What part of the Bible should new believers be reading?
Now we’ll pick up again where we left off, and what we’re trying to show is how this next order of the resurrection comes about and of course that would be the main harvest: the Body of Christ. Before we begin though I would like to share that last evening we got a phone call from a gentlemen who had a friend who was an alcoholic and in a treatment center. He had been to visit her, and told her that this was probably her last chance and it was time that she got interested in the things of the spiritual. So he left this lady a couple of my tapes, and the reason he called was to tell me that from those tapes she had gotten saved, she was right with The Lord, and he was just so thrilled he couldn’t get over it. So this is our whole purpose, whether you’re watching by way of television or by a tape or through the printed page. The reason we teach is to help folk understand what the Bible is really all about. Remember, this is God’s Word and He has left it with us to prepare us for eternity. That’s the only reason we’re here. This life of 70, 80, or 90 years is not even a split second compared with eternity.
We’re in I Corinthians Chapter 15, and we’ve been talking about the doctrine of the resurrection, which is basic to our Christian faith, and at verse 20 we saw Paul sort of shift gears and now he breaks down how the resurrections are going to take place. They are not going to be all at one event, but rather first we had the first-fruits when Christ rose from the dead and those Jewish believers who came out of the graves after He did in Matthew Chapter 27.
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. And came out of the graves after his resurrection,…” Then Paul said in I Corinthians Chapter 15:23:
I Corinthians 15:23
“But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; (and) afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
Which of course would have to be the believers of the Church Age. That’s us believers. So in our last lesson that was the purpose of taking you all the way back to the Book of Acts and bringing us through those early chapters when Peter was still dealing with the Nation of Israel and how then God raised up Saul of Tarsus. He made it plain as day that now this man was going to be sent to the Gentiles. And of course we saw all that in Acts Chapter 9, and we left him as they had lowered him in a basket over the wall because of the threats on his life. Now I want you to turn to Galatians Chapter 1, and in this little chapter Paul again brings us up to date as to what took place after he fled from Damascus. Now remember God is going to use this one man to take the message of salvation primarily to, but not exclusively, the Gentile world, although Jews are certainly going to be available for this same salvation. Let’s start with verse 11.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.”
Now you know I’m a stickler for words, and the Holy Spirit never puts in excess words or never cuts it short, but rather He puts in everything that we need. Now look at that verse. If Paul is going to be preaching the same Gospel that Jesus and the Twelve preached then why in the world does He identify that the Gospel he preached as not being after man? Why those extra little words in there? Why didn’t he just say, “I certify you, brethren, that when I preach the Gospel?.” But he doesn’t put it that way. He says rather, “the Gospel which was preached of me.” Now that identifies him, and if you’ll come across into Chapter 2 he does it even more clearly. Now years later in Chapter 2 when he meets with Peter, James, and John, and the other leaders at the Church there in Jerusalem he’s going to have to give an account of what he’s been preaching to these Gentiles. Now look at verse 2 of Chapter 2.
“And I went up (to Jerusalem) by revelation, and communicated (he made it crystal clear) unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles,…”
And again why didn’t he just say, “the Gospel?” Well, that would have left a gap, so he clarifies it by saying, “I communicated unto them that Gospel which I preached among the Gentiles.” Do you see how that clarifies everything? All right, now let’s come back to Chapter 1 and see how all this came about because Paul is reviewing this. Remember when he writes Galatians this is about twenty years after his conversion in Acts Chapter 9. I think a lot of people lose sight of the chronology of some of these events in the New Testament. Saul of Tarsus was probably saved on the road to Damascus around 37 AD and then after his three years of desert training in Arabia it’s 40 AD before he goes out into the Gentile world. Then he has that counsel at Jerusalem, which is in Acts 15 and Galatians 2 in AD 52 and so that’s about 12 years after he began his ministry. Then the first letter that he writes, according to my time-table, is the Thessalonian letters and they’re written some 12 or 14 years after he began his ministry. So you see, time keeps rolling on. This isn’t all just mashed together. It’s all spread out over a period of 20 or 30 years. In Galatians Chapter 1 he is writing about 58 or 59 AD Remember, if he began his ministry in 40 AD then this is 18 years later when he starts writing these Epistles.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, (by men) but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Now that tells you something. If Paul received everything that he is preaching and writing from The Lord Jesus Christ, where is Christ at the time of all this revelation? Well, He’s in Heaven! He’s in glory! After His resurrection! I’m always pointing this out. We hear so much of our preaching and our Sunday School material from the four Gospels. And there is nothing wrong with it to a degree. But that all took place before the work of the Cross. But this man is going to have the Lord Jesus telling him these things after the work of the Cross is accomplished, after He is ascended back to glory and now He’s going to tell this man, Paul, what to tell the whole world. Not just the Jew. Not just the Gentile, but all the world. Now let’s read on.
“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, (remember that’s what he was when he was a persecutor. He was a religious Jew) how that beyond measure I persecuted the church (or assembly) of God and wasted it:” He absolutely persecuted them. He tore them up. He killed and imprisoned them. Anything he could do to stop anything concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
He was a religious big-wig, and he probably gained a tremendous amount of wealth. And from that period of time I think Saul of Tarsus was married and had children. I think as a result of being sold out now to Christ, he had to put all that behind him. He lost it all. And I think that was all included when he said that everything he ever owned he counted but dung. Why? Because now he had a far higher commission in life than gaining wealth or taking care of a family.
“And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceeding zealous of the tradition of my fathers.” That would be Judaism and religion Now verse 15 and what’s the first word? “But.” Here he came out of all this religion and all of the benefits of it, but the flip side of it is that God had something else for the man.
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,” He didn’t deserve God’s grace. If anybody didn’t deserve it, Saul of Tarsus didn’t. But God called him by his grace for what purpose?
“To reveal his Son in me, (for what purpose?) that I might preach him among the heathen, (Gentiles) immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:”
Here is his whole purpose, that God has brought this man on the scene for the distinct purpose of taking the Gospel of Grace to the Gentiles. (Faith in His death, burial, and resurrection for salvation, and nothing else.) Now, granted, it’s going also to spill over to some Jews, but not many. You know, it’s almost a total reverse of the Old Testament. There, God was dealing only with the Jew but a few Gentiles picked up some of the gleanings. And the same thing here. Saul of Tarsus, now Paul, is going to go primarily to the Gentiles. But there are a few Jews that come into the Body of Christ. Now in the last part of verse 16, just put yourself in Saul’s shoes, running outside the walls of Damascus, not really knowing where he was going, pitch dark, no explicit instructions yet of where to go. All God had said was that he was going to suffer for His Name. Now if you had been in Saul’s shoes, just outside the wall of Damascus and you put your old mind in gear, where would you have headed?
I know where I would have gone. Where would you have gone? Back to Jerusalem and look up Peter, James and John! He knew that those were the fellows who had been with Jesus for three years. He knew that they headed up the group that he had been trying to destroy. And now when he suddenly realized that the One that he thought he was trying to obliterate, was the very God that he thought he was serving, common sense tells me that the man should have headed right straight back to Jerusalem and poured out his heart to those Twelve men and shared with them everything that had happened, and confessed the fact that he had been dead wrong about Jesus, and now he was ready to serve Him. But he doesn’t do that. Why? There’s a purpose in all of this. A divine purpose. A sovereign purpose. And look what he says in the last part of verse 16:
” …immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:” Now who do you suppose he was referring to? The Twelve! He didn’t go back to Jerusalem. He didn’t confer with them. Now let’s read on.
“Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; (now that sets it clear doesn’t it?) but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”
We know from another chapter in Galatians, what was in Arabia? Mount Sinai! And so that’s where The Lord took him. Now we have to feel that from the account in the book of Acts, he must have been down there three years. And then from that, three years of experience at Mount Sinai in the desert, and now he’s ready to take the message of grace to the Gentile world. Let’s read on.
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, (not until. And by this time he has all these revelations. The mysteries are beginning to unfold and now he can go see Peter. Not to learn everything thing Peter knew but to share with Peter some of these new revelations. I’ve said it so often, Peter never did get them all. He never could comprehend all these revelations that the apostle Paul had received.) and abode with him fifteen days.”
Now let’s come back to Romans Chapter 16 and verse 25. And now at the end of this tremendous book of doctrine, the Book of Romans, (and it’s doctrinal from verse 1 to at least Chapter 16) here in Chapter 16 and verse 25 comes a subtle statement, and it should blow our minds, but too many people don’t even know it’s in here. Look what he says:
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you (believers) according to (the Gospel? No. What?) my gospel (see how he identifies it) and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation (or revealing) of the mystery, (the secret that’s been kept in the mind of God) which was kept secret since the world began,”
Now isn’t that plain? Why can’t people see that? That here this mystery which is the whole circle of Paul’s doctrines were kept secret until God revealed them to this man. Most of which came out in that three years at Sinai and the deeper revelations that come out in Ephesians. In his prison epistles, The Lord may have poured out of these deeper doctrines while he was sitting in prison in Caesarea waiting to go to Rome. Because, you see, after he’d spent that year and a half in Caesarea, he gets to Rome under house arrest and that’s when he writes what we call his prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. So those 18 months in prison probably were not wasted at all, because that’s when The Lord revealed these tremendous, deeper things to him. Now let’s go to Ephesians Chapter 3 and we’ll start at verse 1. And remember this is just sort of an overview of Paul getting to the place where the Lord can use him to start calling out that next great body of resurrection: the Body of Christ, the Church.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for (whom?) you Gentiles. If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God (now watch how it came. He doesn’t say “which came to you by Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t say, “which came to you by Peter, James and John.” It doesn’t say, “by way of Abraham”. What does it say?) which is given me (and then where did it go?) to you-ward:”
Do you see how plain that is? I had a gentleman sitting at my kitchen table one night and I had him read that verse and he said, “I know what you’re driving at.” So I said, “Read it again.” I think he read it three or four times before he finally just almost batted his eyes and he said, “I never saw that before.” I said, “Well, you’re typical. That’s the way people read their Bibles.” They read it but they don’t read it. But when he saw that the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to say that this Grace of God was given to him to give to us, there was the process. But how many people understand that? That’s why I’m always telling people when they call or write and tell me that they are relatively new believers, and they want to know what part of the Bible should they be reading. Paul!!! Because this is where it’s at for the Church Age. Now you don’t throw the rest of the Bible away, you know that. But it’s Paul that reveals all these various doctrines. So now verse 3 of Ephesians 3.
“How that by revelation (the same word he used in Galatians) he (The Lord Jesus Himself) made known unto me the (what?) mystery; …”
Now we covered all the mysteries in earlier lessons. And they are that whole composite of truth that makes for the Church Age. And they all come from the pen of the apostle Paul. I was talking to someone they other day, and they said, ” Why do you make this much of Paul?” And I said, “Let me ask you something. I don’t care what denomination handle you have. Do you have a pastor and deacons and Church elders?” He said, “Well, yes.” I said, “Where did you get the instructions for them?” Well, he didn’t know. I said, “Well, I’ll tell you. You got it from Timothy. And who wrote Timothy? Paul! Does your Church practice The Lord’s table?” He said, “Oh, yeah.” I said, “Where did you get it?” He thought maybe when Jesus said it. I said, “No, Jesus didn’t put anything on it. All He said was, “This is My body and this is My blood, but He didn’t give any instructions for the communion service. So where did we get it? From I Corinthians 11.” And down the line you can go with every facet of what 99% of Christendom practices doctrinally. They get it from Paul. And yet they’ll never give him the time of day. It’s amazing isn’t it?
Editor’s Note: Paul’s writings to the Gentiles (the Church) are the thirteen books of Romans through Philemon. Although Paul also wrote the book of Hebrews, he wrote it to the Jewish believers who had been saved under the gospel of the kingdom, the teaching of the twelve apostles of the circumcision (Jews). Hebrews was not written to the Gentiles.