Category Archives: DISPENSATIONAL BIBLE STUDY

How should we view dispensationalists of bygone days?

HOW SHOULD WE VIEW DISPENSATIONALISTS OF BYGONE DAYS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

It is no secret that the average professing Christian has little to no familiarity with dispensational Bible study (hence, the abounding Scriptural confusion and spiritual ignorance!!). He or she, if aware of dispensationalism, has little to no time for it. Despite the opportunity to learn the Scriptures“rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15), using the lens of religious tradition is often the preferred approach to God’s Holy Word. Such souls thunder out in exasperation, “Leave me alone! My denominational doctrine was good enough for ____, so it is good enough for me!” It almost seems like even professing dispensationalists adopt this attitude at times—even today. Why?

Decades and centuries ago, our dispensational brethren in Christ did not understand and enjoy the Bible as fully as we do now. It is quite apparent in their literature (commentaries, study Bibles, pamphlets, sermons). They understood the distinctive nature of the Apostle Paul’s ministry and message, and the difference between the nation Israel and the Church the Body of Christ, but they were weak on various and sundry points of doctrine. In certain instances, they blurred the Body of Christ with Israel, and they (even to a small degree) made Paul’s ministry and message an extension of Peter’s office and doctrine. They tried to “harmonize” Peter and Paul in the places where they disagreed. Why?

We cannot know their hearts. Still, whatever their reason, they stopped in Bible understanding. They likely spent their whole lives trying to recover from denominational deception themselves, renewing their minds (yet only going so far). Their earthly journey ended before they came to where we are. Or, maybe they knew more about dispensational Bible study than they indicated, but kept it quiet so as not to attract the ire of denominational brethren (we understand!!). No doubt some refused to take certain theological positions because it would be financially devastating to their ministries or socially disadvantageous in “scholarly” circles (we know that too!!). After all, whether we are saved or lost, our flesh is wretched through and through. There is always that enticement, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

No one human knows everything. Therefore, whatever the field of study, the teacher will be able to take the student only so far in the material. It is indubitably true of Bible teachers and preachers. These men may be our nearest and dearest, but they are nevertheless just men. Never, ever idolize them, assuming they can do no wrong and supposing they will never drift away from sound teaching—especially this author (!). This author, remember, is merely a man as well. He is able to bring you only so far in Bible understanding. The day is coming, whether near or distant, when he will reach his limit too. Whether indifference, apostasy, or physical death, the teacher (sadly) eventually diminishes his rate of contribution of new understanding. We never want to stop growing in the Word, so by God’s grace, we need to endeavor to see to it that physical death (never indifference and never apostasy!!) is the only reason we cease spiritual growth.

Saints, we stand on the shoulders of the “grace men” who have gone on before us in ministry, so for us to disparage them is to harm ourselves. Interesting, one of their sermons or Bible study articles might have taken them 20 or 30 years of firsthand research and experience. These brethren who spent decades reading and studying Scripture give us the fruit of their extensive labor and we can gain it all in a matter of minutes, hours, days, or weeks. Never should we take that lightly! Be sure to praise our Lord Jesus ChristHe is the Person of supreme importance. We should listen to the biblical advice these brethren have laid forth. They endured circumstances that we have yet to face, and the scriptural insight that helped them will likely prove useful to us too. Societal problems that existed back then are still with us today, just on a larger scale because it involves more people. They were people of like passions, and we are more similar than we imagine.

We certainly do not have to agree with them on every little point of doctrine (and we surely do not agree with them 100 percent). It is wise, ever so wise, to “eat the meat and not choke on the bones.” We discern what is good, and we filter out what is bad. Let us appreciate the fact that these dispensational brethren did walk—at least to some extent—in the spiritual light they had (this we are sure). We should not demand they should have walked in the light we have, but let us stress the need that we walk in the light we have! They had blind spots, as do we, so let us be mindful of that as well. Wherever they relied on “scholarship,” “pet” denominational doctrines, and did not apply consistent dispensational Bible study, we learn from these mistakes and correct the problem(s) in our own thinking.

CONFUSION NO MORE!

Our dispensational brethren in Christ enjoying Heaven have been “straightened out” regarding the doctrinal issues where they could have been clearer or stronger. This goes for our deceased denominational brethren in Christ as well. Confusion is no more for them. What they are experiencing now in the Lord’s presence, we have the same Bible to lead us to a godly view of spiritual matters before we depart this life. Will we further our understanding, or continue to carp concerning the lack of theirs? Let us build off their work, and, above all, praise God for their work!! “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Also see:
» Should we hate the denominational people who misled us?
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?
» Why did Saul of Tarsus not refuse his water baptism by Ananias?

How should we handle the objection, “If only I saw a miracle, then I would believe!”?

HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE THE OBJECTION, “IF ONLY I SAW A MIRACLE, THEN I WOULD BELIEVE!”?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Dear friends, how often the freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, and all other Bible skeptics smugly declare to us that they would “believe in God” and “follow the Bible” “if only” they “saw a miracle.” Many such individuals emphatically proclaim to be “looking for evidence,” allegedly “seeking to uncover the truth” because they are “open to the possibility of God.” To witness a miraculous demonstration is “the last piece of the puzzle” they wish to solve. (Agnostics assert that they do not look because such information—if it were available—is beyond our grasp anyway. However, being human, they cannot deny that curiosity dwells in them too!)

How should we as Bible believers answer these precious souls who seek supernatural events as “proof that God exists?” Is it appropriate for us to pray for Almighty God to empower us to perform a miracle to convince them? After all, does He not intend to do anything and everything to persuade them to believe in Him and His Word? Should we ask the Lord to eventually show them a miracle (if not by us, but by some other Christian) so they come to trust Him? These are critical questions, and it thus behooves us to consider them in this Bible study.

I. A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

A. CURSORY OPENING REMARKS

Dearly beloved, whoever you are (Christian, non-Christian, atheistic, agnostic, freethinker, skeptic, et cetera—whatever you claim as your persuasion), you should come to terms with some basic facts right from the start. While this author never intends to antagonize you, the realities he will share in this study will likely offend you at some point. You might react quite angrily to this Bible article. Or, perchance you will enjoy the marvelous light of the wonderful spiritual truths contained herein. The author’s intention is never to soften the truth or make it more pleasant. He would rather you dislike him for telling you the truth than gain your friendship because he told you a flattering lie! Woe is unto the author, if he knows this information and fails to share it with you in a plain manner! It is thus his great hope and prayer that this study will assist you in your spiritual journey, wherever you happen to be, to bring you to the place where the God of the Bible would have you to be.

If we look at the record of the Scriptures, we learn that miracles are not always successful in convincing unbelievers. No matter how amazing the miracle is—an event affecting one person to a miraculous demonstration impacting thousands—if the observer has a callous and unbelieving heart, the miracle will not change that person’s attitude. If plentiful miracles are witnessed, there is still no assurance that the spectator will be converted. Pride will get in the way. Our deceitful heart will fool people if they do choose to reject the truth that the miracle conveys. So, as you examine and contemplate the information in this study, consider this word to the wise: Friend, be sure you are willing to receive this information with an open mind, for if you approach it arrogantly and disrespectfully, it will (without any doubt!) harm you beyond your wildest dreams!

B. PSALM 14:1

Psalm 14:1 is an extremely austere verse, but it is definitely a truth for people of all ages living in all ages: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

A “fool” is silly or ridiculous, someone not thinking properly. One can be a college graduate many times over, and still behave most thoughtlessly. This author has seen it firsthand, and you, dear reader, have probably observed it as well. Education does not equal infallibility, for someone can fail to apply that information and wind up confused, misled, and disappointed. A person might have training in specific fields and areas, but that information cannot serve him or her in unrelated situations and circumstances. Advanced degrees have their limitations, and never forget it! Never once has any university or school anywhere ever issued a diploma labeled, “All the requirements for OMNISCIENCE have been met!” Even this author is a frail, limited man—who has no confidence in the flesh, and encourages you not to have any either (Philippians 3:3).

When Psalm 14:1 opens with, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.,” the verse makes the fool’s absurdity most painfully obvious. What has he done? Has he examined evidence and deduced the view to which he holds and champions? No! Remember, by the very definition, a fool does not think properly. Logic cannot be used to describe his beliefs or behaviors. He has not analyzed anything and yet the verse says he, strangely enough, has already reached a conclusion. What has he concluded? “There is no God.” On what basis has he made this assertion? (You already know the answer, do you not?)

The fool has not investigated anything. In his sinful heart, he has arrived at a conclusion, a preconceived idea, and now his only goal is to look for evidence to validate it and it alone. (If you must know, the technical word for this phenomenon is “confirmation bias.”) The fool readily and summarily dismisses whatever contrary evidence there is or possibly is. Since he is resolute in maintaining his original position (“There is no God”), he will never even consider the possibility of any “god” (whatever that “higher power” is makes no difference at this point—we are being as basic as possible for simplicity’s sake). Hence, the scoffer could watch 100 (!) miracles and never be convinced. Why? He has already made the decision not to believe, and that which is designed to cause him to believe is ineffective with him.

Proverbs chapter 18 adds to this point: “[1] Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. [2] A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” Someone who is constantly dabbling in all kinds of belief systems has one goal: he has something he wants to prove, and is seeking his confirmation wherever he can obtain it. While praising himself for being “objective” and “rational,” he is subjective and irrational. He holds to his personal opinions most stubbornly. No matter how absurd they are, he will obsessively cling to them, for the other option is to understand that there is a Creator God to whom he is accountable. His opinions cannot cross-examine him or damn him to Hell, so they do not threaten him as the concept of God intimidates him. The only reason he holds to his “anti-God” and “anti-Bible” view is to intentionally eliminate from his mind the eternal damnation that most assuredly awaits him. (May we aptly say at this point, “Out of mind, out of existence?”)

In the world of science—what the Bible scoffer usually adores and to which he often appeals—a conclusion is not made until data has been collected and analyzed first. If it is “junk science” to posit conclusions without first gathering information, it is equally fallacious to go around making claims about God without first collecting knowledge about Him. With little (if any) understanding of God, and little (if any) understanding of the Bible, the scoffer just outright rejects the spiritual realm. He remains in utter darkness, all the while touting his “enlightenment” the so-called “ignorant, superstitious” Christians lack (that is his claim)!

At this point, you may say, “Oh, Brother Shawn, what a horrible existence you have described! How sad it is to wind up in such a mess! Those poor people, so baffled and deceived, how did they ever end up like that? Is there any hope for them?” While it breaks Almighty God’s heart to see His creation broken and disorderly, He values free will above all. If someone wants to live without Him, He grants that person that right. For brevity’s sake, we quote Romans chapter 1 without commentary:

“[18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; [19] Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. [20] For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: [21] Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [23] And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 

“[24] Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: [25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

“[26] For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: [27] And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

“[28] And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; [29] Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, [30] Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, [31] Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: [32] Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

Friend, if ever you wonder how today’s world system and society wound up so evil and perverted, you just read and re-read Romans chapter 1 until it sinks into your mind. The verses are self-explanatory. For the rest of this study, we will deal with various and sundry people from human history, people who constantly battled sin as pertaining to whether or not they believed God and His Word to them. Lest we think they are totally unlike us, that we are better than them, we would do quite well to remember we in the sophisticated 21st century are just as depraved. Technology has greatly advanced, but human nature has remained static all this time!

II. PHARAOH AND MOSES

Before any miracles were performed in front of Pharaoh, he refused to release the nation Israel from being Egypt’s slaves (Exodus 5:1-4). In fact, he further abused the Jews, making their lives increasingly miserable. Since he had hardened his heart against the LORD God’s will, the LORD God would further harden it by pressuring him with miracles (technically, judgments on Egypt’s gods).

JEHOVAH God ordered Moses in Exodus chapter 3: “[19] And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. [20] And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. [21] And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty.”

Moving on to Exodus chapter 7: “[1] And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. [2] Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. [3] And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. [4] But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments…..”

“[8] And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, [9] When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. [10] And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. [11] Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. [12] For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. [13] And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. [14] And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.”

From here (chapter 7) all the way to chapter 12, the LORD God judges Egypt with 10 plagues. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, saw 10 miracles before he finally relented… and then, that was only in absolute desperation. His nation was completely ruined, and he sought relief from his own pain and suffering. Had he had a sincere heart, the first miracle would have convinced him. Alas, the first miracle did not persuade him. He was not converted under the second miracle either… or the third… or the fourth… or even the tenth! Pharaoh did not come to trust in Israel’s God. He released Israel simply because he had no more country. Among other tribulations, the livestock were dead, the crops were destroyed, the drinking water was polluted, his people were disease-stricken, and his firstborn son had been killed (along with all the other Egyptian firstborn).

Every time the LORD God showed Pharaoh a miraculous demonstration, prideful Pharaoh refused. His heart grew harder, and harder, and harder still! Proverbs 29:1 remarks, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” As noted earlier, miracles in the Bible are designed to teach doctrine. God was using His miracles in Egypt to achieve two ends. Two lessons were being taught.

Firstly, JEHOVAH God endeavored to show Israel that He would deliver them from their captivity—something they were powerless in doing by themselves. Exodus chapter 6: “[5] And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. [6] Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: [7] And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. [8] And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.”

Secondly, the LORD God demonstrated beyond any doubt that He was superior to all of Egypt’s idols/gods combined. Turn to Exodus 12:12 to read: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.” Compare that with Numbers 33:4: “For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the LORD had smitten among them: upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments.”

According to Egyptian history, Pharaoh was considered to be a god himself. He did not want to admit that Israel’s God was greater than him and all of his gods collectively. It was a blow to his giant ego. Only after Egypt was devastated with 10 plagues did Pharaoh begrudgingly emancipate Israel. Not to be outdone, he tried again to get the upper hand over Israel’s God. He attacked freed Israel with his army—before Israel’s God had the last word by drowning Pharaoh and all his soldiers in the Red Sea!!

III. ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS

JEHOVAH God has just delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery. He has sent 10 afflictions to judge Egypt and her idols. He has caused Israel to pass through the Red Sea safely. He has drowned Pharaoh and his armies in the Sea. Israel is in the wilderness, and watches God’s miracles over and over and over again. Yet, they still doubt the God of Abraham is with them!

  • Exodus 15:24: “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (Did they not think God could and would provide them with water? Why did they grumble? Unbelief!)
  • Exodus 16:2-3: “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Did they not think God could and would provide food for them? Why did they complain? Unbelief!)
  • Exodus chapter 17: “[2] Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? [3] And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? … [7] And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?” (Did they not think God could and would provide give them water to drink? Why did they moan? Unbelief!)
  • Exodus 32:7-10: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.” (Unbelief!)
  • Numbers 14:2: “And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (Unbelief!)
  • Numbers 14:29: “Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me.” (Unbelief!)
  • Numbers 16:41: “But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD.” (Unbelief!)
  • Deuteronomy 1:27: “And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.” (Unbelief!)
  • Psalm 106:25: “But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD.” (Unbelief!)

IV. KING JEROBOAM

Many centuries after Moses and Israel’s Egyptian deliverance, Jeroboam reigned as the first monarch of the Northern Kingdom (10 northern tribes of Israel). He was quite an evil, idolatrous ruler, as 1 Kings chapter 13 bears out:

“[1] And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. [2] And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee. [3] And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. 

“[4] And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. [5] The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. [6] And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.

Remarkably, upon hearing God’s Word, Jeroboam is not repentant or interested in serving JEHOVAH God. We read of no apology, no confession of sin, and no begging for forgiveness. In fact, we read quite the opposite. Years later, he dies an unbeliever. When his illegitimate altar miraculously broke right before his very eyes, he was not converted. Once God smote his hand with paralysis, he was not transformed into a believer. In fact, when the LORD God healed his hand, he never apologized for mistreating God’s prophet. He is never recorded as praying here: he wanted the prophet to pray for him instead. All Jeroboam was interested in was recovering from his crippled physical condition (a striking resemblance to aforementioned selfish Pharaoh).

If you keep reading in the Bible, friend, you will discover that Jeroboam waxes worse and worse in pagan religion until the LORD destroys him and his household. Note the chapter’s close: “[33] After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. [34] And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.” Did Jeroboam, after witnessing those miracles, turn to JEHOVAH God in faith? Certainly not! He had no interest in believing the truth or doing right in the eyes of the Creator God. What an episode!

V. GIDEON

Gideon was a believer in the LORD God, but he doubted Him at times. Watch how this interesting scenario plays out. We start in Judges chapter 6:

“[11] And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. [12] And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. [13] And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”

Friend, did you sense Gideon’s unbelief? Verse 13, “Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us?” “If the LORD be with us…..” Gideon’s unbelief re-re-surfaces in verses 14-15: “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

And Gideon is unbelieving once more in verses 16-17: “And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.” Gideon is seeing miracles indeed. The angel of the LORD has appeared to him. In fact, pay attention to verse 21: “Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.” What a sight that must have been!

Now, skip down to verse 36: “[36] And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, [37] Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. [38] And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. [39] And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. [40] And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.” (Unbelief!) (Unbelief!) (Unbelief!)

Notice how Gideon’s nonbelief surfaced in verse 36: If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said….” He knows God told him something, but he doubts it will come to pass. Gideon wants proof. “God, if what You said will come to pass, do this for me and then do that for me, that I may know what You said will happen.” God, in His mercy, obliges both times. In spite of seeing miracles, Gideon struggled with unbelief… and he was not a scoffer. He was a mighty servant of God, a hero of Jewish military history, and a saint of the Most High God. If this could be possible and be said of a believer, what of an unbeliever? Is it likely that the unbeliever will be converted because of the miracle?

VI. KING AHAB & QUEEN JEZEBEL

The LORD God had warned Israel that, if she broke the Old Covenant (the Mosaic Law) by worshipping and serving idols, He would chastise her using various afflictions and difficulties. One such punishment was that He would withhold rain, and this drought would result in crop failure and famine. The Bible says in Leviticus chapter 26: “[18] And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. [19] And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: [20] And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.”

Now we compare that to Deuteronomy 11:16-17, “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.”

When King Ahab and Queen Jezebel declared Baal worship the official state religion of Israel (see 1 Kings 16:29-33), the Prophet Elijah (a Bible student) knew what Moses had written many centuries earlier in Deuteronomy. Elijah thus prayed for it not to rain; therefore, it did not rain for 3½ years. To wit, God did what He had already said He would do in those circumstances of idolatry (cf. Luke 4:25; James 5:16-18).

First Kings 17:1 is the corresponding historical narrative: “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Now, verse 1 of chapter 18: “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.” Skip to verses 17-18: “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.” When Elijah stood before Ahab, the king called him a “troublemaker” in Israel! Ahab blamed Elijah for the famine—when it was, in reality, Ahab’s idolatry that caused the dearth!! Ahab knew that God’s man was a threat to his and Jezebel’s religious system. Elijah was standing in the way of “progress”—or so Ahab believed. (Does this sound similar to today’s society?)

Regrettably, time and space do not permit us to quote and discuss all of 1 Kings chapter 18. Therefore, friend, read it in your own time in your own Bible. Despite the miracle of Elijah calling God’s fire down from Heaven, the Baal worshippers are not converted. Rather, they are put to death in their unbelief. Ahab and Jezebel are not converted to JEHOVAH God either. They had not believed God’s Word prior and they would not believe it now; they continued their pagan idol worship. Observe what happens in the subsequent chapter!

Chapter 19 of 1 Kings chapter 19: “[1] And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. [2] Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. [3] And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.”

After the miracle of Elijah calling fire out of Heaven to consume the sacrifice, Jezebel actually wanted to take his life! Eventually, both Jezebel and Ahab died as unbelievers. They did not convert after witnessing and/or hearing about Elijah’s miracles. There is no indication in Scripture that they ever turned to JEHOVAH God from their pagan idols. Like Pharaoh, they had already made their choice in rejecting the one true God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No miracle would influence them to be people of faith… and that was to their eternal detriment!!

VII. JESUS CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY

The Lord Jesus performed miracle upon miracle upon miracle during His three years of earthly ministry. Yet, some onlookers wanted “just one more” to make sure. They had never been satisfied and would never be satisfied! Why? They had already made up their minds not to believe in Him. They became increasingly hardened like Pharaoh King of Egypt. In the ensuing paragraphs, we will look at five such examples—four cases involve unbelievers who never did believe Jesus Christ, and one incident concerns a believer (Apostle Thomas) who experienced a temporary lapse in faith.

A. JOHN 2:23-25

Early in Christ’s earthly ministry, He encountered unbelieving witnesses to His miracles. John 2:23-25 reports: “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” They just wanted to be impressed; they were not interested in knowing the significance of those miracles. While they believed in the head, they did not believe in the heart (cf. Romans 10:10; cf. Acts 8:13,20-23). They had no interest in faith, so Jesus did not depend on them to continue to follow Him. As the beginning of His earthly ministry, so would be its duration and conclusion. No matter what He would say or do to validate His message, precious few would be convinced. Friend, this is just as true today as it was 2,000 years ago!

B. JOHN 7:1-5

The Bible says in John chapter 7: “[1] After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. [2] Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. [3] His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. [4] For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. [5] For neither did his brethren believe in him.”

What a sad commentary! Not even the Lord Jesus Christ’s own half-brothers and half-sisters believed in Him. They did not see Him as the Son of God, the King of Israel, the Messiah (Christ), the Redeemer. His family spent so much time with Him, and yet, His miracles did not convince them of His identity. They had already chosen not to believe Him. Notice how they did not deny His miracles (verse 4); they merely were not persuaded in seeing any value in them, to learn the lesson (doctrine) Israel’s God wanted to teach using those miraculous demonstrations. The next passage relates to this.

C. MARK 6:1-6

Mark chapter 6 opens with: “[1] And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. [2] And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? [3] Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. [4] But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. [5] And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. [6] And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.”

Hone in on verse 6. Jesus “marvelled because of their unbelief.” He was God and yet He was Man. He was surprised at what just occurred. To paraphrase what He must have thought: “Even after all this indisputable proof, you still doubt who I am? You refuse to have faith even after all that you have seen Me do?” What was the problem? Were the deeds not miraculous enough? Had they been disproven? No, the eyewitnesses of the miracles had already decided (before the miracles occurred) that they would not believe. Nothing would sway them because they had already chosen not to be persuaded!!! Are you beginning to see the pattern, friend? There is much more to follow!

D. JOHN 20:29

Let us glance at John chapter 20, the famous case of the doubting believer in Christ: “[19] Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. [20] And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. [21] Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: [23] Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

“[24] But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

“[26] And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. [27] Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. [28] And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. [29] Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

The Apostle Thomas shows us that even believers in Jesus Christ can (and do) fall into the trap of unbelief. He originally believed God’s Word, but then circumstances distracted him and Satan used those conditions to deceive him. Thomas said he would not believe that Jesus Christ had resurrected until he touched Jesus’ scars (verse 25). Days later, the Lord Jesus appeared and rebuked Him. Verse 29 again: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Scoffers and skeptics (and even Christians!) would do well to make note of this admonition!! We quote it again (this time in bold type): “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

E. UNBELIEVING ISRAEL NEVER SATISFIED WITH SIGNS

Read Matthew 12:38-39, “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:….” Now, Matthew 16:1, “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.”

This is about halfway through Christ’s earthly ministry. He had been performing miracles throughout the land of Israel for some two years… and they wanted yet anothersign?!” In contemporary English, “Just give us one more sign, Jesus, so we can know You really are Messiah! One more sign, one more sign, just one last sign!” (After ignoring the miracles Christ performed in Matthew 12:9-13 and verses 22-24, they wanted to see Him perform others. This is so downright preposterous, and yet it agrees with all the other passages about unbelief following signs! The miracles are not the problem. The witnesses have the problem—sinful hearts!)

Jesus’ numerous miracles did not convince Israel that He was their long-promised Messiah, Redeemer, King. Notice John 10:24-25: “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.” It did not matter how much He did, or how awesome the miracles He performed, they had no interest in believing in Him. While most pitiful, that is the way it was… and still is today!

The Apostle John, toward the end of his Gospel Record, penned in John 20:30-31: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Throughout three years of earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus performed miracle after miracle after miracle. Notice chapter 21, the last verse (the conclusion of the Book of John): “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” Despite all those miraculous demonstrations, Israel was content in her unbelief and killed Him on Calvary!

F. MATTHEW 28:11-15

Matthew chapter 28 contains the Bible’s paramount example of willful dishonesty concerning miracles: “[11] Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. [12] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, [13] Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. [14] And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. [15] So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”

After being “stone-cold” dead for three days and three nights in the grave, the Lord Jesus has just been bodily resurrected. There was a massive earthquake; an angel came down to roll back the stone from His tomb to reveal it as empty. Some of the Roman guards (soldiers) are terrified. They hurry off to inform the Jewish chief priests of the supernatural events they have just witnessed. All the soldiers and all the Jewish chief priests, upon hearing of Christ’s resurrection, believe on Him. Uh, no, that is not what the Bible says!!! Nothing of the sort!!! They do not turn to God in faith!!! Here, they have just come to realize Christ did resurrect, an angel did come down from Heaven, they did see that angel, they did see the rolled-away stone, and they did see the empty tomb—and, yet, they remain just as faithless as before. In fact, once the chief priests learn of Christ’s resurrection, they bribe the soldiers to lie about what really happened. The rumor is widely circulated that there was no resurrection of Jesus whatsoever. They spread the falsehood that His disciples stole His corpse!

Matthew 28:11-15 says they tried to explain away Christ Jesus’ resurrection. They knew what happened. He had unquestionably risen from the dead. They could not disprove or deny it. Yet, that resurrection would discredit them and validate Jesus’ message. They would have to do or say something, lest they look like fools and lose their religious clout over Israel. They decided the best course of action to take was to dismiss the resurrection as nothing more than a “body-snatching.” His disciples must have broken into the tomb and taken His remains during the night. Many years later, when the Holy Spirit moved Matthew to write his Gospel Record, that rumor was still passing amongst the Jewish people! In unbelief, the common Jewish people published this “body-snatching” lie.

VIII. ACTS 4:13-18

Christ has already resurrected, ascended into Heaven, and sent down the Holy Spirit on believing Israel (Acts chapters 1–2). In chapter 3, the Apostles Peter and John heal a lame man sitting at the gate of the Jerusalem Temple. For the rest of the chapter, Peter preaches to unsaved, wrath-deserving Israel to repent and turn to Jesus Christ in faith. Christ is returning to set up His earthly kingdom, so they had better prepare for Him: He will either be their Saviour or their Judge!

Reading from Acts chapter 4: “[13] Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. [14] And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. [15] But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, [16] Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. [17] But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. [18] And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

“[19] But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. [20] For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. [21] So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. [22] For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.”

Verse 14 said Israel could see the cripple man now restored, completely healed. The dishonest religious leaders could say nothing against it. All the people in the Temple had seen him sitting there helpless for decades. Now, he was walking, and leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:8-9). Verse 10 said they recognized him as the man who had sat lame for many years, and how he had been miraculously restored under the ministry of Peter and John. See verse 11.

Consider Acts 4:16 again, “Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.” These religious leaders knew that Jesus was alive and well, and this miracle proved it. They instantly converted to Jesus Christ. Uh, no!! That is not what the Bible said!! They had no intention of believing on Jesus Christ!! Here they had witnessed a miracle but unbelief arose. They were not about to lose their religion, their political clout, and their business. What they determined to do was intimidate Peter and John into silence. They threatened them (verse 21). In Acts 5:40, later, these deceitful religious leaders of Israel physically beat the Apostles after the Apostles returned to preach about Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

We need to stop and think about this, friend. Not only did these Israeli religious leaders witness the miraculous healing of the lame man in chapter 3, they knew of other miracles the Apostles performed in Acts 5:12-16. They did not believe them either, and they did not believe on Christ either. After this, they imprisoned and beat the Apostles (verses 18,40). Unbelief! Unbelief! Unbelief! Unbelief! Unbelief! Unbelief! Unbelief! Unbelief! Unbelief!

IX. ACTS 16:16-24

Turning to Acts 16:16-18: “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.”

The miracle concerns the Apostle Paul and his companions. As they travel to Philippi (modern northern Greece), they encounter a slave girl possessed by an evil spirit, a devil, a spirit of divination that allowed her to tell fortunes. Her masters have used her “ability” to make a fortune. This girl, under Satan’s control, pesters Paul and his ministry associates. Paul commands this devil, in the name of Jesus Christ, to leave the girl. The evil spirit departs. How did the girl’s masters react?

Read on: “[19] And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, [20] And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, [21] And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. [22] And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. [23] And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: [24] Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.”

These masters did not convert to Jesus Christ, did they? Yet, they knew something was different about the young woman. She no longer had the supernatural ability she once did. The only explanation they had was that Paul had some skill to limit or destroy the power she had possessed. They saw a miracle, but they had no interest in knowing the truth anyway. Hence, they responded negatively by getting Paul and Silas in trouble with the local governmental officials. The government then beat the Apostles and imprisoned them without first trying and convicting them in a Roman court of law! Here is just another easy example in the Bible to show that miracles do not necessarily generate faith. If the observer has no interest in having faith, the miracle will make no difference to him.

X. OUR PRESENT-DAY DISPENSATION OF GRACE: 2 CORINTHIANS 5:7-8

Second Corinthians chapter 5 says: “[6] Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: [7] (For we walk by faith, not by sight: ) [8] We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

With the arrival of the Apostle Paul’s ministry and the Dispensation of Grace, God gradually withdrew the outward manifestations of His working. Once the Book of Acts concluded, God’s provoking ministry to Israel ended (Romans 11:11-14). JEHOVAH God had successfully shown Israel that He was now working amongst the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry without her national conversion (cf. Romans 15:18-19). The miracles, the signs, the wonders He used to teach the nation Israel doctrine, He made those phenomena pass off the scene (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, for example).

Second Corinthians 5:7 thus declares, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” That is the standard for the Dispensation of Grace, our present-day. When the atheist, agnostic, freethinker, or Bible skeptic demands to see outward, physical proof of God working, they are seeking something God said He is not doing anymore anyway. It is foolish to look for something when that something does not exist. If you go around looking for miraculous Divine intervention, and you do not see it, then you have the problem not God. Friend, you cannot make God do something He is not doing!!

XI. MIRACLES IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION

In the Book of the Revelation, God’s enemies observe various and sundry strange spectacles. They are being judged for rejecting and crucifying His Son, persecuting His people, and not believing His Word. Do they repent or change their mind, as they suffer His just wrath? No! Are they crying out to Him in faith to receive mercy or relief? No! They blaspheme Him. They curse His name. No miracles convince any of them.

Revelation chapter 16: “[8] And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. [9] And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. [10] And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, [11] And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

“[17] And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. [18] And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. [19] And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. [20] And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. [21] And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.”

Revelation chapter 9: “[20] And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: [21] Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”

So, dear friend, what makes you so sure that if you saw God perform miracles, you would believe in Him, trust Him, and follow His Word? This author says you would not. These people in the Book of the Revelation did not start off believing in God, which is why they wound up not believing in God after they saw His miracles! Right this very moment, if you are rejecting the doctrine contained in this study, you are already on the wrong path. You cannot arrive at the city of faith if you are bent on traveling down the road of unbelief. Remember our “word to the wise” issued at the beginning of our study!

XII. SATAN’S MIRACLES

When dealing with skeptics and Bible scoffers, this author always likes to point out that the occurrence of “supernatural” or “inexplicable” events does not necessarily prove God exists and/or that God is at work. In fact, Scripture presents another character who has a ministry designed to mimic the ministry of Almighty God. This creature is Satan, or the Devil. It would do us well here to briefly describe his work.

A. MATTHEW 7:21-23

The simplest way to prove Satan works is to appeal to Matthew chapter 7: “[21] Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? [23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” There were certainly miracles performed here, not just “tricks” or “sleights-of-hand”—and Jesus Christ said He had nothing to do with them! Rather, He called them “iniquity” (evil). Who performed them? Satan through sinful men!!

B. DEUTERONOMY 13:1-5

Deuteronomy chapter 13 highlights Satan’s counterfeit miracle ministry yet again: “[1] If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, [2] And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; [3] Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. [4] Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. [5] And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” These miracles came to pass, and yet God said He had nothing to do with them! Satan was active instead, which necessitated the death of the human participant.

 C. MATTHEW 24:24 & MARK 13:22

Turn to read these words of Christ in Matthew 24:24: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” And, Mark 13:22: “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” These are miraculous phenomena indeed… but Christ said they are nothing but deception! The next point relates to this idea.

D. 2 THESSALONIANS 2:8-12

Second Thessalonians chapter 2 is the cross-reference to the earlier passage: “[8] And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: [9] Even him, 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.” These are future events from our day—and if Satan will perform miracles to deceive then that means he has the power to do them today! How do we know the “miracles” we seek to show God exists, may in fact be miracles to show Satan exists?! Friend, this is the danger of asking for miracles in unbelief, so we had better think twice before seeking them!

XIII. CONCLUSION

Dear Christian friend reading this, precious brother or sister in Christ, never be intimidated when someone objects and challenges you with, “If only I saw a miracle, then I would trust Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I will believe and follow the Bible if you can show me a miracle, a sign from God, evidence that He is really there.” Considering the wealth of information in the Scriptures that we just reviewed, miracles in and of themselves do not guarantee conversion. If the heart of the witness is not right before Almighty God, myriads of miracles have no lasting, positive impact. There is no appropriate view of miracles in the first place, so miracles are being requested for the wrong reasons.

Why do some people in the Bible witness miracles and respond in faith, while others who see those same miracles refuse to believe? The difference is the heart attitude. If there is a sincere heart, there will be faith. Unbelief is the result of being dishonest (assuming you know more than God, supposing you can live without God and get away with it, asserting God does not exist, claiming you can wish God away, and so on). No one will be persuaded because they outright refuse to be swayed. It is an act of defiance—plain and simple boldness. They have no intention of listening to God’s Word, despite the abounding evidence to support it. Psalm 14:1 speaks of such fools. Proverbs 18:1-2 speaks of such fools. Proverbs 29:1 speaks of such fools.

Before the atheist, agnostic, freethinker, and Bible skeptic arrives at the point of rejection, he first rebuffs the miracle of the Bible text itself. He does not believe that God the Holy Spirit miraculously furnished us with the Bible some 2,000 years ago. Since he starts off by denying Scripture, should we expect him to believe after seeing other miracles like Bible miracles? In other words, if the first and most important miracle did not convince him, is it logical to conclude that the other miracles will? What if he saw 100 miracles? Or 1,000? Or 10,000… 100,000… 1,000,000? The patterns are already established in the Bible. He asks for the miracle, not sincerely, but to challenge or defy God. All that will result is more unbelief, more disobedience, more arrogance toward Him.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” The Bible is for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. If we do not listen to what Almighty God has to say in His written Word, we are rejecting its reproof and correction. According to Proverbs 29:1, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” The more reproof from the Bible someone hears, if he is opposed to hearing it, the more he will be antagonistic toward it the next time around. This applies to miraculous demonstrations as well.

Miracles in Scripture are designed to communicate sound doctrine. The LORD God performed miraculous demonstrations, not merely to help people avoid pain and escape difficulties, but to teach them various principles. Those who had responded in faith to information God previously revealed, these people were those willing to believe even more from Him. This is not where today’s Bible challenger is. The atheist, agnostic, freethinker, or skeptic is substituting visible miracles for believing the Bible text. He does not believe the Bible, the basis for miracles, but he will look for a miracle before believing the Bible. Does that make no sense? No! No wonder this never gets the scoffers anywhere. Even if God were in the business today of intervening for physical eyes to see, the ridiculer would remain in spiritual darkness. He already avoided the Bible, the basis for all the miracles God Almighty does.

Lastly, above all, in this the Dispensation of Grace, we “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We have a completed Bible, so we do not need partial knowledge in the form of a miracle healing, raising from the dead, et cetera. God has already spoken in the 66 Books of the Bible. Are we willing to read that miraculous Book—and believe it? “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Are we humble enough to believe in our heart that miraculous message unto forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and a home in Heaven? This will be far more important than “seeking this sign” or “seeking that sign” to prove God’s existence!

Also see:
» What are some verses to help me stop focusing on myself?
» Why did God command Israel not to seethe a young goat in his mother’s milk?
» Are we “doom and gloom” prophecy believers?

Why did Saul of Tarsus not refuse his water baptism by Ananias?

WHY DID SAUL OF TARSUS NOT REFUSE HIS WATER BAPTISM BY ANANIAS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

On the basis of 1 Corinthians 1:17, we know the Apostle Paul was not commissioned to water baptize: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” Ephesians 4:5, something else Paul wrote, says: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism….” He had also penned in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that that one baptism is not water baptism but the baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Church the Body of Christ. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” Despite these “anti-water-baptism” verses from Paul’s own pen, we find him (then known as Saul of Tarsus) permitting Ananias to water baptize him!

Turning to Acts chapter 9, we read what Doctor Luke wrote as the Holy Spirit moved him: “[17] And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. [18] And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”

Chapter 22 affirms: “[12] And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, [13] Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. [14] And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. [15] For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. [16] And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

If Paul was so opposed to water baptism, then why was he himself water baptized? Was that not hypocritical? If water baptism does not belong in our dispensation, how is it that Paul allowed Ananias to water baptize him? Was Paul a double-talker? “For what saith the Scriptures?” (Opinions and traditions of men do not concern us!)

Just as the Bible is a gradual revelation or unfolding from cover to cover, so individual ministries within the Bible are progressive. For example, the Lord Jesus Christ said that He had more to tell His 12 Apostles but that they could not bear it at that time. Notice John chapter 16: “[12] I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. [13] Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” He would disclose that information later—the writings of our “New Testament Scriptures” would be the result of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul received direct revelation from the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ Himself for a period of 30 to 35 years. From the very moment of his salvation and commissioning on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was aware that more Divine revelation would be given him. He knew something was different regarding God’s dealings with man—although it took over three decades for him to see all the details of that change. In other words, Paul did not immediately receive everything there was to know about God’s new program. It was an extremely slow and steady unfolding of new dispensational truth.

Acts chapter 26 says to this point: “[15] And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. [16] But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; [17] Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, [18] To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” During the Acts period, Paul thus wrote: “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1).

One day, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to Paul that water baptism was no longer part of His dealings with man. Paul did not understand that truth at the time of his conversion, and neither did Ananias. Both Ananias and Paul understood that water baptism—up to that time anyway—had played an integral role in the lives of those who trusted Jesus Christ. Water baptism had Old Testament roots (see Exodus 29:4 and Leviticus 8:6), and it related to purification (see John 3:23-25, especially verse 25). Ezekiel 36:25 confirms that water baptism is a ceremonial cleansing: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” Israel’s washing in water symbolizes her being purified of her pagan idol worship.

Thus, John the Baptist came with a ministry to wash Israel from her paganism, to demonstrate her change in mind from worshipping idols to trusting JEHOVAH God (and His Son, Jesus Christ, their Messiah-King). Reading from Matthew chapter 3: “[1] In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, [2] And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…. [11] I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:….” (See parallels Mark 1:4,8 and Luke 3:2-3,16.) Other verses about Israel’s water baptism include John 1:26-34, Acts 2:38-40, Mark 16:15-16, John 4:1-2, Acts 10:37, Acts 13:24, and 1 Peter 3:20-21.

Jesus Himself was water baptized, and those who were water baptized were identifying with Him. Read Matthew 3:16: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:….” (Parallels are Mark 1:9-10 and Luke 3:21.) Those who rejected John’s water baptism manifested their unbelief: “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29-30). Now, let us return to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

Paul’s salvation outside the city of Damascus is the first step in starting our Dispensation of Grace. God is still describing His new program. Truths never before revealed are now coming to the forefront. Prophecy is fading, to be resumed later, and mystery is becoming more prominent. That switch did not happen instantaneously. During the Book of Acts (chapters 7–28), that transition lasts for at least 30 years. It is conjectured that Paul’s ministry could have continued another five years after Acts. Throughout those three decades, Paul himself grew in God’s Word. The Body of Christ matured with him as he preached and wrote down those new revelations from the Lord.

During the Acts period, with the transitory nature of spiritual gifts under discussion, Paul remarked in 1 Corinthians chapter 13: “[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. [11] When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. [12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Partial knowledge would be completed one day, Paul wrote. Now, we have that complete knowledge.

It is therefore not appropriate for us to use Paul’s latter ministry to vilify his earlier ministry. With a completed Bible, a full revelation from God, it is possible for us to become ill-minded toward the saints in Scripture who did not have that full picture. We see in entirety what they saw in fragments. They walked in the spiritual light they had, and we need to walk in the light we have. We should not demand they should have walked in the light we have. The last thing Paul ever wrote about baptism was Ephesians 4:5 (which was after Acts). Prior to this time—that is, during Acts—he had water baptized Christians. He himself was water baptized. Later, God revealed water baptism was totally unnecessary in the Dispensation of Grace. What belonged in the old program existed for a time, but passed away once the Acts transitional period was over. What Divine revelation came directly to and through Paul, that will stay with us until the Rapture.

As Paul himself commented in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (quoted earlier), those saints understood that God would bring to a close His revelation of grace doctrine at some point. Christ’s own words to Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus once again: “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee(Acts 26:16). The point of ultimate revelation was reached when the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write his farewell Book—his second epistle to Timothy.

Indeed, Paul knew that part of his God-given ministry was to bring the Holy Bible to a close. Prophecy had already been revealed (and written down), and now the last installment of God’s plan (mystery) was slowly being exposed (and written down). Once the final part of mystery truth was divulged, the entire counsel of the triune Godhead was discovered. Beloved, consequently, there is no “secret will of God” today. All of God’s will has been revealed through the pages of the Holy Bible, especially with the addition of the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon.

Colossians chapter 1: “[23]… whereof I Paul am made a minister; [24] Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: [25] Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil [bring to completion] the word of God; [26] Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: [27] To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: [28] Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: [29] Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”

Ephesians 1:8-10: “[8] Wherein he [Father God] 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:….” With the penning of each of his 13 epistles, Paul began to see more and more into God’s mind. The Body of Christ, when hearing and reading the Holy Spirit through Paul, began to mature in its understanding (cf. Ephesians 3:1-21).

What about Israel’s believing remnant? The Little Flock developed in their spiritual knowledge as well, although they struggled to understand all the details. Nevertheless, these Circumcision saints at least recognized their prophetic program was temporarily interrupted. If necessary, read the entire third chapter of 2 Peter—especially verses 15-18. We will quote two of the highlight verses: “[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.” You may also consult Acts chapter 15 and Galatians chapter 2, when Pauline doctrine first became apparent to the Apostle Peter and the Jewish Apostles and Elders associated with him.

As noted earlier, all revelation from God to mankind ceased when Paul wrote his goodbye Book, 2 Timothy, which was before A.D. 70. Therefore, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” If we want to know what the Lord God has to say today, we simply open the Holy Bible and read it. We do not go around (like many precious souls do) begging God for wisdom while ignoring the Scriptures. He has already spoken. His words to and about us are Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. We study all the Bible, for it is all God’s Word, but we study all the Bible “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15). All the Bible is for us, but not all the Bible is to us or about us.

Also see:
» Does Acts 22:16 teach that water baptism washes away sins?
» Why was Jesus water baptized?
» How did the Great Flood’s water “save” the eight souls in 1 Peter 3:20?

Can you explain 2 Corinthians 5:16?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 2 CORINTHIANS 5:16?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Many preachers have grown quite disappointed and angry after reading or hearing these eternal words of the everlasting God. Why? What is so controversial here? What exactly does it mean to “know no man after the flesh?” How can Jesus Christ be “known after the flesh?” How can He not be “known after the flesh?”

The “flesh” here is something physical and literal (as opposed to the Bible’s other usage of the term—“flesh” in Romans 8:1, for example, is a metaphor for our sin nature). Specifically, in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “flesh” is circumcised (Jew) or uncircumcised (non-Jew, or Gentile). In other words, it refers to the differentiation underscored in Ephesians chapter 2: “[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:….”

Verses 13-18 describe the Dispensation of Grace, the opposite of the previous two verses in the chapter: “[13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. [14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; [15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; [16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: [17] And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. [18] For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

In this the Dispensation of Grace, “but now,” there is no distinction between Jew (circumcision) and Gentile (uncircumcision). Almighty God only sees saved and lost, those in Christ and those in Adam, respectively. Turn to Galatians 5:6, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Now, Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” There is no longer an advantage of physical circumcision before God, and there is no more a disadvantage of physical uncircumcision before God. What He sees is the “new creature” (Galatians 6:15), the “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), the Church the Body of Christ. These are all believers in Jesus Christ. God sees all unbelievers outside of that one Body. This is the only distinction God acknowledges today. Thus, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Any fleshly distinction is not important before God; that old identity has passed away, and the believer gains a spiritual identity in Christ.

Knowing a man “after the flesh” and “though we have known Christ after the flesh” all relates to the “time past” distinction highlighted in Ephesians 2:11-12. Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, Matthew through John, operated on the basis of the division between Jew and Gentile, circumcision and uncircumcision, respectively. Ephesians 2:12 says we Gentiles (nations) were “without Christ.” Romans 9:4-5 says of the Jews, “and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” The “flesh” here is physically circumcised flesh, Jewish flesh. Christ’s earthly ministry was to the nation Israel only, and not to the nations (Gentiles). This can be easily proved from Scripture.

The Lord Jesus said in John 4:22: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” Notice the emphasis on “the Jews;” no Gentiles are in view here. Matthew 10:5-7: “[5] These twelve [apostles] Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Christ said in Matthew 15:24: “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Romans 15:8 summarizes, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision [Jews] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:….” This expression, was a minister,” is key—it is past tense in the King James Bible (changed in modern versions).

Back to 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” We want to concentrate on the phrase, “yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Now, with Paul’s ministry (the “but now” of Ephesians 2:13), we do not know Jesus Christ according to His earthly ministry, when there was a difference between Jew and Gentile. The middle wall of partition has been removed—God Himself has abolished it. We know Jesus Christ according to His “all-man” (Jew and Gentile) ministry. Again, this new program began with the Apostle Paul’s ministry and message.

First Timothy 2:4-7: “[4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; [6] Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [7] Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not; ) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” (Pay special attention to verse 7. Paul is the “due-time testifier” of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for all sins—both Jew and Gentile. Prior to Paul, soul salvation was limited to Israel. See Isaiah 53:8 and Matthew 20:28, for example. Isaiah’s people and the “many” are Israel. No Gentiles are in view.)

Romans 3:22,29: “[22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:… [29] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:….” Romans 10:12: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,….” These “no-difference” statements, these “all-men” statements, could not be said of Christ’s earthly ministry. They were only true until the Lord Jesus Christ said them through Paul’s ministry. Notice more Pauline verses on this subject.

Romans chapter 1: “[5] By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:…. [14] I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. [15] So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. [16] For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Notice verse 5—“all nations.” Paul has an unrestricted apostleship to all nations. Contrast this with Peter and the 11 other Apostles, who had to preach to all Israel before going to all nations [Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 28:18-20].)

Romans 16:25-26: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:…..” (Verse 26 says “all nations.” Paul has a ministry to all nations, where Peter and the 11 had to evangelize all Israel before preaching to all nations [Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 28:18-20].)

It is therefore dangerous for people to continue with their mindless chant, “I follow Jesus, I do not follow Paul.” To “follow Jesus”—specifically, they mean the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John)—means to know Him today in a manner in which God says we do not know Him today. The middle wall of partition that was up during the Four Gospel Records has since been done away. God has temporarily suspended that distinction between Jew and Gentile. He has changed the dispensations, the instructions given to man. Conditions that were true in Matthew through John are not necessarily true today, so it is more appropriate that we follow the Apostle Paul as he follows Jesus Christ rather than we “following Jesus.” We are not exalting Paul; we are exalting the Jesus Christ whom Paul preached, the Jesus Christ as presented in the mystery truth committed to Paul’s trust.

Paul wrote the following verses as God the Holy Spirit guided him:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
  • Ephesians 5:1: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;….”
  • 1 Corinthians 4:16: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
  • Philippians 3:17: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:6: “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.”

We follow Paul as he follows Jesus Christ, and he follows Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25-26). Part of that revelation is that all believing Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) form the one Church the Body of Christ. You are here strongly encouraged to read Ephesians 2:11–3:11, with special emphasis on the verses in chapter 3.

Yet, 99 percent of “Christian” preaching and teaching today is Matthew through John. They proclaim God’s Word to Israel as though it were God’s Word to us Gentiles. It is all about God’s program for Israel and yet they speak of it as though it were for the Church the Body of Christ! Jesus Christ’s ministry through Paul is almost, and sometimes entirely, ignored. No wonder there is no power of God in our churches and lives. We stay focused on things God is not doing today, stressing concepts that are no longer applicable to God’s will for man. It is either (1) back to Pauline truth, or (2) onward to more apostasy!

CONCLUSION

We do not know Jesus Christ after the flesh any longer. We do not know any person after the flesh any longer. Christ’s earthly ministry, based on the middle wall of partition, is not how people should relate to God or each other today. From the time the Dispensation of Grace began with Paul’s salvation and ministry, Almighty God has revealed to us (mankind) how to no longer know or relate to people according to their fleshly identity. Unlike “time past,” physical circumcision and physical uncircumcision are not the issue today in the “but now.” Rather, we understand people to be either in Christ (saved, going to Heaven) or in Adam (lost, going to Hell).

The Bible says, in this Dispensation of Grace, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. This was not true during Christ’s earthly ministry. Today, however, there is no spiritual advantage to being a Jew and there is no spiritual disadvantage to being a Gentile. Unless we recognize the radical dispensational change that occurred in the Book of Acts (particularly, with Paul’s conversion and commission in chapter 9), we will not understand that God is dealing differently with man today in the “but now” than how He dealt with him in “time past.” We will major on issues that God no longer emphasizes; we will ignore the issues that God currently upholds. Absolute confusion and disappointment are sure to result!

Also see:
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Did not God send messengers to Gentiles prior to Paul’s apostleship?
» How were Gentiles saved before our Dispensation of Grace?

Can you explain Acts 19:13-16?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN ACTS 19:13-16?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Let us begin by reading that passage in context: “[10] And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia [western Turkey] heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. [11] And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: [12] So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

“[13] Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. [14] And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. [15] And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? [16] And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. [17] And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

Miraculous demonstrations are not the norm in the Apostle Paul’s ministry. As we saw, they are therefore termed special miracles” (verse 11). Handkerchiefs or aprons were taken from Paul’s body, and distributed to heal the sick and cast out devils. This last miracle—exorcism—introduces verses 13-16.

Verse 13 reports, “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” Pictured here is apostate Israel, wandering about with no certain dwelling. They have been rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ for some 20 years, and thus still have no idea where they are going spiritually. Operating independently of God, they are working under Satan’s power (see John 8:44). Through them, Satan will attempt to cast out his own associates. What is Satan’s purpose here? Doubtless, he is endeavoring to counterfeit the exorcisms Paul performs through the Lord’s power.

When performing the exorcisms, these vagabond Jews do not say “We adjure [command] you by Jesus,” but rather, “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” They freely acknowledge that they do not have Christ Jesus’ power, so they must rely on the authority of Jesus Christ imparted to Paul. Again, this is Israel nationally, under Satan’s control. Self-willed and fleshly-motivated, they will demonstrate themselves to be amateurs at dominating the spirit world.

Verse 14: “And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.” These priests should be in Jerusalem at the Temple but here they are drifting aimlessly. Sceva, chief of the priests, leads his seven sons who are false teachers and false prophets. Israel is typified again, wallowing in spiritual darkness and ignorance. They are “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14). Second Corinthians chapter 11 reminds us: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

Verse 15 of Acts chapter 19 again: “And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” These devils (unclean spirits, Satan’s cohorts) recognize the name and power of Jesus—even when unbelieving Israel does not! Mark 1:24 records an evil spirit as saying: “Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. Compare that to James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

You may also see Matthew 8:29: “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” And, Luke 8:28: “When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.” Finally, Mark 5:7: “And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.”

Continue in Acts 19:16: “And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” Judgment fell on lost Israel, and how brutal was that judgment! These seven sons of Sceva quickly exit the house as losers, literally naked and injured, likely scared beyond their wildest imaginations!!! No victory is available to them because they are divorced from the power of the God of creation—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What a sad commentary on Israel’s spiritual condition here in the Book of Acts… two decades after Calvary! Instead of coming to Father God by faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, they would rather still waste their time in unbelief and silliness.

The passage ends with verse 17: “And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

Also see:
» Could you explain Acts 19:1-7?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?

Can we date Paul’s Acts epistles?

CAN WE DATE PAUL’S ACTS EPISTLES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Many years ago, very early in this author’s ministry, he asked an older preacher friend if it were possible to date Paul’s Acts epistles using the Book of Acts. (The author had heard that it was feasible, but he did not know any specifics.) To his surprise, the preacher discouraged him with the following disclaimer: “There is nothing in those writings to indicate when they were written.“ Years later, however, the author learned that that simply was not true: internal information allows us to match some of his epistles with chapters in Acts. Frankly, that preacher was either lazy and did not care, or he (like many) was too unfamiliar with the Bible to know any better. In this article, we will demonstrate how we can determine the chronological order of the Pauline Acts epistles.

PURPOSE

Why do this? Chronologists often disagree as touching numerical years. Therefore, some Bible students prefer to date Paul’s earliest epistles by using chapters of Acts as benchmarks. In other words, it is much easier to establish where a Pauline Acts epistle was written in relation to Acts (as in, chapter 20) than to establish its absolute year (for example, A.D. 55). Human calendars are simply too ambiguous concerning such ancient history, but the Word of God is a sure basis for timelines. Dates based on Scripture are much more reliable than human reckoning of time.

As we will see, the Pauline Books, Romans through Philemon, are not ordered in the Bible chronologically. That is, the Apostle wrote them in an order different from the table of contents at the beginning of our Bible. Romans was not his first epistle, and Philemon was not his last. The 13 Pauline epistles are deliberately arranged as such because the Holy Spirit edifies the saint from Romans (basics) all the way to Philemon (maturity). Paul wrote his first six epistles during Acts—Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians. These six are the focus of our present study. Friend, be aware that there will be much verse comparison, but it will be highly profitable. You probably will not grasp this material the first time around—or even the second, third, or fourth—but you keep at it until you do understand!

GALATIANS

Galatians is the Book whose corresponding chapter in Acts is most difficult to pinpoint. The epistle’s very nature nonetheless demonstrates that it was written after Acts chapter 15 (comparable to Galatians chapter 2). Paul visited the region of Galatia—not a city, please note, but a territory—in Acts chapters 13 and 14. Antioch in Pisidia (13:14), Iconium (13:51-52), and Derbe and Lystra (14:1-24) are all in the vicinity of Galatia (modern central and southern Turkey). Paul traveled through Galatia a second time in Acts 16:6-7, and a third time in Acts 18:22-23. Galatians 4:13 seems to indicate that Paul has already visited Galatia at least twice. In fact, he has just left Galatia (Galatians 1:6). All this data places Galatians as being written between the 16:6-7 visit and the 18:22-23 visit. For simplicity’s sake, we will say Galatians was penned in Acts chapter 17 (certainly no later than chapter 18). Exactly where Paul was when he wrote Galatians is unknown, but that makes no difference.

NOTE: Was Galatians written first, or was 1 Thessalonians? There is often difference of opinion. This author’s personal belief—which you can accept or reject—is that Galatians was Paul’s first inspired writing. After all, Galatians is the most convincing Book to defend his Gentile apostleship as separate and distinct from Peter and the 11, and it delineates how the grace message is not to be confused or combined with legalism (Law-keeping, Judaism). Surely, God the Holy Spirit would have wanted this information codified as soon as possible. Galatians, therefore, was likely the first inspired epistle of Paul.

1 & 2 THESSALONIANS

Paul visited Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9. According to 1 Thessalonians 2:17, Paul has just departed the city (Acts 17:10 explains why). In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, he refers to his unlawful beating and illegal imprisonment at Philippi (Acts 16:19-40). He has already passed through Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1), which historically occurred in Acts 17:15–18:1. From Athens, Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2), and Timothy has since returned to Paul (verse 6). Timothy and Silas are both with Paul as per 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1, corresponding to Acts 18:5 (cf. Acts 17:15). Timothy departed from Paul in Acts 19:22, making it impossible for 1 and 2 Thessalonians to be written anytime after. First Thessalonians was penned in Acts chapter 18, while Paul was in Corinth. Second Thessalonians was written shortly after, but again, no later than Acts 19:22 when Timothy left Paul. Both Thessalonian epistles were written before the two Corinthian epistles.

1 & 2 CORINTHIANS

The two Corinthian epistles, like Romans (below), are the easiest to date because they track Paul as he heads to Jerusalem with the collection for the poor Jewish kingdom saints. He first came to Corinth in Acts 18:1-18. He writes that he has already baptized the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:14-16 cf. Acts 18:8). First Corinthians (16:8,19) claims that it was written from Ephesus in Asia (technically, Asia Minor). The riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:22–20:1) is suggested in 1 Corinthians 16:9. In Acts 19:22, Paul sends Timothy to Macedonia (northern Greece), whereas Corinth is in southern Greece (Achaia). First Corinthians 4:17 and 16:10-11 indicate that Timothy is approaching Corinth. Paul intends to pass through Macedonia according to 1 Corinthians 16:5, which he does in Acts 20:1-2 while making his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:3-4). Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus may have been the couriers who brought Paul’s first inspired epistle to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:17). Paul departed Ephesus in Acts 20:1, meaning that 1 Corinthians was penned in the final moments of chapter 19 (perhaps 20:1).

As for 2 Corinthians, Timothy was with Paul (1:1). This would be after Acts 19:22 when Timothy left Paul and returned. Paul visited Macedonia followed by Greece (Acts 20:1-2). Thessalonica and Philippi are in what the Bible calls “Macedonia” (modern northern Greece), and Corinth and Athens are in what Scripture terms “Greece” (technically southern Greece, Achaia—2 Corinthians 1:1). Paul penned 2 Corinthians between his visit to Macedonia and stop in Greece/Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:16 and 8:1). Macedonia is roughly where Paul wrote 2 Corinthians (2:13, 7:5, 8:1, 9:2). Titus brings to Paul news from Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 12:18); note that Titus’ name never appears in Acts. The Macedonians have just given donations to Paul (2 Corinthians 8:1-5), meaning 2 Corinthians was written before the Book of Romans (cf. Romans 15:25-27). Second Corinthians 1:8 speaks of the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:22–20:1). Paul is heading to Judaea/Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 1:16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). He arrives in Jerusalem in Acts 21:17, after which 2 Corinthians could not be written. Second Corinthians 2:13-14 correlates with Acts 16:8-10. In light of all this, 2 Corinthians, therefore, was written during the timeframe of Acts 20:2-3.

ROMANS

As with the two Corinthian epistles (above), Romans is easy to date because it is Paul’s final epistle before he reaches Jerusalem. He arrives in Jerusalem in Acts 21:17. According to Romans 15:25-31, he has just collected donations from Achaia (Corinth) and Macedonia (Thessalonica). Romans 16:23 says Gaius is Paul’s host; Gaius is from Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14). Romans 16:23 is also indicative that Paul is in Corinth, for Erastus is chamberlain of Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20). Paul visited Corinth three times (2 Corinthians 13:1), and Romans was written on his third trip. Phebe was the courier of the Book of Romans (16:1-2). She is a member of the church at Cenchrea; Cenchrea was Corinth’s eastern port/harbor. Romans was written after 2 Corinthians (cf. Romans 15:25-31), for Paul had already collected from Achaia (Corinth). Romans was penned in Acts 20:2-3, after he wrote 2 Corinthians.

CONCLUSION

Using Scriptural data, we can say the following about Paul’s Acts epistles:

  1. Galatians (written Acts chapters 17/18) — penned in ?
  2. 1 Thessalonians (written Acts chapter 18) — penned in Corinth
  3. 2 Thessalonians (written Acts chapter 18) — penned in Corinth
  4. 1 Corinthians (written Acts chapters 19/20) — penned in Ephesus
  5. 2 Corinthians (written Acts chapter 20) — penned in Macedonia
  6. Romans (written Acts chapter 20) — penned in Corinth

SUPPLEMENTAL: PAUL’S PRISON EPISTLES

While Paul was under house arrest in Rome during the two years following the Acts period (Acts 28:30-31), he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. (Luke penned the Book of Acts here.) Paul was released for some time, writing 1 Timothy and Titus during that free period. Recaptured, he was imprisoned in a dungeon in Rome. There, Paul penned a final epistle to Timothy; the Roman government put him to death shortly thereafter (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

  • Ephesians — sent by Tychicus (6:21-22) — penned in Rome
  • Philippians — sent by Epaphroditus (2:25,28-29) — penned in Rome
  • Colossians — sent by Tychicus and Onesimus (4:7-9) — penned in Rome
  • Philemon — sent by Onesimus (verses 10-17) — penned in Rome
  • 1 Timothy — ?
  • Titus — sent by Tychicus and/or Artemas? (3:12) — penned en route to Nicopolis (3:12)
  • 2 Timothy — sent by ? — penned in Rome (1:17) — **Paul’s farewell**

Also see:
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» Were there two imprisonments of Paul, or just one?
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during Acts?

Are we Pauline dispensationalists anti-Jewish?

ARE WE PAULINE DISPENSATIONALISTS ANTI-JEWISH?

by Shawn Brasseaux

No, dear friends, we are pro-everybody! A Bible-believing, Pauline dispensationalist understands that the God of the Bible had to temporarily set aside national Israel in order to deal with all people without distinction. That does not mean, however, that God hates Jews; it does not mean that we dislike Jews. We love the Jewish people because God loves them and Christ died for them (as He did for us; Romans 5:8), but Calvary is no longer limited to them. The preaching of the cross is proclaimed to all people today because the merits of Christ’s cross are available to all people by faith. That God may have mercy on Christ-rejecting Israel in the Acts period, that they may be momentarily spared His wrath that they deserved, He caused Israel to fall in Acts chapter 7, paused her prophetic program, and started our mystery program in chapter 9 with the salvation of Saul of Tarsus (Paul). Indeed, this the Dispensation of Grace was begun to save individual Gentiles as well as individual Jews from God’s wrath!

OUR HEARTS’ DESIRE AND PRAYER TO GOD, AS WAS PAUL’S, IS THAT ALL PEOPLE MIGHT BE SAVED!

When considering the Bible, we know that the Apostle Paul was (falsely) accused of being an “anti-Semite,” someone who hated Jews. Although he was Jewish by blood, he was Gentile (Roman) by citizenship through his father. He also spent a lot of time ministering (preaching and teaching) amongst Gentiles (non-Jews, nations) of all kinds. All of this surely caused rumors to spread that Paul hated Israel. Hence, we can better appreciate why he wrote the following verses many years after his ministry began.

Turn to Romans chapter 9 to read: “[1] I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, [2] That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. [3] For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: [4] Who are Israelites;…..”

Despite what others may say, Paul was telling the truth (verse 1). Sadness and grief weighed heavy on his heart (verse 2). Once, as unsaved Saul of Tarsus, he had led Israel’s rebellion against Jesus Christ and His followers (Acts 8:1-4; Acts 9:1-2,13-14; Acts 22:19-20; Acts 26:9-11; Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:13). The Holy Spirit through him (now a saved man) expresses great care for Israel. He had been directly involved in causing Israel’s fall. Israel’s kingdom program is delayed, she continues to refuse to trust Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Saviour, she refuses to hear and believe the Gospel of Grace (what Paul peaches), she persecutes Christ’s people (including Paul himself), and she is headed for God’s wrath (both the seven-year Tribulation and eternal Hellfire). Why should Paul not be sad? If he could give up his relationship with Christ, that Israel might have a relationship with Him, Paul would do it!

Now, go to Romans chapter 10: “[1] Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. [2] For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. [3] For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

Paul does not want the unsaved (religious albeit lost) Jews to die and go to Hell. Yes, they deserve it, but they do not have to go there because God has given them away to escape that terrible fate. Instead of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and gaining God’s righteousness through Him, they (like billions today) prefer works-religion. Saul of Tarsus once was in such a predicament. Judaism is still operating during the Acts period because the Jerusalem Temple will not be destroyed until A.D. 70 (some seven or eight years after Acts closed). As Paul writes this epistle to the Romans (approximately Acts 20:1-3), Israel still offers their animal sacrifices and ignores Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on Calvary given some 20 years earlier! They are in an endless cycle of attempting to uphold their righteousness because they believe they can work to gain God’s favor. It is but futile and will only condemn them even more before God!!!

ISRAEL’S PREEMINENCE GAINED AND LOST

Ephesians 2:11-12 is the Gentile’s experience in time past, before the Dispensation of Grace began: “[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:….” Contrast this with Romans 9:4-5, Israel’s status in time past: “[4] Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; [5] Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”

We will now look at some Old Testament references to further prove the point that Israel was God’s special nation in time past:

  • Exodus 19:5: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:….”
  • Deuteronomy 7:6: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.”
  • Deuteronomy 7:14:Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.”
  • Deuteronomy 10:15: “Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.”

God’s design in time past was to form the nation Israel so as to make Israel the channel of blessing to the rest of the world (Genesis 12:1-3). The nations had already turned aside to pagan idols in Genesis chapter 11 at the Tower of Babel, so the God of creation let them go on their way in heathen superstitions and spiritual ignorance (Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:29-30; cf. Romans 1:17-32).

Beginning with Abraham, Genesis chapter 12, the LORD God sanctified (set apart) Israel from the rest of the nations so the nations could see in Israel what it would be like to have the one true God as a national God (see Deuteronomy 4:1-10, for instance). The nations were given over to dead idols. Unfortunately, as the centuries passed, Israel let herself become contaminated by idolatry. She wanted to be like the nations, and eventually she adopted false religion as her own. Corrupted Israel, having tossed aside God’s Word to hold to the traditions of men, was completely unprepared to identify her Messiah when He showed up in her midst. Her people conspired with the Romans and crucified Jesus Christ in unbelief.

Even though the Lord Jesus Christ resurrected, Israel had virtually no repentance in early Acts. Except for a small believing remnant, she maintained her anti-Jesus attitude. Just as God’s wrath was about to fall on her, He interrupted her prophetic program and initiated our mystery program. Israel fell; she lost her national and spiritual status before God. While the Little Flock (Israel’s believing remnant from Christ’s earthly ministry and the early Acts) still had access to God, national Israel had fallen to the level of the Gentiles. The middle wall of partition (cf. Ephesians 2:11-12 from earlier) had been broken down.

Paul comments in Romans chapter 11: “[11] I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. [15] For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (You can read all of Romans chapter 11 if you are interested.)

Compare this to Ephesians chapter 2: “[13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. [14] For he is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile—verses 11-12] one [the Church the Body of Christ], and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; [15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain [Jew and Gentile—verses 11-12] one new man [the Church the Body of Christ], so making peace; [16] And that he might reconcile both [Jew and Gentile—verses 11-12] unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: [17] And came and preached peace to you which were afar off [Gentiles—verses 11-12], and to them that were nigh [Jews—Romans 9:4-5]. [18] For through him we both [Jew and Gentile—verses 11-12] have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

Verse 18 is weighty, as it shows us that both Gentile and Jew can approach the Father by one Spirit through Jesus Christ. We preach an “all-men” message in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. After all, God took away the Jewish–Gentile distinction by making everyone Gentile. It was for this reason that Paul was made “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13): he is God’s spokesman even to the Jews in this dispensation.

Romans 1:5 says, “By whom [the Son of God, Jesus Christ—verse 4] we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:…” Notice the “all nations” nature of Paul’s ministry. Compare that with Romans 16:26: “But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:….” “All nations” means that Paul’s apostleship is for every nation—even Israel. This is why he ministered to lost Jews and lost Gentiles alike throughout the Acts period.

Paul has an unrestricted (all-nation) ministry because he has an unrestricted Gospel message. His ministry does not depend on Israel’s salvation and Israel then evangelizing the world (that would be prophecy, Peter’s ministry). We live in the “mystery” or secret program (Romans 16:25-26). Paul is the “due-time testifier”—or the appropriate preacher speaking at the proper time—of the fact that Calvary’s crosswork is available to all men as complete payment for their sins!

First Timothy 2:3-7: “[3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; [6] Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [7] Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not; ) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”

Paul therefore proclaimed in Acts 13:38-39: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus Christ—verses 23-37] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all [Jew and Gentile] that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

In our Dispensation of Grace, there is no disadvantage to being uncircumcised (Gentile) and there is no advantage to being circumcised (Jew). It was completely the opposite in time past (refer back to Ephesians 2:11-12). Notice what is true today in the mystery program:

  • “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:22).
  • “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
  • “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6).
  • “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15).
  • “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Also see:
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?