Monthly Archives: March 2016

Can you explain Peter and the 11’s ministry from Acts 7-15?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN PETER AND THE 11’s MINISTRY FROM ACTS 7-15? WHERE DID ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK GO AFTER PAUL’S MINISTRY BEGAN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Hi! Love this site! I hope you can help with this. Israel and her national program are set aside in Acts 7 and a new program (the Body of Christ begins with Paul in Acts 9). However, what about the ministry Peter and the 11 had between Acts 7 and say Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council)? If the national program is set aside, where do the converts of Peter ‘go?’ Where do they ‘fit’ in the scheme of things? Additionally, it must be obvious that not all Israel (each individual) committed the unpardonable sin, or Peter and the others would have had no ministry at all. Thanks for your help!”

Hello, friend! I am glad you have found our ministry helpful. All praise and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ alone! Hopefully, here in this, our special-edition Bible Q&A article #250, clarity will be brought concerning these most enigmatic chapters of Acts. How sad it is that I have heard and read many “grace” preachers stumble through these passages, making grace believers more confused than those in denominational circles. Great care will be exercised here to make the truth as plain and simple as possible. We may only have “one shot” to reach people with these chapters, so let us do our very best to get it right the first time.

INTRODUCTION. SOME BRIEF OPENING REMARKS

Certainly, there were individuals not present in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 7. Thus, they had no idea of Israel’s commission of the unpardonable sin and her national fall before her God. Israel’s religious leaders had endorsed the stoning of Stephen (Acts 6:12-15; Acts 7:1; Acts 7:58 cf. Acts 26:5). As you pointed out, there were individual Jews not directly involved in this most blasphemous act against the Holy Ghost and His spokesman (Stephen). Evidently, for their benefit, and even for the benefit of the Little Flock, God made sure the transition period from Acts chapter 8 onward was gradual rather than sudden.

While Israel is fallen post-Acts-chapter-7, leaders of the Little Flock continue with their ministries with the divine revelation they had been given in the months and years prior. They have not yet spoken to Paul and been brought up-to-date (Acts chapter 15, the Jerusalem Council, is still over 10 years away). The Holy Spirit has not given them further instructions, so they are faithful with what info Jesus Christ had told them previously. Until Paul’s salvation and ministry become the main theme (chapter 9), we see throughout chapter 8 a gradual “tapering off” of Philip’s ministry, Peter and John’s ministry, and Philip’s ministry again. They drop off by the beginning of chapter 9 (Saul/Paul’s salvation), they return at the end of the chapter but are oblivious to Paul’s new ministry and new divine revelation. These leaders of the Little Flock continue to appear until the end of chapter 12, with Paul making a brief appearance in chapter 11. Chapters 13 and 14 are Paul’s first apostolic ministry. Leaders of the Little Flock do not appear again until Acts chapter 15, then briefly in chapter 21, before disappearing from Acts altogether.

So, indeed, there is a lot of “scene-switching” between Paul’s ministry and the 12’s ministry in Acts chapters 7 through 15. Characters can and do appear sporadically. It can get very technical, confusing, and overwhelming if we are not careful to separate them and present their ministries properly. You seem to be familiar with some of our studies, and that helps make this discussion easier. Still, I will re-teach some basic material for those unfamiliar with dispensational Bible study—and particularly this topic (the Acts 7-15 portion of the transitional period). We must remember that the time period about which you are inquiring is at the heart of the Acts transitional period, so there is not an immediate termination of Peter and the 11’s ministry to Israel and Israel-blessing Gentiles. There is no immediate ministry of Paul with everything about the mystery now fully revealed. Pauline revelation will continue until 2 Timothy, some years after Acts ended at chapter 28.

In this study, we will begin with Acts chapter 7 and go through to Acts chapter 15. Along the way, we will highlight the passages that involve Israel’s apostles and prophets. Moreover, we will make brief references to Paul where he appears in the Bible text. To make this enormous amount of material easier to comprehend, a table of verses with light commentary has been constructed and provided for your convenience. An accompanying diagram will be presented later to summarize. Ready? Here we go!

SECTION I. PETER AND THE ELEVEN’S MINISTRY FROM ACTS 7 TO ACTS 15

As previously noted, in Acts chapter 7, we find Israel’s national leadership—acting on the behalf of the unbelieving nation, nevertheless—at the culmination of her rejection of JEHOVAH God. For the past year, from Acts chapter 2 (Pentecost) to chapter 7, the Holy Spirit has borne witness to the nation Israel that Jesus was and is Christ, the Son of God, Israel’s King and Redeemer. How has Israel responded? We find thousands of Jews who trust in Jesus (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4), but, overwhelmingly, tens of thousands of Jews do not believe. The Jews have largely persecuted and imprisoned the 12 apostles, and now, they are beginning to harass Stephen (Acts 4:1-22; Acts 5:17:42; Acts 6:9-15).

With Stephen’s ministry, Israel yet again refuses to listen to their Gospel message of Jesus being Messiah! When Stephen, filled with the Holy Ghost, stands before these leaders of Israel and meticulously recounts their history of unbelief, how they are repeating the ways of their fathers of centuries past, they are convicted and they stone him to death near the close of chapter 7. Looking back on it all, we see that that is where Israel fell nationally and began to diminish (see Romans 11:11-14; cf. Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 13:6-9; Romans 11:28,31; 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16). But, for a time, Israel’s Little Flock continues preaching in accordance with the prophetic program as before—they now minister to Samaritans and to other Jews. Why? We will answer that shortly. For now, I will present a table that will succinctly outline Acts chapters 7 through 15.

THE TWELVE’S MINISTRY FROM ACTS 7 ONWARD (WITH ANNOTATIONS CONCERNING PAUL’S PRE-ACTS-16 MINISTRY)

*Asterisks and italics denote the activities of Israel’s 12 apostles and other members of the Little Flock.

Acts 7:1-60* *Stephen’s sermon highlighting Israel’s history of unbelief, Saul influential in Israel’s stoning Stephen to death
Acts 8:1-4* Saul persecutes Israel’s Little Flock in Jerusalem, *Messianic Jews scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria, *12 apostles remain in Jerusalem, *other members of the Little Flock “preach the Word to none but unto the Jews only” (cf. Acts 11:19-21)
Acts 8:5-13* *Philip preaches and performs miracles in the city of Samaria
Acts 8:14-25* *Apostles at Jerusalem (cf. verse 1) send Peter and John to the city of Samaria, *Peter and John lay hands on these new believers and impart to them the Holy Ghost, *Simon the sorcerer is rebuked, *Peter and John return to Jerusalem, preach to villages of the Samaritans
Acts 8:26-39* *God instructs Philip to preach to the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip does so
Acts 8:40* *Philip preaches from the city of Azotus to Caesarea
Acts 9:1-25 Saul’s conversion outside of Damascus, Saul stays with Ananias (member of Little Flock) in the city, Saul preaches in synagogues there and then escapes unbelieving Jews’ plot to kill him
Acts 9:26-31 Saul comes to the Little Flock in Jerusalem, meets the apostles (cf. Galatians 1:18-19), escapes unbelieving Jews’ plot to kill him there, preaches in Caesarea and Tarsus, *Little Flock in Judaea and Galilee and Samaria has rest
Acts 9:32-43* *Peter performs miracles in Lydda, Saron, and Joppa
Acts 10:1-48* *The Lord commands Peter to minister to Gentile Roman centurion Cornelius and his Gentile friends in Caesarea, Peter does so
Acts 11:1-18* *Peter returns to Jerusalem, recounts to Little Flock his ministry to Cornelius/Gentiles, *Peter initially castigated but later his work is commended
Acts 11:19-21* *Little Flock scattered during Stephen’s death (cf. Acts 8:1-4) had traveled to Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch, “preached the Word to Jews only”
Acts 11:22-26* *Little Flock in Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch to investigate unique ministry operations, Barnabas finds Saul and recruits him to Antioch
Acts 11:27-28* *Prophets from Jerusalem come to Antioch and foretell impending famine in Judaea
Acts 11:29-30 Barnabas and Saul send relief to the Little Flock in Judaea
Acts 12:1-19* *King Herod kills John’s brother James the apostle and imprisons Peter, the angel of the Lord frees Peter
Acts 12:20-24 King Herod’s blasphemous acts and gruesome death
Acts 12:25 Barnabas and Saul return to Antioch from Jerusalem
Acts 13:1-52 Church in Antioch described, the Holy Ghost commissions Barnabas and Saul to go on their first apostolic journey, Saul/Paul’s first apostolic journey recorded
Acts 14:1-28 Paul’s first apostolic journey recorded, his return to Antioch
Acts 15:1-30* *Jerusalem Council—James, Peter, and John meet with Barnabas and Paul (cf. Galatians 2:1-10)
Acts 15:30-41 Barnabas, Paul, and others return to Antioch before beginning Paul’s second apostolic journey
Galatians 2:11-16* *Not long after the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council, Peter visits Paul’s converts in Antioch, *Paul rebukes Peter for being a stumblingblock to believing Gentiles in Antioch

For simplicity’s sake, no further commentary will be provided on these passages. You just needed to see how there is an intermingling of ministries. This makes the book of Acts most confusing for ever so many, but if we give it great consideration, it is quite clear. This table allows us to digest the material because we have taken it in small chunks, yes? We will come back to this table. For now, we open a section that will highlight the ministry of the 12 after Acts chapter 15.

SECTION II. PETER AND THE ELEVEN’S MINISTRY POST-ACTS 15

Exactly where Israel’s Little Flock went after Acts chapter 15, the Bible does not provide much detail. However, we can go to Paul’s epistle to Galatia (see last entry in above table), as well as the Hebrew epistles, Hebrews through Revelation, for some insight.

After the Jerusalem Council (Acts chapter 15; Galatians 2:1-10), Galatians 2:11-16 says that Peter visited Paul’s Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria (see last item in above table). We see Paul briefly meeting James and other elders of the Jerusalem Church in Jerusalem in Acts 21:18, many years after Acts chapter 15. Where Peter and John and the rest of the apostles of Israel are at this time, we do not know. From thereon, all of the Little Flock’s members drop off the scene, never mentioned again in the Bible historically speaking.

The nine Hebrew epistles, Hebrews through Revelation, were written sometime during the latter part of the book of Acts. James wrote to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” (James 1:1)—a plain reference to Acts 8:4 and Acts 11:19. Peter wrote his first epistle to “the strangers scattered throughout…” (1 Peter 1:1)—another reference to Acts 8:4 and Acts 11:19. That first epistle from Peter was from “the church that is at Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13). Evidently, a good number of Little Flock members had scattered to Babylon after the stoning of Stephen, and Peter was ministering to them in accordance with his promise in Galatians 2:9. Peter evidently visited Babylon sometime after Acts chapter 15.

We know that the Hebrew books of Hebrews (2:9), 1 John (2:2), and 2 Peter (3:9,15-16) were all written post-Acts 15 because they reflect Pauline influence and indicate Paul’s ministry to “all men” (cf. Galatians 2:9)—the doctrine Israel’s Little Flock learned from Paul at the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15. Since 1 John was written post-Acts 15, it would follow that 2 John and 3 John were written after Acts chapter 15 as well. First Peter, James, Jude, and Revelation were written sometime during late Acts, too. John wrote to believing Jews scattered throughout modern-day Turkey in the opening three chapters of the Revelation. These would be the Jews scattered in connection with Stephen’s death (cf. James 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:1).

The leaders of Israel’s Little Flock, as indicated by the books of Hebrews through Revelation, continued with the kingdom doctrine first revealed in the Old Testament, Four Gospels, and early Acts (1-7). They remained under the Law, as James teaches. They remained vigilant for the Antichrist, his deception, and the intense persecution that would be aimed at them (1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation). They waited for Jesus Christ’s Second Coming in wrath to judge their enemies (1 and 2 Peter). They were encouraged not to repeat the unbelief of their ancestors, that they enter Jesus’ earthly kingdom and enjoy the eternal salvation found in the New Covenant (book of Hebrews). With this settled, we can return to the “scene-switching” of Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry between Acts chapters 9-15.

SECTION III. WHEN THE TWELVE’S MINISTRY OVERLAPPED WITH PAUL’S MINISTRY IN ACTS

It is no secret that there is a lot of confusion about the book of Acts. For many centuries, it has been a battleground of bitter arguments. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion amongst dispensationalists. We have so-called “grace people” mixing the minds of so many. There should not be confusion, especially since we Pauline dispensationalists claim to have divine insight into Scripture! In light of your question, we can summarize the book of Acts using three simple points:

  1. Israel’s Little Flock (believing Israel led by the 12 apostles) had to be notified of the dispensational change ushered in by Paul’s ministry.
  2. Paul’s ministry had to not only be created, but also strengthened and brought to the forefront.
  3. Unbelieving Israel also had to be notified of the dispensational change as well as to be told of their (new) chance to be saved into the Church Body of Christ (rather than saved into the Little Flock and Israel’s prophetic program).

We will now look at these three points in greater detail.

  1. ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK (BELIEVING REMNANT LED BY THE 12 APOSTLES) HAD TO BE NOTIFIED OF THE DISPENSATIONAL CHANGE USHERED IN BY PAUL’S MINISTRY.

Hence, Israel’s Little Flock continued to minister post-Acts-chapter-7 with the Gospel message they had been given earlier. Paul was saved in Acts chapter 9; consequently, his ministry and Gospel message were unknown in Acts chapter 8. Until Paul’s ministry could be fully established and made known to all, Israel’s apostles continued to do what they had been instructed by Jesus Christ years earlier. When the dispensational change occurred in chapter 9, Israel’s Little Flock was unaware of it. The events of Acts chapter 8 happened immediately after chapter 7, so chapter 8 does not seem to cover too long of a time. I would estimate a few weeks at most. The Little Flock simply continued with their “great commission” of going to Jews and Samaritans throughout Jerusalem, Judaea (southern Israel), and Samaria (northern Israel)—see Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8. They did not know it yet, but God the Holy Spirit was preparing them to see their program’s breakdown and their nation’s diminishing.

By the time of Acts chapter 15, Israel’s Little Flock, led by her 12 apostles, “perceived” (understood) what had happened with the salvation and commission of Saul/Paul back in chapter 9 years earlier. They thus loosed themselves from their “Great Commission” and they handed over all unbelievers (lost Jews and lost Gentiles) to Paul and Barnabas (see Galatians 2:1-10).

  1. PAUL’S MINISTRY HAD TO NOT ONLY BE CREATED, BUT ALSO STRENGTHENED AND BROUGHT TO THE FOREFRONT.

Hence, the Apostle Paul did a lot of “Jewish” things during his Acts ministry—water baptisms, miracle healings, tongues, exorcisms, animal sacrifice in the Temple, taking a vow, shaving his head, physical circumcision of Timothy, and so on. It was all to show that Paul’s ministry was the perfect replacement for Peter’s. God the Holy Ghost Himself was validating Paul’s apostolic ministry (2 Corinthians 12:12; cf. Mark 16:19-20). With unbelieving Israel seeing her signs given over to and working among the Gentiles, the unbelieving Jews knew the God of their fathers was now working through the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 14:21-22). They would be enticed to behave like Paul’s Gentile converts, and thus save themselves from their nation’s apostasy. Once they would believe Paul’s Gospel—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for their sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—Paul’s “provoking ministry” would accomplish its purpose.

Remember, for some 2,000 years prior to Paul, God had been dealing predominately with the nation Israel. They were His covenant people. They had the Levitical priesthood, the Word of God (the Law of Moses, and the ministry/writings of the prophets), the promises of God, and they even had Christ’s earthly ministry (Romans 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:11-12). But, during the book of Acts, Paul was going around preaching that Israel had killed Messiah, that she was fallen, that she was accursed of God, that she no different from the Gentile nations of the world, and the Jews having no advantage over Gentiles before God. Understandably, this infuriated unbelieving Israel, that God would consider them no different from dirty, Gentile “dogs.” These lost Jews followed and harassed Paul throughout his ministry during Acts. In Romans chapters 9 through 11, we can see their objections to Paul’s preaching and we can note the Holy Spirit’s answers through Paul. Paul had various detractors in the Jewish religion. God needed to establish that ministry in the midst of all that opposition. The “Jewish” things Paul did provided that much-needed validation. Had the Holy Spirit not acted wisely here, it is quite certain that Christianity (Paul’s message and revelation) would have never survived to our present-day.

  1. UNBELIEVING ISRAEL ALSO HAD TO BE NOTIFIED OF THE DISPENSATIONAL CHANGE AS WELL AS BE TOLD OF THEIR (NEW) CHANCE TO BE SAVED INTO THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST (RATHER THAN SAVED INTO THE LITTLE FLOCK AND ISRAEL’S PROPHETIC PROGRAM).

Hence, Paul visited the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire during the Acts period. What was he doing? Or, better yet, what was the Holy Spirit doing through Paul? He was announcing to unbelieving Israel that they needed to be saved by way of the new program that God had instituted through Paul’s apostleship and ministry. Three times, Paul said that he was “turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:28). It was a threefold message to unbelieving Israel—in Antioch of Pisidia/Asia, in Corinth/Greece/Europe, and in Rome/world capital—that she was fallen and now diminishing (Romans 11:11-14). She had lost her status with God and now she was no different from the idol-worshipping Gentiles. In God’s mind, a lost Jew and a lost Gentile were both “heathen” (Galatians 1:16). Paul’s Acts ministry is summarized in Romans chapters 9 through 11.

SECTION IV. DID ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK, OR THE 12 APOSTLES, EVER JOIN THE BODY OF CHRIST?

“Were the 12 in or out of the Body of Christ?” This is a question common amongst people who struggle with the Acts transitional period. People who understand—or, at least, claim to understand Pauline dispensationalism—have such a difficult time with answering the question. Beloved, we not struggle. God’s Word is so plain, but we have people trying to use the book of Acts to advance denominational views—even in so-called “grace” circles (I have met them, I have read their material, and my, what a MESS they have made the book of Acts!!!!!!!). They have made the Bible’s dispensational boundaries less clear. They even go so far as to argue that Paul preached Israel’s covenants during Acts, that Israel was not fallen until after Acts, that the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ, and so on. What nonsense! Again, I am referring to so-called “grace” people, not denominational people. People who claim to understand Paul’s special ministry—people who should know better—and yet they want to convince others and me that the 12 apostles joined the Body of Christ. The Bible does not support that notion at all. There are so many problems with their ridiculous postulations that I could write 50 counterpoints to refute them. (By the way, I did write those counterpoints, and a link to them is at the end of this article. That study is titled, “Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?”)

Friend, on the authority of Galatians 2:9, and dozens upon dozens of other verses, I say “NO,” the 12 apostles are not a part of the Body of Christ. “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” Had the 12 apostles been a part of the Body of Christ, they would have united ministries with Paul and Barnabas right here. Did they? (No.) They would have all started preaching Paul’s Gospel to all people (as Paul and Barnabas had already been doing). Did they? (No.) According to the Bible, it never happened. In some so-called “grace preachers’” minds it occurred, but nothing in the Bible says it did. I will believe the Bible; I will forget all the rest! You?

Since the 12 apostles declared that they would remain separate from Paul and Barnabas, they were obviously in two different bodies of believers and they conducted two separate ministries even after they convened in Acts chapter 15. You can believe whatever you like, my good friend, but I will believe the Bible before I will believe anyone. There was redeemed Israel, bound for Earth, and the Body of Christ, bound for Heaven. To combine redeemed Israel (led by 12 apostles) and the Body of Christ (led by Apostle Paul) would only confuse God’s intention in creating both groups. There are two groups because there are two realms of creation over which Jesus Christ is to rule (heaven and earth; Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16-20; Ephesians 1:9-11; Ephesians 3:15).

As we noted at the end of Section II, you can read Hebrews 2:9 (influenced by Pauline teaching; 1 Timothy 2:6-7), 2 Peter 3:15-16 (influenced by Pauline teaching), and 1 John 2:2 (influenced by Pauline teaching; 1 Timothy 2:6-7). Leaders of the church at Jerusalem, Israel’s believing remnant, the Little Flock, they wrote these epistles after they had met with Paul in Acts chapter 15. None of these books of Hebrews through Revelation ever make a single reference to the Church the Body of Christ. Had the 12 apostles joined the Body of Christ, I am quite sure the Holy Spirit would have revealed that truth to them and they would have written it in those last nine books of our Bible. Since they did not write about the Church the Body of Christ—call me crazy if you want—but I am going to take a wild guess and say the 12 (and the rest of Israel’s Little Flock) had absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing, NOTHING!, to do with the Church the Body of Christ. Again, you can believe whatever you like, friend, but never say it is “Bible” when you do not have a verse to stand on.

SECTION V. ACTS CHAPTER 7 THROUGH ACTS CHAPTER 28 DIAGRAMMED

Please carefully consider the following diagram that succinctly summarizes what has been said thus far:
Acts 7-28

[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]

SECTION VI. CONCLUSION

The language of the Bible is that while Israel “fell” in Acts chapter 7 (cf. Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 13:6-9), she was “diminishing” until chapter 28 (Romans 11:11-14). For just over 30 years, God announced the dispensational change from Peter to Paul, Law to Grace, Israel to the Body of Christ, prophecy to mystery, Jew to Gentile. Between Acts chapters 9 and 15, God gradually solidified Paul’s ministry. With Peter’s testimony of Acts chapter 10 shared in Acts chapter 15 with all of Israel’s Little Flock leadership present, Paul’s Gentile ministry under grace could be permanently validated. Once that occurred, then Peter and the Little Flock could fade from Acts, leaving the final phase of the transition to come about and terminate with Paul’s final announcement of Acts 28:28—”Be it known therefore unto you [Jews], that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it.”

Over 15 years after learning some things from Paul, Peter, at the end of his life, admitted that he still could not understand everything associated with Paul’s ministry. Second Peter chapter 3: “[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.” For sake of brevity, we forgo further commentary here.

Friend, you asked, “If the national program is set aside, where do the converts of Peter ‘go?’ Where do they ‘fit’ in the scheme of things?” All the believing Jews saved outside of Paul’s ministry, they stayed members of the Little Flock until their deaths. They did not have to convert to the Body of Christ. They had an earthly hope and now had to wait for Christ’s Second Coming (which, they later learned, did not come about yet in order to extend our Dispensation of Grace). Once Paul’s ministry came to the forefront, and confirmed by the 12 apostles, Israel’s Little Flock was sealed off. Paul continued from Acts chapter 15 to the end of Acts (chapter 28), announcing to Israel that she was fallen and diminishing. This was to give lost Jews plenty of time to trust Paul’s Gospel and join in God’s program via the Church the Body of Christ.

Please permit me to repeat for sake of emphasis. Peter and the other members of the Little Flock stayed together until the ends of the earthly lives. They had no reason to migrate into Paul’s ministry and the Body of Christ. As indicated by the Hebrew epistles, Hebrews through Revelation, Israel’s Little Flock during Acts just continued to look for the seven years of Tribulation and Christ’s Second Coming. They continued practicing the Law system, they continued following Jesus’ instructions in Matthew through John, the doctrine in early Acts, and when it was written, they applied the information of Hebrews through Revelation. In the future, after our Dispensation of Grace ends with the Rapture, those Jewish epistles will start up Israel’s believing remnant once again. During that seven-year Tribulation, they will practice the Jewish doctrine that Peter and the 11 would have followed had the Tribulation come 2,000 years ago. When Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming, He will bring all believing Jews in Israel’s program—from Adam onward to the last believer killed in the Tribulation—into the earthly kingdom.

You also pointed out, “Additionally, it must be obvious that not all Israel (each individual) committed the unpardonable sin, or Peter and the others would have had no ministry at all.” That is correct. Not every individual Jew committed the unpardonable sin, but the vast majority did blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. Saul of Tarsus led the rebellion (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Israel’s corrupt and unbelieving leadership was influential in causing the common people to: (#1) reject God the Father speaking through John the Baptist (Herod beheaded him), (#2) reject God the Son Jesus Christ (at Calvary), and (#3) reject God the Holy Ghost (speaking through Israel’s Little Flock in early Acts via the 12 apostles). Peter and the 11 began to minister to individuals in Acts chapter 8 and onward. They were no longer ministering to Israel as a whole like they did in the first seven chapters of Acts. Once Peter and the 11 learned from Paul about his ministry, they, in Galatians 2:9 (cf. Acts 15), loosed themselves from their commission and stayed with “the circumcision” (the born-again Jews, the Little Flock). From Acts chapter 15 onward, Paul and Barnabas went to the “heathen” (lost Jews and lost Gentiles).

There came a point when salvation in Israel’s program was no longer available to lost Jews. From God’s viewpoint, Israel’s fall was in Acts chapter 7, but it took time for His human servants in Israel’s program to be brought up-to-date. Peter saw a hint of this dispensational change during the strange events of Acts chapter 10 (Cornelius). But, they were not fully informed of the dispensational change until Acts chapter 15. Israel’s Little Flock was secure, and they continued on in the Jewish kingdom doctrine, but the Little Flock was no longer open to new memberships once the Little Flock publically endorsed Paul’s ministry in chapter 15. Paul’s frequent visits to the synagogues to preach to the lost Jews was God’s way of saving some of these lost Jews from the apostasy that caused them to reject Jesus years earlier (see Romans 11:11-14). With Paul’s ministry now preeminent, these lost Jews (and lost Gentiles) would have to come to God apart from Israel’s rise to kingdom glory. They would have to come through Paul’s ministry. One final note, Romans chapter 10 is Paul’s rebuke of Israel for rejecting his ministry as they had done with Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry years earlier.

ADDENDUM. QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

I judged it best to include this question-and-answer section as an “appendix” of sorts. It will succinctly summarize the highlights of this article, and, at the same time, reproduce answers to questions people constantly ask about this Acts 7-28 range of passages. Discussing the topic from this “new” aspect will reinforce previous points. It may even emphasize points that the reader glossed over in (or forgot from) previous sections.

Question #1: “Were the 12 apostles and the others in the Little Flock ever part of the Body of Christ?”

Answer #1: “No, never. The 12 apostles and the Little Flock of Jewish believers remained separate and distinct from the Church the Body of Christ throughout. Had these two agencies mixed at any time, God would have no more earthly people (and that was the whole purpose of His earthly ministry). They would all be destined for the heavenly places. We know this not to be the case, for Jesus Christ must be exalted in eternity future in the heaven and the earth (Ephesians 1:8-10; Colossians 1:16-20). If you take the time to compare and contrast Peter and Paul’s ministries in Acts, and compare and contrast the Pauline epistles (Romans through Philemon) with the Hebrew epistles (Hebrews through Revelation), there is no way these servants of God are talking about the same body of information and the same group of believers. See our study linked at the end of this article, about comparing and contrasting Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry from 50 different angles.

We know that the nation Israel is separate and distinct from the Church the Body of Christ. The “Little Flock” is the Israel of God, and He will use them to establish His kingdom in the earth (Luke 12:31-32; Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 11:15; et al.). However, we the Church the Body of Christ are God’s heavenly people, and He will use us to reclaim heaven for His glory (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7; et al.). This is why Israel and the Body of Christ cannot mix, never mixed, and will never mix. That is why the 12 apostles could not join the Body of Christ. They rather remained in the Little Flock. The 12 apostles will rule over Israel’s 12 tribes on the Earth in Israel’s kingdom (Matthew 19:27-28). In contrast, Paul says that the Body of Christ has an eternal destiny in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:16-20, et cetera). It is common for religions and denominations to do it, and even some so-called “Pauline dispensationalists,” but we must never, ever mix the 12 apostles and Israel with Paul and the Body of Christ. That will only generate unanswerable confusion and damage you spiritually. That is why Christendom is so divided. They have not divided the things in the Bible that God has divided, so they make a mess of the Bible.”

Question #2: “Did the 12 apostles preach Paul’s Gospel after Acts 15? If two different gospels were being preached at the same time, what would happen if the 12 came upon some Gentiles? What would they preach?”

Answer #2: “Certainly not, the 12 apostles did not preach Paul’s Gospel, either before or after Acts chapter 15. To say otherwise is to be not far removed from the absurd denominational idea constantly hurled at us, “There is only one Gospel in the Bible!” While Paul’s Gospel surely enlightened the 12 apostles when they met with him in Galatians chapter 2 (Acts chapter 15), the 12 apostles made a public declaration in Galatians chapter 2 that we need to be sure we notice.

The Bible says in Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” James, Peter, and John agreed to stay with their message to the Little Flock—that is, the Jews saved previously under the ministry of the 12 (and going all the way back to John the Baptist’s ministry). The term “circumcision” here means more than just “Jews.” It means Jews who had the inward circumcision, the true Israelites, the born-again ones with eternal life, in contrast with the unbelieving Jews who had an outward circumcision but not one in the heart (Romans 2:28-29). “Heathen” would be every person outside of the body of born-again Jews—unbelieving, unsaved, lost Jews were considered just as “heathen” as Gentiles. These “heathen” were Paul’s mission field.

If we are going to go by the Bible, Galatians 2:9 tells us that James, Peter, and John confined their ministries to the Little Flock from Acts chapter 15 onward. These men, filled with the Holy Spirit, formally endorsed Paul and Barnabas to go to everyone else—that is, to “heathen,” unsaved Jews and unsaved Gentiles. Simply put, anyone outside of the Little Flock, from Acts chapter 15 onward, they were exclusively the responsibility of Paul and Barnabas. If the 12 apostles met Gentiles from Acts chapter 15 onward, they stayed true to their agreement made earlier in Galatians 2:9. (Again, remember Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 15 are the same Jerusalem Council.) As per their declaration, the 12 would have referred unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles to Paul’s ministry, epistles, and message. Salvation into the Little Flock was no longer possible for lost Jews; they had to join the Body of Christ. Had the 12 not operated this way, they would have been liars in Galatians 2:9. That one verse will clear up a lot of confusion about the transition period if you let it. From Acts chapter 15 onward, never did the 12 or the Little Flock ever preach a Gospel message to the Gentiles (they had in previous chapters—Cornelius, of chapter 10, the primary example). The 12 promised not to do so in Galatians 2:9. Again, anyone outside of the Little Flock was referred to Paul’s ministry and Paul’s epistles for enlightenment (2 Peter 3:15-16).

After Acts chapter 15 (Galatians 2:9), the Little Flock was sealed off from new membership. The 12 and their followers continued to wait for the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ—following the doctrine in Genesis through Malachi, Matthew through John, early Acts (1-7), as well as Hebrews through Revelation. This includes all converts from John the Baptist’s ministry, all converts from Christ’s earthly ministry, and all converts from the ministry of the 12 in early Acts. The Little Flock certainly never joined the Body of Christ, for they were still worshipping at the Temple and keeping the Mosaic Law as late as Acts 21:20-25. If they were members of the Body of Christ, they would have had no business keeping the Law and Paul should have forbade them from doing so. Paul never corrected these Jewish believers for their legalistic position. James, when writing to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad” (James 1:1), constantly affirmed legalistic works. There is no way for any sensible person to make James’ audience members of the Body of Christ.

Question #3: “If Israel fell in Acts chapter 7, how could believers still be added to the Little Flock?”

Answer #3: “There is the idea among some grace people that no one could be added to the Little Flock after the stoning of Stephen in Acts chapter 7. I have heard and read it taught, particularly on social media. The Bible does not support this. If new believers were not added to the Little flock after Acts chapter 7, and Paul says something new began with him in chapter 9 (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15-16), then we are forced to conclude there must be three groups of believers in the book of Acts. There would be: (#1) the Little Flock, (#2) the Church the Body of Christ, and (#3) the “misfit” group of believers in chapter 8. The Bible does not teach this. Please see the answer to the previous question. Actually, the dispensationalists struggling here do so because the “Acts 28 theological system” has clouded their judgment. The “Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theological System” has surreptitiously and slowly infiltrated the Grace Movement during the last half-century. A very complex and confusing system, it has been extremely problematic in my life and ministry. Many people have contacted me to express that it has been very detrimental to their Christian life as well. I refer you to our massive project that exposes that system as heresy. Please see the link at the end of this article for the “Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology” disclosure.

Another misconception is that Paul continued Israel’s program during the book of Acts. We must understand that provoking ministry of Paul to Israel if we are to understand the rest of the book of Acts. You may see our other study, “Can you please explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?,” also linked at the end of this article.”

And, with that, we say, “Finis!” 🙂

Also see:
» What is “Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology?”
» Can you please explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?

Does Acts 13:48 support Calvinism?

DOES ACTS 13:48 SUPPORT CALVINISM?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The more you listen to and read denominational preachers and theologians, the more verses you hear and see “beaten black and blue.” God’s Word is treated with so much disrespect, so abused. They grab a verse here, a phrase there, a word here, and—voilà—a new denomination is born and maintained. Some have even taken one Bible word and made whole systems! Acts 13:48 is one such verse quoted time and time again in theology with regards to Calvinism. In this study, we will take time to actually read the verse—and its context—and see God’s intended meaning. “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Acts 13:48 is one of Calvinism’s favorite verses. Of course, the verse is usually not quoted in full, and certainly the surrounding verses are ignored. Just its final little clause is cited. Acts 13:48 in its entirety reads: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” You immediately saw what appeals to Calvinists—“and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” The Calvinist will now say, “See, just as Acts 13:48 says, God ordained some people to eternal life and the rest He chose for eternal damnation!” Certainly, the Bible says God has ordained some people to eternal life. Just look at the verse! But, exactly who are these people? Are they the people Calvinists say they are? (And, notice, never once does the Bible say that God ordains some people to eternal damnation. If I were a Calvinist, I would quote that verse instead, but since there is no such verse, Acts 13:48 will just have to do!)

So, you can now see why Acts 13:48 strikes terror in the hearts of Bible believers everywhere. How are they (we) going to handle a verse that clearly says that a group of people was “ordained to eternal life?” Does this not validate Calvinism? Again, just look at the context, and you will be amazed at how simple the verse really is. Unless we have a denominational system or theological speculation to promote, we will just look at the context of the verse under consideration, and rejoice in the simplicity of God’s Word.

Let us start at the beginning of Acts chapter 13. Paul and Barnabas have begun their first apostolic journey. Having left Antioch of Syria (verses 1-3), they reach Antioch of Pisidia (verse 14). Now, in the synagogue of Antioch of Pisidia, Paul begins a lengthy sermon for the Jews and the other religious people present. Paul documented Israel’s history from verses 17-41. Verses 42-44: “[42] And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. [43] Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. [44] And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.”

The Gentiles wanted to hear God’s Word, so Paul and Barnabas returned the next Sabbath day (Saturday) to speak to these curious people. We pick it up in verse 45 and following, reading slowly and carefully: “[45] But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. [46] Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. [47] For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. [48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

As previously noted, there are some Bible believers who are simply scared of Acts 13:48. They do not know how to handle it. It has been so terribly abused and it is dangerous ground for them to expound upon it. They try to avoid it every chance they can. Friends, it is not difficult. If we are just going to go by the Bible, the Bible says the people who were ordained to eternal life were the Gentiles. See, it helps to actually read the Bible, friends, instead of just carelessly pulling things out of it! God purposed to form the Church the Body of Christ, that Gentiles could be saved apart from Israel. Salvation is currently coming to the Gentiles without Israel and through Paul’s ministry (Romans 11:11-13). That is exactly what Paul preached in Acts 13:46-47.

Let us turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 2 to see whom God “ordained to eternal life.” Verses 6-8 of 1 Corinthians chapter 2: “[6] Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: [7] But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: [8] Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

Again, God planned our mystery program before the world began, but He did not reveal it to mankind until Paul’s ministry (cf. Romans 16:25-26; Titus 1:1-3). That mystery program includes eternal life via membership in the Church the Body of Christ. Gentiles to be saved into the Body of Christ, they are the ones God has ordained to eternal life (return to Acts 13:46-48). It has nothing to do with individuals (as Calvinists claim). Rather, it means corporate salvation in and through the agency called the Church Body of Christ.

Beloved, unless we have an agenda to advance, a theological speculation to promote, we will simply read the verse and believe it in its context rather than just carelessly grabbing it to bolster our theological system. There is nothing here about God ordaining people to go to hell forever. That is something someone is reading into the verse, wresting the Scriptures to their own spiritual destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16). It has nothing to do with God selecting individuals for salvation. It is God ordaining Gentiles (as a whole), that they have an opportunity to receive forgiveness of sins via the Church the Body of Christ and the Gospel of Grace that the Apostle Paul preached. Simple!

Also see:
» “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated?” (COMING SOON!)
» How do our free will and God’s foreknowledge work together?
» Does Acts 2:47 support Calvinism?

Whose “faith” is in Romans 3:25?

WHOSE “FAITH” IS IN ROMANS 3:25?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“I have another question that I would appreciate your counsel on; Romans 3:25; ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.’ Some believe and teach that it is God the Father having faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as a propitiation instead of us having faith in His blood. I cannot get myself settled on this issue seeing blood and propitiation are God-ward. I guess it’s difficult to grasp God having to have faith in His own blood! I look forward to your response.”

Okay, Romans 3:25: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” Your question is specifically about the phrase “through faith in his blood.” Whose faith is being discussed here? Good question!

Note, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” If you look closely at this, the first part of the verse, we are really not in there so it cannot be our faith. We are absent from the verse. The subject is “God,” not us. God is performing the actions in the verse. God “set forth” (“placed before,” or “exhibited”) His Son to be “a propitiation” (fully-satisfying payment/sacrifice for sins). Why did God do this? Why did Father God offer Jesus Christ as a sacrifice? “Through faith in his blood.” Because God thought/believed His Son could pay for our sins in full, He offered Him. It is clear that it is God the Father’s faith in verse 25.

Sure, some might consider it strange, and at first glance, it is peculiar. However, when you think about it and remember what “faith” actually is, it really is not that odd that God would have faith. What exactly is “faith?” Is not faith simply “taking God at His Word?” Does not God believe His words to us? Why, sure He does! Does not God believe that His Son can take away our sins? Why, sure He does! That is the main point of Romans 3:25. God knew it would not be a waste of time to offer His Son, because His Son could get the job done and take care of our sin problem. The real question is, “Do we agree with what God believes about His Son’s blood?” Do we believe that Jesus Christ’s blood can pay for our sins in full? Do we have faith in what God has faith in? Or, like those in works-religion, do we have faith in ourselves, believing that we can play a part in atoning for our sins and making ourselves accepted of God? God does not rely on us to perform because He knows we cannot do it. His Son is reliable and dependable, and that is why we are urged to rely and depend on His Son just as He relies and depends on His Son.

If you read verse 26, immediately following, you can see our faith, and this loops back to God’s faith in verse 25. Our faith in verse 26: “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” When we “believe [trust] in Jesus,” we agree with God’s faith in verse 25. We are agreeing that we can be “just” (declared right/righteous in God’s sight) simply because Jesus Christ shed His blood and became our propitiation (fully-satisfying payment for our sins). Like God, we believe that our works do not factor into the equation. It is either—Jesus Christ did enough (and God believes He did), or Jesus Christ did not do enough and we have to do something too. We can agree with God, or we can disagree with Him. The choice is ours, but God has already made up His mind!

Also see:
» What is the “faith of Christ?” How could Jesus have “faith?” (COMING SOON!)
» Why did God reject Cain’s offering?
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?

Is “divine right of kings” a Scriptural teaching?

IS “DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS” A SCRIPTURAL TEACHING? IS IT DISPENSATIONAL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Strangely, when people see an elected politician they like, they say, “That person is God’s will for us. God selected him or her to assume the office.” But, then, when they see an elected governmental official whom they do not like, they never claim that “God’s will” was fulfilled in that unwanted politician assuming power! Well, is God selecting our politicians or is He not? It sounds like God’s will only operates sometimes. Surely, this is not God’s current operation with mankind, is it? Does God choose our political leaders? Is there such a thing as “the divine right of kings” in Scripture? In this study, we will search the Scriptures and see what God’s Word really says about it.

We find this instruction in Romans 13:1: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” This can be a very difficult piece of Scripture if we do not read it carefully. People claim this verse says that God directly chooses (or chose) our government officials. But, that is not what the verse said. The Bible did not say, “Our governmental leaders are ordained of God.” It did not say, “The people in office are ordained of God.” The Bible says, “…there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” This is talking about the power that government officials exercise, not the officials themselves. What a difference!

Friends, Romans 13:1 is best understood in light of Colossians 1:16: “For by him [the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, of verse 13] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Notice, however, this speaks of offices of government, not people serving in those offices. The offices, not the people, are “ordained of God.” “Thrones” refers not to kings, but the kings’ offices. “Principalities” are the realms over which princes reign; the word does not apply to the princes themselves. Now, we just carry this pattern into Romans 13:1 and the term “powers” is understood with astounding clarity.

Looking back at the opening verses of Romans chapter 13: “[1] Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. [2] Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Once more, the power—the authority—is what is ordained of God, not the people who exercise that power. Go back to Colossians 1:16. The word “powers” refers to the authority, the offices of the individuals— “The powers are ordained of God.” God established nationalism (national government on Earth) back in Genesis 9:4-5 in order to carry out capital punishment, establish order, deter crime (especially murder), and so on (cf. Romans 13:3-4). Government was originally intended to be good, to glorify Jesus Christ (cf. Colossians 1:16). It is only when sinful man took over did government become evil. Notice in Psalm 82 how God rebukes corrupt human leaders—called “gods.” They were originally meant to fulfill His will while ruling, but they were neglecting their responsibility, and misleading Israel.

When Satan corrupted the governments of Heaven and Earth with sin, God began His plan to restore the Earth unto Himself. That was the primary reason why God formed the nation Israel. Members of Israel—the Jews—were to fill the offices of government in the Earth that Adam and Eve had lost to Satan and sin. Let us look at this in great detail now.

WHEN GOD DID (WILL) CHOOSE EARTHLY GOVERNMENTAL LEADERS IN SCRIPTURE

Note Jesus’ words to Judaean governor Pontius Pilate in John 19:11:Thou couldest have not power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” God had given Pilate, a servant of the Roman government, governmental authority. The Graeco-Roman government came to rule over the nation Israel because of Israel’s repeated wickedness many centuries earlier. That was prophesied in the book of Daniel about 600 B.C.

Note what the Holy Spirit said through the Prophet Daniel in chapter 4 of his book: “[17] This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men…. [25] That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” These were God’s words to Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, the man God had appointed to rule over Israel and her Holy Land many centuries before Christ. Media-Persia conquered Babylon, and Greek King Alexander the Great overran Media-Persia, with Rome (an extension of Greece) ruling over Israel by the time of the New Testament and Christ’s earthly ministry.

In Israel’s program, God did not merely ordain the offices of government. There are verses in Scripture that explicitly teach that He actually chose the individuals who occupied those offices. Let us look at some examples. Observe, in time past, how God appointed Moses to lead His people Israel out of their grueling Egyptian slavery. We read in Exodus 3:10: “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” God did not just want any leader to guide Israel. He specifically chose Moses. This needs no further explanation. It is quite simple, friends, if we just let the verses speak. This is about the nation Israel, not us! Verses similar to this are numerous. Let us look at others.

Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 17:14-15: “[14] When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; [15] Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” This was a reference to King Saul, but could also be applicable to his successors—David, Solomon, et cetera. We will talk more about them now.

Centuries after Moses, the LORD God appointed Saul to be king over Israel. Reading 1 Samuel 9:15-17: “[15] Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, [16] To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. [17] And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.” Who is this regarding? The Bible says Israel!

God also appointed David to be king over Israel after Saul. The Bible says in 2 Samuel 7:8, “Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:” Solomon repeats what the LORD said: “Since the day that I brought forth my people out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel (1 Kings 8:16). Again, this is Israel, Israel, Israel!

Read what the Bible says about David and the LORD in 1 Samuel 16:1,12-13: “[1] And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons…. [12] And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. [13] Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.”

Paul repeats in Acts 13:21-22: “[21] And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. [22] And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” Certainly, God chose Saul and David to be Israel’s kings. Let me remind you that, in Israel’s program, God is attempting to restore Earth’s governments to Himself, so obviously He will pick the individuals to rule. Moses, Saul, David, and Solomon are the primary examples.

Adonijah (Solomon’s brother, and David’s son) says about Solomon inheriting David’s throne, “it was his from the LORD(1 Kings 2:15). There were various other kings of Israel that God chose—Jeroboam to be king over the 10 northern tribes, taking them from Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 Kings 11:11-13); Elijah the prophet received divine revelation to anoint Jehu as king of Israel (2 Kings 9:1-10); et cetera. Daniel, speaking of God’s dealings with mankind during Israel’s program, says, “He [God] changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings (Daniel 2:21). As we briefly hinted at earlier, the entire book of Daniel deals with the Gentile powers/kingdoms of the world while Israel is in captivity. God gave the Gentiles political power over Israel because of Israel’s incessant wickedness. In the context of Daniel 2:21, Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon was the ruler God put into power over the then-known world. Likewise, Nebuchadnezzar previews the Antichrist, whom God will also appoint over Israel to judge her during the seven-year Tribulation yet future (Isaiah 10:5).

By the way, friends, we must comment on a related misunderstood verse: “A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment” (Proverbs 16:10). On the basis of this verse, it is said that when a governmental leader speaks today, it is “God’s voice,” and that that voice is infallible. Kings of history, attempting to justify themselves and their policies/decrees, have tried to use this verse to argue that the God of the Bible was speaking in and through them, and so they should not be questioned or disobeyed. Beloved, the book of Proverbs has a context, and the context is Israel’s program in operation. Proverbs is not talking about God’s heavenly program with us. It is talking about God’s earthly program with Israel. It is not talking about our mystery program and the Dispensation of Grace. It is talking about the prophetic program. God was ruling Israel through her king. Look at the verses we have already cited in this study. King Solomon wrote Proverbs 16:10 in light of the verses we have just examined—Israel was a “theocracy,” God ruling the nation through human leaders He had appointed. Nothing about this is difficult, provided we leave the verse where it belongs on the Bible timeline instead of forcing it onto us.

So, in summation thus far, there was a time when God did choose leaders on Earth; furthermore, He will do it again in the future. This is not true today. Thus, dispensational Bible study is ever so important. Unless we “study… rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we will never understand the differences found throughout God’s Word. There are Bible verses that say God does choose leaders, but we need to remember that those verses apply to Israel’s prophetic program, not our mystery program that is currently operating. Dispensational Bible study is often ignored, so people will use the following verses to claim God is ordaining leaders today. This is erroneous. We need to leave the verses in their contexts, lest we form wrong conclusions about them. Let us see how our God is currently dealing with Earth’s governments.

WHEN GOD IS NOT CHOOSING EARTHLY GOVERNMENTAL LEADERS IN SCRIPTURE

In our dispensation, the Dispensation of the Grace of God, Father God is restoring the governments of Heaven to Himself. Therefore, He is not choosing earthly leaders today. He is not trying to reclaim real estate on planet Earth. Rather, He has chosen people (He has chosen those who are in the Church the Body of Christ—us!) to one day rule in the Heavenly Places. Remember, God did not only create earth but heaven as well (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16). Today, God is interested in restoring His heavenly authority. This was the mystery (secret) that the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul.

Ephesians 1:8-12 explains: “[8] Wherein he [God the Father] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; [9] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: [11] In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: [12] That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”

Through prophecy—the Scriptures outside of Paul’s ministry—God had revealed how He would restore Earth unto Himself. We looked at a number of those verses in earlier paragraphs. God kept secret His plan to reconcile the Heavenly Places unto Himself. That secret plan of God has now been made known. We find it in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. The purpose of the Church the Body of Christ is to rule and reign in the Heavens for God’s glory, just as the nation Israel will rule and reign on Earth for God’s glory.

Dear readers, notice the following Scriptures that apply to us today. These verses describe what God is doing with us today, and what He will do with us one day for all eternity:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
  • Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”
  • Ephesians 1:20-23: “[20] Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, [21] Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: [22] And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, [23] Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
  • Ephesians 2:6-7: “[6] And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
  • Ephesians 3:10: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,”
  • Colossians 1:18-20: “[18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth [through Israel], or things in heaven [through us].”
  • 2 Timothy 4:18: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

CONCLUSION

“Divine right of kings” is Scriptural, for we can find it in Scripture. However, it is not dispensational. We cannot find it in our Dispensation of Grace.

In the future, when Israel’s program resumes, exactly as prophecy declares, God will again appoint leaders to rule on Earth, just as He chose Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, and so on. David himself, resurrected, will rule over Israel (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 37:24; Hosea 3:5). The 12 apostles will each rule over one of Israel’s 12 tribes (Matthew 19:27-28; Luke 22:30) and the rest of the believing Jews will rule over the Gentiles (Matthew 25:14-29; Luke 19:12-27). Jesus Christ Himself will rule over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9; Revelation 11:15). He is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16) because He will be over all kings and all lords.

Until the Lord Jesus Christ comes back at His magnificent Second Coming, Satan’s evil world system—its politicians, religious leaders, educators, et cetera—will continue to operate. At Christ’s Second Coming, all the kingdoms of the world will become Jesus Christ’s kingdoms. Here, Satan’s world system will be ultimately destroyed. Then, God will ordain His people to lead the Earth’s governments. My, how this corrupt world needs such an arrangement!

Friend, God is not trying to restore Earth’s governments today. That will happen when Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming to set up His literal, physical, earthly kingdom (see Psalm 2:6-9, Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 11; Daniel 2:44, Amos 9:13-15; Zechariah 14; Matthew 25; Hebrews 1:8-9; Revelation 11:15, et cetera). One day, God the Father will personally “anoint” Jesus Christ as King of Heaven and Earth. But, not today. That is not what God is doing today in our mystery program. This is why there is never-ending conflict in the Middle East. Until God Himself gets involved, personally and visibly intervenes, and gets rid of Israel’s enemies, and restores Earth’s governments to Himself, there will be no true peace in the Middle East or in any other part of this fallen world.

Dear readers, there is nothing in Scripture that says that God is selecting our political leaders today. If we do not “rightly divide the word of truth” as 2 Timothy 2:15 instructs us, we are not going to know where to put Bible verses on the Bible timeline. We are just going to mix all the verses together as if they are applicable all at one time. Those verses will butt heads with one another. Ultimately, it will bring nothing but confusion, heartache, and defeat. Just look around at professing “Christianity” if you doubt me.

Today, in the Dispensation of Grace, God is not choosing our leaders. Romans chapter 13 simply means God established governmental powers, and we choose leaders to exercise those powers. God allows us the free will to choose our leaders. We can choose to select leaders who are godly, or leaders who are ungodly. If God chooses our leaders, then it is pointless for us Americans to go vote on Election Day! Think about it, friend.

Enjoy our Bible studies? You can donate securely to us here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux. By the way, after much delay, we are almost ready to sell our Bible study booklets. More details next week…hopefully!

Also see:
» How did Satan hinder Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:18?
» How does Satan operate today?
» Where in the Bible did God give Satan domain over the Earth?

What is the “falling away” of 2 Thessalonians 2:3?

WHAT IS THE “FALLING AWAY” OF 2 THESSALONIANS 2:3?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The King James Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 2:3: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” What is this “falling away?” Is it a reference to the Rapture, our being caught up into heaven as members of the Church the Body of Christ? Or, is it perhaps a reference to some other event? Beloved, let us be Bereans and compare verses, rather than simply shouting “Amen” to preachers’ sermons on the subject!

Unfortunately, some people—even in “Bible-loving” and “Bible-defending” circles—absolutely detest the King James Bible. Seminary or Bible College has so polluted their minds and hearts. These individuals whom Bible institutions corrupted, they “graduate” and pollute common church members with their “education.” They go on to produce “study Bibles,” “better” translations, commentaries, Hebrew and Greek grammars, and other worthless books parading as “Christian” literature. These very people—educated in error—currently lead and teach in most local assemblies and other “Bible” groups. Thus, today, the average church leader and the average church member alike view the King James Bible as anything but “scholarly” and “reliable.”

The Bible publishers make sure their advertisements report largely just enough information for you to have an “easy-to-read” contemporary perversion. To tell you the full story of the various versions of the “English Bible,” which they often do not know themselves (or knowingly and willfully withhold from the public), that information would cause you to use a King James Bible and you would never want to buy one of their 100 translations they want to $ell you! Many people—including Christians—have been educated to attack God’s preserved Word in English. If you believe in a perfect King James Bible, these “Bible-believers” will ridicule and slander you for disagreeing with their “scholarly” (ha!!) position. They have been poisoned by the pro-Roman-Catholic mentality that “educated clergy” must always interpret God’s Word. They have been polluted with the false idea that the Holy Spirit used Roman Catholic manuscripts as a repository for His precious Words. They assume that He sanctions the use of those manuscripts to “correct” the Protestant Bible Text of the Reformation. All in the name of “unbelieving scholarship” we are urged to toss out God’s precious Words and pick up the worthless teachings of men. Never! Never! Never! Again, I say, Never!

One brother in Christ, whom I love dearly, is nevertheless polluted because he always corrects 2 Thessalonians 2:3 in the King James Bible—he never picks on the modern English Bibles whose verse uses the same term that he dislikes!! (He refused to heed my advice on that subject many times so I have no further dealings with him.) A “scholar” had written something about the verse that appealed to him. Thus, ever since, this brother has repeated the error time and time again when teaching the verse. He always wants to change “a falling away” to “the departure,” claiming that “everybody does it” with that verse. (Of course, I do not do it, and I know plenty of people who do not do it, so not “everybody does it!”) According to this deceived brother, and those who agree with him, the verse should read: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come the departure first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” Is that a sound conclusion? Do not take my word for it! Notice the following research I have gathered especially for this study.

Strangely, while people often “run to the Greek” to “disprove” the King James Bible, I see why they do not “run to the Greek” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Whether the Textus Receptus (King James Greek New Testament) or the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (modern versions’ Greek New Testament), the word rendered “falling away” is apostasia. Of course, you need no theological degree to see that that term is where our English word “apostasy” originated. “Apostasy” simply means “a defection from truth, falling away, forsaking.” For the record, I quote Strong’s Greek Dictionary:

“G646 ἀποστασία
Pronounced ap-os-tas-ee’-ah
feminine of the same as 647; defection from truth (properly, the state) (“apostasy”):—falling away, forsake.”

As noted above, the word apostasia (G646) is the feminine form of apostasion (G647), which itself means “separative, i.e. (specially) divorce” or “(writing of) divorcement.” Apostasion appears twice in Matthew and once in Mark—Matthew 5:31, Matthew 19:7, and Mark 10:4 (Moses writing the “bill of divorcement” under the Law economy). The idea is one party leaving another. Now, carry that concept over into 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and it becomes clear.

Someone is leaving someone else in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. It is not the Body of Christ leaving Earth, but rather the nation Israel leaving Moses. Israel is so far removed from the divine revelation given to her through Moses. The Jews have been duped into accepting the Antichrist (“man of sin, son of perdition”). They have embraced the Antichrist and Baal worship, idolatry that the Law of Moses repeatedly warned against! Friends, remember, whenever God’s Word is ignored, a vacuum is left, and one’s heart and mind sucks up everything error. Spiritual light rejected (Psalm 119:130) becomes darkness. They have left Moses and the Jesus Christ he predicted (Deuteronomy 18:15,18,19; Acts 3:22-23). Now, they have nothing but the Antichrist, the false Messiah, the man Satan will use to doom them with a devilish religion.

Once Israel leaves the integrity of their Old Testament prophets, chiefly Moses’ writings, once they ignore Jesus as their Messiah/Christ, they will open themselves up to Satan’s will, and Satan will be more than eager to put the Antichrist into power and damn Israel. They have not heeded the ancient warning of the coming Antichrist (see Isaiah 10:5; Daniel 7:8,19-26; Daniel 8:9,22-25; Daniel 9:26-27; Daniel 11:21,36-38; Zechariah 11:17; et cetera). They have abandoned JEHOVAH God, the one true God, and now, they have nothing but Satan’s plan for them. God will give unbelieving Israel just what they want!

We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12: “[9] Even him [Antichrist], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, [10] And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. [11] And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: [12] That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

In conclusion, it should be pointed out that the Greek word translated “falling away” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is rendered in Acts 21:21 as “forsake.” Note, “And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.” It had nothing to do with “departing from one place to another” (as in the Rapture, or some other physical relocation). It meant leaving the truth and going after other teaching. That is the meaning in Acts 21:21 and that is the meaning in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Israel will be so far led away from the truth God gave her through the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament). They did not want God’s truth so He will give them error instead (Romans 1:17-32).

Also see:
» How could ‘wise’ King Solomon let foreign women deceive him?
» Should the King James’ “Christ” actually be “Lord” in 2 Thessalonians 2:2?
» Does Hebrews 10:25 really teach we must attend church?

What is meant by, “Love thy neighbour as thyself?”

WHAT IS MEANT BY, “LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Thank you for this question. We will get right to answering it. The phrase appears seven times in the “New Testament” Scriptures (Matthew 5:43; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). However, this was first instructed in the Law of Moses many centuries prior to the New Testament.

Leviticus 19:18 told Israel: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” That verse uses the negative to define “love thy neighbour as thyself.” Getting even with people when they do us wrong, holding grudges (bitterness) against people who have done us wrong, these are the opposite of “loving your neighbor as yourself.” Now, think the opposite of doing people wrong or getting even. To “love thy neighbour as thyself” simply means to seek the wellbeing of any and every person around you (whether a literal, next-door person, or some stranger you just happen to come across in your daily activities many miles from your home). Rather than seeking their harm (as in avenging or holding grudges), you are seeking their good. Just as we look out for ourselves (to make sure we are safe from bodily injury, to make sure we are not being swindled, et cetera), we should look out for others’ safety and benefit. If you remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:27-37, Jesus gave a good illustration of what “love thy neighbour as thyself” really meant. The Samaritan took care of an injured man, a complete stranger, after that man was beaten and left for dead. The key word here is “compassion” (Luke 10:33)—we will come back to that later.

More specifically, “love thy neighbour as thyself” means that we should be willing to serve others because Jesus Christ selflessly served us at Calvary’s cross (Romans 15:1-3). This is grace living, or Christian living, in action. Note, for example, Galatians 5:13-14: “[13] For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. [14] For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” See, again, this is not selfish living (“How can I get even?,” “What can I get out of it?,” et cetera). This is “by love serving one another.” Love is seeking another person’s highest good. It is not so much an emotional feeling as much as a mental attitude or disposition. God values that person, so much so that He sent His only begotten Son to die for his or her sins. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). See, this is love. Jesus Christ did not seek to serve Himself. He sought to serve His Heavenly Father, and His Heavenly Father loved sinful mankind enough to seek their best interest. He wanted them to be in heaven with Him instead of them going to hell forever apart from Him. Likewise, we serve our Heavenly Father by faith. We seek others’ highest good as the Lord Jesus did for us nearly 2,000 years ago.

Galatians 5:13-14, which we quoted above, is how Jesus Christ lived His life on Earth. This is the life He wants to live in and through us if we let Him. Unfortunately, the Christians in Galatia were not living like this. Verse 15 says, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” They were bickering, fussing, fighting, mistreating each other, insulting one another, and so on (sounds like “Christianity” today, huh?). They were not “loving their neighbors as themselves.” Paul reminded them that we are to “by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). For specific examples of how we can serve each other (in marriage, in local assembly with other Christians, in family life with children, on the job, with lost people, and so on), you can see Romans chapter 12, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3. We are to let God’s love toward us (at Calvary), work in us so that we in turn love others in a similar manner. It is really God’s love toward them that will work in us so that we treat others respectfully.

One more thing. God demanded the Israelites to love their neighbors as themselves, or they would be cursed of Him. They had to perform to get His blessings (see Deuteronomy chapter 28, for example). He did this to show them they were sinners, and were unable to please Him. Now, in this the Dispensation of Grace, God has blessed us in Jesus Christ. If we have trusted in the crosswork of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for our sins, we have accepted God’s love toward us. Now, that love is to work in and through us, not for us to please God and receive His blessings, but because we already please God in Christ and we have already received His blessings (Romans 8:32; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 2:10). Rather than being bitter against people who have done us wrong (especially Christians), rather than being rough and mean with others (especially Christians), we need to have “compassion.” Remember, as in the case of the Good Samaritan, as God sent Christ to save us because He had “compassion” on us when we were dead in our sins, we have similar “compassion” on others.

Note Ephesians 4:31-32, one of those passages I recommended for you to read earlier: “[31] Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: [32] And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” This summarizes the phrase “love thy neighbour as thyself.” Do good unto others because God did good unto you at Calvary. Rather than God punishing you for your sins, He punished Jesus Christ in your place. Likewise, He has now given you the capacity to do to others what He did for you. Forgive others for the wrongs they did to you, because God already forgave you of the (greater) wrongs you did against Him! Just as God loves them, you love them. As God was kind to you, His indwelling Holy Spirit can work in you (via the verses you read and believe) to cause you to be kind to others, especially Christians. You will “love your neighbor as yourself” when you simply take these grace doctrines in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, and read and believe them. Those verses describe our identity in Jesus Christ and we simply walk in the position God already gave us in Jesus Christ.

Also see:
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» What is God’s will for my Christian life?
» Should Christians support wars or should they be pacifists?

Should Christians celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE SAINT PATRICK’S DAY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Thank you for that question. We will look at it from a historical standpoint and then use the Bible to provide an informed answer.

WHO WAS “SAINT PATRICK?”

“Saint Patrick” is a rather enigmatic individual because myth and legend have distorted the record of his life. Some of the dumbest, most superstitious, tales are attached to him. He was definitely a real man, having lived sometime during the A.D. 400s. Regrettably, ancient authoritative records on his life are scarce. Thus, historians are not even agreed concerning his birth year or death year. Some have suggested he has been confused with another “religious” man who lived contemporaneously. The possibility of these “blended” lives makes it very difficult to distinguish Patrick from the other man, and we must be careful to differentiate Patrick’s likely actions from outright fantasy.

Furthermore, church tradition has also clouded the matter. The Roman Catholic Church, attempting to bolster itself in Ireland, has “hijacked” Patrick and made him one of its “patron saints.” Personally, I am not convinced Patrick was ever a Roman Catholic. From what I have been able to ascertain through a variety of sources, Patrick was the first known Christian missionary to the pagans in Ireland. He was a Bible-believing Christian whom the Holy Spirit used to bring countless Irish souls out of dark heathenism (that would be a far cry from a Roman Catholic!). Born and raised in Great Britain, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland around age 16. He returned to Britain years later, and after obtaining an education in theology, returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary, supposedly becoming a church leader late in his life. March 17 is commonly believed to be his death date—again, the precise year is debatable, but somewhere between 460 and 500.

On the religious calendar, March 17 is the Roman Catholic feast day for “Saint Patrick” (a parody of the previously-mentioned real, non-Catholic, Christian missionary to Ireland). Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox adherents, and Lutherans largely observe March 17 as well. For Roman Catholics in Ireland, March 17 is a “holy day of obligation.” Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations closely resemble Mardi Gras celebrations here in Roman Catholic southern Louisiana—alcoholic beverages and drunkenness, parades, dances, et cetera. (See our Mardi Gras study linked at the end of this article for more information.) Once a “religious” holiday, Saint Patrick’s Day is largely just another excuse to sin (carouse) in the name of “religion” and “holiness.” Still, some genuinely celebrate the day to commemorate Christianity’s arrival to Ireland. In a non-religious sense, March 17 is also a celebration of Irish culture and heritage in general.

THE PROTESTANT/ROMAN-CATHOLIC DEBATE

It is important to note that Ireland’s national flag is a tricolor, from left to right—green, white, and orange. Green represents Ireland’s Roman Catholic heritage, orange represents Ireland’s Protestant heritage, and white (in the middle) represents the “aspiring peace” between the groups that have fought against each other for centuries there. So, those who wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day are either (1) Roman Catholic, or (2) ignorant Protestant. Orange is the color that Protestants wear on March 17. Every March 17, keep an eye out for these two colors and see who draws attention to what color they are wearing!

As previously mentioned, the Roman Catholic Church claims “Saint Patrick” was a Roman Catholic. Catholic apologists reason that he could have not been a “Protestant” since the Protestant/Catholic split did not occur until some 1000 years after Patrick’s death. Of course, if Patrick was not Roman Catholic, and from what I have read, he was not Roman Catholic, then “Protestant” would be the opposite of “Roman Catholic,” no?

WHAT SHOULD THE CHRISTIAN DO?

If you are a Bible-believing Christian with Irish ancestry, and/or you are a Bible-believing Christian living in Ireland, and you just want to remember your relatives and your country of origin on March 17, I see no sin in that. (I have Irish ancestry on my maternal grandfather’s side of the family, but I have never actually celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day.) If you live in Ireland and you want to celebrate Christianity’s arrival to your country, you may do so. I see no sin in that. Still, and this is most important of all, in light of the information presented above, just remember that your participation in such a holiday may cause other Christians to stumble. Consider the verses I will share with you shortly, and use your judgment accordingly.

For example, a fellow Christian may approach you about Saint Patrick’s Day, saying, “Hey, is not this holiday something sinful, something of heathen origin? Why do you do it? Christians should not get involved with that! There is a lot of superstition, and drinking, and false religion!” At that point, you would need to address his or her concern, lest the Adversary get the advantage.

Any weaker Christians should definitely not engage in Saint Patrick’s Day activities at all (until they resolve in their minds that they can keep themselves spiritually pure, they will damage their spiritual health). A general rule of thumb for all life decisions, is the following: If there is doubt about doing it, then do not do it. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b). If you think you can keep yourself spiritually pure in Saint Patrick’s Day activities, it is not a sin. Just walk in charity, keeping others in mind. If you regard Saint Patrick’s Day as something to be avoided entirely, then it is your prerogative to avoid it. The Bible never outright says “yes” or “no.”

If you do want to engage in Saint Patrick’s Day, you are highly encouraged to read Romans 14:1-23, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. These passages are reminders of how we are to exercise our liberty in Christ without harming other Christians. A common conundrum among the Gentile believers of Paul’s day was, “Is it okay to eat meat (or, food in general) that was once sacrificed to pagan idols? Will that diet of heathen offerings give me a bad standing before God? Can that idol (false religious system) defile me by means of that food?”

The Bible says in Romans chapter 14: “[7] For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. [8] For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. [9] For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. [13] Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. [14] I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. [15] But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. [16] Let not then your good be evil spoken of: [17] For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. [18] For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. [19] Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. [20] For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. [21] It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. [22] Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. [23] And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

Notice that the Christians stronger in the faith (more mature in the Word of God)—such as the Apostle Paul—knew there was nothing wrong with that food that had been offered to idols. The idol was dead (unable to defile the food), the food was hence still good, and Paul had no problem eating it. He had a strong conscience about it. That was his liberty in Jesus Christ. Still, Paul would also walk “charitably,” seeking the good of those around him. If a weaker Christian (a Christian with a weak conscience, someone who was less mature in the Word of God) had a problem with Paul’s action, if the weaker Christian voiced concern that eating meat offered to idols was sinful, then Paul said he refrained from doing it for the brother or sister’s sake. The Apostle knew that it was better to do without something, than to have it and then use it to spiritually harm another believer. He did not want to do Satan’s work. He refused to be a stumblingblock to others when it came to this or any other action. Friends, grace living seeks the benefit of others; grace living is not selfish living but selfless living!

We read of this matter further in 1 Corinthians chapter 8: “[1] Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. [2] And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. [3] But if any man love God, the same is known of him. [4] As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. [5] For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) [6] But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. [7] Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. [8] But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. [9] But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. [10] For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; [11] And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? [12] But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. [13] Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”

The Apostle continued in 1 Corinthians chapter 10: “[23] All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. [24] Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. [25] Whatsoever is sold in the shambles [marketplace], that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: [26] For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. [27] If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. [28] But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: [29] Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? [30] For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? [31] Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. [32] Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: [33] Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

In Greek culture such as in Corinth, animals were offered as sacrifices in pagan temples and then the meat was sold in the marketplace. Some Christians just refused to eat any meat, fearing they would pollute themselves with that which came from a heathen temple. Other Christians, the more mature ones, knew the idols were nothing and the idols did not harm the food, so these Christians considered the meat clean to eat. Regardless of which type of Christian they were, Paul urged all Christians: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” We should ultimately seek God’s praise and glory in all that we do, paying close attention that we build up other Christians with our actions instead of tearing them down.

CONCLUSION

Like many popular “religious” holidays—Christmas and Easter, primarily—Saint Patrick’s Day has become highly secularized. It is not even a decent “religious holiday.” There is a lot of nonsense and myth associated with it. Still, if you want to observe it in the privacy of your home, by all means, do it. If you want to celebrate your Irish heritage, fine. If you do not want to celebrate your Irish heritage, that too is fine. This is the liberty of grace—God did not make all the decisions for us! Rather, He gave us Bible verses and we make the best choices that we can based on them.

Personally, based on the verses given earlier, I believe that would it be a stumblingblock to other Christians if you engaged in any type of parade revelry, drinking alcoholic beverages for all to see and mock (these are common drinks during the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, remember). More than anything, I believe you should wear orange and celebrate your Protestant (Bible-believing) heritage on March 17. You are not a Roman Catholic, so it does not make sense for you to make a “big deal” about, “I am wearing green for Saint Patrick’s Day!” Wear orange, and when people ask you why you do not have the “traditional green,” explain why (or just tell them to Google “Ireland’s tricolor flag”). It may be a wonderful opportunity for you to share the Lord Jesus Christ and the soul salvation found in Him!

Using the above applications of grace living (excerpts from Romans and 1 Corinthians), we can better understand what we should do in regards to Saint Patrick’s Day. It is a personal decision. While eating meat offered to idols is not so much an issue today, the principles of charity remain the same. If we use our liberty in Christ and offend other Christians with our actions, it is best not to engage in those activities again in their presence. If you think it would be in your best interest and the best interest of others to engage in Saint Patrick’s Day, then you are free to do so. Just keep in mind that some activities are not profitable to others or ourselves. Certain activities are not sins but weaker Christians may see them as sins, and we have to keep these precious people in mind.

Saint, if you do not believe you should participate in Saint Patrick’s Day, do not do it. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b). Saint, if you want to participate in Saint Patrick’s Day, you are free to do so, just use your liberty in Christ with caution, exercising attentiveness to any Christians who may be offended, and exercising in grace accordingly!

Also see:
» Should Christians celebrate Mardi Gras?
» Should Christians observe Lent?
» Should Christians celebrate “Good Friday?”