Sunday Evening Bible Study
December 17, 1995
Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.
After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.
The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew.
They taught that after a person came to Jesus, they would have to then be circumcised, and begin to follow the Law of Moses.
To those who would teach a perversion of the gospel, Paul did not mince his words:
Galatians 1:9 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.
Last week we saw Paul begin to describe His conversion, and how it was totally a work of the Lord, no human hands involved.
After coming to the Lord, Paul didn't begin by enrolling in seminary, but went off to be with the Lord:
Galatians 1:17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
:18-24 Paul's contacts with the church
When Paul originally left Jerusalem, he left to persecute the church in Damascus.
But when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was blinded and had to be led into Damascus.
After being healed by Ananias, Paul went and took some time off in Arabia (Gal.1:17) to learn from the Lord.
Then he returned to Damascus and began to minister there.
Now after a total of three years, Paul headed back to Jerusalem.
We take up the story in Acts:
Acts 9:26-30 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. 27 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. 28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. 30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
When Luke records that Paul met with the apostles in Jerusalem, apparently it was only with Peter and James.
Be a Barney!
His name means "son of rest" or, "son of encouragement"
He was willing to put his reputation on the line to stick up for someone who was being judged incorrectly.
Later on, he was the one to hand pick Paul out to help mature and teach the church in Antioch
Acts 11:22-26 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. 23 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. 24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. 25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 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.
Keep your eyes out for the Pauls in our midst!
Bring them alongside, encourage them, and teach them how to minister!
This is the author of the letter of James.
He became the pastor of the church in Jerusalem.
Syria is to the north of Israel.
Cilicia is farther north still, where Saul's home town of Taursus is.
This falls in line with Acts 9:30 which said that Paul was sent off to Tarsus.
Paul says this to further the idea that he did not get his gospel from man, but from the Lord.
He's already made it clear that he didn't immediately go to the apostles and ask them to teach him.
And now he says that he not only didn't go to the apostles, or the church in Jerusalem (except after 3 years), but that the churches in the whole southern part of Israel didn't even know Paul by sight.
It can be the person you expect least.
It's not uncommon for the Lord to save those you least expect.
I remember one guy in grade school and high school who was nothing but trouble.
But boy was I blown away in college when I ran into him at a concert at the old, original Calvary Chapel Brea, and he had changed!
The old proverb:
When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps the loudest is probably the one that you hit.
It's okay if you get some reactions and objections. Maybe you're beginning to hit home!
Just remember the apostle Paul!
But not at first, at first there was a little skepticism
Acts 9:26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.
It wasn't until Barney came along that they began to loosen up and praise the Lord for Paul.
Don't be too close-minded!
Sometimes we Christians get to thinking that saved people must all learn to dress alike, talk alike, walk alike, etc.
And when someone new comes into our group, oooooh!
We can stand back and just sneer and criticize.
We need to instead learn to accept one another.
God has made us acceptable:
Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Who are we not to accept one another?
Romans 15:7 Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
The person you reject, just may be the next apostle Paul!
The history books are full of stories of gifted persons whose talents were overlooked by a procession of people until someone believed in them. Einstein was four years old before he could speak and seven before he could read. Issac Newton did poorly in grade school. A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had "no good ideas". Leo Tolstoy flunked out of college, and Werner von Braun failed ninth grade algebra. Haydn gave up ever making a musician of Beethoven, who seemed a slow and plodding young man with no apparent talent -- except a belief in music.
But even if they become nothing greater in life, they are still incredibly precious to the Lord.
Learn to treasure the people around you!
:1-2 Checking with Jerusalem
Apparently, roughly fourteen years after Paul's conversion.
This is going to be an event that was held in A.D. 50, and hence Paul's conversion was somewhere around A.D. 36.
This is going to for the first church "conference" that would ever take place, described in Acts 15.
The way it appears in Acts:
Acts 15:1-4 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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.
In Acts, the church became aware of this whole conflict with the Judaizers.
And it was the church that apparently decided for Paul and Barnabas to go.
But Paul clarifies it here, that the way that the church decided what to do, was by revelation.
God had specifically spoken to their hearts and directed them.
It wasn't done by brainstorming.
It was done by God speaking.
Let God speak!
God has a wonderful promise:
Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
If we will call on Him, He promises to answer us.
You won't get stuck with God's answer machine.
Like the one that said:
"The answering machine is on vacation. This is the refrigerator speaking. If you leave a message slowly and clearly, I will write it down and stick it on myself with one of these little magnets. Thank you!"
Be willing to accept God's answer.
But there's one thing we should learn first, are you really willing to do what God says?
We saw this in the gospel of John when Jesus said:
John 7:17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
There's another example to learn from as well.
The governor had been assasinated, and the people were afraid that the Babylonians would punish them for it.
The few remaining Jews came to Jeremiah to ask God for advice. They said:
Jeremiah 42:5-6 Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. 6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.
Wait for the answer
If God promises to answer, He will.
So wait for it.
With Jeremiah and the people:
Jeremiah 42:7 And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah.
Obey God's answer
Everything seemed to be going great up to this point.
Until Jeremiah came back with his answer.
He told them to stay put, and God would take care of them.
Jeremiah 43:2 Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:
Paul wanted to make sure that he was correct in his doctrine.
Here's where the cults make their big mistakes!
If it's of the Lord, there will be confirmation!
It's easy to come up with a new teaching.
But it's another to be correct!
Anybody can claim to have a revelation from God, just as Paul did.
But if it's really from God, there will be confirmation from several other areas:
Confirmation from God's Word.
Confirmation among the believers.
This is where people like Joseph Smith get off base.
He claimed to have a new revelation from God.
But none of the other church leaders recognized it.
Only the ignorant people willing to be duped followed it.
Peter Cartwright (1785-1872) was famous for his camp-meeting exploits even before he wrote his 1857 Autobiography--but afterward, even more so.
"It fell to my lot to become acquainted with Joe Smith personally," Cartwright says, speaking of the Mormon founder. He then recounts their meeting.
In the first place, he made his onset on me by flattery, and he laid on the soft sodder thick and fast. He expressed great and almost unbounded pleasure in the high privilege of becoming acquainted with me, one of whom he had heard so many great and good things. And he had no doubt I was one among God's noblest creatures, an honest man.
I found him to be a very illiterate and impudent desperado in morals, but, at the same time, he had a vast fund of low cunning.
He believed that among all the churches in the world the Methodist was the nearest right, and that, as far as they went, they were right. But they had stopped short by not claiming the gift of tongues, of prophecy, and of miracles, and then quoted a batch of Scripture to prove his positions correct.
Upon the whole, he did pretty well for clumsy Joe. I gave him rope, as the sailors say, and, indeed, I seemed to lay this plattering unction pleasurably to my soul.
"Indeed," said Joe, "if the Methodists would only advance a step or two further, they would take the world. And if you would come in and go with us, we could sweep not only the Methodist church, but all others, and you would be looked up to as one of the Lord's greatest prophets. You would be honored by countless thousands, and have of the good things of this world all that heart could wish."
I then began to inquire into some of the tenets of the Latter-Day Saints. He explained. I criticized his explanations till, unfortunately, we got into high debate.
The next pass he made at me was to move upon my fears. He said that in all ages of the world, the good and right way was evil spoken of, and that it was an awful thing to fight against God.
"Now," said he, "if you will go with me to Nauvoo, I will show you many living witnesses that will testify that they were, by the saints, cured of blindness, lameness, deafness, dumbness, and all the diseases that human flesh is heir to. And I will show you," said he, "that we have the gift of tongues, and can speak in unknown languages, and that the saints can drink any deadly poison, and it will not hurt them." [He] closed by saying, "The idle stories you hear about us are nothing but sheer persecution."
"This is my camp meeting"
I then gave him the following history of an encounter I had at a camp meeting in Morgan County, some time before, with some of his Mormons, and assured him I could prove all I said by thousands that were present.
The camp meeting was numerously attended, and we had a good and gracious work of religion going on among the people. On Saturday there came some 20 or 30 Mormons to the meeting. During the intermission after the 11:00 sermon, they collected in one corner of the encampment and began to sing, and they sang well. As fast as the people rose from their dinners, they drew up to hear the singing, until a large company surrounded them.
At length (according, I have no doubt, to a preconcerted plan) an old lady Mormon began to shout, and after shouting a while, she swooned away and fell into the arms of her husband. The old man proclaimed that his wife had gone into a trance, and that when she came to, she would speak in an unknown tongue and he would interpret. This proclamation produced considerable excitement, and
the multitude crowded thick around. Presently the old lady arose and began to speak in an unknown tongue, sure enough.
Just then my attention was called to the matter. I saw in one moment that the whole maneuver was intended to bring the Mormons into notice and break up the good of our meeting.
I advanced instantly toward the crowd and asked the people to give way and let me in to this old lady, who was then being held in the arms of her husband. I came right up to them and took hold of her arm, and ordered her peremptorily to hush that gibberish, that I would have no more of it, that it was presumptuous and blasphemous nonsense. I stopped very suddenly her unknown tongue.
She opened her eyes, took me by the hand, and said, "My dear friend, I have a message directly from God to you."
I stopped her short and said, "I will have none of your message. If God can speak through no better medium than on old, hypocritical, lying woman, I will hear nothing of it!"
Her husband, who was to be the interpreter of her message, flew into a mighty rage, and said, "Sir, this is my wife, and I will defend her at the risk of my life!" I replied, "Sir, this is my camp meeting, and I will maintain the good order of it at the risk of my life. If this is your wife, take her off from here, and clear yourselves in five minutes, or I will have you under guard."
The old lady slipped out and was off quickly. The old man stayed a little and began to pour a tirade of abuse on me. I stopped him short and said, "Not another word of abuse from you, sir. I have no doubt you are an old thief, and if your back was examined, no doubt you carry the marks of the cowhide for your villainy."
And sure enough, as if I had spoken by inspiration, he, in some of the old states, had been lashed to the whipping post for stealing. To cap the climax, a young gentleman stepped up and said he had no doubt all I said of this old man was true, and much more, for he had caught him stealing corn out of his father's crib.
By this time, such was the old man's excitement that great drops of sweat ran down his face, and he called out, "Don't crowd me, gentlemen; it is mighty warm."
Said I, "Open the way, gentlemen, and let him out." When the way was opened, I cried, "Now start, and don't show your face here again, nor one of the Mormons. If you do, you will get Lynch's law."
They all disappeared, and our meeting went on prosperously; a great many were converted to God.
Wrath boiled over
My friend Joe Smith became very restive before I got through with my narrative. And when I closed, his wrath boiled over, and he cursed me in the name of his God and said, "I will show you, sir, that I will raise up a government in these United States which will overturn the present government, and I will raise up a new religion that will overturn every other form of religion in this country!"
"Yes," said I, "Uncle Joe; but my Bible tells me 'the bloody and deceitful man shall not live out half his days,' and I expect the Lord will send the Devil after you some of these days and take you out of the way."
"No, sir," said he; "I shall live and prosper, while you will die in your sins."
"Well, sir," said I, "if you live and prosper, you must quit your stealing and abominable whoredoms!"
Thus we parted, to meet no more on earth; for in a few years after this, an outraged and deeply injured people took the law into their own hands and killed him, and drove the Mormons from the state.
There ought to be confirmation with others!