Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Christ—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage begins with the twenty-first verse of the fourteenth chapter and continues through to the twenty-first verse of the fifteenth chapter. “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayers with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perna, they went down into Attalia: and thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there abode they long time with the disciples” (Acts 14:21-28).
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:1-5).
“And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had much disputing, Peter rose up, and said un to them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither of our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:6-12).
“And after they had their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declare how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and form fornication, and from things strangled and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:13-21).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will encounter the incredible conclusion of the first apostolic missionary journey of the apostle Paul. After being separated by and unto the Holy Ghost from the brethren in Antioch unto the work whereunto they had been called Paul and Barnabas would conclude their endeavors and eventually return unto Antioch where they were originally sent out. It is actually incredibly intriguing to read the words which are found in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts for the words and language contained therein call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the preaching of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus and the mixed reception it would receive in those places whereunto the apostle Paul and Barnabas journeyed unto. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when considering the language in these chapters it’s that the apostle Paul and Barnabas would take the word and gospel of Jesus of Nazareth unto places where there were both Jews and Gentiles. The apostle Paul and Barnabas would take the word and name of the Lord Jesus into places where it might not have been previously preached and proclaimed—something that strikes at the very heart of each of the apostle Paul’s three missionary journeys. What’s more is that when you read the words and language found within these passages of Scripture you will encounter and come face to face with the truth that whenever the apostle Paul preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus he would always do so in the synagogues which he would enter into on the sabbath day. Time and time again within these chapters you will find the apostle Paul entering into the synagogues of the Jews and it would be there in these houses of worship the apostle Paul would indeed preach the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps there is no greater evidence of that which the apostle Paul preached unto both Jews and Gentiles alike then what is found in the thirteenth chapter after he was given an opportunity to exhort all those who were present:
“Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of our hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.; And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king: to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus gain; as it is also written in the second palms, Thou arty my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you” (Acts 13:16-41).
The words which we find in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible word and gospel which the apostle Paul preached when he traveled and journeyed unto those places whereunto the name of Jesus might not have been preached. During their first missionary journey the apostle Paul and Barnabas would teach and preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and would profess and proclaim that He was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. What’s more is they would preach that Christ suffered in the flesh according to Scripture and would ultimately be killed and crucified as the Law and the prophets had proclaimed and declared. What’s more, however, is the apostle Paul would also declare that the eternal and living Father did not and would not allow His Son Jesus to see corruption in the grave and raised Him from death to life on the third day. On the first day of the week very early in the morning the large stone that was at the entrance of the tomb was rolled away and removed and Jesus would emerge from the grave having conquered and defeated death, hell and the grave. How absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that when Jesus was raised from death to life—not only did he conquer death but he also conquered death, hell and the grave. It wasn’t merely death that Jesus conquered when He was raised from death to life but He also conquered hell and the grave thus subjugating them unto the eternal will of the living God. When Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven He would indeed ascend with the keys of death, hell and the grave and would emphatically declare and proclaim this reality unto the apostle John when He revealed Himself unto him on the isle of Patmos.
As you read the words which are found in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this New Testament book you can and will encounter the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul and Barnabas and how they would preach the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus in those places whereunto they had been sent. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for not only did they preach the suffering, the death, the burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus but they also preached that men could be justified in the sight of God without and apart from the Law of Moses. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the thirty-ninth verse of this particular chapter you will find the apostle Paul declaring that it was through Jesus the forgiveness of sins was preached unto them. What’s more is the apostle Paul would also go on to declare how all that believe are justified from all things and from that which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. Stop for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth centered upon the gospel of the Lord Jesus which the apostle Paul would preach unto both Jews and Gentiles. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for at the very heart and center of the gospel which the apostle Paul preached was that men were not justified by the Law nor through the words which were given unto Moses in the Law but by and through faith in Jesus. It was the apostle Paul who would write in the tenth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were present at Rome that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved and that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with our heart that the Father raised Him from death to life then we are saved. What’s more is I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the third, fifth, and sixth chapters of this New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome as well as the words which are written and recorded in the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia:
“What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteousness who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through may lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just” (Romans 3:1-8).
“What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have been before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:9-20).
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boating then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith with the deeds of the law. Is he that God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:21-31).
“Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous m an will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them t hat had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were mane sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:12-21).
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14).
“What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.k What fruit had ye then in those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:15-23).
I am absolutely convinced it is necessary to recognize the words and language that is found in these particular chapters in the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome for they help us to recognize and understand the word and gospel which he preached unto both Gentiles and Jews which were present in those towns, cities and villages which he entered. The apostle Paul preach Jesus of Nazareth as both Christ and as the Son of God—and not only preach Him as the Christ and the Son of the living God but would also preach Him as having suffered in the flesh, having been crucified upon the cross, having been raised from death to life and having ascended unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. What’s more is the apostle Paul would also take the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus to describe that which we who believe have indeed been called. The apostle Paul did in fact declare that we have been buried with Christ in his death through baptism and have even been crucified with Christ that we might mortify our sinful deeds and might no longer gratify the sinful desires of our flesh. The apostle Paul emphatically preached and proclaimed unto both Jews and Gentiles that we are not and cannot be justified by the Law but by faith in the free gift of salvation which comes through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember the words which are written in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John and how it was written that to as many as believed it would be unto them who was given power to become sons of the living God. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for when we think about our justification we must needs recognize that the just shall live by faith and that were not justified by the law of Moses but are justified by faith in the person, in the blood and in the sacrifice of Jesus alone.
It is with this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is a great need to understand the words presented in this epistle—not only because they closely mirror that which is found in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome but because they help us to further understand the dangers which the early church would begin to experience. The more you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more you can and will read of two great threats which faced the early church—both those Jews who believed and those Gentiles who believed. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the threats which the early church would face and would face as early as that which is found in the thirteenth, fourteenth and even fifteenth chapters. We know that in the eighth chapter of this book there would arise a great persecution against the church in the city of Jerusalem and as a direct result of this many of the saints and believers would be scattered save the apostles who would remain and abide in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. We know that at the death of Stephen the early church would be scattered throughout all Judaea, throughout Galilee and Samaria and we also know from the eleventh chapter that the believers would scattered as far as Antioch and certain other regions and areas. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for in those places where the apostle Paul and his companions would take the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus there would be two distinct dangers and threats which would be present. Before I present you with those dangers I would like to draw and call your attention to the words which are found in the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia beginning with the first chapter:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-11).
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumsion. And the other jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospe, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by gfaith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall not flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:11-21).
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministered to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:1-5).
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of the a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s see, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:19-29).
“But now,k after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and generally elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:9-11).
“Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received made as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desired to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you” (Galatians 4:12-20).
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ in become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you” (Galatians 5:1-12).
There is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to the words which are found in the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the dangers which these churches faced. The more you read the words which are found in this epistle the more you will encounter and come face to face with the fact there were not only false brethren who crept in unawares to spy out the liberty they had in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ but there were also those who troubled them according to the Law. Within this epistle we encounter the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding these churches and how there were false brethren and false teachers who were preaching and bringing unto them a false gospel which was not a gospel at all. These individuals were preaching unto them a gospel that was one of works and of the Law and not of faith, nor of the Spirit, nor even of the free gift that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will encounter the absolutely tremendous truth surrounding a false gospel which was not only steeped in deception but also steeped in legalism and hypocrisy. In fact if you want to understand the dangers which the churches faced during the days of the apostles you must needs recognize and consider the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture—and not only the words which are found in this passage of Scripture but also the words which the apostle Paul would write unto the saints which were in Corinth. The apostle Paul would indeed write some incredibly captivating words which are found in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—words which I would like to call your attention to before returning to the New Testament book of Acts. Consider if you will the following words which are found in these two chapters beginning with the first verse of the tenth chapter:
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in the presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us, as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
“Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtitle, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preachers another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a white behind the very chiefest apostles. But through I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things. Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man; for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaea. Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth? But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:1-15).
It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth that although we walk in the flesh we do not war in or after the flesh. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds as we cast down imaginations and ever high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every though to the obedience of Christ. What’s more is when you come to the eleventh chapter of this particular epistle you will find the apostle Paul speaking unto the Corinthians of a genuine concern he had—namely that by any means the serpent should beguile them away from the simplicity that is in Christ. Moreover the apostle Paul would also go on to speak of “another Jesus,” “another spirit” and even “another gospel” which we must needs understand when reading the words present in the New Testament book of Acts. As you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will start noticing dangers which would indeed begin to impact and affect the early church—dangers that would not only come from within but also dangers which would come from without. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need to recognize these dangers for what they are—and not only recognize these dangers for what they are but also be able to discern them when they arise and are present within and among us. There is something absolutely wonderful and astounding about the words which we find in this passage of Scripture for the more you study the history of the early church the more you can and will come face to face with three distinct dangers which faced the early church—namely, persecution, deception and legalism.
I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and I can’t help but see two of these distinct dangers which would present themselves against the early church seeking to destroy liberty and take captive those whom the Lord Jesus had delivered and set free. In all reality I am convinced that legalism and hypocrisy is the same thing which we see in the Old Testament book of Exodus when we find Pharaoh and his army having a change of heart after they had let the children of Israel depart from the land of Egypt. Scripture reveals how the heat of Pharaoh was hardened one more time that he would raise up horses and chariots that he might pursue the children of Israel in the wilderness. When he heard that they had come to the Red Sea and were potentially trapped in the wilderness with no place to go Pharaoh would seek to pursue them in the wilderness and overtake them in that place that they might be brought into captivity and bondage once more. The truth of the matter, however, is that the living and eternal God didn’t bring us out of captivity, slavery and bondage to allow us to be taken back into it. The living and eternal God not only judged Pharaoh as well as the land and people of Egypt through ten plagues and judgments but the Lord would also deliver the children of Israel out of their slavery and bondage after four-hundred years. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to what we find in the New Testament book of Acts, the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia as well as the second epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. Oh I am absolutely convinced that legalism and hypocrisy is nothing more than a false gospel, a false spirit and a false Jesus that is meant to enslave those who have been set free and bring them into bondage once more.
The more I think about and consider this the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding legalism and how it is nothing more than a tool and weapon in the hand of the enemy to absolutely and utterly enslave and captivate those who have been set free. We must needs recognize and understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia for he emphatically declared that it was for freedom we have been set free and then called us to stand fast in the liberty wherewith we have been set free. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for one of the enemy’s greatest tactics and strategies found during the days of the early church was that of legalism which was the means of bringing those who have been set free into bondage once more. What we must needs recognize and understand is that at the very heart of the word “legalism” is the word “legal” which calls and draws our attention to something that centers around a judicial system. What’s more is that at the very heart of legalism is a tremendous disease that is connected to the law and that which seeks to bring us into bondage once more to the law. Not only this but we must needs recognize and understand that it is through legalism the enemy and adversary seeks to have a legal claim upon you who would allow yourselves to be enslaved and to be in bondage one more time. There is something we must needs recognize and understand about legalism for not only does it seek to completely and utterly destroy the liberty and freedom we have in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ but it also seeks to bring us into bondage and slavery once more. Like Pharaoh who pursued the children of Israel with horses and chariots in the wilderness to enslave them once more so also is legalism the means whereby the enemy and adversary can and will seek to bring us into bondage once more.
Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is when reading the epistle written unto the churches of Galatia as well as the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts for within them we encounter and come face to face with one of the greatest tactics of the enemy which is to enslave us once more and bring us into bondage. Oh there is something we must needs understand and acknowledge within the New Testament book of Acts—specifically the fifteenth chapter—for within this chapter we find certain brethren which came from Judaea unto the brethren which were found in Antioch and spreading misinformation, deception, legalism and even hypocrisy. The beloved physician Luke writes how these brethren which came from Judaea would seek to lead those in Antioch astray through legalism as they would enslave them once more bringing them into bondage according to the law. These brethren would declare that unless they were circumcised they could not experience salvation and could not be justified in the sight of the living God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for these brethren sought to unleash a torrent and tidal wave of bondage among those who were present at Antioch for they were not only operating in legalism but they were also moving and operating as false messengers of Satan who himself masquerades as an angel of light. These false brethren might very well have sounded like they were holy and righteous, however, that which they were doing was nothing more than spreading legalism and hypocrisy in the midst of the early church.
As I write the words which are present in this passage of Scripture I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth that the greatest dangers the early church faced was legalism which would seek to bring the people of God into bondage once more, persecution which would seek to wear down the saints and eradicate their confidence and endurance, and false gospels which would seek to deceive the people of God. There is not a doubt in my mind that when reading the words presented in chapters thirteen, fourteen and fifteen the enemy and adversary would begin to unleash torrents and tidal waves of persecution, deception and legalism against the early church and against the followers of Jesus Christ. Those whom the person and presence of the Lord Jesus had delivered and set free the enemy and adversary would indeed seek to bring into bondage and slavery once more. With this being said I would dare say that the enemy would seek to use each of these three different tactics and strategies for not all of them would work on everyone the same way. OH if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that what we find within these passages of Scripture is a powerful picture of the different tactics and strategies the enemy and adversary would indeed use against the saints and people of God during the days of the apostles. It was indeed true that a great persecution would break out against the early church which would force them to be scattered throughout all Judaea, throughout Galilee and even throughout Samaria, however, what we find here is something entirely and altogether different. The persecution which we read of in these chapters came from unbelieving and envious Jews who would seek to stir up dissension and division among those who would hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus. In fact, I would dare say that these unbelieving and envious Jews were similar to the birds and fowl of the air which Jesus mentioned in His parable of the sower and the seed and how after the seed was sown they would swoop down and consume and devour the seed. There is not a doubt in my mind that many of these unbelieving Jews were nothing more than vultures waiting for the seed to be sown that they might swoop in and devour the seed.
Oh there is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts for what is present here is a powerful picture of the enemy and adversary seeking to enslave those who have been set free and those who have been released from their bondage wherein they were captivated. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have not been set free only to find and allow ourselves to be in bondage and slavery again. It’s almost like the movie the Matrix and how once you have seen the truth and once you have been unplugged from the Matrix and exposed to the real world there was no way of returning unto the false world that was indeed the wool that pulled over your eyes. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand is the legalism is nothing more than a tactic and strategy of the enemy to enslave and ensnare us one more time that we might return to the bondage from which we left and were delivered. This is something we must needs allow ourselves to recognize and come face to face with for the enemy can and will seek to raise up those forces which will pursue us after we have been set free that he might once more enslave and ensnare us. Pharaoh experienced hardiness of heart after allowing the children of Israel to depart from the land of Egypt and raised up horses and chariots to pursue them in the wilderness. Undoubtedly if the children of Israel were permitted to make it through the wilderness they would come to the Jordan River and would eventually cross over it and enter into the land that was given unto them by oath and promise from the living and eternal God. This is something important for us to recognize and pay attention for the enemy and adversary can and will seek to come against those who have been delivered and set free early on in their walk with the living and eternal God and with His Son Jesus for if he can get you to return unto slavery and bondage before you make it through the wilderness—and even more so before you reach the Jordan River and pass over—he can enslave and ensnare you again.
There is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they are intrinsically linked and connected—not only to the parable which Jesus spoke concerning the seed and the sower but also to the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning the last days. There might have been those who thought the age of the Spirit would be days filled with signs, wonders, miracles, healing and that there would be peace, quietness and rest. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case for as we see in these chapters there would arise persecution from the unbelieving and envious Jews, there would arise false gospels which would be preached among them, there would be the emergence of legalism and hypocrisy and there would also arise deception. If there is one thing we have to learn when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture it’s that they bring us face to face with three of the greatest dangers we can and will face in the days in which we are living in. What’s more is that the tactics and strategies of the enemy and adversary haven’t changed since the days of the early church. In fact I would dare say that the enemy and adversary has had much time to enhance and in some ways even improve his tactics and strategies. What’s more is I would dare that with the advent of technology and how easily accessible the internet and information is within this generation the enemy and adversary can sow his persecution, his legalism, his deception, his hypocrisy, his lies and his venom and poison meant to completely and utterly destroy those who have been delivered and set free and those who would indeed believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and be given the power to become the sons of God. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as well as the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same gospel:
“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony place, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitful ness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received the word into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secrete chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:21-28).
We have a great need to recognize and pay attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for they call and invite us to recognize some of the tremendous dangers that will face the disciples of Jesus during the last days. Jesus highlight and underscored a great deception that would characterize the last days as there would not only be false Christs and false prophets who would come in His name but there would also be false signs, wonders and miracles that if it were possible would deceive even the very elect. What’s more is Jesus warned of rampant deception, widespread persecution, offense and the love of many growing cold. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for when we read the New Testament book of Acts we are brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the dangers which started coming against the church. If there is one thing we must needs understand it’s that these dangers would not only come from those within the church but would even come from those outside the church. What makes this all the more intriguing is that within one synagogue it was possible to have the church of the Lord Jesus as well as the synagogue of Satan. Within a single synagogue it was possible to have the true spiritual body and bride of Christ as well as the unbelieving and envious Jews—those who would raise themselves up against the believers in the word and name of the Lord Jesus. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you can and will encounter the absolutely astounding truth that within these synagogues there were those Jews and Gentiles who would believe the word which was preached unto them while there would be those unbelieving Jews who would reject, despise, abhor and ignore the word and name which was preached unto and among them. These unbelieving and envious Jews would raise themselves up against the apostle Paul and Barnabas and even against the gospel of the Lord Jesus which was being preached unto and among them.
The more we read the words presented in this passage of Scripture the more we are brought face to face with the undeniable truth that within many of these synagogues there was a clear division present within it—one that existed between the believing Gentiles and Jews and the unbelieving and envious Jews. In fact you cannot read the words found in these chapters without encountering and coming face to face with these unbelieving Jews and how they would lift their hand and raise themselves up against those who would believe on the word and name of the Lord Jesus. Beginning with the forty-second verse of the thirteenth chapter we read of how when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue the Gentiles besought Paul and Barnabas that the words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Moreover Luke goes on to write how when the congregation was broken up many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas and were persuaded by them to continue in the grace of God. As if this weren’t enough we go on to read how on the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. This is where it begins to take on a whole different level for Luke writes how when the Jews saw the multitudes they were filled with envy and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul contradicting and blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas would wax bold and would emphatically declare unto them that it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken unto them, however, seeing they put it from them and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life they would turn to the Gentiles. In the fiftieth verse of this chapter we find how the Jews would continue their opposition to the word, gospel and name of the Lord Jesus and would stir up the devout and honourable women and the chief men of the city and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas and would expel them out of their coasts.
There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words and language which is contained in these passages of Scripture for within them—not only do we encounter persecution which was raised against Paul and Barnabas but you will eventually read of something else that would begin to rise up during those days. It is when you come to the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book you will find how there were certain of the brethren from Judaea which came unto Antioch. Undoubtedly these “brethren” would see and witness the great liberty that was enjoyed and experienced by them and as a result of this would seek to introduce something which up to that point had not been preached or promoted. These brethren which came from Judaea would emphatically declared unto those in Antioch that it was necessary for them to circumcised and that unless they were circumcised they would and could not be saved. This is in addition to the great persecution which Paul and Barnabas would experience during this apostolic and missionary journey in which the Gentiles received the word with gladness but many of the Jews would harden their hearts, become stiff-necked and would reject and despise the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. One of the greatest dangers that faced the church of Jesus Christ during those days came from the unbelieving and envious Jews who would indeed raise and lift themselves up against the early church and would oppose and blaspheme against that which was preached by the apostle Paul and Barnabas. This is something that warrants strong consideration for it calls and draws our attention to the great threats which the early church and the believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ faced during those days.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the “certain men” which came down from Judaea unto those in Antioch as well as certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed. In both of these cases and instances we find these individuals seeking to persuade men that unless and except they were circumcised they would and could not be saved. What’s more is that as we read the words found in this passage of Scripture we find that those who were of the sect of the Pharisees not only preached that it was needful to be circumcised but also commanded them that they keep the law of Moses. This is something that warrants strong consideration for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that one of the greatest threats which was now facing the early church was that of legalism—bondage to the Law and to the keeping of the Law. I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding these false brethren who would indeed seek to introduce a new and different kind of bondage in the lives of those who would believe in the name of the Lord Jesus. This new bondage would not be a bondage to sin but rather a bondage to the Law—something which goes against that which many would even think is possible. Oh would it shock you to think about and consider the fact that it is possible to not only be in bondage but that it is also possible to be in bondage to the Law? If there is one thing we learn when reading the words contained in the New Testament book of Acts as well as the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia it’s that there were those who would seek to bring men and women—not into bondage unto sin but bondage unto the Law. The words we find in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book—as well as the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Galatian believers—calls and draws our attention to the fact that the enemy does in fact seek to bring many into bondage unto sin but he also seeks to bring many into bondage unto the Law. The enemy and adversary seeks to bring men and women into bondage unto the Law leading them to believe that they can be justified and made righteous by good deeds, by works, by keeping the Law, through their own merit, through their own works and even circumcision.
I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words presented in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts for after reading of the persecution of the unbelieving and envious Jews in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapter we now read of something that is incredibly sinister in the fifteenth chapter. We know that during the days Jesus condemned, indicted and rebuked the scribes and the Pharisees for their legalism and their hypocrisy and on more than one occasion He actually called and labeled them as hypocrites. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in this particular passage for one of the most subtle forms of bondage in the house of God is not necessary bondage to sin but rather bondage unto the Law. What’s more is this bondage is more often than not easily discerned nor pointed out because to the eyes of many it is perceived as righteousness. Self-righteousness and a righteousness that is based entirely and solely off works can indeed appear nice and pleasant on the exterior, however, upon closer examination one finds that it is nothing more than simply bondage to the Law and bondage to works. If we are truly wise and discerning we must needs recognize and understand this for what it truly is—a quiet and subtle bondage that seeks to enslave us to works, to our own righteousness and even to the Law itself. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it call and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible need we have to be aware of this quiet and subtle deception and recognize how we must needs guard ourselves from this self-righteousness which is rooted in works, rooted in the Law and promotes ourselves rather than the grace of the living God, promotes ourselves rather than the cross which Jesus died upon and promotes ourselves rather than the work which Jesus accomplished for us two thousand years ago.