason for the three days and three nights in the grave – to prove that his death was complete. “…that he was buried and that he rose again the third day,…“ and it, too, was what? “…according to the scriptures.” It was foretold that these things would happen. Now, this Gospel then, was unknown to Peter and the eleven. Let’s go back, again, to Luke 18. This is what I want people to see. This was not always known. It was kept secret as long as this Old Testament program was still on the scene. This reference, again, is to Jesus in his earthly ministry, and they’re just about a few days from Jerusalem and the Crucifixion.
“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” You can’t get any plainer than when He told them that on the third day He would rise again. That’s just as plain as you can get it. But, let’s read the next verse:
“And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.”
“And they….“ (the Twelve) understood, how much? None! They understood none of these things, and this saying was hid. You see, there’s that word – it was ‘hid.’ It wasn’t time for God to reveal these things, because He was still approaching Israel on this ground. And they had no idea that He was going to die and be buried, and rise again and ascend, and to turn to the Gentiles in Grace. That was so totally beyond them. That’s what I said a few lessons ago, Peter didn’t have the foggiest notion of what the gospel of Grace was all about. Now, let’s read on. “…and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” Now, lest someone says we’re just using one verse, on your way back to Galatians, let’s stop at John’s Gospel, Chapter 20. You all know the account of Peter and John running to the sepulchre after Mary had told them that He had risen. They couldn’t believe even Mary’s account, let alone that they understood it before. And so, they come running to the tomb to check it out. They finally went into the tomb, and saw the evidence that, indeed, He had supernaturally been raised out of that tomb.
“Then went in also that other disciple (that is John), which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, (the evidence) and then believed.” Until then he wouldn’t have believed.
“For as yet (they’ve been with Christ for three years – these disciples should have known the Old Testament.) But it says, they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” How can you get any plainer? They had no idea of this coming about of what Paul calls, his Gospel. Go to Galatians and we’ll chase down the scriptures that show how God is all of a sudden, through this one man, going to reveal a change in the program.
He’s going to interrupt it right after the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the Tribulation does not come in. Instead, we’re going to have the introduction of the Age of Grace. Remember I had you put the parenthesis and dashes in some of those other scriptures. But now comes the Age of Grace, what we call the calling out of the Body of Christ, or we’d better refer to it as the Church Age. I’m getting more and more definitive on that use of the word, Church, because few people understand the Church is the Body of Christ. Granted, the local church is certainly a God-given entity. But not everyone who is a member of a local church is in the Body of Christ. Every church I’ve ever known has a mixture of believers and unbelievers.But there are no unbelievers in the Body of Christ. That’s something God is in control of and you can’t get into the Body of Christ unless you have experienced Salvation and the Holy Spirit places you into it. We’ll see that in coming moments. Now, back to Galatians. Paul is defending his apostleship:
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I see to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
In other words, you can’t be both. You cannot be a servant of Christ and yet please men. I found that out, and I think most believers find it out also. I’ve come up with a little cliche that I’m sure is original to myself, at least I’ve never heard it or seen it in print. And that is this: “That when it comes to the things of the spirit, the majority is always wrong!” Why do I say that? Well, when you came down to Noah’s ark, what went in to the ark? The majority or the minority? Well, a mighty small minority.
All through the Scripture, even the Old Testament and God’s dealings with Israel, what was the percentage of the Jews that were genuine believers? Precious few. Elijah thought he was the only one. And, of course, he wasn’t that far off. But nevertheless, God said he had 7,000. How much is 7,000 out of probably 6 or seven million? That’s about 1%. It’s just a drop in the bucket. And so, all the way through, even during Christ’s earthly ministry, how many believers do you think there were by the time he was through after three years? I tend to believe, and I stand to be corrected, and I may be wrong, but according to Acts Chapter 1, the believers in the immediate area of Jerusalem, numbered how many? 120! That’s all. And we have nothing to indicate there were more than that. They all came together and gathered in that upper room. I’m talking about the area of Jerusalem. I’m not talking about the rest of Israel.
But even after Christ’s three years of earthly ministry, the majority of Israel still said he was an imposter. They were wrong. And you come all the way through the last 1900 years or so, and for the most part, the majority of mankind has rejected the Gospel and that means what? They’re wrong! So, always rest on the fact that if you’re going to be a true student of Scripture, you’re going to be a child of God; you’re going to be in a mighty small minority, and it’s getting smaller all the time. Now, let’s go back to Galatians.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.”
Paul says, what I’ve got, I didn’t get from man. But, how did he get it? By the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Ascended Lord. The Resurrected Lord. That makes all the difference in the world! Let me go back to another verse. I always have to take them as I think of them. Go back to II Corinthians 5 to a verse I dare say, 90% of even good Bible students and Christians, do not understand.
II Corinthians 5:16
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.”
“Wherefore…“ in other words, because of the Gospel, “…henceforth know we no man after the flesh,…“ Who do you suppose he’s referring to? He’s talking about Christ in His earthly ministry. Just look at it. “Wherefore…“ because Christ died and rose from the dead. Now, while His earthly ministry was one of “Jesus going about doing good…” – and it’s good to know about Bethlehem, about His miracles, about His suffering, about all that took place; we must note carefully that that is not what is required for Salvation. What’s required for Salvation is: believing that this Christ, this Son of God, The Creator God went to the Cross and died for our sins and arose from the dead. See the difference?
Now, read on, and here’s why I know he’s speaking of Christ and His earthly ministry – this next statement: “…yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh;” Now, what do you think he is saying? Let’s reconstruct. Saul was, no doubt, about the same age as Christ. As near as I can discern from Scripture, he was probably contemporary with Christ in age. He was probably 30 or 35 when Christ was crucified. Which means that during Christ’s earthly ministry, Saul of Tarsus was in the very prime of life. Do you think that even though he never indicates that he met Jesus face to face, do you think for a minute that this religious Jew didn’t know everything that was going on in Israel? Of course he did! He knew all about Jesus and about all that He was doing. And that’s what gave him such an attitude of rebellion. He wanted to stamp it out. Now, read on: “…though we have known Christ after the flesh (I’ve known about him in his earthly ministry), yet now henceforth (in other words from His Resurrection on) know we him no more.”
Back in the early 70’s when I was still teaching up north, I had a large class of college age young people every Saturday night. We’d just pack them in – about 45 or 50 kids on the living room floor (not in our home – another lady hosted them). I had a lot of people who came out of the “Jesus Movement”, the hippy days. Do you remember them? They talked “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”, but they knew nothing about Jesus. They knew nothing of the Gospel! And do you know why? Just what Paul says here: We’re not saved by knowing His earthly ministry, but by His death, burial and Resurrection.
And again, let me repeat what Paul says, “…we preach Christ crucified.” Here’s where we have to understand that our Gospel is not based on His earthly ministry, nor on His miracles, nor signs and healings. Our Gospel is based on the fact that He died, He paid the sin debt, He defeated death and Hell, and Satan, and He rose victoriously from the dead and now He can proclaim that His life can be our life. And because He rose from the dead, we have already risen from death spiritually. And one day, if we live long enough, and the Lord tarries long enough that we die, we’re going to be resurrected to a new life. But, I think it’s getting close enough that we don’t have to worry about the cemetery. I think we’re just going to go up one of these days. I honestly think it’s getting that close.