Curt Crist, pastor/teacher of ‘Welcome To Grace Ministries': Welcometograce.com
Source: #116 Jews, Paul and the Law 1 [Curt Crist] (28:39-43:25 min.):
What we have to understand about the book of Acts, is that Paul was trying to reach individual Jews and Gentiles, and the Jews were associated with those customs. The Jews had been God’s favored nation, the Jews were Paul’s kinsman after the flesh, he desired greatly to reach these folk. Paul himself was Jewish and it was the Jewish religious leadership that had the Jews dispersed in the first place, so Paul always went to Jews first and God intended him to do so. Not only would unbelieving Jews be given an opportunity to believe through grace, God would also prove through the acts account that for the most part the Jews would remain in unbelief. The book of acts is God’s everlasting account validating the partial blindness that had come upon that nation.
We want to look at Paul’s visit to the Jews during the acts account, and we want to watch God validate having set Israel aside nationally with the stoning of Stephen, while he now completes his program and plan for the body of Christ. Paul began the first of his apostolic journeys with the pronouncement of blindness on Barjesus. Paul was on his way to Asia, that was the area he would first visit, when he ran across what Scripture calls a false prophet, a Jew, so this is not a believing Jew, this is an unbelieving Jew. God could not give us a more clear picture of the blindness Paul tells us in the book of Romans that happened to Israel nationally. This is a picture of it.
Acts 13:11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Now we are going to see God, through Paul’s acts ministry, validate the blindness upon unbelieving Jews as Paul goes to the Jews first, in every area he visits. This is area number one. From Pathos in Cyprus Paul sets sail for Asia, again this is his first apostolic journey, he enters Antioch and Pisidia, where he visits the Jewish synagogue:
Acts 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus Christ] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
Acts 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Great news to these unbelieving Jews, wouldn’t you say? At least it should’ve been the greatest news they would ever hear, but here is the warning given in light of the fact that Israel nationally had already been set aside in blindness:
Acts 13:40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
Acts 13:41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
That’s precisely what had already come upon Israel nationally, earlier on. Would the Gentiles be interested in Paul’s message?
Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Sounds like the Gentiles were extremely interested in what Paul has to say to these Jews. Of course were the Gentiles not supposed to be coming to Israel to learn about God? They were! Were they not supposed to be coming through Israel’s rise as prophecy had proclaimed? Sure, they were, but Israel had not risen! Israel had fallen. Israel had been blinded in part.
Acts 13:43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Acts 13:44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
Does it sound like everything is wonderful up to this point? Sounds pretty good to me, sounds like Paul should have great success, everything is going wonderfully so far. Gentiles are extremely interested. Paul’s continuing to try to persuade the Jews to stay with that message he’s preaching, but trouble is brewing in Antioch city. Starts with t, rhymes with p, stands for Paul. Notice the tempest in the teapot that is brewing here:
Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
Were the Jews embracing Paul’s message? I think it is very easy to see they were not, and they were not embracing Paul either. Paul had gone to the Jews of Asia first, that was his intent, I believe that’s what he was instructed to do, and they didn’t like him or his message. They were envious of the attention the apostle Paul was getting, and that envy had led to a rejection of not only Paul, but of Paul’s message. That’s a profound truth to understand; that envy will lead to a rejection of not only you but your message. While some believe Paul’s message, the vast majority rejected it; a validation of why God had set Israel aside nationally in the first place, and why God had called this new apostle who would be sent to the Gentiles. Paul was free at this point in time. He had spoken to the Jews of Asia and they had rejected, he’s now free to encounter Gentiles in Asia separately, separate from the Jews. God called out this new apostle in order to complete his plan and program through the Gentiles, and he did it through an apostle of grace. Here is Paul’s response to the Jewish rejection of his message in Asia:
Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
Did Paul turn to the Gentiles in Asia at this point? You bet he did, because he had already gone to the Jews first in Asia before he went to anyone else. He held their unbelief up in front of them and he said “now I’m free to go to the Gentiles in Asia” and he did so. The rejection Paul and Barnabas faced here wasn’t about to get any better:
Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
Acts 13:50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
Did they want Paul or his message? They didn’t… Paul was certainly free to go to the Gentiles with his message of grace. That is precisely what Paul began to do because now he was free to do that in Asia. The Jews were proving themselves blind, perhaps it would go better for Paul at Iconium; Paul’s next stop in Asia.
Acts 14:1 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they [Paul and Barnabas] went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
It looks better in Iconium, does it not? This looks much better than where he was, again things are looking up, at least so far they are, but is there trouble brewing in Iconium?
Acts 14:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.
Unbelieving Jews stirring up trouble all over again, and that trouble starts with T rhymes with P, stands for Paul.
Acts 14:3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Signs for the folks of that nation that God had dealt with according to signs, isn’t that interesting? Would those signs do the trick when it came to these Jews of the dispersion?
Acts 14:4 But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.
So now we’ve got a teeter totter effect going on, this is a see-saw here. Which way will it go? Will go up or will it go down?
Acts 14:5 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,
Are they rejecting the Apostle of grace? You bet they are!
Acts 14:6 They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:
Acts 14:7 And there they preached the gospel.
Guess one of “the regions that lieth round about” Lystra and Lycaonia? Galatia!
Paul had already proven blindness when it came to the Jews in Asia, and rest assured he was indeed going to Gentiles as he was going to the regions that lieth round about Lycaonia. The assembly of Galatia was established during this time, and Paul had met young Timothy, his mother and his grandmother on this journey. It was by way of Paul’s ministry that Timothy came to faith in Christ, and the all sufficiency of the cross work of Jesus Christ, but as we stay with the story in acts 14, we find Paul healing a man in Lystra. The man that was impotent in his feet, he had been a cripple from his mother’s womb. With that healing, the people of that area thought the apostle Paul and Barnabas were Gods. ‘If they can do this, these guys are gods’. They couldn’t contain themselves they wanted to worship at the feet of Paul and Barnabas, because the feelings that had taken place. Seems like Paul should’ve been able to make great progress with his message of grace to these folks, wouldn’t it? If you were being worshiped as a god, don’t you think you would get your message across to those worshiping you as a god?
Acts 14:19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing [deeming, judging, fully believing] he had been dead.
Aren’t these people at Iconium supposed to be coming through Israel’s rise? She had fallen! She had not risen, she had already fallen. Paul had already pronounced blindness before he really got underway on this journey, and it’s simply being proven to us folks; no one’s coming through the Jews, that’s not happening.
Paul relates the same account in;
2 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
The unbelieving Jews were not happy campers, no matter where Paul went. When it came to Paul, they didn’t want him or his message. God is indeed validating the blindness that he had brought upon that nation nationally, with the salvation of Saul, and that Paul had declared with the blindness brought upon Barjesus. Here they’ve stoned the apostle Paul. He’s approaching the latter portion of this first journey to Asia. How many listening today would want to continue on if the same thing would happen to you? You moved into a town, and some folks said “we want to hear you out, we would like to hear what you have. Let’s meet at the community center next week” and you meet at the community center and these folks are really interested. Their ears are wide open and they’re listening, and in through the door comes some folks from the first, or second or third of whatever and they say, ‘no you’re preaching heresy, you’re preaching damnable heresy, let’s stone you to death’. Would you want to continue? Paul did! He’d make three additional journeys, if we include the Rome trip!