The Legalism & Persecution of Religion

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Jesus—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book. “And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: upon the which when I had fasted mine eyes, I considered, and saw four footed beasts of the earth, and wildlife beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house: and he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the HOly Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance and life” (Acts 11:1-18).

 

            “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas for to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:19-26).

 

            “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:27-30).

 

            When you come to the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find something taking place which is actually truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it. Within this New Testament book you will find the apostles who walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ walking in the same steps in which He Himself walked in. Thus far within this gospel we have found the apostles encountering and experiencing some of the same opposition and resistance which the Lord Jesus Himself experienced during the three and a half years He walked among us as the Word which was made flesh. In the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book you will find the apostles Peter and John experiencing the tremendous persecution and opposition which would come against the apostles for preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is impossible to read the words which are found in this book and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the resistance to the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that not only will you find resistance to the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ but you will also find resistance to the name of Jesus itself. The chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the senate, the Sadducees and the religious and political community and system could not handle the preaching of the name of the Lord Jesus and even threatened the apostles for daring to preach in that name. The religious and political community and system during those days could not handle the name of Jesus being preached among them and would initially place the apostles Peter and John in the hold overnight before they would straitly threaten them not to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for in the very next chapter we find and read the narrative and account of the religious and political leaders beating the apostles because they continued to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            There is a great need to recognize and understand the tremendous language that is found within the opening chapters of this New Testament book for there are two distinct realities which are incredibly important—the name of the Lord Jesus and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. As you read the words which are present within this book you will find that at the very heart of it is the preaching of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus as well as the name of the Lord Jesus. You cannot escape the preaching of the name of the Lord Jesus and how it would serve as the heart and foundation of absolutely everything that was experienced during those days. The name of the Lord Jesus was such which would greatly offend and outrage the religious and political leaders and is something we absolutely need to recognize and pay close attention to—particularly and especially when you consider the events which are taking place within our own generation. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely important it truly is when you consider the days and generation in which we are living. There is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the name of the Lord Jesus during the days of the early church—and not only the name of the Lord Jesus but also the preaching and proclamation of that name. You cannot move through the New Testament book of Acts without and apart from encountering just how incredibly important the name of the Lord Jesus truly is as it would be the foundation of everything the apostles said and did. The apostles would and could not do anything without and apart from the name of the Lord Jesus and we must needs understand and acknowledge this when reading this New Testament book. There is great importance in the name of Jesus as it is found within this book and how much hit greatly angered and offended the religious and political systems and yet how it would be through and by that name men would believe and be baptized and would even be healed and made whole.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering just how absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to truly focus on how importance the name of the Lord Jesus truly was. Undoubtedly the religious and political communities and system of that day thought they had destroyed all influence of the name of this Jesus of Nazareth after delivering Him into the hands of sinners to be crucified. Of course we know and understand that there was a rumor and report that He had been raised from the dead and I would dare say there might even have been a diligent search for the physical body during those days after the resurrection. We know that Jesus showed Himself alive unto the apostles, unto the two men whom He would find and walk with on the road to Emmaus and even as the apostle Paul mentioned—unto upwards of about five hundred people at one time. Oh it was while Jesus was hanging there on the cross the religious leaders and all those who dared mock this Jesus of Nazareth would taunt Him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Of course know that Jesus would and could not come down from the cross until all had been finished and all had been accomplished. Of course we know the only way for Jesus to come down from that cross would be after and through death as He would commit His spirit into the hands of the Father and would breathe His last. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to think about and consider the fact that there is absolutely no mention of Jesus revealing Himself unto the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the like after His resurrection. We know that He showed Himself alive after His passion through many infallible proofs over a period of forty days before He would be taken up into heaven and ascend unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but ask myself and wonder how and why the Lord Jesus did not reveal and show Himself unto any of the religious and political leaders of that day. If you read the four New Testament gospels, if you read the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and even if you read the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians you will find that Jesus never revealed nor did He show Himself unto any of the religious or political system during those days. We don’t know who exactly was part of the five hundred whom Jesus would reveal Himself unto during those forty days after He was raised from the dead and we are left to speculate if there might have been some priests, maybe some Pharisees, maybe even some of the religious and political leaders which were present during those days. What’s more is the five hundred which the apostle Paul spoke of and mentioned might very well have been the number of those who were present with Jesus at the mount called Olivet before He ascended and was taken up unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. There is absolutely no mention of the revelation of the resurrection from the dead in the company and presence of the religious and political leaders during those days as Jesus would never show nor demonstrate Himself as being alive unto them. Oh they taunted and mocked Him to save Himself and come down off the cross and we know that He did not and could not do so and yet He could have showed Himself alive unto the religious and political leaders of that day and generation.

 

            Imagine being a member of one of the religious groups during those days and that generation as well as a member of one of the political groups which were present at that time and beholding Jesus in the flesh after He had indeed risen from the grave. Pause and consider what this would and could have been like if you truly take the time to think about it as it would have been something incredibly unique to have Jesus reveal and show Himself as being alive unto the religious and political leaders which were present during those days. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for there is absolutely no mention of this Jesus of Nazareth revealing and showing Himself alive unto the religious and political leaders present during those days. Nowhere in any of the four gospels nor even in the New Testament book of Acts do you find any mention of Jesus showing Himself alive unto any member of the religious and political groups which were present during those days. Perhaps a question that might be asked is why Jesus would not show nor reveal Himself as being alive unto either the religious or the political community during those days after his resurrection. Stop and consider what might have happened had Jesus deliberately chosen to reveal and show Himself alive during those forty days after His resurrection to the religious and political leaders. Those who oppressed, opposed, persecuted and even delivered Him up to sinners to suffer in the flesh and ultimately be crucified would have been hard pressed to dispute the revelation and manifestation of the resurrection of this Jesus of Nazareth. Imagine thinking they had killed and crucified Jesus and then seeing Him three days after His death walking among them very much alive. What’s more is imagine seeing Jesus at different times over the course of the next forty days very much alive walking in the flesh just as He had done before.

 

            There is something we must needs recognize and understand when thinking about and considering this for we know that over a period of forty days after being raised from death to life Jesus would indeed show Himself alive through many infallible proofs. We know that Jesus would show Himself alive unto the apostles, unto the men on the road to Emmaus, unto the women, unto upwards of five hundred at one time and unto those who would be in the upper room together with the apostles, Mary the mother of Jesus, Jesus’ brethren and others. We know that at the mount called Olivet there would be a number of individuals who were present as this resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would ascend unto heaven before being received by the Father and a cloud hid Him from their gaze and from their view. Over a period of forty days Jesus would show Himself alive by many infallible proofs as He would demonstrate and reveal that He was indeed alive in the flesh and was not a spirit as they had supposed on more than one occasion. We must needs recognize and understand this for during those forty days in which Jesus walked among His apostles and followers He would show Himself alive—this despite the fact that He would not show Himself alive unto any of the religious and political leaders which were present during those days. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about and consider it is when you read the New Testament book of Acts and the incredible importance of the witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—and not only the witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus but also the preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth and His resurrection from the grave.

 

            Within the New Testament book of Acts we are brought face to face with salvation in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, we are brought face to face with healing in the name of Jesus of Nazareth and we are even brought face to face with resurrection in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss nor lose sight of for it is at the very heart and foundation of this New Testament book which speaks of and describes the early church, the apostles and the movement and activity of the Holy Spirit through, upon and amongst the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you want to truly understand the significance of this New Testament book as well as that of the early church you must needs understand that during those days the apostles and those who believed on the name of the Lord Jesus would indeed not only declare and profess that He had indeed risen from the grave but would also preach in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Despite the fact that Jesus had indeed suffered in the flesh and despite the fact that He had in fact been killed and crucified He would be raised from death to life on the third day. What’s more is that not only would He be raised from death to life but He would show Himself alive unto a number of individuals during those days. What’s more is the two men who appeared among those who witnessed Jesus ascend unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven would declare unto them that in the same manner in which they saw and witnessed Jesus ascend unto the right hand of the Father so also would He return and come again. Thus in addition to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus we also find the ascension of the Lord Jesus and the mystery found within that ascension and how Jesus would indeed come back and return in the same manner in which He departed. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first chapter of this New Testament book concerning the resurrection, the revelation of the resurrection, the ascension as well as the coming again and return of the Lord Jesus Christ as mentioned by Luke:

 

            “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he though the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:1-14).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand just how incredibly important this truly is for within the first fourteen verses of the first chapter we find and read the account of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—and not only the resurrection of the Lord Jesus but also how He showed and revealed Himself alive. What’s more is that He would show and reveal himself alive over a period of forty days as He would reveal Himself as alive unto the apostles, unto the men on the road to Emmaus, unto the women at the tomb, unto upward of five hundred and one time and perhaps even others who were present in the upper room. This is something we dare not and must not miss nor lose sight of for the first half of the first chapter of this book describes the resurrection, the revelation of the resurrection, the ascension and the coming again and return of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this being said it’s imperative that we pay attention to that which is found in the second half of the same chapter for within this passage we find the beginning of the mention and importance of being a witness unto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that there is not only an importance of being witness unto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus but also of walking with and following the Lord Jesus from the time of His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist unto the time of His ascension unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. It is in the second half of this passage of Scripture we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding both the witness of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as well as the importance of having walked with and followed Jesus from the time of His baptism by John the Baptist to the time of His ascension unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first and opening chapter of this New Testament book beginning with the fifteenth verse:

 

            “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (The number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to day, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be so late, and let no man dwell therein; and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a. Witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:15-26).

 

            Please don’t miss the incredible significance of what is found here in these passages of Scripture for within them we are brought face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding the witness of the resurrection. Although and despite the fact that Jesus might not have showed Himself alive unto the religious and political leaders during those days there would indeed be a witness of and unto the resurrection during the days after Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father and after the Holy Spirit was released upon and in the midst of them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for from the day of Pentecost onward there would be a mighty and wonderful witness unto and of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus which would indeed take place during those days. This is something which warrants strong consideration for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the witness of and unto that resurrection which would be manifested during those days by those who were personally witnesses of the resurrection and those who would hear of the resurrection by the apostles and the others who were in fact eyewitnesses unto the resurrection. The days of the early church would indeed be days of a mighty and powerful witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus as the apostles and as those who not only walked with and followed Jesus but also those whom Jesus showed Himself alive unto during those forty days and even those who were at the mount of Olivet when He ascended were witnesses unto the resurrection from the dead. What’s more is the coming and manifestation of the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit was indeed necessary for being witness unto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus wasn’t enough and would not have the full weight and power it would without and apart from the anointing, the baptism and the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of this New Testament book beginning to read with and from the first verse:

 

            “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongues, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:1-13).

 

            It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for although there would indeed be witness unto the resurrection of this Jesus of Nazareth from the dead it would not be without power—and not simply power but power from the Holy Spirit. It was Jesus who instructed His disciples and followers to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. It was Jesus who would also declare unto them that they would receive power after that the Holy Ghost had come upon them and they would be witnesses unto Him in Jerusalem, in all Judaea, In Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. This is something we have a great need to recognize and pay attention to as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the witness of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit which would be present within and upon those who would be alive and present during those days. It would be during the days of the early church and apostles when the Holy Spirit would indeed be manifested unto and among them as on the day of Pentecost there would come the sound as of a mighty rushing wind filling the place where they were accompanied by cloven tongues of fire which would rest upon them. Moreover it would be as a direct result of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit that all those who were present in the upper room would speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The significance and importance of their speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance is that the wonderful works of the living God would be proclaimed and heard in the tongues of all the nations which were represented in the midst of the city of Jerusalem at the time of the feast of Pentecost. Oh this is something we must needs understand for when we think about the manifestation and coming of the Holy Spirit we must needs understand that He would bear witness unto the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and would anoint His disciples and followers with power from on high that they might perform signs, wonders and miracles during those days.

 

            Having said all of this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to just offensive and yet how important the name of Jesus of Nazareth—and not only the name of Jesus of Nazareth but also of the resurrection of Jesus—truly was during those days. It would be in the second chapter of this New Testament book we begin reading of this preaching and proclamation in and of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. It would be on the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter would stand up in the midst of all those who had gathered around those who were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit and would not only present them with the fulfillment of the prophetic words of Joel but would also provide them the first sermon and proclamation of the name and person of the Lord Jesus. It would be on the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter would not only preach the name of Jesus of Nazareth for the first time but also where the apostle Peter would indeed present unto those who were present the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. In fact the more you read the words which are found within the New Testament book of Acts the more you can and will encounter the importance of the mention of the name of Jesus of Nazareth and that of the resurrection of the dead which the apostles and the early church would indeed proclaim during those days. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredibly important it truly is when reading the words presented in this New Testament book as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the name of the Lord Jesus and the message of His resurrection from the grave. This is not something we ought to ignore or glance over for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the message and proclamation of the name of the Lord Jesus as well as the message of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the grave.

 

            It is at this point where I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the various references found within this New Testament book and how during the days after Jesus would ascend unto the right hand of the Father and after the Holy Spirit would be poured out and manifested the apostles and the followers of this Jesus of Nazareth would preach in His name. What’s more is that during these days they would do more than simply preach in the name of Jesus but they would also heal and perform signs, wonders and miracles in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. As if this weren’t enough they would also preach resurrection through, by and in the name of the Lord Jesus—something that would indeed be at the very heart and center of the words and message they would preach and proclaim during those days. Those days would indeed be days which would be filled with a mighty and powerful declaration and proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead—this despite the fact that during the forty days after Jesus’ resurrection He would not show Himself alive unto any of the members of the religious or political leaders. Jesus could have very easily showed Himself alive unto the religious and political leaders during those forty days, however, I would dare say and even suggest that Jesus deliberately and intentionally chose not to show or reveal Himself as alive unto those who were members of the religious and political community and system during those days. With this being said, however, they would encounter and come face to face with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead through the words, the gospel and message of the apostles and the members of the early church. With this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts concerning the importance of the name of Jesus of Nazareth beginning with the words the apostle Peter would preach on the day of Pentecost:

 

            “And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be Holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:21-36).

 

            “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:37-40).

            “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: and they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s greatly wondering” (Acts 3:1-11).

 

            “Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised form the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may bear blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye heard in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:12-26).

 

            “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye Ur irked, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of your builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12).

 

            “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it” (Acts 4:13-14).

            “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed” (Acts 4:19-22).

 

            “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:29-32).

 

            “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with pasties, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:1-13).

 

            “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part not lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bod of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans” (Acts 8:14-25).

 

            “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, how can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, he was lad as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture. And preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:30-40).

 

            “Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:19-22).

 

            “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:26-31).

 

            “And Peter said unto him, Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydia and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:34-35).

 

            “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, OF a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:34-43).

 

            All of this leads me to the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book where we encounter the tremendous truth of the word and name of the Lord Jesus which would be preached unto Cornelius and his entire household. If you begin reading the words which are found in the tenth chapter you will find that an angel of God appeared unto Cornelius and simply said that his prayers and alms had come up as a memorial before and unto the living God. The angel would then instruct him to call and send for a man by the name of Simon who was surnamed Peter and he would tell him what he ought to do. Cornelius had absolutely no understanding of that which would be told and commanded of him to do and he had absolutely no idea what to expect when this Simon whose surname was Peter would come unto him. What’s more is there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Cornelius or anyone in his household knew that this was indeed an original disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Did Cornelius know at all that this Simon called Peter would be one of Jesus’ original disciples? The eighth and ninth chapters of this New Testament book present us with the fact that there were at least two disciples and followers of the Lord who were present in Caeasarea—Philip and Saul of Tarsus himself. This is something which is quite interesting when you take the time to think about it for it’s quite possible that this Cornelius not only heard the preaching of Philip and perhaps even Saul of Tarsus. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for we know that Cornelius was a devout man who feared God and who gave much alms and prayed always. It was his giving much alms and praying always that would come up as an offering and memorial before and unto the living and eternal God.

 

            If you continue reading the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that at the same time Cornelius was sending men unto Simon called Peter he would see a vision from the Lord which would indeed prepare him for what he was about to do and be used of the Spirit to accomplish during those days. It would be at the very moment the men Cornelius sent unto the house of Simon the tanner the Holy Spirit would reveal unto Peter the men who were at the gate and would command Him to go with them doubting nothing. Simon called Peter would go with these men unto the house of Cornelius the Roman centurion and would be present together with him and his entire household. It would be there in the midst of Cornelius and his household and kindred Simon called Peter would preach in the name of Jesus of Nazareth and would do what was called and referred to in the book of Acts as “being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” There in the midst of Cornelius’ house they would not only hear the word and name of the Lord Jesus and be baptized in it but would also be baptized with and by the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. Scripture reveals that it was while the apostle Peter was praying the Holy Ghost would fall upon them and they would indeed be the first Gentiles to receive the promise of the Father which at that point in time had come only unto the Jews and the Samaritans. Cornelius and his household would be the first of the Gentiles to hear the word and name of the Lord Jesus and would receive the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. There in Caeseara Cornelius this Roman centurion together with his entire household would hear and receive the word and name of the Lord Jesus and would even be baptized by and filled with the Holy Spirit. This man and his household who were Gentiles and heathens would indeed be baptized first in the name of the Lord Jesus and would also be baptized by the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost would come upon them during the preaching of the apostle Peter there in the midst of the house.

 

            Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about the New Testament book of Acts is the report that spreads concerning the word of God being preached in other parts of the known world at that time. In the eighth chapter word would reach the apostles that Samaria had not only heard but also received the word of God. As a direct result of Samaria hearing the word of God the apostles and church which was in Jerusalem would send the apostles Peter and John to accompany and assist with the work. It would be when the apostles Peter and John arrived they would lay hands on them and pray that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Those in Samaria who heard and received the word and name of the Lord Jesus would indeed be baptized by and filled with the person of the Holy Spirit. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when coming to and approaching the eleventh chapter of this same New Testament book. It is when we come to the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the apostles and brethren which were in Judaea hearing that the Gentiles had received the word of God. When the apostle Peter had returned from Caesarea to Jerusalem they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” I am absolutely convinced this is something we must needs recognize for what we find here is the apostle Peter seemingly experiencing the very same thing Jesus did while He walked among and with them as the Word made flesh. You will recall upon reading the four New Testament gospels the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the religious community took great offense with Jesus eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. In fact you cannot read the four gospel narratives without encounter this tremendous offense within the hearts of the religious community toward a Jesus who seemingly associated with publicans and sinners.

 

            If you take the time to read the four gospel narratives you will find that Jesus associated and went in unto the religious as much as He did among the publicans and sinners. In fact it is in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke we find Jesus entering into the homes of not one but two Pharisees as well as entering into the home of publicans and sinners. There is something incredibly unique about the words and language found in the New Testament gospels for the religious community could not understand nor could they accept Jesus entering into the houses and homes of publicans and sinners. The gospels are replete with examples of Jesus going in unto publicans and sinners and deliberately and intentionally choosing to associate Himself with the poor, the marginalized, the ostracized and those who were despised and rejected by society. You cannot read the four gospel accounts without finding Jesus being unashamed and unafraid of associating and being seen with publicans and sinners. Time and time again the religious elite and the religious community of that day took great offense to Jesus eating and drinking with publicans and sinners and would even speak to His disciples concerning such behavior. What’s more is that when Jesus entered into the house of Simon the Pharisee it would be Simon who would watch and observe a woman from the city who was a sinner anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume and washing them with her tears while drying them with her hair. This man—Simon the Pharisee—would murmur and grumble within himself as he believed that if Jesus were truly a prophet he would know who and what manner of woman it was who touched him and that she was a sinner. Jesus would immediately perceive his thought and would address his misconception concerning those who would be considered sinners and unclean.

 

            The more I read the four gospel narratives the more I am brought face to face with a Jesus who not only went in and ate and drank with publicans and sinners but was also willing to touch, heal and make whole those who were unclean according to the Law. Jesus was not afraid nor was he ashamed to stretch forth his hand and heal the leper and even when the woman who had the issue of blood for twelve years and was unclean according to the law touched the hem of his garment she was not only healed but cleansed and made whole. There is absolutely nothing in any of the gospels that suggests Jesus despised, rejected, vilified, ostracized or ignored the publicans and sinners and this was something which greatly offended the religious system and community of that day. The religious system and community would have much rather live in a society that centered upon caste and different classes of people and yet Jesus came completely destroying that mindset among them. Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace but to bring a sword and it’s actually incredible to see and watch how Jesus would completely and utterly destroy the division that existed in that culture and society. While Jesus walked among them as the Word made flesh He leveled the playing field and it was no longer about the lepers, the lame, the blind, the deaf, the mute, publicans, sinners, prostitutes, those who were oppressed by unclean spirits and the like. In fact Jesus Himself declared that He did not come for the healthy but for the sick and to seek and save those who were sinners. While Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh he did not view publicans or sinners any differently than He did anyone else and he deliberately and intentionally chose to walk among them. Moreover while Jesus walked upon the earth among us He would deliberately and intentionally eat and drink with publicans and sinners without caring anything at all for that which the religious elite and system thought of Him. In fact I would dare say that Jesus sought to bring such individuals into fellowship with Him because He knew that of such was the kingdom of God manifested. It was Jesus Himself who declared of the scribes and Pharisees that they neither entered into the kingdom of God themselves and hindered and prevented others from themselves entering in.

 

            It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find those who were of the circumcision contending—and not only contending but also being offended with Peter because he went in to those who were uncircumcised. The very same thing the religious elite and system did unto Jesus of Nazareth while He walked among them would be the very same thing the circumcised among the brethren would do on this particular day. What we must needs recognize when reading these words is that this would indeed be the beginning of this resistance of the Jews—specifically those who were circumcised—toward and against the word and name of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that this would mark the beginning of this resistance of the Jews toward and against the preaching of the gospel of the resurrection from the dead and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That which we find in this passage of Scripture is absolutely astounding and remarkable when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to this profound resistance that would begin to arise within the hearts of the Jews toward those who were followers of Jesus and those who were followers of the way. What you see in this passage of Scripture is incredibly profound when you take the time to think about it for what you witness is not scribes, Pharisees, the priests, the Sadducees nor any member of the religious community rebuking and contending with the apostle Peter. What you see here is the beginning of resistance within and among the church itself as there would be this division between those who were circumcised and those who weren’t circumcised. In this passage of Scripture we encounter and come face to face with this incredibly powerful distinction that would be made within the church between those who were circumcised and those who weren’t circumcised.

 

            The more you read the words presented in this passage of Scripture the more you can and will be brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding this division—even within the church itself—between the circumcised and those who weren’t circumcised. In fact it would be just a few chapters later where this discussion of whether or not Gentiles which believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and were even filled with and baptized by the Holy Spirit needed to be circumcised. So long as the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus was preached among the Jews and so long as the Jews who were automatically guaranteed to be circumcised there would be no need for any discussion. When, however, the word and gospel of the resurrection and when the name of the Lord Jesus began to be preached unto and among those who were not circumcised it would create this conflict within the hearts and minds of certain jews—even those Jews who were themselves believers and followers of the way. For some reason they could not separate the concept of circumcision from hearing the word and name of the Lord Jesus and even receiving the Holy Spirit. What makes the conversion and baptism in the Holy Spirit of Cornelius so incredibly unique when you take the time to think about it is that not only was he a Gentile and uncircumcised but he had heard the word and name of the Lord Jesus and was in fact baptized with the Holy Spirit without and apart from needing to be circumcised. There were in fact those who would believe that circumcision was in fact necessary as part of one’s conversion experience and this is precisely what was the central and focal point of the discussion which took place in Jerusalem as was written and mentioned in the fifteenth chapter. Within this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the word and name of the Lord Jesus being preached unto and received by those who weren’t circumcised and how it was in fact possible for such individuals who were Gentiles to receive the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit.

 

           

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture as it brings us face to face with the beginning of this resistance of the Jews—or I should say those who were of the circumcision—toward and against the word and name of the Lord Jesus, against the preaching of the resurrection and even against those who were uncircumcised receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. What we find here in this chapter is not only the beginning of the followers of Jesus being called Christians at the first in Antioch but also the beginning of this distinction between the circumcised and those who were uncircumcised. It’s important to recognize and understand this division and distinction was not merely limited to those jews who were uncircumcised and didn’t believe but also those Jews who believed and were circumcised. In the coming days there would be this profound distinction which would exist between the Jews who were considered “the circumcision” and those who weren’t. Of course we know and understand those who weren’t of the circumcision were the Gentiles and this would create a great conflict within the hearts and minds of countless Jews who were of the circumcision—both those who believed and those who didn’t believe. Not only this but we must needs recognize that for those Jews who believed and would dare impose circumcision upon the Gentiles it was perceived as legalism and hypocrisy while the resistance and opposition of those jews who were circumcised and did not believe it would be considered as persecution.

 

Two of the greatest threats which faced the church during these days would be the legalism of the circumcised Jews who believed and the persecution of the unbelieving Jews—something which would indeed be manifested when the apostle Paul came to Thessalonica and even Berea. This is something we have a great need to recognize for what we find and read in the coming chapters must be seen through the lens of circumcision and uncircumcision—and not only between this adherence to the Law of Moses but also of persecution and legalism. There is not a doubt in my mind that two of the greatest threats to the early church was persecution of the Jews who were referred to as “the circumcision” and the legalism of the believing Jews who sought to impose circumcision and the Law of Moses upon and against those Gentiles who would believe without and apart from circumcision. There is a great need within our own hearts and minds to keep ourselves from those who would believe and yet walk in legalism and hypocrisy as well as to recognize that we are quickly approaching days of persecution and there is a great need to be such who are able to endure and hold up in the midst of it. We not only need to guard our hearts and our souls from legalism and hypocrisy but we must also be those who are able to weather and stand in the midst of the storm of persecution that can and will be manifested within this nation in the conning days.

 

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