Monthly Archives: May 2015

How did Satan hinder Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:18?

HOW DID SATAN HINDER PAUL IN 1 THESSALONIANS 2:18?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18). How did Satan repeatedly “hinder” Paul from returning to Thessalonica? We will see what the Scriptures say.

We find the key in the book of Acts. In chapter 17, the first nine verses, we read about Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica: “[1] Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: [2] And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, [3] Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. [4] And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. [5] But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. [6] And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; [7] Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. [8] And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. [9] And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.”

As the Bible says above, Paul entered the synagogue of the Jews in Thessalonica and he reasoned with them out of the Scriptures for three Sabbath days. He used the Old Testament Scriptures to show these unbelieving Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah/Christ, the Person whom they had rejected some 20 years earlier. The Bible says that some of them believed those sermons that Paul preached. Many of the religious Greeks and many chief women came to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour there in Thessalonica. There were some great evangelistic meetings and many were saved from death and hell! But, of course, wherever God is working mightily, the Devil will come along and do everything he can to hamper and spoil it.

A number of unbelieving Jews assembled a company of very wicked men in Thessalonica. These people stirred up the city and they assaulted Jason’s house (where the local church was meeting, evidently). When this mob could not locate Paul and his ministry companions, they dragged Jason and other Christians to the city rulers. In these legal proceedings, the mob accused Jason of receiving the Apostle Paul and his ministry companions, people who the mob claimed were teaching and preaching that they should rebel against Roman Emperor Caesar and accept Jesus as King.

Upon hearing this news, the city leaders were greatly troubled. They “took security” of Jason and the other and then let them go. The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away into the nearby city of Berea. Satan hindered Paul from visiting Thessalonica again by using a corrupt local government that legally banned them from entering the city. This is quite easily understood. Even today, Satan uses government officials around the world to pass anti-Christian laws, teach anti-Bible information, malign Christians, persecute Christians, and kill Christians. Paul could not legally enter the city of Thessalonica anymore. The Apostle says that on numerous occasions he was hindered from ministering to the Thessalonian believers. In Romans 1:13, we learn that Paul was often hindered from reaching the believers in Rome. While the manner of hindering concerning Rome was unknown, Satan was definitely involved in some way. In fact, the very reason why Paul died was because he was preaching Christianity—an illegal religion in the Roman Empire. He was imprisoned as an “evildoer” (2 Timothy 2:9) and was finally put to death because of his Christian testimony and extensive ministry endeavors to spread Christianity all around the then-known world.

By the way, in the Old Testament Scriptures, we find another example of how Satan used a corrupt human government to hinder God’s work. This is an instance of Satan working in Israel’s program. Daniel was praying for understanding about spiritual matters (prophecy), and the Angel Gabriel finally showed up—three weeks later—with instruction. Gabriel explains why he was delayed in Daniel 10:12-13,20: “[12] Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. [13] But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. [20] Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.”

The Angel Gabriel was hindered for 21 days before he was able to reach the Prophet Daniel with divine enlightenment. Satan’s minions—the kings of Persia and the prince of Persia—were working in tandem with Satan to prevent Gabriel from coming to give Daniel spiritual insight. Michael the Archangel had to use his great military strength to help Gabriel reach his destination! (It is interesting to note that no angels helped Paul during his run-ins with the evil governments of this world. See, dear friends, angels do not have a ministry to us. They play a very integral role in Israel’s program, but not in our mystery program.)

Also see:
» How does Satan operate today?

» What does “my kingdom is not of this world” mean?
» Where in the Bible did God give Satan dominion over the Earth?

Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?

WHO WERE THE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOWED JESUS BEFORE PAUL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?”

Thank you for this question. The Apostle Paul (then known as Saul of Tarsus) was saved in Acts chapter 9, one year after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Those who followed Jesus Christ prior to Paul are found between Matthew chapter 1 and Acts chapter 8. We will examine some of those passages here.

The Holy Bible knows this group of believers by various and sundry names:

  • “them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38);
  • “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16);
  • “the little flock” (Luke 12:32);
  • “a foolish nation” (Romans 10:19; cf. Deuteronomy 32:21);
  • “the strangers scattered throughout…” (1 Peter 1:1);
  • “a kingdom of priests” and “an holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9);
  • “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1);
  • “the church which was at Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1);
  • “[those] waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25);
  • “[those who] waited for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43);
  • and “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; cf. Matthew 16:18).

Personally, I often call them “Israel’s little flock” (see Luke 12:32), “Israel’s believing remnant” (Romans 9:27; not every single Jew will be saved), or “Messianic Jews” (in light of their profession that Jesus is Messiah/Christ). Technically, the name “Christians” was not used until Acts 11:26. Later, in 1 Peter 4:16, the Messianic Jews were called “Christians.”

These believers during the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are “Messianic believers.” They knew nothing of Calvary’s cross until after it happened (see Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 18:31-34; Luke 24:44-46; John 20:9). Even in the early Acts period, God did not let them see the full picture, the full merits of Christ’s finished crosswork. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, people simply believed that He was the King of Israel, the Messiah/Christ, the Son of God. Jesus Christ told His 12 apostles to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7). At that point in the program of God, there was nothing in the Gospel message about Calvary. God had not yet revealed the Gospel of Grace that we preach today; Jesus had not even died yet.

Notice the confessions of these Messianic Jews:

  • Andrew told his brother Simon Peter, “We have found Messias, which is, being interpreted, Christ” (John 1:41).
  • Nathanael said to Jesus, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
  • Peter said to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
  • Martha said to Jesus, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:27).
  • The Samaritans of John 4:42 said of Jesus, “we… know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
  • In Acts 2:36-38, Peter stressed Jesus’ Lordship and Christship and urged Israel to repent and be water baptized in Jesus Christ’s
    name.
  • Even as late as Acts 8:37, a year after Calvary, the Gospel was still “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Modern Bible versions and their underlying manuscripts omit this important verse!)

The Gospel message that highlighted who Jesus was—that He was Israel’s Messiah-King—is called “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 9:35; Mark 1:14-15; et al.) It was around this Gospel message that God formed Israel’s believing remnant, the little flock. Note that Calvary’s crosswork is absent from the professions of faith listed above. God had not yet revealed that information. That mystery would not be revealed until Paul’s ministry (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

The little flock of Jewish believers would include people such as:

  • Zacharias and Elisabeth, parents of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25, 57-79);
  • Joseph and Mary, Jesus’ mother (Luke 1:26-56);
  • Simeon (Luke 2:25);
  • Anna (Luke 2:36-38);
  • John the Baptist (John 1:6-34);
  • the 12 apostles (Matthew 10:1-4);
  • Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” (Matthew 27:61);
  • Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha (John 11:1-2,22-28);
  • Joseph of Arimathaea (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; John 19:38); and various others.
  • There were 120 disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem in Acts 1:15-16.
  • Over 500 believers saw Jesus Christ post-resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  • There were about 3,000 Jews saved on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and about 5,000 Jews saved in Acts 4:4.
  • We read about various other believers throughout the first eight chapters of Acts. Stephen and Philip are the primary examples of Messianic Jews in Acts chapters 6-8.
  • These were all people who followed Jesus Christ prior to Paul, people whom Paul (or at that time, known as Saul of Tarsus) persecuted when he was a lost man (Acts 8:1-4; Acts 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13-14; 1 Timothy 1:13).

On the basis of Isaiah chapter 11, or Daniel 9:24-26, or Isaiah chapter 53, or Psalm chapter 22, or Micah 5:2, or Isaiah 9:6-7, or Isaiah 35:4-6, or 300 other Old Testament prophecies, the Jews were able to identify Jesus as Messiah when He showed up in Israel 2,000 years ago. Furthermore, they had John the Baptist’s ministry to bear record that Jesus of Nazareth undoubtedly was the Messiah promised throughout the Old Testament economy. They were anticipating Him to come and establish an earthly kingdom (yet future beyond our day). In that kingdom, there will be no curse of sin or sickness or death. Israel will inherit all of God’s promises and blessings (forgiveness of sins, deliverance from Satan, the land, the New Covenant, the David kingdom, their national priesthood, et cetera). When we come to Paul’s ministry in the Bible, we learn about the Church the Body of Christ, a group of believers who will inherit an heavenly kingdom. (Beyond the scope of this study.)

CONCLUSION

We need to always distinguish between the nation Israel and the Church the Body of Christ. Your question is helpful in accentuating that difference. When we see the Gospel that Paul preached to form the Church the Body of Christ, and the Gospel that Peter and 11 preached to form the nation Israel’s believing remnant, they were obviously two different messages, two different programs, two different sets of believers, two different hopes. Prior to our Gospel being revealed through Paul, the good news that God wanted Israel to believe was that Jesus was His Son, the King, Messiah/Christ. However, when we come to Paul’s ministry, the good news that God wants us to believe is that Jesus Christ paid for our sins by dying on Calvary’s cross, and that we appropriate those merits by simple faith in that finished crosswork. While we could carry this study much, much, much further, we will conclude it and refer you to the three associated Bible studies linked below. They expand on topics we have only briefly introduced here. Also, they cover material we omitted here for brevity’s sake.

Also see:
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?
» Were there people “in Christ” before Paul?
» Is the Body of Christ the “church” spoken of in Matthew 16:18?

Did Paul quote verses out of context in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1?

DID PAUL QUOTE VERSES OUT OF CONTEXT IN 2 CORINTHIANS 6:14–7:1?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“I would like to hear your thoughts on a passage of Scripture. As you know, in the church today it is the norm to take Scripture out of context and apply it wherever you wish to make your point. In 2 Corinthians 6:16–7:1 it almost seems that Paul is doing this very thing. We know that the passages he is quoting are about Israel and yet in 7:1 he says that they are our promises as well. I know that there is an explanation to this that I am missing. I would appreciate your help, Brother.”

Yes, Brother, the verses that Paul quoted in that passage were originally to and about Israel. Yet, the Holy Spirit through Paul selected them to apply to us. When you take the time to study those Old Testament references and then recognize the extensive spiritual troubles in the Corinthian assembly, you see why these verses from Israel’s program were used in the second epistle to apply to the Corinthians (and to us). I believe that the following study is the “explanation that you are missing.” 🙂

There are various parallels between Israel and the Church the Body of Christ. While these groups should certainly never be confused with each other (different gospels, different apostles, different operating systems, different hopes, et cetera), there are similarities between these two agencies of believers. Whether the nation Israel or the Church the Body of Christ, Jesus Christ is the Saviour of both, the Son of God in both, and the resurrected Lord in both. Another similarity is that Satan uses false religion to seduce members of the Body of Christ today just as he did with the nation Israel in time past (or will do with Israel yet future). Whether in prophecy or mystery, Satan’s policy of evil is designed to distract God’s people from God’s current program. As long as Satan can entice God’s people to think about something else, they will be ignorant of God’s will for them and His Word to them. If Satan can pollute God’s people with garbage teaching, they cannot be productive vessels of His grace.

THE CORINTHIANS AND DOCTRINAL ERROR

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that Satan was using a lot of erroneous doctrine to distract the Corinthian believers. (The same is true today with believers!) We will briefly look at some examples of how Satan was actively opposing and greatly upsetting God’s purpose and plan for the Corinthians.

Firstly, according to the first three chapters of the first epistle to Corinth, human philosophy was being used as a means to try to discover Father God’s will. Paul had to correct such thinking in those passages, warning the Corinthians that they were polluting themselves with doctrine that would amount to nothing at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They needed God’s wisdom instead of human wisdom (note particularly 1 Corinthians 2:1-16). In light of eternity, they needed the Scriptures, especially Paul’s writings, instead of the writings of the Greek poets, the speeches of the Greek orators, and so on.

Secondly, chapters 8, 10, and 11 of First Corinthians are the Holy Spirit’s reminder to the Corinthians that they should not participate in heathen religion. The Holy Spirit reminded them in chapter 10 to not repeat Israel’s mistakes and go the way of apostasy. Paul retold how Israel started off right by coming out of Egypt in faith but then they abandoned God’s Word to them (Law of Moses) and participated in idol worship. Satan was using a similar tactic to defile of the Corinthians, except he was drawing the Corinthians away from Paul. False apostles had come to Corinth and encouraged these believers to defile their Christian lives with doctrinal error. This “fellowship with devils” and “table of devils” is frequently referenced throughout chapters 10 and 11 of First Corinthians. The Holy Spirit screamed against such madness!

Thirdly, in chapter 15 of First Corinthians, we learn that some of these believers had begun to deny Christ’s bodily resurrection (verse 12). After Paul had come and preached to them, someone teaching pagan philosophy misled the Corinthians to reject the doctrine of bodily resurrection. That entire chapter was aimed at correcting their error and defending the veracity of the doctrine of bodily resurrection.

Lastly, by the time Paul and Timothy wrote Second Corinthians, about a year after the first epistle, the saints there had reformed in some areas but still had other major problems. The Corinthians only acknowledged Paul and Timothy “in part” (2 Corinthians 1:14). Some Corinthians refused to submit to Paul’s apostleship (does that sound familiar?). A portion of those believers accepted him as a legitimate apostle of Jesus Christ but the rest rejected him (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:10-12; 2 Corinthians 11:1-33). Throughout chapters 10 through 13 of his second epistle to Corinth, Paul answered his detractors and defended his apostleship. As mentioned earlier, false teachers had infiltrated Corinth and had made these believers turn away from Paul. Again, as Satan turned Israel away from God’s spokesman to them, Moses (1 Corinthians chapter 10), Satan turned the Corinthians away from God’s spokesman to them, Paul. Another passage in 2 Corinthians that identifies their spiritual wickedness involves your question. It is Second Corinthians chapter 6 which lists verses that God told Israel so that they would remain pure doctrinally (or to encourage them to return to pure Bible doctrine when they abandoned it).

With the above as background, now we can look at your question. It becomes very clear why Paul wrote what he did and quoted what he did in that passage.

2 CORINTHIANS 6:14–7:1 AND ITS OLD TESTAMENT PARALLELS

We will read 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1: “[6:14] Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? [6:15] And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [6:16] And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [6:17] Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, [6:18] And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. [7:1] Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

By the way, as you are probably aware, verse 14 is often used to teach that Christians are not to marry lost people. However, Paul’s comments about marriage are in First Corinthians chapter 7—verse 39 of that chapter says Christians should marry only Christians. In verse 14 of 2 Corinthians chapter 6, the passage currently under discussion, being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” is a reference to associating with idol worship and false religion (remember our earlier comments). The next several verses amplify this enjoining to avoid doctrinal error.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” The Old Testament book of Amos sheds light on this expression. Just as the fifth course of judgment was about to come upon Judah, God sent prophets to warn the Jews of His impending wrath. For centuries, they had committed spiritual adultery. They had worshipped and served other gods long enough. Now there was divine chastisement on the way! To highlight their spiritual error and cause them to think of that error, God asked them in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” The Jews were not worshiping JEHOVAH God. They were not walking with Him. Instead they were fellowshipping with false religion and pagan idols. They were walking in foolishness and vanity. The Jews were “unequally yoked” to Satan’s lie program, false religion. Similarly, the Corinthians, as Paul will proceed to demonstrate, were “unequally yoked together” with devil worship.

There are five rhetorical questions in verses 14-16 of 2 Corinthians chapter 6, queries that Paul asked to prompt the Corinthians to think about what they were doing. “Does it make sense for that which is right (you) to fellowship with that which is wrong (heathen worship)? Does it make sense for spiritual light (you) to mix with spiritual darkness (false religion)? Does it make sense for Jesus Christ (you) to be harmonious with Belial (Satan)? Does it make sense for Christians (you) to have a part with non-Christians (lost people)? Does it make sense for the temple of God (you) to agree with idols (devil worship)?” (The answer to all five questions is, “NO!”)

From verses 16-18, Paul quotes several Old Testament verses to strengthen his argument (the previous five questions). We Christians are the temple of the living God—or temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:22; 2 Timothy 1:14). Therefore, we should have nothing to do with dead idols. As we stated in our opening remarks, Satan uses false religion to trick us just as he utilized false religion to confuse Israel. In fact, if you study the dozens upon dozens of verses that delineate that false religion that misled Israel, you will see that the same religious system is all around us in the form of Roman Catholicism. That false religion that damned Israel featured the wafers/cakes, the goddess called “the queen of heaven,” the priests called “father,” the images and idols, incense, candles, the bowing to and kissing of statues, golden cups of wine, vestments/clothing/robes, purple and scarlet colors, et cetera.

We want to briefly analyze the three Old Testament quotes about which you are asking:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16: “…as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This would be a loose quotation of Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 31:33, Jeremiah 32:38, Ezekiel 11:20, Ezekiel 36:28, Ezekiel 37:26, Zechariah 8:8, and Zechariah 13:9. You should check these verses in your Bible. Some of these references are actually going to be fulfilled one day after our Dispensation of Grace is over, when God redeems Israel and lives in and with her in the Millennial Kingdom (as He lives in us Christians now in this the Dispensation of Grace). Since some of the Corinthians were Jews (Acts 18:1-11), they would have been familiar with these Old Testament prophecies. God can only live in us practically if we are submissive to His Word and will. If we are distracted by error, we cannot know His Word and will.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:17: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” This is quoting Isaiah 52:11, which admonishes Israel to be spiritually pure so she can be ready to accept her Messiah and enter His earthly kingdom (the Millennium). She needs to turn away from her pagan ways and turn to JEHOVAH God. If we want to fully experience the eternal life that God gave us in Jesus Christ, we need to get rid of that which will smother that life. We need to abandon false apostles, false prophets, cults, et cetera, and we need to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ’s heavenly ministry found in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:18: “And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Taken loosely from Jeremiah 31:1, which in its context is a description of Israel’s New Covenant and her redemption from Satan worship and spiritual bondage. We are God’s children by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). But, if we want to enjoy that spiritual relationship to the fullest extent, we need to understand and believe His Word to us. We need to turn from our idols (denominationalism, philosophy, et cetera) and turn to God’s Word through Paul. That way, we can cooperate with Father God in accomplishing His will (just as sons or daughters would assist their biological father).

When the above points are all taken into consideration, you can appreciate why Paul opened chapter 7 with, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” God did not want Israel polluted with false teaching and He does not want us polluted with false teaching. He is our God. We have His indwelling Holy Spirit in us. Does it make sense for us to ignore His Word through Paul and act as though the Lord Jesus Christ according to “the revelation of the mystery,” is not our God? (No.) Does it make sense for us to ignore our God’s instructions and do whatever we want in religion? (No.) Does it make sense for us to partake in a false religious system when God repeatedly told Israel not to do it? (No.) (In fact, whether the false religion of Israel’s time or the false religion of our time, they are equally repulsive to God because they are all the work of Satan.) Does it make sense for us as sons and daughters of God to behave like we are not His sons and daughters? (No.) Since all of these questions are answered in the negative, we should (therefore, consequently) “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

The “filthiness of the spirit” refers to spiritual sins (false religion, human “goodness,” rites, rituals, ceremonies, statues/images, et cetera). The “filthiness of the flesh” refers to the loose living of the world (stealing, pride, killing, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, illegal drugs, lying, et cetera). False religion is associated with the sins of the spirit and the sins of the flesh, so our behavior should be cleansed of both. We should revere the God of the Bible, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should have respect for Him. Israel did not, and so, she went the way of idolatry.

The way we worship God is by studying, believing, and maturing in sound Bible doctrine, rightly divided Bible study, teaching that purifies us from Satan’s polluted teaching (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:11-32; Ephesians 5:1-27; Colossians 3:1–4:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; 2 Timothy 2:14-26; et al.). Israel has to wait until our program finishes to see the fulfillment of those verses quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, but those verses are true of us now. We members of the Body of Christ are God’s people now. We have His indwelling Holy Spirit now. He has received us now. We have fellowship with Him now. He is our Father now. We are His children now. The same salvation from and forgiveness of sins that we enjoy now in the Body of Christ, redeemed Israel must wait until Jesus Christ’s Second Coming to get it (cf. Acts 3:19-21 and Romans 5:11).

CONCLUSION

In summation, Paul quoting some verses from Israel’s program and applying them to us is acceptable because of the similar contexts. The verses he quoted are transdispensational. In other words, no matter the dispensation, God always wants His people to be doctrinally pure. Regardless of the dispensation or age, Satan’s policy of evil always counterfeits God’s purpose, plan, and Word. Whether Adam and Abel, or Noah, or Abraham and Moses, or Israel’s believing remnant in the Four Gospels and Hebrews through Revelation, or us in the Church the Body of Christ, the Devil is always trying to sidetrack. God’s people need to always guard against doctrinal error… especially against non-rightly-divided Bible!

In 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1, Paul quoted those Old Testament verses to remind the Corinthians (and all members of the Body of Christ) that we have the same relationship with God that Israel once enjoyed (and will yet enjoy). Israel was in ruins every which way after she failed to maintain sound Bible doctrine. She did not faithfully memorize, believe, and obey the divine doctrine given her. She threw those precious words of God away to hold to idolatry, that which was profitless, worthless, useless. When we look at the Church the Body of Christ during these last 2,000 years of church history, we can see how it too continues to ruin itself. The Body of Christ has not been faithful to God’s Word to it (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon). We need not wonder why or blame God for the abounding confusion and division. As someone once said, the remedy is to go back to Paul’s epistles and apostleship… or we will continue into further apostasy and unbelief!

(* For more information about this topic of “Be Ye Separate” as it relates to us, you may refer to our Bible study here. There, you will learn how we as Grace Believers should separate ourselves from denominationalism and all the other errors in “Christendom.”)

Also see:
» Which Bible version should I use?
» Are we all God’s children?
» Should we observe the Lord’s Supper?

Why did God kill the Egyptians’ firstborn sons?

WHY DID GOD KILL THE EGYPTIANS’ FIRSTBORN SONS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

What was so special about the firstborn in Egypt that the LORD slew them?

Every casual Bible reader knows that Israel was enslaved in Egypt for centuries, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to command Pharaoh to release Israel. Once Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh the first time, Pharaoh refused to let Israel go and rather afflicted Israel with even more hardship (Exodus 4:1-23). So, the LORD demonstrated His power via ten plagues He poured out on Egypt. Unbelieving Israel came to understand that Moses was God’s spokesman, and unbelieving Egypt came to understand Israel was God’s people.

Moses and Aaron continually appear before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh refuses to let Israel go every time. Pharaoh became more and more callous toward God’s Word: his heart hardened and became increasingly stubborn. The tenth and final plague the LORD executed on Egypt and its pagan idols was the death of the firstborn: every firstborn in each Egyptian household, both of livestock and people, was slain by “the destroyer” that passed over Egypt (Exodus 12:23). “And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of the cattle” (Exodus 12:29).

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD” (verse 12). Again, why the firstborn son? Exodus 4:22-23 explains: “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”

And thus, by slaying Egypt’s firstborn sons, God demonstrated to Pharaoh that Israel was His firstborn son.

Also see:
» Who is “the Bride of Christ?”
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?
» Was God unfair in striking Uzzah dead?

Is cremation a Biblical option for Christians?

IS CREMATION A BIBLICAL OPTION FOR CHRISTIANS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“In today’s American society, ‘cremation’ has become more and more acceptable upon death for various reasons, including the cost of funerals. Is this a biblical option for believers today or does it matter what we have done with our bodies? It seems that it is rooted in paganism instead of Judeo-Christian tradition. Is there a biblical precedent, or does it really matter to God either way?”

Thank you for that inquiry. We will see what the Bible says about cremation. Also, we will see why there is some apprehension to cremation.

THE BIBLE AND CREMATION

Not too long ago, I heard a television preacher say that he had a Bible verse that taught Christians should not be cremated. Intrigued, I listened even more closely to his next statement. He continued, “God told Abram in Genesis 15:15, ‘And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.’” And, I thought to myself… I wonder what this preacher would say to, “What about burying an urn of ashes? That would still be considered a ‘burial,’ no?”

The fact is, the Bible neither forbids nor teaches cremation of believers’ bodies. In fact, Scripture is almost silent about cremation. Bodies were usually buried unbroken (whole, intact) because of cultural or personal preferences. Jesus’ body was buried whole, wrapped in linen clothes for head and the rest of the body (John 19:38-42; John 20:6-7). Joseph’ corpse was embalmed (mummified) in Egypt, and then placed into a coffin (Genesis 50:26). Deceased Lazarus was dressed in grave clothes and tied up before being disposed in a sealed cave (John 11:44). David took the bones of King Saul and his son Jonathan and buried them in the burial cave of Saul’s father Kish (2 Samuel 21:12-14). An unnamed man whose corpse touched Elisha’s bones, that man was immediately raised from the dead (2 Kings 13:20-21). Obviously, both Elisha and the man were buried intact. King Josiah, when reforming idolatrous Judah and Jerusalem, burned the various “aids of worship” and the bones of the evil priests (2 Chronicles 34:3-7). This last event is the only “cremation” recorded in Scripture of which I am aware.

As a side-note, I should mention the following. The Jews, copying their pagan neighbors, burned their babies and their other young children alive in sacrifice to worship heathen gods Baal and Molech (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Jeremiah 32:35). This may be why people have such a strong opinion against cremation. (We will deal with this in our next section.)

Still, and most important of all, the Apostle Paul never tells us what we, as members of the Church the Body of Christ, should do concerning our funeral arrangements. There is no explicit command to be buried intact, and there is no explicit command not to be cremated. (We will come back to this later.)

ROMAN CATHOLICISM AND CREMATION

In ancient Rome, where there was no belief in the afterlife or resurrection, cremation of corpses was a common practice (particularly among the wealthy or political elite). According to the Roman Catholic Church, it has always preferred the burial of a whole body. The Roman Church says that while Pope Paul VI abrogated its ban on cremation in 1963, it originally opposed the practice on the grounds that it was “pagan.” (Friends, imagine that. The Roman Catholic Church, well known for adopting pagan beliefs and practices to attract the masses, refused cremation because of its “anti-Christian” history!) (Just think of all the Protestant martyrs throughout history whom the Roman Church “cremated” while they were still alive!!!!)

It is said that the Christian’s body should not be cremated because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is said that that body should be treated with care. While we agree that the Holy Spirit certainly indwells Christians (1 Corinthians 6:19), we must point out that He does not live in dead bodies! Once the Christian’s soul leaves the physical body, so does the Holy Spirit. Human remains are to be treated with care (out of respect for whose remains they are), but burning a corpse to fulfill that person’s wishes is, in my opinion, no more disrespecting it than putting it in a box where it can slowly rot and smell for years to come underground!

The rationale in Roman Catholicism is that cremation can be understood as a denial of the doctrine of bodily resurrection (as in ancient Rome). As The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraphs 2300-2301: “[2300] The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit. [2301] Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious. The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.”

Interestingly, decades after English Bible translator John Wycliffe died, decades after him giving the English Bible to the common man (thus weakening priests’ grips on them), the pope (as per the 1415 Council of Constance) had Wycliffe’s body exhumed and cremated (along with his “forbidden” books!). Those ashes were then scattered in the Severn River! Was the pope denying Jesus’ words when He said that He would one day resurrect all people, Christian and non-Christian (John 5:28-29)? Did the pope actually believe that by burning Wycliffe’s corpse he would prevent Wycliffe from being resurrected? (Food for thought!)

The Roman Church also forbids the keeping of ashes of loved ones in family homes, and it prohibits the scattering of those ashes. Those ashes must be buried, it is said. Rules, rules, and more rules!

WHAT SHOULD I DO AS A BIBLE BELIEVER?

Dear friends, all the church rules and ecclesiastical regulations aside, all the hypocrisy and foolishness aside, what happens to our physical bodies post-mortem makes no difference to God. If it were so important of a matter, surely God would have said something in His Word one way or the other. There is nothing in the Bible that expressly forbids the practice of cremation. Those who oppose cremation today seem to be doing so on the grounds of denominational teaching (particularly in Roman Catholicism, and by Protestants who have been influenced by such thinking).

God can one day resurrect any body. He will one day resurrect every body. Every last physical body that perished in the Great Flood thousands of years ago, and every last human remain that is in the sea or in the ground, all the way back to Adam, they will all be resurrected. This applies to the tiniest ash speck and the teeniest bone fragment, regardless of where it is. To reassemble such a body is nothing for God to do. He created the first human from dust, and He can certainly take even the smallest remains and re-form those bodies just as they were originally. Even after the maggots ate away his physical body in the grave, Job said he knew that God would still resurrect him (Job 19:25-27).

Personally, I know some Christians who were cremated. I have Christian friends and family who have planned to be cremated or are considering cremation. Even I have wondered about cremation for myself (I am still undecided). If the word “cremation” appears in your “final wishes,” that is fine. (Just as long as your soul is not burning!) Since cremation is generally less expensive and simpler than inhumation (burying a complete corpse in a coffin), cremation is a popular form of disposal. If you are attempting to defer costs and simplify your funeral by being cremated, that is your business and your business alone. The Bible is silent about the matter. No church or preacher has any right to dictate to you or your family what should be done with your body, ashes, et cetera. If you want to be buried intact, you may do so. If you want to be cremated and have your ashes scattered, or have your ashes given to family members to keep, that is your prerogative. No one is to “have dominion over your faith” (1 Corinthians 1:24). God in His grace has given us the liberty to do what we think is best concerning our final wishes. Enjoy that liberty, friend, and do not let religion rob you of it!

Also see:
» Why did Jesus weep when Lazarus died?
» Why does the Bible give two accounts of Judas’ death?
» Are deceased Christians with the Lord yet?

Who wrote the book of Hebrews?

WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF HEBREWS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Various church fathers and theologians down through the ages have speculated as to the writer of the book of Hebrews. Tertullian thought Barnabas wrote Hebrews. Martin Luther believed it was Apollos. Some have suggested that Luke was its writer. Certain Bibles have titled the book “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.” Many believe Paul wrote Hebrews. Is there any way to definitively identify (or exclude) Paul as the writer of the book of Hebrews? Does it really matter whether or not Paul wrote Hebrews?

In this, our special edition 150th Bible Q&A study, we will consider the above questions. We aim to survey the book of Hebrews in order to shed some light on its writer’s identity. The following treatise is the fruit of several years of prayerful and thoughtful Bible study. It is a very in-depth, and yet, a very enlightening, study. Dear reader, may you use this article to learn what most Bible readers never grasp in their whole lives. The information contained therein is so greatly needed about a topic so many have confused. It is with great urgency that we send it out to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ! May you, dear reader, search and see the Bible for yourself, and not take my word for anything.

SECTION I. PAUL AND “UNLUCKY” NUMBER THIRTEEN?

To begin, I think it important to point out that, a famous preacher, a sufferer of triskaidekaphobia, once claimed that it was “unlucky” for Paul to have written only 13 Bible books. Hence, this superstitious “brother” believed that Paul wrote a fourteenth book, the book of Hebrews. Dear friends, an espousal to such a belief is not done in faith. It is superstition, plain and simple, and we are not superstitious. We are Bible believers. We need to appeal to the internal evidence of Hebrews, not some external fantasy, as to identify the book’s human writer. Verses believed in order to validate or nullify an idea, provide a much better foundation for our Christian life than opinions and hunches.

SECTION II. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS FOCUSED ON “THE WORLD TO COME”

We read in Hebrews 2:3-5: “[3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; [4] God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? [5] For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.”

As we can clearly see, the book of Hebrews says that it describes the “world to come” (verse 5). It involves Israel’s future redemption and restoration. Hebrews does not involve “but now” (Ephesians 2:13)—“but now” is our dispensation, the age in which we live. Hebrews focuses on the early Acts period (during which Paul/Saul was still lost), early Acts involving the beginning of the last days of Israel’s program (see Acts 2:17; cf. Hebrews 1:2). The teachings in the book of Hebrews are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (Matthew through John). Paul, however, did not know Jesus Christ after the flesh: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16). Paul did not base his ministry on Christ’s earthly ministry. Paul’s apostleship and ministry were in no way connected with Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (Matthew through John) or Peter and the 11’s ministries (the early part of the book of Acts). Paul’s ministry is Jesus Christ’s heavenly ministry (see Acts 26:19).

SECTION III. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS HAD BEEN TAUGHT DOCTRINE SECOND-HAND

As we saw in Hebrews 2:3 just moments earlier, the writer of Hebrews received second-hand information from the apostles: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” Paul never received second-hand information from the 12. According to Galatians 1:11-12, the Lord Jesus taught Paul directly: “[11] But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. [12] For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Notice what Paul wrote when he discussed how he met with Israel’s apostles in Jerusalem: “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me (Galatians 2:6). The 12 apostles did not teach Paul anything. In fact, if you further study Galatians chapter 2, you will learn that Paul taught them something. He taught them the further revelation and advancement of God’s purpose and plan. You can also see Acts chapter 15.

SECTION IV. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS WAS OUTSIDE OF ISRAEL’S APOSTLESHIP

Hebrews 2:3-5 helps us one more to rule out individuals who did not write Hebrews: “[3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; [4] God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”

Notice how the writer of Hebrews refers to people who heard Jesus in His earthly ministry as “them that heard him.” The writer of Hebrews says that what “they” heard “we” heard from them. In other words, the writer of Hebrews is someone who was not present in Matthew through John. Someone present during Christ’s earthly ministry taught doctrine to the writer of the book of Hebrews. Concerning the penning of the book of Hebrews, we can rule out Peter, James, John, et cetera. All of Israel’s 12 apostles can be eliminated as possible writers of Hebrews. The 12 continued throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. They would not need to hear that information secondhand because they had heard Him firsthand. They had witnessed all those miracles firsthand.

SECTION V. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS DID NOT SIGN HIS NAME

Some have stated that Paul wrote Hebrews without including his name. They say that Paul did not sign his name to Hebrews because the Jews did not like him. It is their contention that, had Paul added his name to the epistle, the Jews would have been thus “turned off” to reading Hebrews. Is this plausible? Could Paul have written Hebrews and just intentionally left off his name so that the Jews would be more accepting of the epistle? This scenario is impossible for two reasons.

Firstly, Paul concluded 2 Thessalonians 3:17: “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” And he closed Colossians 4:18 with: “The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.” Paul never wrote anything without signing his name to it, either before or after. Romans, the two Corinthian epistles, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, the two Thessalonian epistles, the two epistles to Timothy, the epistle to Titus, and the epistle to Philemon—all of these epistles begin with the name, “Paul.” Unlike the books of Romans through Philemon, the book of Hebrews neither begins nor ends with Paul’s name. If Paul claimed that he signed every epistle he wrote, and there is no name signed to the book of Hebrews, we have to conclude Paul did not write Hebrews. Would Paul say he signed every epistle he wrote, but then break his word and write an epistle without signing his name? That would be duplicitous, and certainly not characteristic of an apostle of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews simply begins with the name “God.” Ultimately, the author of Hebrews was God the Holy Ghost; the human writer is anonymous. God purposefully withheld the name of the human instrument He used.

Secondly, regardless of who wrote it or spoke it, an unbelieving Jew wanted nothing to do with God’s Word. The unbelieving nation of Israel refused to hear from Apostles James, Peter, John, et cetera, in early Acts. Apostate Israel did not like Jesus Christ, either in His earthly ministry or in His apostles’ ministries in early Acts. Unbelieving Israel considered Jesus a fraud. Period. Just look at how violently Israel’s leadership reacted when Stephen rebuked them for killing Jesus (Acts chapter 7). After his great sermon documenting their history of unbelief, the Jews mercilessly stoned their fellow Jew, Stephen, to death! Paul leaving his name off Hebrews because the Jews would reject it, is not persuasive. Its writer aside, the contents alone of the book of Hebrews is unpleasant to someone who refuses to accept Jesus as Messiah. The book of Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the fulfillment of the Old Testament economy. If the omission of Paul’s name from Hebrews was done in an effort to make the epistle more acceptable to Jews, should not God have also avoided mentioning Jesus as Christ in the epistle, too? Again, anyone who wrote Hebrews was offensive to apostate Israel because Hebrews itself contains offensive doctrine about Jesus Christ.

See, dear friends, the “incognito-Paul-wrote-Hebrews” idea is unfounded and actually fallacious. When someone says that Paul wrote Hebrews but that he deliberately wrote it anonymously so Israel would accept it, this person (however sincere) has an agenda. They will go to great lengths to hold to Paul’s writing of the book of Hebrews. They refuse to break away from a church tradition, and will grab at anything to prove their preconceived ideas. It should be pointed out that I used to hold to the idea that Paul wrote Hebrews but that he withheld his name to avoid Jewish opposition. Then, I took the time to study my Bible and prayerfully consider those verses. I came to a crossroads—I had to choose between traditions and Scripture. What did I do? I believed the Bible and I tossed out the rest! My church tradition was wrong and the Bible was right. It was a happy day in my Christian life when I came to that realization!

SECTION VI. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS WROTE WITH SOME PAULINE UNDERSTANDING

Hebrews 2:9 says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Prior to Paul’s ministry and message, the merits of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork being available to “every man”—that is, to both Jew and Gentile—was a secret. Until Paul, God had only been offering Jews salvation through Jesus Christ (Israel is the “my people” of Isaiah 53:8, the “thy [that is, Daniel’s] people” of Daniel 9:24, the “many” of Matthew 20:28 and Matthew 26:28, and the “you” of Luke 22:20). “Salvation is of the Jews,” the Lord Jesus Himself said in John 4:22.

Since the above is true, the book of Hebrews could not have been written until after Acts chapter 15 (circa A.D. 49-51), where Paul shared with James, Peter, and John, the doctrines that Jesus Christ had taught him post-resurrection and post-ascension (see Galatians 2:1-10). After the Apostle John learned it from Paul, John wrote, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

Because Hebrews contains snippets of Pauline theology, some have erroneously concluded that Paul wrote Hebrews. In reality, 99 percent of the book of Hebrews is non-Pauline in its content. This observation leads us to understand that Paul did not write Hebrews. Still, we do admit that the writer of Hebrews had learned a portion of Paul’s doctrine from someone (like the writer of Hebrews, that person is also anonymous). The book of Hebrews thus adjusts Israel’s program in light of the Dispensation of Grace that God used to temporarily interrupt Israel’s program. After we pass through Paul’s epistles in the Bible’s canon, Hebrews follows. Hebrews is the first of the Bible’s final nine books to Israel, books whose doctrine will be valid after our Dispensation of Grace.

SECTION VII. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS WROTE PRE-A.D. 70

The Temple in Jerusalem was still operating when the book of Hebrews was written. Israel was still under the Law when Hebrews was written. Notice Hebrews 8:4: “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:” And Hebrews 8:13: “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” And Hebrews 10:11: “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:” These are present tense verbs, meaning the Levitical priests were still offering sacrifices according to Moses. The armies of Rome destroyed Jerusalem’s Temple in A.D. 70., thus showing us that the book of Hebrews was written prior to A.D. 70.

SECTION VIII. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS KNEW TIMOTHY

The antepenultimate verse of Hebrews says: “Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you” (13:23). Since Paul and Timothy were together quite often on apostolic journeys (Acts chapter 16 and onward), some use this verse as another proof to say Paul wrote Hebrews. While Timothy was most definitely a helpful coworker of the Apostle Paul, Paul had many other ministry companions as well. It could have been one of these friends of Paul who wrote Hebrews. At that time, many believers called Timothy “brother.” In fact, Paul considered Timothy as a “son” (1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-23; 1 Timothy 1:2,18; 2 Timothy 1:2) more often than he considered him a “brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Philemon 1). Therefore, Hebrews 13:23 is not definitive proof Paul wrote Hebrews.

SECTION IX. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS SAYS JESUS CHRIST IS HIS “APOSTLE”

The Bible says in Hebrews, chapter 3, verse 1: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ is whose Apostle? The Lord Jesus Himself said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). The word “apostle” means “sent one.” The Greek word translated “sent” in Matthew 15:24 is apostello. Jesus Christ (in His earthly ministry) was sent to Israel (cf. Romans 9:5).

By the time Paul was saved, he was no longer a part of Israel. In fact, Paul himself said, “And last of all [the resurrected Jesus] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8). This is further explained in Galatians 1:15: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,” In order to save Paul, God had to separate him from that apostate nation Israel and its vain religious system that he was advocating. As a saved man, saved apart from Israel’s program, Paul could no longer write that Jesus Christ was his Apostle (one sent to him). When Jesus Christ was sent to Israel, Paul was lost, and he was influential in killing Him and His followers. In other words, the writer of Hebrews was a member of the nation Israel. Upon salvation, Paul became a member of the Body of Christ, thus again excluding Paul as writer of Hebrews.

SECTION X. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS WROTE FROM ITALY

The penultimate verse in Hebrews says: “Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you” (13:24). Since Paul was under house arrest in Rome, Italy at the close of the book of Acts (28:16,30), Paul would have most definitely been in Italy circa A.D. 60-62. But, does that mean Paul was the only one in Italy who could have written the book of Hebrews? Again, this does not conclusively prove that Paul wrote Hebrews. In fact, the writer of Hebrews may have been visiting Paul in his Roman prison. The writer of Hebrews may have actually been a prisoner with Paul (see Hebrews 13:19).

SECTION XI. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS TAUGHT WORKS-RELIGION

Hebrews 5:9 is a verse that greatly helped me out years ago regarding whether or not Paul wrote Hebrews: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Paul never preached such a message. The Apostle Paul preached and wrote that we receive the Holy Spirit by believing the Gospel not by “obeying God”/legalism/Acts 2:38’s repentance and water baptism (Romans 4:1-5; Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; et cetera).

Hebrews 5:9 fits perfectly with what Peter and the 11 said in Acts 5:32: “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” Hebrews 5:9 agrees with what Peter preached in Acts 2:38: “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.” Hebrews 5:9 agrees perfectly with what Jesus taught in Mark 16:16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This is all in perfect agreement with the words of James in the second chapter of his famous “faith and works” treatise. Hebrews 5:9 in no way belongs in this the Dispensation of Grace.

Had Paul wrote Hebrews 5:9, he would have been preaching one Gospel message to lost Israel and another Gospel message to Gentiles (us). In Paul’s ministry, there was one Gospel message, and whether Jew or Gentile, all were saved the same way in his ministry. There is no way Paul could have been an honest man and written Hebrews when he had already written opposing doctrine in epistles.

SECTION XII. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS STRESSED JESUS CHRIST’S HIGH PRIESTHOOD

Throughout the book of Hebrews, the high priesthood of Jesus Christ is stressed. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). Hebrews 4:14-15: “[14] Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. [15] For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Also Hebrews 7:26: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;” And Hebrews 8:1: “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;” Finally, Hebrews 10:21: “And having an high priest over the house of God;”

Never once did Paul write about Jesus’ priesthood in Romans through Philemon. Nowhere in Paul’s epistles do we read about Jesus Christ being our High Priest. The terminology of “High Priest” was something a Jewish person would understand and appreciate, knowing full well that the Mosaic Law appointed high priests. Hebrews teaches how Jesus Christ’s priesthood is better than the Levitical priesthood. Would Gentiles—who did not have the Levitical priesthood—need to hear such information? Of course not. Again, the doctrine of Hebrews does not belong in our Dispensation of Grace.

SECTION XIII. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS CALLED JESUS CHRIST A “SHEPHERD”

Hebrews 13:20 says, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,….” Never once, however, did Paul ever call Jesus Christ our “Shepherd.” The writer of Hebrews used language similar to Peter’s writing: “[1] The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: [2] Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; [3] Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. [4] And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:1-4). These verses are a continuation of what Jesus Christ said in John chapter 10 about Him being Israel’s Shepherd. The “Old Testament” Scriptures, which are undoubtedly Jewish, make reference to JEHOVAH God (whose human form is Jesus Christ) as Israel’s “Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; Zechariah 13:7; et cetera).

SECTION XIV. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS EXPECTED TO BE SAVED ACCORDING TO “THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT”

We read in Hebrews 13:20-21: “[20] Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, [21] Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Israel would be saved according to the New Covenant (ratified by Jesus Christ’s shed blood; see Hebrews 10:1-22). Never once did Paul minister to any Jews on the basis of the New Covenant. Israel’s program had already fallen by Acts chapter 7, before Paul had even begun his ministry. We can check the book of Acts and all of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, to learn there were no covenants associated with Paul’s ministry (note Ephesians 2:11-22). Salvation in Paul’s ministry was always dependent upon the non-prophesied Gospel of the Grace of God (see Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:38-41, which is totally silent about any covenant salvation). The prophetic program involved covenants; our mystery program involves no such covenants.

SECTION XV. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS EXPECTED TO BE “RESTORED” TO ISRAEL

Hebrews 13:18-19 says: “[18] Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. [19] But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.” The latter clause appears to be the words of someone writing from prison (cf. Hebrews 10:34). (It should be remembered there were many believers in prison at that time, so imprisonment does not automatically make Paul the writer.) For the writer to be expecting to be restored to Israel, to be released from prison so that he could return to ministering to Israel, does not sound like Paul’s writings. Paul had a ministry to all people, all nations, from the very beginning of his ministry (Acts 9:15-16; Acts 26:15-18). From Acts chapter 15 (cf. Galatians chapter 2) onward, Paul agreed not to minister to Israel’s little flock. In light of that, Paul certainly would not have been writing Hebrews. Again, someone in Israel’s program, someone who was also a member of the nation Israel, wrote the book of Hebrews. It could not have been Paul.

SECTION XVI. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS WAITED FOR GOD’S KINGDOM TO COME

Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” This is reminiscent of the petition uttered in the “Our Father” Prayer: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Paul was not waiting for the New Jerusalem to come. That would be a believing Jew’s hope in Israel’s program. As a member of the Body of Christ, Paul would be waiting to go up to heaven (see 2 Timothy 4:18). Members of the Body of Christ have a hope to enter God’s heavenly kingdom. Members of Israel’s little flock have a hope of having God’s kingdom come down to them on Earth! See Revelation 21:1ff.

SECTION XVII. THE WRITER OF HEBREWS HAD EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF THE JEWISH RELIGION

Hebrews is strictly a Jewish book. So much so that it has been commonly called the “New Testament Leviticus.” The book of Hebrews makes many references to the Covenant of Law—its Levitical priesthood, its Tabernacle, its animal sacrifices, et cetera. There is great detail regarding Old Testament events and many direct and indirect quotes from the Old Testament passages. The book of Hebrews highlights for Israel the superiority of Jesus Christ to Moses, the New Covenant to the Old Covenant, the Melchisedecian priesthood to the Levitical priesthood, Jesus Christ to angels, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary to the Law’s animal sacrifices, on and on we could go. What the book of Romans is to us, the book of Hebrews is to Israel. Hebrews explains the meaning of Calvary’s finished crosswork as it relates to the nation Israel. The book of Hebrews explains how God will do away with Israel’s old system and usher in a brand new way of dealing with His earthly people. Again, the book of Hebrews is in no way to or about the Church the Body of Christ. It is in no way a reference to anything occurring in this the Dispensation of Grace.

SECTION XVIII. NO SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT PAUL WROTE HEBREWS

There is no evidence in Scripture that Paul wrote Hebrews. It is a common view supported by church tradition but no Scripture substantiates the claim. Various suggestions have been made as to the writer of Hebrews—Apollos, John Mark, Luke, Barnabas, to name a few. As we pointed out earlier, what is important is that “God” wrote Hebrews (1:1).

SECTION XIX. WHAT ABOUT 2 PETER 3:15-16?

I have heard some teach that Paul wrote Hebrews because of what the Apostle Peter penned in 2 Peter 3:15-16. We will look at the passage in question: “[15] And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; [16] As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

Indeed, Peter says Paul wrote to Jews. Still, this passage could not be a reference to Hebrews because nothing in Hebrews is too hard for Peter to understand. Whatever Paul was writing, Peter admitted he did not understand it. Peter understood Jewish religion. He knew the “Old Testament” Scriptures. Peter knew those passages about the New Covenant, the Messiah’s earthly ministry and priesthood, the Old Testament accounts of Abraham, Noah, Abel, Isaac, et cetera. Jesus Christ, post-resurrection, took His apostles aside and taught the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him (Luke 24:44-48; Acts 1:3). Surely, Peter understood the contents of the book of Hebrews. The Holy Spirit came in Acts chapter 2 and guided Israel’s apostles “into all truth” (John 16:13). Nothing concerning Israel’s purpose and program was hidden from her apostles. However, the information about our purpose and program, that mystery doctrine was hidden from them. They had to learn that secret information from Paul once God revealed it to him. Note that Peter wrote that the wisdom under discussion was given to Paul, not to Peter (2 Peter 3:15).

Second Peter 3:15-16 is likely a reference to the contents of the book of Romans, which talks about the “longsuffering of God” in chapters 9-11. Moreover, Paul wrote letters that were not Scripture. We read of one such letter in 1 Corinthians 5:9. Peter may have been making reference to a non-canonical letter of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15, but according to Peter, the information was roughly the same as what is found in Romans chapters 9-11. These three chapters of Romans deal with Israel’s past, present, and future statuses before God. God is postponing Israel’s program so that more people can be saved into the Church the Body of Christ. God is not pouring out His wrath (the next event on Israel’s timeline) so that more people can escape it. Our Dispensation of Grace is withholding Israel’s program from continuing. It was this that Peter and the scoffers of his day could not understand (see 2 Peter 3:1-16).

SECTION XX. THE DANGERS IN BELIEVING AND TEACHING PAUL WROTE HEBREWS

Does it really matter whether or not we believe Paul wrote Hebrews? Are we “splitting hairs” in bringing up the matter? Must we be dogmatic about it? Certainly, it is a serious matter. I have come to understand that it does matter what we believe about the book of Hebrews. Let me explain.

People who claim that Paul wrote Hebrews often urge us to claim Israel’s blessings and promises. They teach that we are “spiritual Israel” (whatever that means!). If they believe that Acts chapter 2 is the beginning of the Church the Body of Christ, they usually believe Paul wrote Hebrews. If they want us to replace Israel, they usually believe Paul wrote Hebrews. Unfortunately for them, there is evidence to the contrary that Paul wrote Hebrews. Supposing there was no such evidence, Paul writing the book of Hebrews would not make it applicable to us anyway. The promises in Hebrews are to still to Jews and not to the Church the Body of Christ. It is the book of Hebrews, is it not? (See Galatians 3:28, which says the Body of Christ is composed of neither Jews nor Gentiles!) Those promises in Hebrews still apply to “the world to come,” not to the present-day. This has already been stated before, so the point will be belabored no more.

One of the most damaging results of accepting the notion that Paul wrote Hebrews, is when you begin to wonder if your troubles in life are the fulfillment of Hebrews 12:5-11. If our Apostle wrote this passage about divine chastisement, then it is our pattern, and we are destined to have a most miserable and insecure Christian life. However, if Paul did not write Hebrews, then it is not our pattern, and we would be foolish to relinquish our joy and peace in Christ in order to claim something God never gave us. Time and time again, Christians through the years have assumed that Hebrews 12:5-11 applied to them. They believed that their difficult circumstances were “God’s chastising hand” upon them. They believed God was getting even with them for unconfessed sin, unbelief, disobedience, et cetera. These poor people never had any peace. Religion robbed them of the clarity of God’s Word rightly divided. Many Christians today have been deceived in that regard.

My dear friends, let me give you some peace of mind. The “chastisement” of Hebrews 12:5-11 has a context. Hebrews 12:5-11 is not describing daily troubles in this the Dispensation of Grace. The quote is of Proverbs 3:11-12, an end-time passage designed to comfort believing Israel during the seven-year Tribulation period. Before Israel can be delivered from satanic bondage, the fifth course of chastisement prophesied in Leviticus chapter 26 must finish. It started back with the Babylonian captivity (606 B.C.), it paused when Saul of Tarsus was converted in Acts chapter 9, and it will resume and conclude after our dispensation ends. The last seven years of the fifth course of judgment will end with Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. Various verses in James (1:1-11; 4:1-16; 5:1-12) and 1 Peter (1:3-13; 3:13-16; 4:1-19; 5:6-10) and other passages talk about Israel being chastened during Daniel’s 70th week. For more about chastening and our Dispensation of Grace, see our study linked at the end of this article.

CONCLUSION

In light of the above verses, Paul could not have written the book of Hebrews. (Even if he did write it, Hebrews—note the name—is still Jewish in nature, and is in no way to or about the Church the Body of Christ and is in no way about anything God is doing in our Dispensation of Grace.)

The writer of Hebrews included himself with the nation Israel. After his conversion, Paul did not consider himself a member of Israel (1 Corinthians 15:8; Galatians 1:15). The writer of Hebrews anticipated Israel’s coming Messiah to establish God’s earthly kingdom. Paul anticipated a heavenly kingdom to which he would go.

Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews was not an apostle of Israel. He claimed to be someone who had heard information from Israel’s apostles (Hebrews 2:3-5). This would again eliminate Paul as a possible writer of the book of Hebrews. Galatians chapter 2 (cf. Acts chapter 15) is very clear that Israel’s apostles taught Paul nothing. On the contrary, Paul taught them doctrine. He brought them up-to-date to God’s current program. Someone in Israel’s program learned this doctrine from Paul, and then wrote it down, which is why some verses in the book of Hebrews exhibit Pauline influence.

Paul did not promote works-religion. The writer of the book of Hebrews taught works as part of salvation (see Hebrews 5:9). Hebrews uses terms to describe Jesus Christ that Paul never used to describe Jesus Christ in his epistles of Romans through Philemon. No one could reconcile these two people (Paul and the writer of Hebrews) as the same person—unless of course they have a tradition they refuse to abandon!

We have no way of precisely identifying the writer of Hebrews, but we can eliminate several individuals. We can say with certainty that Paul did not write Hebrews. There are too many verses in Hebrews that simply do not reflect Pauline theology and phraseology. In some places, Hebrews directly opposes what Paul wrote in the epistles definitively attributed to him. We can say with certainty that Timothy did not write Hebrews (cf. Hebrews 13:23). We can say with certainty that Peter and the 11 did not write Hebrews (Hebrews 2:3-5).

It is very dangerous to believe Paul wrote the book of Hebrews. You introduce abounding confusion into your Christian life. You confuse yourself with the nation Israel. You destroy the clarity of the rightly divided Word of God. It is best to simply acknowledge that Hebrews is a Jewish book to and about the nation Israel in the end-times portion of her program. Hebrews does not apply to us in the Dispensation of Grace. It is not to or about the Church the Body of Christ. The confusion concerning the writer of Hebrews is certainly another tactic of Satan to rob Christians of the knowledge of who they are in Jesus Christ. Hebrews is a most fascinating book, and we should study it to learn how Israel’s program will restart after our Dispensation of Grace, but we should not confuse ourselves with the book or its people.

Also see:
» Does God chasten us when we sin?
» When was the book of the Revelation written?
» Did the Apostle John write “the Gospel of John?”

Could you explain Acts 19:1-7?

COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN ACTS 19:1-7?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Hi Shawn, could you comment on Acts 19:1-7? Thanks.”

Yes, I would be glad to comment on it. You are welcome. This passage can be quite tricky and cryptic if we fail to remember the context of the latter two-thirds of the book of Acts. The book of Acts is the most difficult book in the New Testament Scriptures because people do not understand—or they refuse to understand—its transitional nature. Here, we will “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We will make the distinction between Israel’s prophetic program (Acts 3:21) and our mystery program (Romans 16:25). In doing so, we will avoid the confusion that most people experience concerning Acts chapter 19.

We will begin reading Acts chapter 19: “[1] And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, [2] He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. [3] And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. [4] Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. [5] When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [6] And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. [7] And all the men were about twelve.”

What a strange passage, huh? The Apostle Paul had to lay hands on some “disciples” who did not have the Holy Ghost? How was that possible for believers not to have the Holy Spirit?! They had received John’s baptism but they did not even know there was such a Person as the Holy Ghost? What?! My dear friends, like I said in our opening remarks, if we do not recognize the transitional nature of the book of Acts, we do not have a prayer in the world to understand the Bible. We must approach this passage dispensationally. If we are to make sense of these verses, we have to go back and review some basics of dispensational Bible study. Once we do that, we will return to the passage in question and it will become much clearer.

In the Bible, until we come to the ministry of the Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus was saved in Acts chapter 9), God is dealing with the nation Israel. Hence, John the Baptist’s ministry was limited to Israel (Luke 1:16-17,80; Acts 13:24), Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (Matthew through John) was restricted to Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; Luke 19:9; John 1:11; Romans 9:5; Romans 15:8), and Peter and the 11 other apostles’ ministry were limited to Israel during early Acts (Acts 2:36; Acts 3:13,25; Acts 4:8; Acts 5:30-31; Acts 7:2).

During a total of four years (Matthew chapter 3 through Acts chapter 7), Israel refused to listen to the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, the other 11 apostles of Israel, and other men but especially the prophet Stephen. The Jews refused to acknowledge and trust Jesus as Messiah, and they refused to accept the water baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. So, in Acts chapter 7, when Israel stoned Stephen, her prophetic program fell through. That Israeli prophetic program was fully diminished by the end of the book of Acts. Once national Israel stoned God’s prophet Stephen (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; Matthew 12:31-32), the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ raised up Saul/Paul, a new apostle. He gave Paul a new message and began a new program (that would be Acts chapter 9 onward). Our Dispensation of Grace started with Paul and it will end beyond our present-day. As long as our program is operating, Israel’s program will remain suspended.

The latter two-thirds of the book of Acts (chapters 9-28) can be very confusing unless we keep Romans 11:11-14 in mind. The first step in understanding Acts 19:1-7 is to consider Romans 11:11-14: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

According to the Old Testament prophetic program, Israel should have arisen to her kingdom glory. She should have accepted and trusted her Messiah-King Jesus, and in the kingdom He would then establish on the earth, Israel would be a kingdom of priests who would evangelize the Gentiles (see Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 59:21-60:3; Isaiah 61:6; Zechariah 8:20-23; et cetera). When national Israel refused to accept Jesus but rather crucified Him, and then rejected a renewed opportunity of repentance in early Acts, God caused her program to fall away for a time. That is what Paul is saying in Romans 11:11-12. Israel stumbled at Christ’s earthly ministry (and ultimately at Calvary’s cross) but they did not fall (Romans 9:32-33). Israel later stumbled in early Acts by rejecting God the Holy Spirit who was speaking through Stephen (Acts 7:51,55). It was there in Acts chapter 7 that Israel finally fell before God.

Today, national Israel is “fallen” (Romans 11:11-12). Now, God sees no difference between Jew and Gentile (Romans 3:22; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). God only sees sinners (lost) and saints (saved). Throughout the book of Acts, from Acts chapter 7 to the end of the book of Acts (chapter 28), Israel’s program is “diminishing.” Paul wrote the book of Romans during the Acts period (circa Acts chapter 20). One day, after God is finished dealing with the Church the Body of Christ, it will be raptured and brought into Heaven, and then He will resume Israel’s program (see Romans 11:25-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

Romans 11:13 quoted above says that Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles.” Unlike John the Baptist, or Jesus in His earthly ministry, or the Apostles Peter and the 11, or Stephen, the Apostle Paul has a ministry that is not limited to Israel. Paul is God’s spokesman to Gentiles. This term “Gentiles” would include lost Jews, since Israel fell before God years earlier in Acts chapter 7. In order to validate Paul’s ministry and show Israel that her program was diminishing, God temporarily granted Paul the power to perform miraculous demonstrations and exhibit other “Jewish-related behavior” (Acts chapters 9 through 28). Throughout Acts, we read how Paul healed the sick (Acts chapter 14), he circumcised Timothy (Acts chapter 16), he water baptized (Acts chapter 16; Acts chapter 18), he raised the dead (Acts chapter 20), he offered sacrifices in the Temple (Acts chapter 21), he spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians chapter 14), and he survived a snake bite (Acts chapter 28). The miraculous demonstrations and other behaviors that Jesus and His 12 apostles performed in Matthew through John and early Acts, Paul was now doing them. This “strange” behavior of Paul was communicating to Israel that her God was now amongst the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry and message. Acts chapters 9 through 28 is a major transitional section of the Bible. It is the record of God being just (fair) in setting Israel aside for a time and going to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry. Eventually, Paul quit water baptizing (1 Corinthians 1:14-17), he could no longer heal himself or other Christians who were sick (Galatians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20), and so on.

Let us re-read Romans 11:14: “If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” The way Paul would “provoke to emulation them which are my flesh”—that is, the way Paul would encourage his lost Jewish brethren to behave like Gentiles and trust Jesus Christ—was by performing Israel’s signs, miracles, and wonders. Although unbelieving Israel did not like Paul, and desperately tried to hinder his ministry throughout Acts, they were fully aware that the God of their fathers was working in him. Their miracles were now evident amongst the Gentiles (Paul’s ministry).

Okay, with this information as background, Acts 19:1-7 will make more sense. Let us re-read that passage: “[1] And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, [2] He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. [3] And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. [4] Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. [5] When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [6] And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. [7] And all the men were about twelve.”

While Apollos was in Corinth (Acts 18:27), Paul traveled to Ephesus (on the western shore of modern-day Turkey). Paul encountered some disciples, and he asked them, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” They replied, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Paul then responded, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” They replied, “Unto John’s baptism.” Like Apollos (Acts 18:25-26), these Jews were ignorant of further revelations from God. They too are fixated on John the Baptist’s ministry and message. John’s ministry was 20 years earlier, and these disciples were unaware of the progression of God’s program since John’s ministry. They did not know about Jesus’ earthly ministry, His death, His resurrection, His ascension into heaven, the coming of the Holy Ghost on the day Pentecost, Paul’s salvation, et cetera. Note how these 12 Jews in Acts chapter 19 admitted that they did not even know about the Holy Spirit. (How strange, huh?! What in the world is going on here? How do we make sense of all of this?!)

Remember, Jesus had told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 (see Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5; cf. John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7). These disciples whom Paul met in Acts 19:1-7 were evidently not in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came in Acts chapter 2 some 20 years earlier. Furthermore, the 12 apostles of Israel had never laid hands on these 12 Jews in order for them to receive the Holy Ghost (see Acts 8:14-17). Hence, they did not have the Holy Ghost and this is why they were not even aware of His presence on Earth. By the way, we know Acts 19:1-7 has nothing to do with us because no man needs to lay hands on us in order for us to receive the Holy Ghost. We receive the Holy Spirit when we trust the Gospel of Grace, Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (see Ephesians 1:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). See, again, dispensational Bible study helps us come to terms with the various verses in the Bible that are meant to be separated.

Paul informed these 12 men in Acts 19:1-7 that John the Baptist did water baptize via the baptism of repentance, but John also preached that the people of Israel should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ who would come after him (Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17; John 1:29-31). Once these Jews heard Paul’s preaching, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul then laid his hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. The gift of speaking in tongues (intelligent human languages never formally learned) is given to them, and they preach God’s Word. The Bible says these Jews were about 12 in number. This may refer back to Israel’s 12 apostles, men who had received the gift of tongues back in Acts chapter 2. Israel’s apostles, once they received the Holy Spirit, would then lay hands on believers in Israel’s program so they could receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17; cf. Acts 9:17). Again, none of Israel’s apostles had visited these 12 Jews, nor were these 12 Jews present in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Ghost in Acts chapter 2, which Jesus had instructed His believers to do in Acts 1:4-5.

In this passage of Acts 19:1-7, God was demonstrating to Israel that He was working through Paul, for Paul was doing the same things Israel’s apostles did. This odd and often controversial and confusing passage is actually God validating Paul’s apostleship. It has nothing to do with us because it occurred during the transitional Acts period, while God was moving from Israel to the Gentiles. Paul, when teaching the Church the Body of Christ in his epistles of Romans through Philemon, never instructs us to be water baptized, or to lay hands on people to heal them, or to give the Holy Ghost to others, et cetera. Acts 19:1-7 is not a pattern for us to follow. It was simply something God wanted Paul to do in order to teach Israel doctrine. God wanted Paul to teach Israel that his ministry was replacing Peter and the 11’s, and if any lost Jews wanted salvation, they would have to come to his ministry and Gospel message.

As one final note, you might have seen that the Holy Spirit thought it noteworthy to tell us that these Jews in Acts 19:7 “were about twelve.” We briefly mentioned earlier that 12 in Bible numerics is a reference to the nation Israel. God was saying that if lost Israel wanted to receive the Holy Spirit, they should not go to the 12 apostles (for their ministry and program was fallen). Even today, if a lost Jew wants to receive the Holy Spirit, they will have to come to God through the ministry and message that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostle Paul. They will have to come to Father God the same way a Gentile comes!

SUPPLEMENTAL: SHOULD ACTS 19:2 READ “SINCE” OR “WHEN?”

“He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”

Since the average English Bible translator—like the average English Bible reader—does not recognize the dispensational nature of the Holy Bible, he or she tries to make every Bible verse agree with every other Bible verse. After all, denominations have drilled into most people’s minds that everything in the Bible is all the same thing. It will not be surprising then to learn that translators change the wording of verses that are at variance with each other. They introduce their theological biases into the Bible instead of letting the Bible passages highlight the changes in God’s dealings with man through time. They smooth over the distinct verses that differentiate the dispensations from each other. The tampering with of Acts 19:2 in modern English versions is a perfect example of this mishandling of God’s Word. Acts 19:2 is a rather troublesome verse because it, as found in the King James, opposes the widely held belief that there is only one Gospel in the Bible and that all salvation messages in the Bible are the same.

Again, we read in our King James Bible: “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” This is a very difficult reading for most to accept because they do not understand how Israel’s salvation worked in her program and how our salvation works in this the Dispensation of Grace. Why did Paul ask them, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” Why did Paul not ask, as modern versions read, “Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?” We know when one believes on the finished crosswork of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for their sins, they instantly receive the Holy Spirit in this the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 1:13-14). They receive the Holy Spirit instantly: they receive Him when they believe on Jesus Christ. Yet, why did Paul ask these Jews in Acts 19:2, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?”

Friends, please pay very close attention to these next several lines. You will avoid much confusion by just listening to these simple truths. In Israel’s program, salvation in Israel’s believing remnant had phases. Jews were to accept and participate in John’s water baptism during Jesus’ earthly ministry, but there was no indwelling Holy Spirit until Acts chapter 2. The Holy Spirit would not come upon an individual believing Jew until the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. The Jews of Acts 19:1-7 had participated in John’s water baptism (Matthew through John), but they did not receive the Holy Ghost because they were not in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 2. The 12 apostles had not imparted to them the Holy Spirit. Hence, our King James Bible says “since.” “Since” was a reference to Acts chapter 2—Acts chapter 2 being the passage “since” (or, following) John the Baptist’s ministry. That is why our King James Bible does not say “when.” “When” would be a reference to how salvation operates today“when” we believe the Gospel we instantly receive the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). The King James Bible has the correct reading in Acts 19:2 (“since”); the modern versions are in error.

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” is the erroneous retranslation of Acts 19:2 in the Amplified Bible, Darby Translation, English Standard Version, Good News Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible, J. B. Phillip’s New Testament, The Message, New American Standard Version, New Century Version, New English Translation, New International Reader’s Version, New International Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness Bible), and The Voice. In other words, the popular Bibles people use today keep the glorious truths of Acts 19:2 hidden. They destroy the clarity of God’s Word rightly divided. All the more reason to keep our King James Bible! By the way, the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims 1899 American edition has “since” (the correct reading in Acts 19:2, agreeing with the King James Bible)!

Also see:
» Why did Paul water baptize?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Why was Saul of Tarsus’ name changed to Paul?