The Citizen of Citizens

Acts 22:22-30

“And they listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!’ And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. And when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?’ And when the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, ‘What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.’ And the ccommander came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And the ccommander answered, ‘I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.’ And Paul said, ‘But I was actually born a citizen.’ Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains. But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.”

Don’t miss, this; when the Romans thought that Paul was a regular-old Jewish person, they were going to scourge him, to get information about him, and the people present, from him; again, by scouring him–signs of those times. Unfortunately, not much has changed. It wasn’t until they found out that Paul was a citizen of Rome, that they abandoned their plans for torture. But also notice that the Jewish people present “raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!'” Does Paul not have a friend on earth? With a myriad, plus many, plus at least one more Jewish christian, plus the elders; add in the Greek christians in the area–where is Paul’s defense team?

“And they listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!'” For review, “this statement” was the following: “And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'” After everything else Paul had said with no reaction from the Jewish people present, this statement about Jesus sending him to the gentiles, causes them to call for his death. This is not considering the context to the maximum extent on the part of the people present. This is holding to traditions and teachings to the highest degree. They twisted the Scripture in the same manner as we twist the Scripture–it is story time.

I have mentioned before that I am on a mysterious, missionary MMS. A string of lay people and pastors, missionaries and mission-minded men sharing stories of salvation and such. The mysterious part is how I got added to this string but I am glad that I did. I am getting inside information about the goings on of the Holy Spirit in many Latin American countries and other countries as well. There are many very encouraging posts. However, some of the posts, while correct in their encouragement, are incorrect in the verses they cite as examples. For the most part I have left it alone but I am worried. If one can misunderstand such simple statements, it’s a slippery slope into heretical traditions, and that can lead to ruin. One such statement was made; “Go and preach the gospel everywhere even amidst persecution.” A wonderful, Biblical statement. I would argue that this is exactly what we are called to do. The problem is that the writer’s proof text was Acts 18:10. “For I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” Problem; the context, the author’s aspiration, the genre, lack of examples and not dividing rightly the word of truth.

He didn’t use 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
  • Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions

Admittedly, the use of this ripped-out-of-context verse is fairly benign but it has its issues and sets a bad precedent. First and most obvious is found on its face; one may go to a city and preach the gospel and be subsequently beaten. Simply stated, we cannot make the promises ​in this verse to each other, because it is in a historical narrative, said by God to Paul, specifically about Corinth, in the middle of the first century. I am usually not an advocate for advancing the slippery slope syndrome but when it comes to ripping verses out of context, I am. If the verse can mean something other then what it meant to the original audience, and can be ripped out of context while the surrounding verses are ignored, one can not only make the Bible say just about anything, but one will also obviously miss the intended meaning. This is exactly what we see in today’s text.

CONTEXT: In Jerusalem, Paul gives his testimony and the crowd erupts in anger after Paul claims that God sent him to the gentiles.

AUTHOR’S ASPIRATION TO HIS AUDIENCE: The acts of the apostles; Paul at this point. But also to see what happened specifically in Jerusalem from the Jews and Romans.

Genre: Historical narrative, Luke is giving an account of the acts of the apostles from Christ’s resurrection until Paul’s imprisonment in Rome.

 

EXPOSITORYRYY EXEGESIS OF EXAMPLES: Daniel 7:14. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”

Psalm 2:4. “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.”

Isaiah 60:3 “And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Isaiah 66. “Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the LORD. ‘But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man; He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck; He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood; He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, so I will choose their punishments, And I will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight, And chose that in which I did not delight.’ Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: ‘Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake, Have said, “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.” But they will be put to shame. A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, The voice of the LORD who is rendering recompense to His enemies. Before she travailed, she brought forth; Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?’ says the LORD. ‘Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?’ says your God. ‘Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.’ For thus says the LORD, Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.’ Then you shall see this, and your heart shall be glad, And your bones shall flourish like the new grass; And the hand of the LORD shall be made known to His servants, But He shall be indignant toward His enemies. For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many. Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things, and mice, Shall come to an end altogether,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the LORD, ‘just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,’ says the LORD. ‘For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘So your offspring and your name will endure. And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All amankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says The  Lord, ‘then they shall go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, And their fire shall not be quenched; And they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind.'”

Isaiah 42:1-6. “’Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed, Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.’ Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, ‘I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations.'”

…And many more…

DIVIDING RIGHTLY: Although the Lord has told Israel over and over to destroy the nations and to not be like the nations, he has also told them that he will send those of them who are faithful, to the nations, through the Messiah. Clearly the vast majority missed this, otherwise they would understand exactly what Paul was saying. Everything was predicted hundreds of years prior in their sacred Scripture.

Ruin awaits those who blindly hold to taught traditions from those who don’t consider the context, aspirations of author, other examples and certainly the genre. This is why I chose to use all of Isaiah 66, because  it is a difficult genre but ultimately it is prophecy about the Messiah and the apostasy of Israel compared to all other nations, therefore it’s meanings are understood by the other examples.

It’s neither reverse ethnocentrism nor reverse racism; the people present thought themselves to be superior; that’s real racism. I know what you are thinking; “who Russell P, the Jews or the Romans?” Both! Notice the Jews wanted to kill Paul because he was claiming that the gentiles are fellow heirs and that the Romans had no problem beating Paul when they thought he was just a Jew. It wasn’t until they found out that he was a citizen of Rome that they stopped the scourging. Both parties present thought they were superior citizens, both had a superiority complex. We clearly see this as we consider the context, aspirations of Luke and examining examples, such as; Deuteronomy 32:9+10, “For the LORD’S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the [apple:KJV] of His eye.”

NEVERTHELESS! Moses also wrote; “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.” Do we see the dangers of picking and choosing verses of our own liking on which to hang our traditions? I can’t write it enough, as much as the smiling preacher says, “favor,” “season” and “medical report,” I have to say, “context is king” twice as much to counter his out-of-context concoctions.

Consider the context: “And they listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!’ And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. And when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?’ And when the centurion heard this, he went to the ccommander and told him, saying, ‘What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.'”

We could examine examples of throwing dust in the air and the taking off of cloaks but it is almost irrelevant–almost. For the fear of being shadow-banned by some idiotic algorithm, I will let you research it and it’s ethnocentrism. Nevertheless, I doubt an idiotic algorithm will prevent me from pointing out the racism and supposed superiority of the Romans. But before I do I have to explain something. I have been to Israel and as far as countries are concerned, it is certainly one of the best. The vast majority in Israel are incredibly accepting of other religions and people. Ironically enough, Israel today is much more secular than the religious fanatics of the generation of Jesus. I have seen Israelis dancing with, playing soccer with and making music with Palestinian people. We do not, as I always try to explain, link this generation of Israel to the generation of Israel in the first century; apostate or otherwise. They are not a promised people because of their ancestor, Abraham nor does the blood of Christ and the martyrs fall on them–any more than it does on us all. Jesus broke down the dividing wall. Honestly, this is the biggest problem I have with the dogmatic dispensationalists. They call me antisemitic because I believe that Jesus held his generation responsible for their sins against his church. And I in no way find modern Israel responsible for the actions of their great, great, great, great, great, great grandfathers’ great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfathers. Don’t be fooled, the dogmatic dispensationalists do. Jesus told his disciples to flee from Jerusalem but the dogmatic dispensationalists want to round up the Jewish people in Israel to await a horrific holocaust where 2/3rds of them will be slaughtered. But I say salvation in Jesus is to the Jew first and then to the Greek. How am I labeled the antisemitic one? Simple; ripping verses out of context, just as the generation of Jesus did. But the Romans didn’t get their superiority complex from Scripture ripped out of context, but by God allowing them to rule the known world to execute his plan for salvation for all nations.

Unfortunately, Rome didn’t acknowledge the Lord either. Notice the forethought of the Lord. Paul was not only Jewish but Roman–there is an ironic twist. The Romans, who hated the Jews, were happy to oblige the Jews by beating another Jew. The problem is that Paul was not only Jewish but Roman. Notice how God manipulates all of history to accomplish his will. “And the commander came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And the ccommander answered, ‘I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.’ And Paul said, ‘But I was actually born a citizen.’ Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.”

Don’t think for one second that God didn’t influence Rome to make this law concerning Roman citizenship for this exact purpose. I am deeply concerned about the preaching ministry of Lakewood church and all the other mega-churches. Far beyond the fact that they twist Scripture, ripping verses out of context, oftentimes preaching the exact opposite of what the Scripture says, keeping it CAGED, they also put the Lord in a cage by saying that he is limited by our faith. God has no such restrictions but he does have repercussions against us, read both letters to the church in Corinth.

Many close, christian friends have come to me and asked if I have heard of the hundreds of stories about Jesus appearing to middle-eastern muslims in dreams and their subsequent salvation. I have and certainly say, Amen! But that is not the end of the story. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” I am not what most people would consider a calvinist, except for the armninians, nevertheless, everyone appointed for eternal life is given eternal life. However we are called to preach the gospel and make disciples even in the most difficult places, such as Jerusalem in Paul’s day and the entire middle east in our day. While the dogmatic dispensationalists see the dreams of muslims in the middle east as a fulfillment of prophecy, I see it as a neglecting of the Great Commission. I think we should be concerned that Jesus has to appear to muslims because we won’t go. I also believe that the dogmatic dispensationalists are wrong because the prophecy to which they refer, was fulfilled early in the book of Acts. We saw it, read it and Peter himself, proclaimed it. Context is king!

The Lord didn’t choose Paul in the sense that Paul would fit the bill. Rather, like Job, David, Isaiah and Jeremiah, the Lord manipulated all of history and formed Paul in his mother’s womb because he loved him and wanted to use him. Paul writes; “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 gave Himself up for me.” It’s all about the love. But love is hardly a one-way street. Consider what Paul wrote to the young Timothy.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope; to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you aupon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” Some things never change.

Paul is reflecting the love of God, not by the lengthening of his tassels or broadening of his phylacteries but by having the mark of the Lord on his right hand and forehead–love. Jesus doesn’t choose Paul because he was a Roman citizen or a Pharisee, but because he loved him. Jesus manipulated all of Paul’s surroundings to make Paul a citizen of Rome and a Pharisee. Yes, Jesus picked the perfect person to preach and present the gospel to all peoples, Jewish and gentile but also considered the direct revelations given to Paul and the amount of time that has passed, preparing Paul to preach in Jerusalem–everything adds up. Paul was neither born the apostle to the gentiles nor a Pharisee. When Paul was “born again” he didn’t immediately go to Jerusalem. When he was born again, Paul wasn’t given an obvious spiritual gift or utterances in tongues but was actually blind. He didn’t immediately become a great evangelist and wasn’t prepared to go to Jerusalem. Though he had a direct vision from the Divine and was being prepared for this from his mother’s womb, Paul was still an infant in Christ and only now, after many years of preaching in the synagogues and to the gentiles, is he in Jerusalem, preparing to give his defense. Hemmed in on all sides by Jewish brethren and Roman brethren, the stage is set for Paul to testify in Jerusalem as Jesus has promised. Also notice as we continue, his defense is not the “blessed hope” of a rapture rescue but the hope of the resurrection of the dead.

Taking the long view is extremely important. Seeing the build up in the book of Acts and seeing some Old Testament Scripture shows us the severity of the situation and that, quite frankly and obviously, those who claimed to be the people of God clearly weren’t. Paul has been at this evangelism thing for a long time, saving many Jewish people and gentiles alike, and it was to train him for this point. Spoiler alert: he fails miserably. At least he failed from our partial perspective. From the context of Matthew 24, he is victorious in condemnation against their generation in Jerusalem. Again, not some far-future generation of Jews in Jerusalem. Even though the Bible is crystal clear on this, many still doubt and call me antisemitic. But even pragmatically, why would God punish a generation 2,000 years removed for the sins of their ancestors? The dogmatic dispensationalists love to argue that it will be the greatest revival of all time. They also claim that it happens without the church being present on earth. But the most disturbing detail that they claim is that 2/3rds of the Jews will be slaughtered in a holocaust of beyond Biblical proportions; quite literally. Is that really God’s plan?

The dogmatic dispensationalists love to argue that smartphone technology is the Mark of the Beast. They love to argue that the government is surveilling you through your smartphone and they are absolutely right that they can surveil you but it’s nothing new. Go back a verses from today’s text and see how quickly the Romans were on Paul after the disturbance. The Stasi, the allies on d-day, the, well, everyone in power or lack thereof has had its spies, look at the ancient Israelites. This is nothing new and in fact, if you are like me, it’s a poor way of surveillance because I google everything and everyone is in my digital library. That’s hyperbole but you get the point. From Hillary Clinton’s idol, Margaret Sanger, the mother of eugenics is America, to Malcolm X, the reformed racist, and from the Bible to the Quran, my reading is extensive compared to most. I am sure that the government is shocked to find out that I have car insurance and a mortgage. The point is that while surveillance is certainly faster nowadays, it is much more complex and like Paul, for now, we in America have some rights.

“‘What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.’ And the ccommander came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And the ccommander answered, ‘I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.’ And Paul said, ‘But I was actually born a citizen.’ Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains. But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.”

Paul was granted certain rights as we are today in America. However some of these rights seem to be disappearing and the dogmatic dispensationalists demand that this is because things are getting worse and worse, so that the Antichrist can come with his false promise of peace. Two things; that’s m-up, dogmatic doctrine from ripping verses out of context. Verses that actually apply to the book of Acts. It’s also hypocritical and hurtful. The favorite phrase of many dogmatic dispensationalists is the ironic, “I never thought I’d live to see the day…” what makes this so ironic is that by their own dubious dogma, they demand that the rapture has to happen by 1981 1988 1998 2000 2008 2017 2018 very, very soon. Therefore things should be just about cataclysmic at this point, meaning they should not think that they would never see the day. Bigger problem; these rights that they believe are disappearing were not granted to minorities in the times of their fathers; the so-called, golden era of the church. In fact, many churches wouldn’t allow black worshippers and certainly not homosexuals. According to the dogmatic dispensationalists and the headlines, things are getting worse.

But according to my missionary MMS thread, things are getting better and better. Homosexuals in Bolivia are coming to Christ and prostitutes in Peru are flocking to church. Do you see it? We actually hate this. We don’t want our churches corrupted by sexual deviants just like our fathers didn’t want their churches corrupted by people of color and Israel didn’t want the dirty dogs. Wake up America and see first-century Israel in yourselves. They listened to Paul up to the point where he mentioned that he was sent to the dirty, uncircumcised, gentiles and then they wanted to kill him. Being Holy in our day is thought to be like it was in their day, pure, without admixture. But purity and holiness are only found in the blood-stained, nail-pierced, spit-and-dirt-mixing, hands of Jesus. In the same way, for us to be holy, we have to get our hands dirty. Look at the apostle Paul in this scenario, although he was protected from beatings in the extremely immature city of Corinth, he quickly catches two beatings in Jerusalem, literally as he was ritualistically purifying himself. But also notice that it was the Romans who eventually put a stop to it. This speaks volumes against that generation in Jerusalem. Take a long view of the Scripture.

Also, take a long view in life, Jesus could return today but he probably won’t,  either way, we are not wasting time to be doing his work. Much like the apostle Paul to western Asia, Europe and certainly Rome, I feel called to leave my country to preach the context of the Bible to the baby churches in Latin America. But how can I do this in a foreign culture when I can’t even convince my own culture? That’s not the correct question. I have to take the long view. It may not be me that brings the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics to Latin America but someone else with a similar hermeneutical tool. Certainly I am in training and I have at my fingertips the so-called Mark of the Beast. I have the ability to write to these mission-minded men and explain to them the importance of considering the context. I need to work on my Spanish and at the present time I see no better way than to write to my contacts there on the importance of considering the context. My first trip to a certain communist country in the Caribbean was difficult to get going. God would slam a garage door but open up a small window. But by the third trip it was easy as pie, whatever that means. But now as I prepare for my sixth trip, the doors seem to be closing again. The trip is a little over two months away and I still have no idea how I am going to get there. Nevertheless, because of the dogmatic dispensationalists mark of the beast, I am already there.

But poor Paul is in the heart of Jerusalem in the midst of two intolerant peoples. Having already caught two beatings, he uses his God-given rights to preach the gospel to Jews and Greeks, kings, queens and governors. We have to keep these things in mind, especially our Old Testament tutor, as we witness Paul’s defense. And although this is a historical narrative of events that happened almost 2000 years ago, we can learn from it and apply it to our lives. Not by ripping verses out of context and seeing promises to us but by carefully considering the context and ramifications of the events. To me, I see the amount of time it took for Paul to finally preach in Jerusalem. First, it shows God’s patience. Second Paul’s gospel growth and third, God does exactly what he promises, we simply misunderstand the promises by keeping the Bible CAGED by our taught traditions and presuppositions. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught.

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