The Road to Ruin

Acts 13:42-52

And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. “For thus the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’ ” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

How does one ruin something? As an example: how would I ruin the Mona Lisa? Two ways–I could either remove a portion of the prized painting, perhaps by cutting off a corner of the charming and cherished portrait. Or I could add to it, perhaps painting on a proud mustache and a grand goatee. I could also do both. IMG_20191208_130257

In the same way we run to ruin when we ignore context or read things into the context of the Bible, keeping it caged by our traditions, presumtions, presuppositions and preconceived notions. This is why here, we promote and implement the use of the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics where; Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. One should carefully consider the context, including the culture of the time, and let the Bible interpret the Bible. However, it requires reading more than a daily crumb–as you read, keep the CAGED method in mind.

  • Context
  • Aspirations
  • Genre
  • Examples
  • Divide rightly

With 100% disclosure, I am the proverbial pot calling the kettle black but I did take my own advice, eventually. I admit that I was wrong while I considered this context. The most difficult thing for a man to admit is when he is wrong–in my first draft of this missive, I was wrong. It wasn’t until I kept considering the context and the sublime string, exploring examples using expository exegesis, that I had to reconsider the context. The good news, the CAGED method works, I simply forgot to take my vitamin E. Worse yet, I read things into the context that were not there–erroneous eisegesis. I was on the road to ruin–the path that leads to apostasy.

Luke writes about Barnabas and Paul, preaching prophecy in Paphos, Perga in Pamphylia; and Pisidian, presently. We have seen Paul evoke the Scripture from Leviticus to Habakkuk, Psalms to Micah, and speak on John the Baptist and Jesus, to prove that faith is how one is a child of Abraham and not through a bloodline, requiring works of the Law, to those in the synagogue. But Paul also gave them a dire warning, telling them to take heed. “And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.” I read too much into this when I should have seen the foreshadowing. I assumed that all these people were sealed with the Spirit but I have come to realize that Paul and Barnabas merely urged them to continue in the grace of God. Also, I forgot that in the book of Acts we see a “rush” to baptism but we have seen no baptism here. We will see why very soon. We must remember that Paul has preached exclusively in the synagogues and is Jewish himself. Remember in my last missive, Paul preached about the fathers, John and Jesus, who were all circumcised, Jewish people. Every thing up to this point has been centered around Jewish people but more importantly their culture and heritage, traditions and teachings.

“And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.” There is nothing quite like the word of mouth to get people together. Not that I don’t appreciate the readers in front of churches which have displays such as, “Sign person on vacation, message inside.” But a much more meaningful and effective way to get “nearly the whole city” within the walls to hear the gospel explained is by word of mouth stemming from great gospel preaching. But I digress.

Here is where I went off the rails, contextually speaking. While certainly not every Jewish person present was filled with jealously, it probably was the majority. At first I assumed that because they, along with the proselytes, sought out Paul and Barnabas after the sabbath service, they had rock solid faith, but that was a preconceived notion based on only a few words of the context. What does the context say?

“When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.” Luke’s words, not mine–this is our sacred Scripture. Unlike the unbelieving Israelites, we have to listen to what is written. They didn’t, they stood in the face of all that Paul was saying and contradicted him, going so far as to blaspheme, even though they were following Paul only a week ago and had great anticipation for today. But now, they are opposing Paul and Barnabas, how could this be? It is this simple: the gentiles made them jealous. They didn’t understand that when Paul preached, “through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses,” he meant it, it is for anyone. The Jewish people present wanted to hear more from Paul and Barnabas and even followed them. Notice; “And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas.” But now, on the following sabbath, they had a change of heart concerning the coming of the gentiles. They turned on Paul and Barnabas because of their piety, their traditions and teachings. Look at Luke’s words; “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.” This the road to ruin, you can even ask the apostle Peter, you don’t contradict Paul –let’s look.

Paul wrote to the church in Galatia; “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.’”

On a side note, we esteem the apostles as though they never sinned after they became apostles but that is not the case. Here we see Peter being hypocritical. We will also, Lord willing, see a split between Paul and Barnabas over John, AKA Mark, who we saw desert them last time. More importantly than sin and struggle, we see another instance of insistence by Paul that man is justified by faith and not by works of the Law. The apostle Paul, along with Barnabas say similar statements in today’s text to the blasphemous Jews who opposed and contradicted him. Remember the context, the Jews were interested in the teachings of Paul until the gentiles came wanting to hear the same message.

“Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” The word of God went out through the Jewish people. Though books of the Bible are named for their gentile protagonists, every book was written by a Jewish author–probably. Ironically Luke is the only author in question. Paul writes; “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?” While it is questionable whether or not Luke had begun to compile his version of the gospel or the Acts of the Apostles when Paul wrote to the Romans, or if Paul knew that Luke’s writing would be contained in the cannon, I believe that Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, certainly would have known that Luke was going to be an integral part of the word of God. Yet Paul gives a slight indication that Luke was not a blood descendant of Jacob. In Colossians we read, “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’ cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him); and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision; and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.” But later on in the same paragraph Paul writes, “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.” Leading most to believe that Luke was not Jewish because he was not mentioned with the workers of the circumcised. It could be that Luke sent his greeting before he left for a time, meaning that Luke was not present. It is also possible that he wasn’t considered a “worker.” We simply can’t be sure and it is of little consequence because he, if a gentile, would be the anomaly.

Jesus bent over backwards for the Jewish people, going to them first in every respect but he died for all nations–all means all. Antisemitism is a sin, racism is a sin and both exist and are evil. They have no place within the church of God because not only did God create the human race in his image he also sent his son to save people from every tribe and tongue. Ironically it was the Jewish people present who were being ethno-religious-centric. While it is true that the Messiah, his disciples, the Biblical writers (perhaps not Luke) and all of the early church were from the flock of Israel, Peter, Paul and Barnabas are clear, they were supposed to go to the world with the gospel of grace in the cross of Christ. They were chosen by the faith of Abraham and preserved for the Messiah, Jesus. Nevertheless, not all Jewish people are against Paul and Barnabas’ teachings about Jesus in this context but it is a sweeping indictment. I argued that the majority of Jewish people present weren’t against Paul but considering the context and examples, the majority probably were against Paul, but only the select few in that city. Most everyone else, including other Jewish people and proselytes, were silently submitting–Luke writes it plainly.

“And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.” The squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the grease in time to be saved, sometimes the wheel is so squeaky that its demise is at hand–it is beyond repair and about to cease up. There is something similar happening in this first-century, synagogue scene as we see in the western world today, taking place on Twitter and Instagram; the majority is silenced by the squeaky wheels of cultural Marxism. When one has no argument, to dead-end debate, they will use phrases such as, “shut up, you are lying!” Or, “you are a misogynistic, sexist, sis-gendered, homophobic racist!” Similarly, the unbelieving Jews resorted to blasphemy to try and silence Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas knew how to handle the situation, but for the squeaky wheels of unbelieving Jews, it was the road to ruin–their contradiction and blasphemy. Remember what Paul had spoken to them last Saturday? “Take heed therefore, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH; FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS, A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.’” This was foreshadowing. Paul appears to have incredible, supernatural, discernment skills. Paul knew what was coming, it’s why he and Barnabas urged them to continue in grace. While confronting the dogmatic dispensationalists and mega-church pastors, I am realizing just how wrong they are. I am also realizing the grip dispensational discourse still has on me. I grew up in a dispensational church, went to a dispensational university and dogmatically defended dispensationalists discourse until relatively recently. Yet there are still lingering dispensational thoughts in my mind. And small portions of that which I was taught and defended are still hidden in the dark corners of my mind, only coming to the light when I overlook the CAGED METHOD. I truly realize how difficult it is for one to change their mind. Looking at the Jewish people in today’s text therefore, I feel have more compassion than Paul. But could this be possible? I have to consider the context. We only have a short snapshot of the efforts of Paul but in that snapshot we have seen Paul leaving his life behind, traveling across land and sea, speaking spiritually in several synagogues, preaching faith in Jesus to the Jewish people. Paul preached that Jesus is the Savior of all nations.

We see a distinction between Jew and Jew, in Luke’s writing based on the context. But Luke doesn’t make the distinction, the unbelieving Jews do. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” And in Christ “there is no distinction between Jew or Greek, slave or free,” but the unbelieving Jews present, are not in Christ and it is this people who made a distinction–Luke’s writing highlights that, based on the context. We have made many misconstrued misconceptions because we don’t consider the context and rip verses out of context, looking out our windows first and then translating the Bible. But we must remember to keep it in its context. Paul and Barnabas had preached in a minimum of five, but probably​ dozens of synagogues, based upon the number of cities listed and Luke’s use of the plural “synagogues.” But it was not until today’s text that we read about a persecuting people opposing Paul and Barnabas. Most people wanted to hear what Paul and Barnabas preached except for a few, hardcore, ethno-religious-centric, Jewish people who thought themselves distinct from everyone else. Paul says, have it your way. The Jews were jealous and couldn’t fathom that their circumcision and alleged law-keeping, and bloodline was worthless as far as salvation. Notice also that the proselytes, who were once with the Jewish people are now not mentioned by Luke as being with the Jewish people present.

“And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” Is this racism or reverse racism on account of Paul? First, in our current cultural climate, the word racism is thrown around so liberally that it has become watered down and we miss what is truly racist. The rounding up of people of color in the ghettos, handed crumbs in the form of welfare, separating families so that they can receive welfare by so-called “progressive” policies, placing Planned Parenthood in the center of these ghettos–that is true racism. Paul is merely saying to the unrepentant Jewish people present, who are the true racists, have it your way. For the sake of the fathers of the faith, we came to you first but you repudiate it, therefore we are going to the gentiles.

We consider the context, including the culture. To the gentiles, the word gentile, simply means “the nations.” To the Hardcore Jewish people present, gentiles meant, uncircumcised, sinners separate from them. Evidence of this assumption is seen in Paul’s scathing comments to Peter as he testified them to the Galatians. “We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles.” We see therefore, that it was the Jewish people present who stood in the way, contradicting the truth, on the road to ruin, because they were reading things into the Scripture and relying on tradition and religion and even a bloodline. The Jewish people present were the real racists and they chose their own path, the road which leads to ruin. Look again at what Paul said.

“It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” Paul and Barnabas preached the truth to them. They didn’t ignore them or pass them over with their preaching, they preached to them first. Synagogue after synagogue, sabbath after sabbath, the gospel was proclaimed by Paul and Barnabas throughout the region. They had the first shot at eternal life but they chose to be unwilling and unworthy. They were jealous of the crowds coming to the apostles and contradicted their message. But the worst part is that they ruined it for the rest of the people as well. These select and selfish few, blew it for the rest of the people present–almost. Look at what happens next.

“’For thus the Lord has commanded us, “I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.”‘ And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.” Once again, Paul quotes their sacred Scripture to highlight their hypocrisy. And the proverbial icing on the cake was the jubilant joy of the gentiles stemming from Paul’s speech. The gentiles rejoiced over their inclusion found in the sacred Scripture but the Jews ignored the sacred Scripture and incited a persecution.

The word of God spread throughout the region but was stymied by a few jealous Jewish people. Not only jealous but doubly jealous. The unbelieving, Jewish people roused up the leading men and women of the city to persecute Paul and Barnabas because of their message and because of the many followers. At least they weren’t sexist. I love how Luke writes about Paul’s quoting of Scripture but his writings are devoid from the contradictions coming from the Jews. We don’t know what their argument was but we do know that they blasphemed. I would be willing to wager that someone, at some point said, “shut up, you’re lying.” Luke doesn’t have to tell us their words because the end result is illuminating. Jesus promised persecution but also exponential growth in the nations. We see this coming to pass continually and today’s text is no exception. There is no argument that can stand against truth.

Let me state that again, there is no argument that can stand against the truth. Let me write it better, there is no argument that can be made against the truth that can stand on its own, because it is not the truth. Notice how the Jewish people present exemplify this: they contradict Paul, then they blaspheme but since their argument cannot stand they have to resort to persecution.

In 2000 years, nothing has changed. I think of my pastor friend who was, with his family praise God, forced to flee his country under the threat of murder to his family. Why? Because he was speaking the truth. Yet the truth is always under aggressive attacks, Moses was opposed, Isaiah, Jeremiah, even Joseph by his brothers and Potiphar’s wife, were all opposed. The greatest man to ever grace the Earth, who did nothing but good continually–was accused of breaking the Law, which he himself wrote and of having a demon, which he himself constantly cast out, and blaspheme, yet he himself was God. And he himself prevalently promised persecution. Therefore while the vocal and violent minority of the people present ruined it for themselves and others, the gospel of grace still made great gains. “And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.”

We have two terrible misconstrued misconceptions in the West. The first is that Israel has been mostly hardened. The second is that God promises peace and prosperity without persecution. The dogmatic dispensationalists will always say that “a partial hardening of Israel has happened until the fulness of the gentiles comes,” paraphrasing a particular passage in Romans and in Luke’s gospel. Problem; they say it but don’t mean it. While saying that a partial hardening is in effect, they mean that a massive majority, meaning most of Israel, is hardened until after the parenthetical church is removed. At the same time they believe that Israel is a nation and a race of people only made up of ethnic Jews who are circumcised, yet hardened. They argue that at present, an ethnic, circumcised, messianic, Jewish person is part of the parenthetical church and not the hardened Israel, yet they are still Jewish. Meanwhile, the uncircumcised gentile who has the faith of Abraham is part of the parenthetical church but not Israel. The problem is that Paul says the opposite is the case. Israel is the olive tree and branches were broken off while others were grafted in. Israel is the tree, the one tree, all who believe are Israel. Those who don’t believe, even if they are descendants of Jacob, are broken off branches. We truly miss what has happened here. We need an expository exegesis of examples.

“And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.”

Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” And “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'” In Matthew, after Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem, “in the morning, when He returned to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered.”

Jesus also said, “”But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” And he answered and said, “I will, sir:” and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, “I will not;” yet he afterward regretted it and went. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The latter.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.'” It was the parables of Jesus that began to undo my dispensationalist dogma. We simply don’t have time to look at them all; but I encourage it, using the CAGED method.

The dogmatic dispensationalists follow the same philosophy as the vocal, violent minority in today’s text–it is the road to ruin. If you believe that the church is on a downward spiral into apostasy, into apostasy you will go. You usually hit that at which you aim. Look at how the vocal minority ran down the road to ruin–traditions–ethnic and religious lines, eisegesis, et al. They hit exactly at which they aimed–“since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” Don’t make the same mistake, resting on what you have been taught and observing traditions blindly. Use the CAGED method and read the Bible, if traditions and teachings are confirmed by the context, continue in them but if the context contradicts, question. Especially when watching the mega-church pastors. Don’t get me started on the mega-church pastors, please, simply turn them off it is mostly garbage. Though even a stopped clock is right twice a day. It’s not worth taking the time to find one good message out of 100 that are not good–some heretical.

We do see more of the epistle to the Romans in today’s text, I believe this incident influenced Paul greatly with his understanding of Scripture, notice; “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Consider Romans 8.

The vocal minority managed to get prominent people to persecute and oppose Paul and Barnabas. Paul writes about this throughout Romans. That is, while those unwilling to listen persecute, Paul continues to preach to the gentiles, moving from one place to the other. Persecution moved Paul and Barnabas, literally–persecuted in one place they would simply move on to the next, after dusting off their feet in protest! But the best news is that before they were persecuted, they preached, proclaiming the gospel. It’s an ebb and flow confirmed by the context. “and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” I will give the persecuted preacher, Paul, the last words.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

 

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