The Pet Project?

Acts 18:24-28+Acts 19:1-8

Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace; for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, and he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. And there were in all about twelve men. And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

In the United States of America, on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. The original constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788, some 132 years and 2 months prior to the granting to women, the right to vote. However, this is a bit misleading because in many states and municipalities, women within the boundaries of the United States, voted as early as 1755 in local elections, even before there was a United States. Nevertheless, in national elections, women didn’t have a vote, but they still had a voice, albeit a muffled voice. It wasn’t until this millennium, and some in very recent years, that women were able to vote worldwide. Except, ironically enough, in the Vatican. But technically speaking, 99 percent of men can’t vote in the Vatican either. Only the cardinals get a vote concerning the Pope. And in many modern, mostly Muslim countries, there exists many, many ways which still prevent women from voting. I am not claiming that the right to vote means that we have established equality between the sexes, as I stated, rights, while in existence, are not necessarily or actually effective. Furthermore, many countries have democratic voting but votes don’t actually matter. And while a benchmark, the right to vote doesn’t mean that everyone is treated equally. To recap, even in this, the 21st century, many women are still oppressed. Rewind to the christian sect in the middle of the first century and we read things like, “But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Jesus is our king, we don’t get a vote, but we notice that a woman did get top billing. We also notice that both her and her husband taught Apollos. It may not seem like much to us now, until we consider the cultural climate and context of then and now. Then, it was absolutely unheard of and now, it is still appalling in certain cultures. Even in America this is not the norm; husband and wife on exactly the same level with the wife getting top billing. And when we do see it, it’s usually some sort of protest against patriarchal politics, a stunt meant to arouse angst. And although we title the book, “The Acts of the Apostles,” which is a historical narrative, we also notice from Philip’s daughters to Priscilla, it is also a “herstorical narrative.”

Something else that is stunning; after Paul has repeatedly said that he was “going to the gentiles,” we once again see him teaching on the kingdom of God in the synagogue in Ephesus for three months. We don’t carefully consider the context. Today we will carefully consider the continuing context and examine examples. By doing this, we will see where they were in redemptive history. As I have stated before, I agree with the dispensationalists, that God deals differently with people in different times but I would argue that it is a progressive revealing of the New Covenant and the apostles are in the overlap between the two Covenants. I believe that today’s text testifies to this–we have already seen it in a woman being billed before her husband and in Paul’s preaching the kingdom in the synagogue on this, his third missionary journey. In the book of Hebrews we read; “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” The apostles were in a forty year fight to wage war on the teachings and traditions of the Judean culture and to enlist gentiles in the fight. Therefore the “age to come,” and “the last days” mentioned by Peter and Paul in this period, or dispensation, if you will, were the last days of the overlap of the two Covenants. And they have a dire warning during these waning days–repent; change your mind, search the Scripture, judgment is right around the corner. Our teachings and traditions teach us that people are saved by just praying a little prayer but is that how salvation or discipleship works?

“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

We keep the Scripture CAGED by our preconceived notions, presuppositions, traditions, teachings, presumptions and our dubious dogma. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Here, I promote putting aside presuppositions, presumptions and preconceived notions, reading the Bible for all of its worth, testing traditions in the light of the context, desiring a healthy dose of daily bread and not a crumb, ripped out of context. Here we utilize a hermeneutical tool called 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. We have already seen two things in today’s text of which we gloss over and don’t consider. Women were considered equal heirs in the early church and Paul persistently preached the kingdom to Jewish people. Paul may have left certain synagogues in some cities and many Jewish people persisted in persecuting Paul but much of the church is still Jewish and Paul continues to convert some, so that they become part of the kingdom and flee from the wrath to come. Paul was the apostle to the gentiles but he never stopped preaching to the Jewish people. Yet even though Paul preached to them constantly and consistently, we assume that he didn’t, based upon his title of, “The Apostle to the Gentiles.”

We see this particular phrase in Romans 11, but do we consider its context? Because in the context of Romans, especially chapters 9-11, we see Paul still striving for all Israel, the natural branches and the unnatural branches in his picture of the olive tree. We also remember that Peter was the apostle to the Jewish people as Paul was to the gentiles. But we read way too much into this because it was actually through Peter that the gentiles first came to the Lord. We must understand that the two groups were not then, and certainly are not now, mutually exclusive. That is, being Jewish doesn’t make one Abraham’s spiritual heir, nor does being a gentile exclude one from being an heir. The dogmatic dispensationalists argue the distinction between Jew and Greek, but Paul neither makes this distinction nor preaches it. On the contrary, he writes that there is “no distinction between Jew and Greek.” They also assume, because of the way in which Luke writes, that Luke makes this distinction. But it is not a distinction between the people but a distinguishing of the people. In Christ, believers are the heirs of Abraham, and some may be actual blood descendants and others are not. The point is that in Christ, one’s identity is not Jew or Greek but Christ, usually dubbed a disciple by Luke but not always, this is why we must consider the context and let the greater context interpret the immediate text. For example: Luke writes “Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead;” this is a negative connotation. But in today’s text, Luke writes; “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures;” a very positive connotation.

Once again, I have listened to the dogmatic dispensationalist radio program. I actually agreed with them more than usual. They explored the new Anti-Semitism spreading around the world and all these prejudice undertones from many circles growing into outrageous overtones. Many mistranslate the words of Luke, ripping them out of context, claiming that the Jews are troublesome. Yet they, as the dogmatic dispensationalists also questioned, forget that we as christians, have our root in the rich root of the semetic people, from the faith of Abraham, to the devotion of David and of course, our Messiah, who is Jewish. The dogmatic dispensationalists question, as do I, what do they do with a Jewish Messiah? I will take it one step, or more, further; what do anti-semitic christians do with a semetic church foundation? What do they do with the Jewish missionaries who proclaim Christ to the nations? It is impossible to serve Christ while hating others. But on the other hand, dogmatic dispensationalists, being a christian doesn’t mean one has to support the nation of Israel. We have to be careful with the context. We see Apollos, a Jew, powerful in the Scriptures, refuting the Jews; Jew is niether a bad word nor a good word in and of itself, it simply describes one’s ancestry. That is, the context, not the word, tells us if one was an apostate or a believer.

I want to use a sports analogy in an attempt to better explain but I can no longer stand sports and their hypocrisy. However, picture an all-star game in which members from opposing teams become teammates. How are they referred to for this game, as members of their individual teams or members of the team for a day? The answer is both. In the same way, Luke distinguishes some Jewish people as in opposition to Paul and some are with Paul and the apostles; we have to let the context define the distinguishing between the two parties. Some stand firm in their tradition and are against Christ but others, such as all the apostles and Apollos, are absolutely antithetical to the others. Let’s look at Apollos. The biggest question we have is, was Apollos a Jew or a disciple? The answer is both, based on the context but Luke writes in a way to distinguish Apollos as one who had known the Messiah had come but did not yet fully understand everything.

“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue.” Luke spoke very highly of Apollos even before he had fully understood the kingdom of Christ. Luke describes him as “eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures.” Luke also wrote, “he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” Apollos was Jewish and Jesus was Jewish, yet we read that the Jewish man Apollos, preaching the Jewish Jesus, through the Jewish Scripture, refuted the Jewish people in public. We all know that this is not an oxymoron, though it is ironic, because the context dictates the difference between the two parties, both being Jewish. But we neither take the long view, nor carefully consider the continuing context and sublime string but rather, rip verses out of the continuing context, contradicting the solid sentiments set forth–it ain’t ancestry, it’s faith! The unbelieving Jewish people, the dogmatic dispensationalists, the mega-church pastors and the few, anti-semitic, replacement-theologians all have the same problem; distorting the Scripture. Apollos was mighty in the Scripture, which at that time meant only the Old Testament, yet still proved Jesus as the Messiah–they didn’t want to hear it. In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks specifically to the disciples about their generation but the dogmatic dispensationalists don’t want to hear it. Dogmatic dispensationalist believe that Jesus will judge a generation of Jewish people, some 400 or more generations removed from his crucifixion, by a horrific holocaust where 2/3rds of them are slaughtered. What could be more anti-semitic as that? Rounding up the Jewish people in and around Jerusalem, waiting for a terrible tribulation? They claim it is not anti-semitic because the Bible foresees it. However, this is an imposition on the text, the same way the anti-semitic, replacement theologians impose on the text that the church replaced the evil Jews. Both fail to not only consider the greater context but also the simple statements made. Once again, we turn to Paul’s perfect picture of the olive tree. Not all Israel are descendants of Israel, some are broken off and others are grafted in. I don’t understand how this isn’t clear or even up for debate. The church does not replace Israel but is grafted in. A descendant of Israel, who does not have the faith of Abraham is no longer a son; he is broken off. Jesus is not coming to rapture his church to make way for a punishment to 2/3rds of Israel and salvation to the other third. Be pragmatic and search the Scriptures, who is really responsible for the crucifixion of Christ?

Understand that it was our sins that nailed him to the cross and true repentance is the only escape from wrath, exactly the same way it was then, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. We read that Apollos refutes the Jewish people but that’s not the entire story–he is trying to show them their contradictions and dubious dogma so that they will come to repentance. The same is true of Paul, Peter and all the apostles. They continually and purposefully preach repentance to the Jewish people–Paul keeps going from synagogue to synagogue because Jesus is beyond patient and full of Grace. We have to see that in the continuing context and sublime string. Time, for those of the old Covenant was running out, they had slayed the Savior and God granted them grace in the form of Peter, Paul and Apollos, that through their preaching, they would repent, that they might change their minds and flee the wrath about to fall on Jerusalem. Neither the repentance of the Jews nor the coming to Christ from the gentiles was some parenthetical pet-project of God, forming a temporal temple in the hearts of men until the Jewish kingdom and a third, physical temple would be rebuilt, for a whopping 3.5 years. The church is eternal and it has, and always will, include Jewish people and the gentiles. And it will be made perfect through tribulation and persecution only seeing its complete culmination in the physical return and reign of Christ, forever, without any further interruptions. We see some of this in today’s text, while considering  the continuing context and examples, such as the entire book of Hebrews, because of Paul’s persistence in preaching to the Jewish people and his thorough instruction to those who were merely baptized in John’s baptism. We also saw this with Priscilla and Aquila’s further instruction Apollos.

“And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, and he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. And there were in all about twelve men. And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.”

Apollos goes to Corinth after being taught by the people who have recently left Corinth, I love that. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians said that he planted and Apollos watered but God caused the growth. While this was a rebuke of their division and partiality it also speaks well of Apollos. But here is my point; do we do that? Do we go from town to town planting churches. Do we, like Priscilla and Aquila, Paul and Silas, Timothy and Apollos, and our beloved Physician Luke, travel the known world reproducing disciples? Why then do we read things like today’s text and insist on the laying of hands and speaking in tongues? We read, and rip out of context; “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying,” and apply it to ourselves in our epoch. Yet we see not only the old Covenant disappearing but the overlap as well. We have yet to hit the highlight of hanging on to handkerchiefs from Paul for healing but we are about to see it, Lord willing. But then we also begin to see a decline in the signs and wonders. Again, I believe a million miracles happen every day but not at the hands of the apostles or prophets–they were specifically for that time. This is clear if the continuing context is considered and sublime string is seen. Rather than rip verses out of context we have to take a long view of Scripture. Paul baptized those who were only baptized in John’s baptism. Priscilla and Aquila explained Christ more thoroughly to Apollos, who was already mighty in the Scriptures. We miss this; proper doctrine is essential but we only get proper doctrine by considering the continuing context. I have chosen to write “context” more than Joel Osteen says, “favor” or “Medical Report.”

The apostles and early church was not a pet project as Jesus awaits Israel. The church is Israel, made up of Jews and every other nation. We need to understand the apostles’ teaching. We need to understand that all of our teaching came from Jews. Eat that antisemites! Or choke on it, either way is fine with me. But we also need to understand that the office of apostle found its full fulfillment in 70 AD. To whom did Jesus send his apostles? To whom did Paul persistently preach in synagogues from city to city? To whom was judgment about to fall? Who saught signs? We have to understand that Jesus went exceedingly and abundantly out of his way to get the Jewish people to repent, even calling the gentiles was to make them jealous. Our sins certainly put Jesus on the cross but we also notice that Pilate presented Jesus to the Jews as “the man.” The Jewish people present yelled, “crucify him!” But Pilate said, “you want me to kill your king?.” But they cried out, “we have no king but Caesar!” Pilate washed his hands, literally and figuratively, of the situation and said, “his blood is on you.” The Jewish people present yelled, “his blood be on our heads and on our children.” Guess what? That’s a generation. Do you not see this dogmatic dispensationalists? This generation, the people present and alive during the crucifixion are this generation. Why would God, who sent them all the apostles so that they would repent, leave that generation unpunished but then 2000 years later, punish the great, to the 24th power, grandchildren of the people present? Jesus said, forgive them while on the cross and time was given for them to repent. Not only time but also apostles and prophets. John came and prepared hearts, we saw the fruit of his labor in today’s text. Jesus taught them. But ultimately they are guilty because they persecuted and killed the prophets and apostles. Remember in Acts 9, what Jesus asked Paul? “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus had to die, my own sin demanded it! But we are about see that you do not mess with Jesus’ apostles or his true Israel.

Paul repented and went on to warn others, “to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Jesus, despite the out-of-context teachings in our current cultural climate, came to save all nations that would turn to him. John the Baptist came as a frontrunner to Jesus and preached repentance but Jesus came to die for sinners, although his main message to his own people was that of repentance as well–to his own generation. Paul writes; “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” If Christ died at the right time, we have to understand that time, rather than interject things into our own time.  

Considering today’s text in their time, we see the further instruction to those who don’t fully understand. We see Paul preaching to the Jews once again–why? Why the insistence on the total truth and why does the “apostle to the gentiles” consistently preach to the Jews? Why be baptized? Why take the time to preach to those “hardened?” Why risk life and limb proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah if “all Israel will be saved?” The dogmatic dispensationalists cross a line when they say that the god of Islam is not the God of Christianity; but the God of Judaism is. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, whom many christians claim was the God of the Old Testament. That is untrue; Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. John wrote; “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” And, “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” We must all know Jesus or we remain dead in our sins. But apart from that, judgement is about to befall Jerusalem; all the signs are lining up, there is a convergence, here, in the mid first-century, not today.

I’m going to wrap things up for today because of our short attention spans; being part of the sound-bite generation. Twitter, Snapchat and the like, can’t hold a candle to modern evangelism. The “Just pray this simple prayer,” John 3:16, approach. John 3:16 is a great verse but was never intended to be a verse or to be taken alone, out of context. What is missing from John 3:16? The cross, the resurection, the Great Commission, et al. But what’s the context, New Birth, the Cross, resurection. We have to break free from our sound bite culture and consider the continuing context, like Apollos. Jews are not justified simply because they are Jews, they have to look to the cross. In the same way, gentiles also must look to the cross. We have to consider the Bible as a whole.

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