26 October 2010

Paul's Trip to Jerusalem

Acts 20:22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Acts 21:4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

Scofield notes on the above verses:

In Acts 20:22 Paul’s own spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23, note) is meant; in Acts 21:4 the Holy Spirit. Paul’s motive in going to Jerusalem seems to have been his great affection for the Jews (Romans 9:1-5), and his hope that the gifts of the Gentile churches, sent by him to poor saints at Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-28), would open the hearts of the law-bound Jewish believers to the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Let’s line up the verses and run this matter through the book of Acts.

Acts 18:21. He leaves Ephesus saying, “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh at Jerusalem.”

Acts 19:21. Paul purposed in his spirit to go to Jerusalem.

Acts 20:16. He hasted to get to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, if at all possible. (It appears that he did not make it to Jerusalem for the feast of Acts 18:21 because in 20:16 he determines to sail by Ephesus – where he left in 18:21 – on his way to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost.)

Acts 20:22-23. Paul is bound by HIS spirit to go to Jerusalem. Says he doesn’t know what will happen, but figures if he’s persecuted, then it’ll be no different than his treatment in any other city.

Acts 21:4. Warned by disciples in Tyre, “who said to Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem.”

Acts 21:10-12. In Caesarea, Agabus (through the Holy Ghost) tells Paul exactly what will happen when he goes to Jerusalem. His companions and the believers urge him not to go. Paul answers, “What mean ye to weep and to break MINE heart.”

Acts 22:17-20. The Lord gave Paul one more shot once he got to Jerusalem. While he was praying in the temple, he was in a trance and saw the Lord telling him, “Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning him.” Instead of dropping everything and skipping town, Paul stayed and tried to reason with the Lord. The Lord answered, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”

It couldn’t be any more clear. Paul went to Jerusalem because he wanted do – despite the fact that God left no doubt about the fact that it wasn’t what He wanted Paul to do. A couple lessons we learn from this. (1) Don’t follow Paul’s example. It didn’t end well, and it never will. (2) Don’t exalt a man. It’s OK to follow Paul – as he follows Christ. But even Paul’s going to let you down every now and then. So keep your eyes on Jesus. He’s always faithful. He’s always true. He never fails.

Acts 23:11. And here’s the third lesson: (3) Don’t let past failures keep you from doing what you can for the Lord today and in the future. Yeah, Paul messed up. But God wasn’t through with him. “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Forget what’s behind, reach forth to what’s before, and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).


Acts 24:11. Paul says he went to Jerusalem to worship.

Acts 24:17. Paul says he went to Jerusalem to bring alms.

Scofield’s note from Acts 9:26 – The Acts records four visits of Paul to Jerusalem after his conversion: (1) Acts 9:23-30. This seems identical with the visit of Galatians 1:18-19. The “apostles” of verse 27 were Peter, and James, the Lord’s brother. (2) Acts 11:30. Paul may have been in Jerusalem during the events of Acts 12:1-24 (see v. 25). (3) Acts 15:1-30; Galatians 2:2-10. (4) Acts 21:17-23, 35.

21 October 2010

Believers & the Law in the Book of Acts

Old habits die hard. The mystery revealed by God through the Apostle Paul is that God would draw Jew and Gentile alike into one spiritual body, the church; that there was neither Jew nor Gentile, but that all were one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and that they were not under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14).

Now the church began way back in John 20:19-23 when God breathed life into that body of believers (compare Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 37). However, as you read through the book of Acts, it’s apparent that the idea took a little while to catch on (2 Peter 3:16), even for the one who was eventually God’s instrument in making the revelation known.

Let’s run the verses on this.

Acts 15:19. The Jerusalem council determines not to bind the Gentile believers with the yoke of the law.

Acts 15:9-11. But during the council Peter also states (1) that there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile and (2) that the Jews have never been able to keep the law anyway.

Acts 16:3. Yet, before Timothy joins Paul on his travels, Paul has him circumcised. (Paul later learns better and doesn’t make the same mistake with Titus, Galatians 2:3-5).

Acts 18:18. Paul makes some kind of vow and shaves his head at Cenchrea. The reference in my margin is to the vow of the Nazarites (Numbers 6:18), but the shaving of the head in that instance was to be done at the door of the tabernacle. Whatever this was for, the implication is that it had something to do with Jewish law-keeping. I mean, I doubt he shaved his head because he lost a bet on a football game.

Acts 21:18-26. Curious. When Paul gets to Jerusalem, the elders introduce him to thousands of believing Jews who are zealous of the law and confront him about teaching Jews who live among the Gentiles to forsake the law of Moses.

Wait a second. If the Gentiles are not to be bound by the yoke of the law (Acts 15:19) and there is no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles (Acts 15:9-11), then why are these Jews zealous of the law, and why is it a problem for Paul to teach SAVED Jews who are a part of the church to forsake the law of Moses?

However, Paul responds by going along to the elders’ suggestion that he go down to the temple and purify himself with four men which have a vow on them. Seems like this would have been an excellent opportunity to withstand them to the face (as he did Peter in Galatians 2:11).

Interesting, huh? And here’s what I can take from it. What a blessing it is to have God’s complete revelation! 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

20 October 2010

Thoughts from Acts

Acts 14:17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

God’s witnesses:

  • The creation – Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1-6
  • The conscience – Romans 2:4, 15
  • The Christian – Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8

Acts 19:19-20 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

Not until the books were burned did the word of God grow and prevail. I wonder what it is that’s keeping God’s word from prevailing in our hearts and lives. Maybe it’s time for a bonfire?

Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

There is a course this fall at DSB on How to Read and Study the Bible. Here’s a classic example of the principle of progressive revelation; that is, that God reveals truth over time, and earlier truth must be interpreted in light of later truth. In this instance, the quotation is found nowhere in the gospels. Of course, that doesn’t mean Jesus never said it (John 21:25). God just chose to include it later on down that road.

And if you’ll try it out, you’ll find it’s true. It IS more blessed to give than to receive.

Acts 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

The term “the/this/that way” is used throughout the book of Acts in much the same way that “the faith” is used throughout the epistles – as a reference to Biblical Christianity in general. John 14:6 w/ Acts 9:2; 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22.

Acts 25:6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.

Acts 25:17 Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.

Unless I’m missing something, here’s a glimpse at our rotten, sinful human nature. Without any delay? On the morrow? Really? Sorry, Festus; Agrippa might have believed you, but it’s God that you’ve got to worry about. And He’s pretty sharp on His record keeping (Revelation 20:12). He knows you delayed for more than 10 days, you liar.

Now, wait a second. Which of us isn’t guilty of the same? Bending the truth just a bit to somebody who would never know the difference, just to make us look better. Let’s read James 2:10 and Revelation 21:8, and thank God we have a Savior!

15 October 2010

Ordained to Eternal Life

If you reject the doctrines of John Calvin (as I do), here’s a verse that might leave you (as it did me) scratching your head. Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Ordained to eternal life? Like God had already decided it?

Not so fast. Sam Gipp offers an excellent explanation in his commentary, A Practical and Theological Study of the Book of Acts:

Here we find a passage which hyper-Calvinists love to quote. Calvinists are classic for “reading into” a verse something which is not there. Let us first look at what this passage does not say.

It does not say that anyone was “overwhelmed” by God’s “irresistible grace” (a term which does not appear in the Bible) against their will.

It does not say that these people were “fore” ordained from before the foundations of the world.

It does not say that God had “predestinated” them to salvation.

The word “ordain” is defined in scripture in only two places, and both times the same word is used.

Psalm 7:13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

Isaiah 30:33 For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.

I will let you check a thesaurus to see the many applications of the word “prepare.” (Fire up your Bible program and see if one of the definitions for “prepare” can’t be used in every instance that “ordained” is used in scripture.)

I will note that there are at least three instances in scripture where something was “ordained,” but the purpose for which it was ordained was not fulfilled.

Romans 7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

God prepared the commandment to bring life, yet instead it brought death.

2 Corinthians 9:14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

There are some men in the ministry who add outside incomes to what God provides through the gospel. (My comment: Like Paul did. So the point here is not that a “bi-vocational ministry” is unscriptural in any way – in a great number cases, it’s very commendable – but that not everything works out the way God ordained it to.)

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

It is obvious by the pettiness and wickedness found in Christianity that we are not all walking in good works.

The conclusion is simple. God prepares people for salvation. There are two examples. Look how God prepared Cornelius in Acts 10. Also, remember how God prepared your heart prior to your getting saved.

But people who God deals with don’t always get saved. In Acts 13, in Antioch in Pisidia (v. 14), no one who God had dealt with rejected Jesus Christ. That probably doesn’t happen too often.

These Gentiles who believed in Acts 13:48 had sought to hear more about the Lord (v. 42). Since they wanted to find out more about Christ, it appears that God gave them the chance to, and they didn’t shun it.

13 October 2010

Holy Spirit in the NT (Scofield)

The Holy Spirit, NT Summary (see Malachi 2:15, note)

(1) The Holy Spirit is revealed as a divine Person. This is expressly declared (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15; Matthew 28:19) and everywhere implied.

(2) The revelation concerning Him is progressive

(a) In the OT, He comes upon whom He will, apparently without reference to conditions in them (Malachi 2:15, note).

(b) During His earth-life, Christ taught His disciples that they might receive the Spirit through prayer to the Father (Luke 11:13).

(c) At the close of His ministry, He promised that He would Himself pray the Father, and that in answer to prayer the Comforter would come to abide (John 14:16-17).

(d) On the evening of His resurrection, He came to the disciples in the upper room, and breathed on them saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22), but instructed them to wait before beginning their ministry till the Spirit should come upon them (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).

(e) On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came upon the whole body of believers (Acts 2:1-4).

(f) After Pentecost, so long as the Gospel was preached to Jews only, the Spirit was imparted to such as believed by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; 9:17).

(g) When Peter opened the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit, without delay, or other condition than faith, was given to those who believed (Acts 10:44; 11:15-18). This is the permanent fact for the entire church age. Every believer is born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8; 1 John 5:1); indwelt by the Spirit, whose presence makes the believer's body a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:9-15; 1 John 2:27; Galatians 4:6); and baptized by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 1 John 2:20, 27), thus sealing him for God (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

(3) The N.T. distinguishes between having the Spirit, which is true of all believers, and being filled with the Spirit, which is the believer's privilege and duty (Acts 2:4 w/ Acts 4:29-31; Ephesians 1:13-14 w/ Ephesians 5:18). "One baptism, many fillings."

(4) The Holy Spirit is related to Christ in His conception (Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:35); baptism (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32-33); walk and service (Luke 4:1, 14); resurrection (Romans 8:11); and as His witness throughout this age (John 15:26; John 16:8-11, 13-14).

(5) The Spirit forms the church (Matthew 16:18; Hebrews 12:23, note) by baptizing all believers into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13); imparts gifts for service to every member of that body (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27, 30); guides the members in their service (Luke 2:27; 4:1; Acts 16:6-7); and is Himself the power of that service (Acts 1:8; 2:4; 1 Corinthians 2:4).

(6) The Spirit abides in the company of believers who constitute a local church, making of them, corporately, a temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

(7) Christ indicates a threefold personal relationship of the Spirit to the believer: "With," "In," and "upon" (John 14:17; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). "With" indicates the approach of God to the soul, convicting of sin (John 16:9); presenting Christ as the object of faith (John 16:14); imparting faith (Ephesians 2:8); and regenerating (John 3:3-16). "In" describes the abiding presence of the Spirit in the believer's body (1 Corinthians 6:19) to give victory over the flesh (Romans 8:2-4; Galatians 5:16-17); to create the Christian character (Galatians 5:22-23); to help infirmities (Romans 8:26); to inspire prayer (Ephesians 6:18); to give conscious access to God (Ephesians 2:18); to actualize to the believer his sonship (Galatians 4:6); to apply the Scripture in cleansing and sanctification (Ephesians 5:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2); to comfort and intercede (Acts 9:31; Romans 8:26); and to reveal Christ (John 16:14).

(8) Sins against the Spirit committed by unbelievers are: to blaspheme (Matthew 12:31); resist (Acts 7:51); insult (Hebrews 10:29). Believers' sins against the Spirit are: to grieve Him by allowing evil in heart or life (Ephesians 4:30-31) and to quench Him by disobedience (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The right attitude toward the Spirit is yieldedness to His sway in walk and service, and in constant willingness that He shall "put away" whatever grieves Him or hinders His power (Ephesians 4:31).

(9) The symbols of the Spirit are: (a) oil, John 3:34; Hebrews 1:9; (b) water, John 7:38-39 (c) wind, Acts 2:2; John 3:8; (d) fire, Acts 2:3; (e) a dove, Matthew 3:16; (f) a seal, Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; (g) an earnest or pledge, Ephesians 1:14.