Paul Begins to Train Timothy – Acts 16:1-5

 

Summary:

Timothy was already a “disciple” (v.1), so how can Paul call him his “son” (ITim.1:2), a name reserved for men he led to Christ (cf.Phile.1:10)? Paul led Tim to the Lord during his first visit in Acts 14:6,7. He had help from Tim’s mom, who prepared his heart by teaching him the Scriptures (IITim.3: 15). Her mom prepared her (IITim.1:5), so she could prepare him. Finding Tim saved, Paul began to prepare him for the ministry, so he in turn could prepare others (IITim.2:2).

Since Grandma Lois raised Tim’s mom Eunice in the Jewish faith, she would have taught her not to marry a Gentile (Deut.7:1-3). But Eunice didn’t listen (Acts 16:1). And when verse 1 described her as “a Jewess which believed,” but doesn’t describe her husband as a Greek who believed, he must not have been saved. That’s why Acts 16:1 says “behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus.” Great men of God don’t often come from a marriage of mixed faith, but Eunice overcame that disadvantage by teaching her son the Word of God!

Since it had been 7 years since Paul led Tim to the Lord, he had time to become well known among the brethren in two cities (Acts 16:2). Part of that was Paul’s doing, for Paul visited Tim’s town a second time to confirm him (Acts 14:21, 22). So by the time Paul made this third visit, he saw so much he liked in Tim, he decided to take him with to preach in other cities (Acts 16:3) to train him for the ministry.

Picking a half-Jew/half-Gentile to help him was a picture of what was happening in Acts. Paul’s first helpers, Barnabas and Silas, were fully Jewish, Tim was half Jewish, and later Paul picked a full Gentile named Titus to help him. That pictures how God’s servants went from being Jews to Gentiles, as they are today. Tim typified the Body of Christ, made up of Jews and Gentiles (ICor.12:13). He needed wine for his sickliness (ITim.5:23), a type of how the early church needed the wine of the gifts of the Spirit (cf.Acts 2:4,13) until the Bible was complete.

Tim probably got saved at age 5 and began training seven years later at age 12. That’s the only way 12 years later he could still be called a “youth” (ITim.4:12). Twelve is the age Jewish boys had their bar mitzvah, and were considered old enough to begin apprenticing for their life’s work.

But why’d Paul circumcise Tim (Acts 16:3)? It was because the Jews in that area knew he wasn’t circumcised, and would not let him in their synagogues when Paul came to preach to them. So Paul let Tim become “as” a Jew to win them (ICor. 9:20-23), as James advised us all to do (Acts 15:19-21).

But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be baptized so Baptists will let you teach in their church, so you can win them to the grace message! Circumcision gave a Gentile a new nationality: Jewish. So Paul circumcised Timothy to make him acceptable to Jews as a member of the Hebrew nation, not to make him acceptable as a member of the Hebrew religion. But no one is a Baptist by nationality, so the only reason to be baptized would be to join the Baptist religion.

Later, Paul refused to let his Gentile helper Titus be circumcised (Gal.2:3-5), because that wouldn’t gain those Jews to Paul’s faith, it would join Titus to the Jews’ faith, and obligated him to keep the law (Gal.5:3cf.Rom.6:15).

The “decrees” (Acts 16:4) were the ones James made in Acts 15. Paul was delivering them to Gentiles, and he could now point to Tim as a living example of doing things not to offend the Jews! Paul established those new Gentile members of the Body of Christ (Acts 16:5) with the mystery (Rom.16:25).

All of that ended up being the first step in Tim’s training. Lesson #1 was how to be respectful of the convictions of others. Sad to say, many grace believers haven’t learned it!

A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “Paul Begins To Train Timothy” Acts 16:1-5

The Aftermath of a Special Delivery Letter – Acts 15:30-41

 

Summary:

Now that the Jewish kingdom church has written Paul’s new Gentile converts to say they didn’t have to keep the law, they “dismissed” the men they sent to deliver the letter (v.30).  Once they read it, the Gentiles “rejoiced for the consolation” (v.31). “Consolation” can mean to relieve someone of suffering (cf.IICor.7:1).  They were suffering after legalists told them they had to keep the law, and could only be consoled by “rightly dividing the word of truth” (IITim.2:15), because the law was in the word of truth—just not in the part to you!

Judas and Silas (v.32) were Jewish kingdom saints who “exhorted” them like James did, by saying they weren’t under the law, but should abstain from offending the Jews (v.20).  They “confirmed” them with Old Testament truth.  Barnabas did too (v.35).  Paul confirmed them with grace.

Barnabas wanted to take Mark on Paul’s trip to confirm others (v.36,37) because he had experience as their gopher (13: 2,5). But Paul didn’t, because Mark left them in the lurch (13:13).  As Mark’s uncle (Col.4:10), Barnabas was close enough to Mark to see signs he was maturing spiritually now that 7 years had passed.  But the “sharp” contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) proves believers are no longer filled with the Spirit in a way that empowers them to live “with one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12).

The Bible doesn’t say which man was right, because both could cite Scripture to back their position.  Paul thought of Proverbs 25:19, and Barnabas thought of how God proved Himself a God of second chances with Jonah and Peter and others.  Plus, Paul gave men responsibilities like gophering to see if they were faithful enough to be given more responsibility (Lu.16:10), and Mark proved himself unfaithful.  So both men could cite Scripture, but even today good men differ over the Scriptures.  That causes splits, but God works better in a lot of smaller ministries than in one great big one.

Barnabas took Mark home to Cyprus (Acts 4:36 cf. 15:39) to teach him how to be faithful by teaching him God’s Word.

Eventually, Mark must have proved himself to Paul enough to where the apostle felt comfortable telling others to “receive” him (Col.4:10). Mark must have made the most of that second chance, for Paul calls him a fellow-worker (Phile.1:23,24) “profitable for the ministry” (IITim.4:11).

We know God also gave Mark a second chance, for He allowed Mark to write a book of the Bible—one that presents Christ as the perfect servant! That means God will not only welcome you back with open arms if you’ve been unfaithful to Him, He can actually use what you learned while you were being unfaithful!  What a great God we have!

This split worked out well for Silas too.  In Acts 13, the Antioch church recommended Paul go forth with God’s grace (Acts 13:1-4), and now Silas was going with him instead of Barnabas (15:40,41)—probably as his gopher, since he was going in Mark’s stead.  There’s no record Silas ever did any teaching while with Paul.  He helped Paul with non-ministry things, as Luke did as the physician who traveled with him ministering to wounds inflicted by unbelievers.

Paul took Silas with him back to the churches that he and Barnabas started.  Awkward!  But it gave him a chance to explain the dispensational difference that had taken place since the days men were empowered to be of one accord.

If God’s given you a second chance, are you thankful enough to give one to others?  If you will, God can use you to then give good advice to others, like the advice Paul gave Philemon.  Philemon had an unprofitable slave who could be “profitable” to his master (Phile.1:10,11) if he’d just give him a second chance.  If you’ll start looking at bad things that happen to you the way Paul was inviting Philemon to, as something God can make into something better than you had before (Phile.1:15,16), life will be a lot more enjoyable!

A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “The Aftermath Of A Special Delivery Letter” Acts 15:30-41

The Decision Of The Jerusalem Council – Acts 15:19-29

 

Summary:

We know we can trust the decision James makes here because he was not a usurper who illegitimately replaced Peter as head of the kingdom church, as some say. Paul calls him an apostle (Gal.1:18,19), and the Spirit must have thought he was an apostle too, for He inspired Paul to write that!

And we know Paul thought James was the new leader of the apostles because he mentions him before Peter in Galatians 2:9. When Peter was the leader, he was always mentioned first when apostles were listed. And Paul must have thought James was authorized to make agreements like the one in Galatians 2:9 or he wouldn’t have made it with him. Finally, we know we can trust James’ decision that Gentiles didn’t have to keep the law because it agreed with Paul’s epistles!

But why would James think Gentiles would have to be told not to worship idols (Acts 15:20) if they turned to God “from idols” (cf. IThes.1:9)? It was because he knew that through-out Israel’s history, Jews combined the worship of God and idols (cf. Judges 17:3), and he was afraid the Gentiles would too—and they did in Catholicism!

But why’d James think he had to tell them not to commit fornication (Acts 15:20)? It was because he knew they’d think grace was a license to sin, like the Corinthians did (ICor.5:1,2). Paul saw that coming and dealt with it in Romans 6, and James saw it coming and dealt with it here.

But why would James tell Gentiles they couldn’t eat blood (Acts 15:20) if he agreed they didn’t have to keep the law? It was “for” the sake of Jews who would be offended by it (Acts 15:21). Paul said the same thing in Romans 14:14-18.

The Jerusalem church then wrote letters to the Gentiles to tell them about James’ decision (Acts 15:22). Before Paul, you’d never catch a Jew calling Gentiles “brethren” (v.23)!

They wrote the Gentiles saying they knew some Jews had “troubled” them by telling them they had to keep the law (v.24) That’s the same word Paul used in Galatians 1:4-7 and 5:10,12! That word “subvert” (v.24) means to turn aside (Lam.3:35,36). Those Jews had made them turn aside from grace to the law. In time past, spiritual subversion involved turning away from the law, not to it (Josh.23:6), but there’d been a major dispensational change with Paul’s ministry. Timothy must have had trouble with legalizers as well, for Paul uses that word “subvert” in writing to him too (IITim. 2:14). He reminded him that the answer is found in “rightly dividing the Word” (v.15)! You see, the law is in the Word, but rightly dividing helps you realize that not everything in the Word is to you!

How did they know what seemed good to the Holy Ghost (Acts 15:25)? It was because the Spirit filled Cornelius when he got saved without the law (Acts 10:43-48). James found that very convincing (Acts 15:14).

One of the ways men worshipped idols was by eating meat that was sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29). Paul later said we can eat that meat, but not if it offended weaker brethren (ICor.10:27-30). The way to convince weaker brethren that we are free to eat things that were forbidden under the law isn’t to eat those things in front of him while trying to explain it to him! That’s not grace! The gracious thing to do is to lay aside your liberty when in his company.

The world says, “Let your conscience be your guide,” and they think that’s living life on its highest plane. But Paul tells us to let our brother’s conscience be our guide. That’s living life on the very highest plane imaginable. But if the grace of God that saved you means anything to you, that’s the plane you should strive to live on. Remember, when you sing, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground” that that hymn is a prayer. In it, you’re praying to live like this, so don’t sing it unless you mean business for the Lord!

A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “The Decision Of The Jerusalem Council” Acts 15:19-29

The Jerusalem Council Weighs the Evidence – Acts 15:12-18

 

Summary:

Peter presented such an unanswerable argument to the council that it left them speechless, and Paul began to speak (v.12). Since “the Jews require a sign” (ICor.1:22), Paul told them about the signs God wrought among the Gentiles. Since those miracles belonged to the Jews (Ps.74:9), and God never gave them to Gentiles, this was another strong argument!

But the official decision of the council had to come from James (Acts15:13), the Lord’s brother (Gal.1:19). He made the right decision (Acts 15:19)—but was it his to make? The Lord made Peter head of the kingdom church, so why did the church replace him with James? I believe it was because the wrath of God hadn’t fallen as Psalm 2:1-5 said it would, and when the church asked Peter why, he didn’t know, be-cause the mystery was revealed to Paul, not him (Eph.3:2,3).

So they picked James to lead them because he was big on the law (Acts 21:18,20). They figured if the Lord wasn’t coming back to conquer the world and set up the kingdom that Peter was always talking about, they’d return to the law that James was always talking about (Lu.16:16 cf.James1:25; 2:8,10,11, 12;4:11). James was so strong on the law that he even used the name “Simeon,” the law’s version of Simon Peter.

James said nothing about the miracles Paul mentioned be-cause, while Jews were impressed with signs, God told them to be more impressed with Scripture (Deut.13:1-3). He then quoted some Scripture from Amos 9:11 (Acts 15:15,16). What’s the tabernacle of David? Well, the wilderness tabernacle was a tent of skins with the glory of God inside—and so was the people of Israel! So the tabernacle of David that fell in the Old Testament, and needed to be built back up in the New Testament, was the people of Israel.

If you need help seeing that, consider that God promised to build David a house (IISam.7:2-11), a house that was connected to Solomon’s kingdom (v.12-16). So the fallen tabernacle of David is the people of Israel who lived in Solomon’s kingdom, the kingdom the Lord’ll “restore” at His 2nd coming (cf.Acts 1:6). We know this restoration will come in the kingdom, for that’s the context of Amos 9:11 (cf. v.12-15).

God didn’t plan to rebuild David’s tabernacle because He only wanted Jews to be saved. It was so “that” (Acts 15:17) the rest of men (the Gentiles) would seek Him. The prophets predicted they’d be drawn to Jerusalem to learn about God (Isa.2:2,3) by Israel’s “rising” from their fall (Isa.60:3-5). That will happen after the Tribulation. But in the meantime, Gentiles are getting saved through Israel’s fall (Rom. 11:11) according to the mystery, instead of according to prophecy.

That’s why James didn’t say what Paul was doing fulfilled Amos 9:11. He said it “agreed” with it (Acts 15:15). Peter could say that what Joel predicted “is” what he was seeing (Acts 2:16), but James couldn’t say that—especially since Amos predicted the Jews would “possess” the Gentiles in the kingdom (Amos 9:12 cf. Isa.60:10; 61:5). Gentiles will willingly enslave themselves to Jews in that day in gratitude for teaching them about God. But Paul’s ministry agreed with what God wanted all along, so James approved it.

But why would James say, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18)? I believe that statement shows that Paul told the council about the mystery, and how God knew from the beginning He’d save Gentiles without the law, but said nothing about it.

If you need more proof that God was thinking of us in Amos 9, verse 6 talks about the “stories” or levels of government in heaven that fell when Satan and his host disobeyed God—just like Solomon’s kingdom fell when they disobeyed God. Amos went on to talk about restoring David’s tabernacle in Solomon’s kingdom, but he said nothing about restoring those stories. Nobody did, until Paul was made an apostle!

A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “The Jerusalem Council Weighs The Evidence” Acts 15:12-18

Paul’s Message Is Officially Reviewed – Acts 15:1-11

 

Summary:

After Paul spent 13 years telling Gentiles they didn’t have to be circumcised to be saved, some Jews said otherwise (v.1). Paul objected, so they sent him to Jerusalem to ask the apostles about it (v.2). Paul went (v.3) because the Lord revealed he should go “communicate” (Gal.2:1,2) his new gospel of grace to the 12 and the other Jewish kingdom church leaders.

Paul needed their stamp of approval on his new ministry, because God was not about to start a new church without telling his old church about it. So he left his home Gentile church in Antioch, and the church brought him on his way by walking him out of the city (v.3cf.21:4,5).

The “brethren” in Phenice and Samaria were Jewish kingdom saints (v.3cf.Acts 8:5,6;11:19). Verse 3 shows the Average Joe Jew rejoiced to hear about the conversion of the Gentiles, but the leaders might not (cf.Mark12:37,38). These leaders were saved, but even saved men don’t always accept dispensational changes like the one Paul was introducing.

The Jerusalem church gave Paul a hearing (Acts 15:4), but some saved Pharisees insisted his new Gentile converts had to be circumcised and “keep the law” to be saved (v.5). You see, getting circumcised was the first thing the law told a man to do, and it obligated you to do the rest (Gal.5:3). When Paul told the leaders Gentiles weren’t under the law (Rom. 6:15), they convened the council to decide (Acts 15:6).

The Lord told the 12 that the decisions they made on earth would be confirmed in heaven (Mt.18:28-30), and He had no intention of asking Paul to ignore that authority and preach grace without their approval. After the 12 and those leaders disputed about it greatly, Peter reminded them that God had earlier sent him to a Gentile in Acts 10 to break the ice for Paul’s ministry (Acts 15:7). Who better to introduce God’s new main apostle than His old main apostle, just as the last Old Testament prophet (Lu.16:16) paved the way for the first New Testament prophet (Mt.3:1-3 cf. Jo.6:14). If Christ needed a man to pave the way for Him, Paul needed Peter!

But God also used the Spirit to introduce the Lord (Mt.3:13, 16), and He used Him to introduce Paul too (Acts 15:8). Peter was “astonished” to see a Gentile saved without circumcision (Acts 10:44-46) because that meant God had purified their hearts “by faith” alone (Acts 15:9), without the law. That was astonishing in that it showed God put “no difference” (15:9) between Jews and Gentiles, whereas earlier He put a huge difference between them (Lev.20:26; Num.23:9).

When Peter reminded the council that the Gentile he ministered to was saved without the law, he was reminding them they already settled this issue (Acts 11:1-17,18). So Peter asked them why they wanted to put the “yoke” of the law on Paul’s Gentile converts (Acts 15:10 cf. Gal5:1-3). Obligating them to do the whole law meant doing it 100% perfect, 100% of the time (Gal.3:10cf.James 2:10,11). Acts 15:10 says that that would “tempt” or try God (Gen.22:1,2cf.Heb. 11:17). God tried Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22, and it’d try God’s patience to force Gentiles to be circumcised after God proved by His Spirit that they didn’t need circumcision.

Finally, Peter said, “You guys are trying to make Gentiles get saved like us Jews, by circumcision and the law. But we’re going to be saved like them, by grace” (Acts 15:11). They were already saved, but their salvation worked like yours does. You were saved when you believed, but the completion of your salvation will come at the Rapture (Rom. 13:11). Peter was saved when he believed, but the completion of his salvation—and the salvation of all the rest of the Jewish kingdom saints—will come when the Lord saves them by grace—“graciously” (Hosea 14:1-4), when He takes away the sin out of their lives when they enter the kingdom, just as He purified their hearts by faith when they believed.

A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “Paul’s Message Is Officially Reviewed” Acts 15:1-11