You are here: Home / Part 4 Disciplinary Truths of God's Kingdom (Lessons #70–104) / Appendix – Resolving the Controversy (#104) / Lesson 187 – The Spiritual and Geographical Separation of the Church From Israel
© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 3 – The Historical Emergence of the Church
Lesson 187 – The Spiritual and Geographical Separation of the Church from Israel
24 Jan 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
On the notes we’re on page 68 we’ve come to the last step and tonight we’re going to hopefully finish and next week we’re going to go through the positional truth that pertains to the church so we can finish this section with a clear delineation of what distinguishes the church from Israel. The next chapter we’ll deal with the growth of the church from the time of Pentecost, the time we’ve looked at here, all the way up to the present time. The final chapter will be the end of the Church Age and the Rapture of the church.
We’re going to look first in Acts 16 because this event signals a new manifestation of the plan of God and is deeply related to long-ago themes in Scripture. It’s not just something that happened in Acts. That’s why on pages 68-69 I’ve isolated that Acts 16 section so we can look at how it’s related to the rest of the Bible. Obviously what we have here is that the gospel is now being moved from Jerusalem northwest and there’s Europe. So here for the first time we have the Word of God preached by the leader of the church, by the Apostle Paul on European soil. There was the big event. When he moved from Troas over to these cities in Macedonia that was a major historic event. And it’s given to us in Acts 16, when in verse 9 Paul receives his famous Macedonian vision. Obviously by recording this Luke is telling us here is another example how the Holy Spirit is leading the church. If we get anything out of the book of Acts the thing we would need to see is it’s a model of how the Holy Spirit leads the church, not just individuals but the church itself.
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: there stood a man of Macedonia and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us.  And when he had seen the vision, immediately we” Luke and Paul “endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” So he goes from Troas over to these cities on the Aegean Sea. That’s the event, a few verses in Acts and then in verse 14 it’s talking about the conversion of a woman. Paul, by the way, here is still with the Diaspora Jews, but nevertheless, more and more you can see from step five is that the church is going to be centered amid the Gentile nations. And that means a geographical separation from Israel, not just a spiritual separation but a spiritual and geographical separation.
In the notes I mention that this is deeply related, this coming to Europe business, is deeply related to themes in the Scripture. On the bottom of page 68 I mention the prophecy of Noah’s sons. We look back and say that history has a shape and a form to it. Verses like Acts 17:26 Paul says God made all nations; he controls their up welling and their down falling in order that men might seek God. [26 “And hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”] That’s the doxological purpose of history. When it started, when our civilization started with Noah, he had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
We want to go back to Gen. 9 and look at this outline of history actually, because Acts 16 is related to this passage. It’s just another example of it coming to pass. In verse 24 Noah prophesies the role of his three sons in history. He says, “And Noah awoke … and knew what his younger son had done….  And he said, Cursed be Canaan,” but then he said  “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem,” if you look at verse 24, 25, 26, 27, notice the words for God, notice the names that are given to God. If you look at verse 26, that’s the only section where Yahweh, Jehovah’s name, is mentioned. You’ll notice the name is connected with Shem, and it’s interesting because of the three Noahic sons, Shem seems to be the one who is going to carry the banner, so to speak, for God.
I mentioned this when we went over this, but if you look at history, the Shemites are easy to track because they’re Jews and some areas of what we call Arabs, not all. Ask yourself, of all the peoples on all the continents, in all the centuries of history, where have the three monotheistic religions of the world originated? Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Who, of the three sons, who were the propagators of this? It’s always Shem. So it’s interesting, Shem propagates, he acts as ultimately the custodian through the Jew, and of course he gives rise to apostasy through Ishmael and the Arab world with Islam. Then of course, the Jew; down here comes the Lord Jesus Christ. So Shem down through history has a role, and interestingly he geographically tends to live at the crossroads of the world. The Shemites really have always been centered in the Middle East.
I mentioned back when we were studying this passage historically that when the Shemites…, right after the flood, there’s evidence that the Shemites visited the world. They may have been the ones that mapped Antarctica before the ice sheets, the map that I showed you. But the Shemites left indelible reminders of their presence. The Semitic language is very conservative and it tends to have only three consonants in its stems. One of the consonants, this is kind of a semi-consonant, it’s more like a verb, is Eber, Hebrew, ’ebrew. If you think about it we have the Iberian Peninsula; in Ireland we have a river, etc. Those same three consonants show up on almost every continent. There have been people who are linguistically trained who have tracked these strange Semitic roots that occur all over the earth. It’s not well-known what happened. But somewhere, some how, the people groups of the world were exposed in their ancient past to Semitic language.
It may be that there’s another explanation for this. Of all the linguistic groups the Shemite language is the most conservative. And it may be that the presence of Shemitic stems in all these groups is a residue of what? Before there were many languages there was only one language. What was the one language? Before it became scholarly arrogance to deny the Scriptures, most scholars in the 18th century came to the conclusion it was Semitic, the Semitic language was the anchor language, and there’s a number of evidences in the Scripture that that is so because of the ish and isha, and the male female noun forms in the different languages. So there are a number of arguments that these people, hundreds of years ago, talked about it, this is not something new. This ancient tradition of scholars who were not so threatened by Scripture they had to deny it.
Here we have Shem and a very conservative linguistic stock. And I don’t think it’s an accident that the Semitic language is conservative with time because if Shem was indeed to be the channel of blessing to the world, and that blessing was verbal revelation, it would stand to reason that the language medium through which the verbal revelation came should be relatively conservative. I remember for a while I was interested in trying to learn some spoken Hebrew and my tutor, who was in Israel at the time, mentioned to me that if Moses could somehow come back in a time machine and walk the streets of Jerusalem, he and a Jewish child could converse and communicate between each other. That’s rather an amazing statement. If Moses lived fourteen centuries before Christ, and we’ve got a little Jewish kid in the Jerusalem street who is twenty centuries after, we’re talking about a bridge here of thirty-five centuries of time and the language has remained fixed enough so they can communicate right across that bridge. That is amazing. So there’s a powerful thing in history about this group of people, the Shemitic peoples. The Shemitics are easy to track.
The Japhetics are easy to track, they are all tracked in Genesis 10, so it’s obvious who the Japhetics are, the people listed in Genesis 10:2-4 are all Indo-European peoples, so Japheth was a progenitor of what we would call the Indo-European peoples. These peoples have an amazing history; the Indo-Europeans actually crossed into India at one time so that what we call the Indian Indians of the subcontinent of India are actually a crossbreed of Indo-Europeans and Asians. It’s a very interesting thing because their anchor language, just as the anchor language here would be Hebrew and Arabic, as the conservative languages, guess what the anchor language is for Japheth. Sanskrit, so you have the Sanskrit language and from that you have the other languages, you have Latin, you have Greek, French, Spanish, etc. There’s the linguistic track of this man, Japheth. So this is Japheth, and Japheth is pretty well located in Indo-European areas.
The next question is, “Who were the Hamites?” The Hamites are very difficult to track because of Babel and a number of other things that happened in history, but one of the reasons why they’re hard to track is because they’re very, very diverse. Hamitics can be white, as the Phoenicians were, the Canaanites were white Hamitics; they can be black in the African continent. Hamitics can be Asiatic, so Ham has promulgated a lot of racial diversity in the world. As a result, there’s tremendous linguistic fracturing here. A long time linguist with Wycliffe once said that you could take a Hamitic tribe and split them in half, put one on one side of a river bank and one on the other side and in five years they’ve already got a new language. These people just invent language differences. That’s why it makes it so hard to translate Scriptures, we’ve got thousands of tongues out there and most of them are not Japhetic and they’re not Semitic, they’re all Hamitic. So we have these Hamitics that go all over the place.
Arthur Custance in his book, I think it’s out of print, but look for a book called Sons of Noah, it really is a treasure. Custance was a physiologist with the Canadian Defense Dept. He points out that if you look in an Encyclopedia, here’s a little exercise anybody can do, look up all the inventions of the world, from ink to printing press, to gun powder, etc., just list them all, hundreds of them, but just take a hundred of the basic inventions of the world, the wheel, and he says if you look at those almost 90% or more of them come out of Ham. The Hamitics seem to be the peoples on the planet who are very inventive; usually they are the ones who are first into areas to settle. Can any of you remember the story of our own pilgrims and how the first colony in Massachusetts survived in the winter? It was because of a Hametic, because an Indian who had been trained in England, happened to know English, and he taught them how to raise corn. And that’s how the Japhetics who came from Europe to settle in Massachusetts survived, because of a Hametic that had been there before who knew how to grow things. That’s the distribution and the structure and it’s a structure unfortunately nobody bothers with in history, they just kind of pooh-pooh it, ah, that’s just the Bible, and lose out on a fundamental insight into history.
The key prophecy is in Genesis 9:27, where it says “God shall enlarge Japheth,” and if you think about it most of the conquests globally have been done by Japheth, conquests not just politically but conquests by way of organization. Think of Rome, think of the Roman army engineers; everywhere they went they built a road. Think of Latin and all of its influence. What was the scholarly language of the world? Latin. What has become the lingua franca of the globe today? It’s English, it’s a Japhetic language. So you have Japheth doing all these things. “God shall enlarge Japheth,” but it says “he shall dwell in the tents of Shem.” So he receives his nourishment, he receives his sustenance out of Shem. Well how does he receive sustenance out of Shem? What does Shem do in history? Shem isn’t the great inventor, Shem doesn’t invent languages. Shem hasn’t made the discoveries architecturally; he hasn’t made the inventions, gun powder and all the rest of it. What has he done? He’s preserved God’s Word. So here you have a faint adumbration, in verse 27, of what we call western civilization being built upon a Christian base.
And it’s that prophecy that figures behind Acts 16 and the Macedonian vision. Here comes Japheth in the person of Paul to give Europe the basis it needs to create a civilization. We have to be careful here, some warnings. We’re not identifying western culture with Christianity. We’re not doing that. Islam confuses that; Muslims today see everything corrupt in the West and in their minds Western civilization is Christianity so that’s why they react the way they do to all of us. It’s a false identification. We’re not responsible for all the junk that goes on in Western civilization. However, what is good about Western civilization, where it’s developed a sense of order and where it’s developed a sense of democracy and government, has come out of the Word of God.
Here’s an exercise to do some time, it’s neat for kids that are studying history. Take a coloring book with a map of Europe in it, and take two color crayons and color in the areas first where the Protestant Reformation occurred and the teaching of the Word of God was prevalent. Think about it, geographically your coloring in the Netherlands, Northern Germany and that area, England, you’re coloring all that in. In the second color go and color where democracy developed. Isn’t it strange that the two have a most interesting correlation? That’s the effect of Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem.
Back to Acts 16. Now we have a situation where Paul is called in the Macedonian vision. This act of Paul in crossing into the European continent, that’s long been in the planning stages, so to speak. I also mention on page 69 of the notes in Daniel 2 and 7 the four kingdoms that were to come and replace Israel. Those kingdoms would eventually dominate Jerusalem. The background for a lot of what we’re going to say tonight …, I wish I had a picture, the temple in Jesus’ day, here’s the Kidron Valley, here’s the Mount of Olives over here, up on this end of the temple was the Fortress of Antonio, that was a place where the Romans built this fort to contain Jewish mobs, because they didn’t trust the Jews. Palestine was as big a pain in the neck to the Romans as it still is to the world. Always something going on, somebody is killing somebody else, there’s always a rebellion some place; it’s always been a mess. So the Romans got fed up with it, and they put this big fortress right next to the temple. They didn’t want to offend the Jews by going in the temple, but they had their military and their police all around that place. The Romans, by doing so, put themselves in a position where in effect they controlled the temple. The Jews had physical access to it, but in AD 70 they would destroy it, and when they destroy the temple Jesus said that’s the time of the Gentiles; Jesus called it the “time of the Gentiles.” The time of the Gentiles started in AD 70, and continues through today. As long as the Jews cannot control the temple mount, we have the times of the Gentiles. So again you see the Gentile dominance.
On page 69, I also mention the Great Commission, that the church is to go forth and preach the Great Commission, go to all the nations and disciple them. That’s what God told the church to do and what we’re seeing in Acts 16 is God maneuvering the church to carry that mission out. Notice in this vision that happens in verse 9 it’s not that Paul and Luke set out to evangelize Europe. Look at verse 9 again and you’ll see that the initiative came from God, and that’s the theme of Acts. Every time the church moves out it either moves out because it’s getting persecuted and forced out, or it’s being led out, as for example Acts 10 with a vision, Peter, Cornelius; the vision in Acts 16, of leading the church outward to fulfill its mission.
Now we come to Acts 21. In Acts 21 we have a most interesting example of the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is a controversial section of Acts. There are scholars on both sides of the fence here, some of whom argue that Paul really screwed up here; others defend Paul. Regardless of what side you get on, the big picture remains the same and that is, who’s finally in charge of leading the church? The Holy Spirit. And it’s quite evident in Acts 21 that we have a real mess and chaos, and what we’ve got here is that in the middle of this mess the church is being led.
Starting in Acts 21:15, let’s look at this passage. We want to look at this closely because it’s a real revelation of how Christians can really mess up and what some of the issues were in the early church. We already have studied Acts 15 and seen that they’ve had a big problem with legalism and the Mosaic Law. Now we’re going to see this thing still hasn’t been fully resolved. In verse 14 Paul is not going to be persuaded, and “we ceased,” which kind of tells you that Luke and Paul were having a difference right here, “saying, The will of the Lord be done.” If you think God’s leading you Paul do it, but we don’t think God is leading you. There’s a genuine disagreement about how the Lord is leading Paul here. F. F. Bruce says that Paul is being led by the Holy Spirit, he goes back to Acts 20:22 and he says look at that, it says Paul was “bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there,  Except that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.” So F. F. Bruce points out that look, the Holy Spirit is leading Paul but He’s warning him that things are not going to be cool in Jerusalem.
Whatever, Paul has decided in verse 14 I’m going to go to Jerusalem. What’s the problem here? We know what the problem is. The last time he was there, in Acts 15, what was the issue? The issue was what do we do with the new Gentiles? Do they go under the Law or not? They settled that. They said okay, we’ll just expediently argue that look, Gentile believers just don’t do stuff that offends the Jews. You don’t have to go through the Mosaic Law but just don’t offend. So you’d think that they got that picture clear. What they didn’t have clear was the other side of the issue which was what about Jewish believers. So watch the language in this passage.
Verse 16, “There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, and old disciple, with whom we should lodge.  And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” Who’s receiving Paul? Believers, or unbelievers? Believers are receiving Paul. So, they received him gladly. Verse 18, “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.” So here’s the church leadership: James, the same guy who was active in Acts 15, so we’re having another church meeting.
Verse 19, “And when he had greeted them, he kept declaring,” it’s an imperfect tense here meaning it went on for some time, “he declared particularly what things,” and we could say literally one by one counting these things, that “God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.” So this is like a missionary coming back to church reporting on what had happened.
Verse 20, “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him,” now this is an interesting sentence. This one verse, right here, shows you the dilemma of the early church. It also shows you the immaturity of the early church, and why when you hear this stuff about oh, let’s get back to the first century, I frankly don’t want to get back to the first century. The theology was terrible in the first century, and they had discussions over issues that frankly were immature, the church was a little baby in the first century. It had some good things, yeah, but every church age, which we’ll see in the next chapter, every age of the church is moving forward in some way. God is maturing the church down through the centuries, so this is the infantile stage of the church. So, “they glorified the Lord,” thanking the Lord for the work that the Lord had done through Paul in the ministry to Gentiles. Nothing wrong there.
Now they got the problem. [Verse 20, “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord,”] “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe,” or who have believed, perfect tense. How many Jews believed? It says thousands. It’s conceivable through the witness of some of the early church fathers that there were as many as 30,000 Jewish believers in Jerusalem at this time. The gospel had taken hold in the city of Jerusalem; there were a lot of believers. So the first thing we notice about verse 20 is there’s an admission of the success of the outreach of the gospel. Here the city that crucified Jesus Christ has been evangelized and this city that has been evangelized is the one now welcoming back Paul. But, it says, not only did these Jews “have believed,” but “they are all zealous of the law.” Oh-oh, now we’ve got a problem, because it goes on to say, verse 21, “And they,” believers, all this is believers, these are not unbelievers, these are believers.
“And they [believers] are informed of thee, that you teach,” you are teaching “all the Jews who are among the Gentiles,” and by the way, what do we call the Jews that are among the Gentiles? The Diaspora, the Diaspora Jews. “… you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after their customs.” What’s going on? Verse 22: “What is it therefore? The multitude will come together; for they will hear that you’ve come.  “Do, therefore, this that we say to you: we have four men who have a vow on them.  Take them, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads, and all may know that those things, of which they were informed concerning thee, are nothing, but that you walk yourself orderly, and you keep the law.”
There are some problems here. The leadership is making a decision about what Paul should do on the basis of what? Is thing based on the Word of God or is this being based on mob intimidation? The whole thing comes out of… they’re afraid these people are going to get together and it’s going to be terrible, and we’re going to have a big problem here. So here are politicians working. And they concoct this scheme, starting in verse 24, and this is a political scheme, it’s not theological, it’s political, because Paul in verse 21 has not said that they’re going to forsake Moses. What he has said is that you can’t get saved by keeping the Law. That’s what he said. Galatians, he said that the Law cannot save. He said in Galatians circumcision is of no avail if you put your trust in it.
Turn to Galatians because this is what he was teaching. We already have the epistles that tell us what he was teaching. In Galatians 5, that’s where it gets kind of interesting. You can see how somebody gets hold of this Galatian teaching, and you can see what happened over in Jerusalem that caused the riot here. Verse 3, “Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.  For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Now in the context of verse 4 you can see, the issue here isn’t that the guys can’t be circumcised as a custom to identify the Jewish community or something, what Paul is getting at is when you are circumcised thinking that you’re getting justified by that act, because notice the fine print in verse 4, “whosoever of you are justified by the law,” that’s what Paul is getting at, he’s trying to clear the air on grace, that you cannot be saved by keeping the Law or doing good works or anything else.
Verse 7, “You did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?” Verse 9: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Verse 11: “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the cross ceased.  I would that hey were even cut off who trouble you.” That’s kind of a nasty word. What he’s saying there is he’s saying if you want to worry about circumcision, why don’t you just cut it all off, castrate them. So it’s a sarcastic thrust here in the text. And it’s really rough, and this did not go over well in the Jewish community. Remember Galatia is in the Asia Minor area where there were Diaspora Jews. And guess who came down to Jerusalem to tip off the people in Jerusalem that this stuff was going on? It was this kind of teaching that led to this problem in Acts 21, so back to Acts 21.
The interpretation of the Diaspora community in verse 21, who had become believers, “they are informed that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying they ought not to circumcise….” Now what’s the deal? The deal was that circumcision isn’t going to save you; the Messiah is going to save you. So they wanted to concoct this scheme to placate a mob. Instead of clarifying the issue and just confronting it, they want to kind of tiptoe around it. This is political artistry.
So they work this deal up with these four guys who have a vow. The issue here was if you have a vow in the Old Testament under Old Testament law there is a period of time when you’re dedicated to the Lord, and during that period of time you go to the temple and you make sacrifices and so forth. Some feel in verse 24 that Paul actually was to pay for their offerings, it was expensive to take the vow because you had to give all these extra sacrifices to the temple. And sacrifices—we’re talking expense here, money. So what they’re saying is you could get back in good graces Paul, if you’ll take these four guys, take them to the temple with you, pay their ticket, pay the tab, and show people, hey look, see Paul’s going to the temple, look at that, he’s being a good Jewish boy, he’s going through the rules, what’s your problem. The conclusion, what they hoped would happen at the end of verse 24 is that all these other rumors Paul, are nothing. Well I’m sorry, they are something, they’re not nothing, they are the whole Galatians message of you’re saved. You can’t hide that under a bushel. So they said well, let’s make the issue go away, and that you yourself walk orderly and you’re keeping the law.
Verse 24, “As touching the Gentiles who believe, we have written and concluded,” see verse 25 harps back to chapter 15, they’re going back, and they did, they solved the problem are Gentiles under the Law or they aren’t under the Law? Answer: Acts 15, they’re not under the Law. So if they’re not under the Law, that solves that problem but it doesn’t solve the problem what’s the status of Jewish believers then, once they become Christians. Here’s a Jew, the Jew trusts in Jesus Christ as Messiah, saved by grace, what’s the relationship of this Jewish guy or gal to the Law now? What happens? That had not been resolved at this point, and obviously from the language of verse 20, what was going on is very clear, that these believers were zealous of the Law, they lived by the Law, they went to the temple through the Law, and they probably theologically still did not grasp what God’s grace was all about.
Verse 26, “Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself with them, entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until an offering should be offered for every one of them.” So he’s part of this Old Testament thing. Verse 27, “And when the seven days were almost ended,” you’ll notice it went on day after day after day after day. This is dangerous business here, you’ve got thousands of legalists watching this thing going on, and of all places they’ve got Paul right smack dab in the middle of it, the great apostle who’s been called to Europe, on whose shoulders the future of western civilization hangs, and they’ve got this guy in a life threatening situation going in and out of the temple for six or seven days. So he took the men, he entered into the temple, when the six or seven days were ended, “the Jews who were or Asia,” where’s that? Asia Minor, that’s the place where Galatians was written. So the Jews of Asia, Diaspora Jews, who had heard grace teaching from the Galatian epistle, “when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him.” So here goes the riot now.
Here the legalists are; this is religious bullying. It’s not the first time and not the last time, but it’s bullying, it’s not based on the Word of God, it’s based on false information, stupid theology and mob violence. Verse 28, and they said, “Men of Israel, this is the man that teaches all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place,” now it seems to me that we had that issue back with Stephen, didn’t we. The Torah and the temple, here we are again, same issue years later. “… and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and has polluted the holy place.” This guy is not only going in here, he’s brought Greeks in here.
Verse 29, however, clarifies what actually had happened versus what the mob thought had happened, “For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus, an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.” Paul did not bring him in the temple, so they got false information, they must have watched television. Verse 30, “And all the city was moved, and the people ran together,” this is not just a few dozen people here, this is a large scale violent mob of thousands of people, “and they gook Paul, and drew him out of the temple, and at once the doors were shut.  And as they were about to kill him,” this shows you how close, when God had called the church to go to Japheth, the church right at this point was almost stopped cold. Had Paul been killed we wouldn’t be sitting here tonight. This is how razor thin the spread of the church was. They were almost ready to kill him.
Now back to our Fortress of Antonio, now you will notice who is responsible for saving the gospel, Jews or Gentile military? Isn’t this a revelation? The Jews are rioting and the hand of salvation that God uses is the Roman army. Exactly opposite to what the zealots thought would happen, they hated the Romans, they were going to have freedom for the Jews, freedom for the Jews, the oppressors, the Roman occupiers, colonizers, and yet God used the Roman occupiers and colonizers to save Paul’s life and to extend the church. Remember, the book of Acts is the record of the work of the Holy Spirit. And humanly speaking it apparently was put together by Luke for Paul’s trial in Rome. Of course scholars who are skeptics say well sure, verses 31, 32, 33, that’s just put in there by Luke to make the Romans look good, because after all, Paul’s going to be tried in a Roman court and he’s got to make the Romans look good. Nobody has to make the Romans look good, the Romans were involved in the crucifixion of Christ, but verses 31-32 are a major point that’s being made here, saying that divine institution number four, which is civil government, you can say that civilization government sometimes is cruel, yes it is, sometimes it violates people’s rights, yes it does, but the point is, that that’s the only defense the human race has against mob violence and anarchy.
Verse 31, “And as they went about to kill him, tidings came to the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar,” and this wasn’t a little small band of thirty soldiers, these guys are probably in the thousands, a couple thousand people here, well-trained. So there might have been 30,000 Jews in the mob but 2,000 Romans could take on 30,000 Jews anytime. These guys were trained. You read the Roman training doctrines and part of their physical training, because remember they didn’t have patrol cars, they didn’t have tanks, they didn’t have armor, these guys had to walk and the training manuals, the ones that have survived down through history say that the Roman soldiers were expected, I think it was three or four times a month or something, to do a twenty mile march in daytime, twelve hours or less. And a quick time march had to be twenty-four miles. And the soldiers had to do that periodically. As I said, I forgot whether it’s three or four times a month or when, but they had drills, and that’s how the Roman army moved, on foot. That’s why they build roads. And these guys had drills with their armor and everything else.
One of the stories was an interesting story several months back… [blank spot] [Victor] Krulak pointed out something very interesting about the Roman army that sort of pertains. We hear the word “integrity” and Krulak says have you ever thought where the word integrity comes from? He said let me tell you about where integrity came from. He said the word comes from a Latin word, integritas, and it has to do with the breastplate on the Roman soldier, and early on, before the Caesars corrupted the whole thing, when the Roman army was at its grand, grand quality, the centurion, who would inspect his soldiers, as he walked down the soldiers would slam their fist against their breastplate and yell “integritas.” The point why they would slam their fist like that was because they didn’t like to wear the breastplate, it was heavy, hot, a pain in the neck, but the point was the officer’s wanted to make sure these guys had it on, it’s like body armor, and integritas meant you had your body armor on.
Later on there was a group of Roman soldiers that were then taken out of the army and made to be a body guard for the Caesars. They were known in history as the Praetorian Guard. When the Caesars became dominant and became the people of power, instead of the Republic of Rome it was the Caesars, everything centered on the Caesars. At that point the salute changed from slamming the chest and saying integritas, meaning I am a soldier, I have my armor, I’m ready to roll, it was holding the fist out to Caesar, hail, and Krulak pointed out when that happened, the army lost integritas, because no longer was it the issue of whether the weapons were ready, it was now the political thing, we support Caesar, so the most prominent issue was the loyalty of the soldier to Caesar, not the loyalty to the army unit for his weapons. And he went on to describe that.
That gives you the background of some of these guys, this band mentioned in verse 31. That’s the kind of guys that are here now, they are well-trained professional soldiers. Verse 32, “Who immediately,” the officer in charge, “took soldiers and centurions,” by the way, notice that he took centurions, that tells you how many people, centurions were senior officers, so if he took centurions, plural, he took their units. The centurions were going down there because they had alerted unit 2, unit 3, unit 4, [and] unit 5, “I want you down there, I want you down there now. We’ve got something hot going on in the temple.” So here they go, “took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them; and when they saw the chief captain of the soldiers, they left beating Paul,” boy, you bet they did. The Roman army had a lot of respect, and when they saw the soldiers coming with a two-edged sword, breastplates, running, probably in formation, they said I think we can do this another day.
From this point on in the book of Acts, from this point on to the end of the book of Acts it’s all centered on Rome. Rome is in charge, Paul has to dialogue, yes, he talks to some Jews, but the basic dialogue is always Paul moving his way back to Europe, not just to Europe per se, but back to the headquarters of Europe, which is Rome. Acts 28 brings Paul back to Rome. Look at what happens in Acts 21:33, “Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains, and demanded who he was, and what he had done.  And some cried one thing, some another among the multitudes, and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the barracks,” he couldn’t interrogate him out in the middle of the street. He had to bring him some place where there was some quiet. By the way, he didn’t call the ACLU for fifteen attorneys. The soldiers did it.
Verse 35, “And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers because of the violence of the people.” He’s carried along by the soldiers, these guys were in tight formation and they got him out of there. Paul’s life was saved by a military force. Verse 36, “For the multitude of the people followed after him, crying, Away with him!  As Paul was to be led into the barracks, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Can you speak Greek?  Are you not that Egyptian, who before these days made an uproar, and led out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?” See, they had all kind of false messiahs and the Egyptian in verse 38 is one of the false Christ’s. So obviously the Jews were all upset over that issue, and so the Romans, they had their spy system but there were so many things going on in the Jewish community they didn’t keep track of every little thing, so this guy figures okay, here’s another trouble-maker, let’s find out what his problem is.
Verse 39, “But Paul said, I am a man who is a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak to the people.” So he goes on and he speaks in the Hebrew tongue, verse 40. By the way, notice Paul is bilingual, the Roman army soldier who speaks Latin and Greek understands Paul, and then in verse 40 Luke notes that when he goes to speak to the mob he speaks to them in Hebrew.
Now he starts 22:1, “Men, brethren, and fathers,” just like Stephen did, isn’t this amazing, it’s almost a recapitulation of Acts 7. Verse 2, “And when they heard that he spoke in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept more silence,” and he goes on to say… he gives his testimony, he talks about the Damascus Road experience in verse 5-7 and then in verse 10 he talks about “And I said, What shall I do, Lord?” And then verse 14, “And he said, The God of our fathers has chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will,” that’s what the church told him. Verse 15, “For thou shalt be his witness unto all men,” ALL men, not just Jews, all men, “of what you have seen and heard. And he talks about his baptism. And then he describes how the Jerusalem thing goes on, he gives more information, verse 20, “And when the blood of thy martyr, Stephen, was shed, I was standing by.” Notice he says, “thy martyr.” Do you know why he’s saying “thy?” Because these are Diaspora believers, Stephen came out from among them. “… and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.  And he said unto me, Depart; for I will send thee far from here unto the Gentiles.”
Verse 22, “And they gave him audience up to that word,” and then it’s oh-oh, now “they lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live.” These were believers, the first century church at work. Verse 23, “And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,  The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the fortress, and bade that he should be examined by scourging, that he might know for what reason they cried so against him.  And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?  When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what you do, this guy is a Roman citizen.  Then the chief captain came, and said to him, Tell me, are you a Roman? He said, Yea.  And the chief captain answered, With a great sum I obtained this freedom. And Paul said, But I was born free.”
Now notice something, the Romans were centered on law and principle. Amazing, they really were, and here’s an example of this. The guy knew his law, and he knew that he’d get in big hot water to abuse a Roman citizen. So Paul let that be known. So it goes on and on, from verse 29, 30, you can read Acts 23, you can read Acts 24, 25, it’s all Rome, Rome, Rome, Rome, going to get a trial, he’s going to talk to Agrippa, he’s going to talk to some of these guys, but it’s basically I’m headed to Rome because I am a Roman citizen and Rome has authority over me.
So it’s a rather surprising thing that happens here. Acts 21 is really a fascinating passage in church history, because it shows when believers were out of line, filled with legalism, it took unbelieving Roman military to bring order into that. What a shameful rebuke to the church that they couldn’t conduct their business and had to have unbelievers come in and maintain order. It reminds you of these stores you read about when some church meeting gets out of hand and you have to call the police, a great Christian testimony. The same thing happened right here.
Finally, in Acts 28, as I mentioned in the notes, you have this sentence. Go over to 28, here Paul is in Rome, he’s going to witness again, verse 17, “Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” And he gives his testimony, and then he says, verse 22, “But we desire to heave of you what you think; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against,” by the way, notice that these are people talking to Paul now. Verse 23, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to into his lodging, to whom he kept on expounding and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets, from morning until evening.” Talk about a witnessing opportunity, this went on day after day like this. So he kept on doing it, in this case it’s one day from a morning until evening, but we can suppose this wasn’t the first or last time it happened.
Now verse 24, here’s the response to the greatest evangelist in church history, “And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.  And when they agreed not among themselves,” and that’s a key, verse 25 is a historical observation that the Jewish community could not agree on this matter, they were neither hot nor cold, they didn’t totally reject Christ, but they couldn’t all accept Him either. “And when they agreed not among themselves they departed, after Paul had spoken one word, ‘Well spoke the Holy Spirit by Isaiah, the prophet, unto our fathers,  Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive.” And he quotes that Isaiah passage which was given before the exile when the Jewish nation went into exile after Isaiah kept giving them the Word, giving them the Word, giving them the Word, giving them the Word, over and over and over and over and they said no, we don’t want it, we don’t want it, we don’t want it, we don’t want it, and finally okay, exile for you guys.
Now look what happens, verse 28, “Be it known, therefore, unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it.” So this is the end of Acts, this is the end of the separation of the church from Israel. You can see how God worked, He used all kinds of means, He used dreams, He used visions, He used persecution, and he used an unbelieving military. But over it all God was sovereign. God said “you will be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.” And when you have a group of people who can’t get with the program, God bypasses them—moves on to somewhere else.
And it’s sad, Colson, if you heard Breakpoint, he was going on about Amsterdam; Amsterdam is the whore house of Europe, as anybody in the military knows, but it’s now become the euthanasia place, where people are put to death, sometimes without their permission, by the doctors. And he says one Dutch woman came to me, she said she had a sick baby and didn’t dare bring it to the hospital because she couldn’t trust the doctors to keep it alive because if it was too sick they would kill it. So she brought it in for the third treatment or something and she walked out of the hospital room down the hall to come back and her baby was dead and a doctor runs out of the room and says I didn’t do it. It’s pretty sad when the health care people have to say I didn’t do it when your kid dies. This is Holland.
In 1901, do you know who was the Prime Minister of Holland? Abraham Kuyper, who was not only a believer, but Abraham Kuyper wrote the standard theological text on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Abraham Kuyper started a university in the Netherlands to teach the Word of God in every area: mathematics, law, jurisprudence, politics, [and] literature. And Holland got a chance for the Word of God over and over and over and they rejected. Somewhere between 1909 and 1970–1980 something went wrong in Holland. Here is a people who were invaded by the Nazis. The Nazis practiced genocide and the Dutch were the ones that saved the Jews from the holocaust, and now they’re doing it to not only their babies but their elderly people. That’s how fast history can turn.
It’s a sad day, but when you see a group of people who have been exposed over and over to the Word of God, and turn their back on it, God oftentimes says okay, fine, we’ll go somewhere else with the gospel. North Africa at one time was the heartbeat of Christian. Augustine, Alexandria, largest library in the ancient world, today you can count on one hand the number of Christians in North Africa, it’s all under Islam. They had the witness and turned away. New England, at one time preaching the Word of God in New England like it had nowhere on the planet before in church history, and then came the Unitarians and unbelief and Harvard and Yale and everything else and it went down the drain. And the Christian ministries in New England to this day, the only successful Christian ministries in New England are transplants, people that have had to move because of business or something, moved into the area, they’re the only ones that are flourishing. The native people have been there for centuries are just hard legalistic don’t want to hear the gospel. And that’s what happens, so it’s a very sobering picture we see when God turns away.
If God can do that in verse 28, and turn away from His own people, imagine what He can do to Gentile nations who have a chance to hear and blow it off.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s an interesting point; the text shows clearly James was involved on the front end of this thing, and then he kind of fades out after the thing gets out of control. When you look at the text, these are neat questions, and they’ve intrigued me, too, and I ask those same kinds of questions. Unfortunately the text so often doesn’t tell us the answer to the question, it kind of leaves it. So then I say well, God, why the heck couldn’t you have just filled us in a little bit here, you kind of left everything up in the air, and then I have to think well, wait a minute, the Scriptures are sufficient to every good work, so if the Holy Spirit left it up in the air then that’s where the Holy Spirit wanted to leave it. So if that’s the way the Holy Spirit wanted to leave it, what is He saying to us? And I think what He’s saying to us, I think there is a message in the fact that it’s left up in the air, I think He’s basically saying the leadership of the Jerusalem church failed and that what you have is the church migrating to Europe.
The church has never been strong in the Middle East since. Think about it. When has the church ever had a vibrant testimony after this period in history? It hasn’t, and it represents a failure on the part of the believers. If you think about the theology involved and the failure, what was going on theologically and doctrinally, it’s scary, because what it is is legalism. You had mentioned about the Galatians issue, when we were talking about the Mosaic Law and I mentioned yeah, you can to back to the Mosaic Law for insights, and how the political community can gather insights, and that’s true, it can be used as wisdom, but you can see that the church had a bad taste in its mouth over this issue of legalism, and it’s lasted for centuries. And every time the church drifts back into it, it comes out in the same way. This is why where grace is not exalted and the Holy Spirit doesn’t have freedom to work because the church has this preconceived notion of the boundaries of the Holy Spirit’s working, in the sense of this legalism, then you get all kinds of problems.
And the Jews that finally made it through all this were wonderful. Hebrew Christians have been wonderful, there’s wonderful Hebrew Christians, to this day we still have them, and they face a big problem. My wife and I had known a couple in Baltimore, the fellow’s wife is an Orthodox Jewish girl, and he said when she became a believer, a Messianic Jew, boy, that was it, her dad didn’t talk to her for six or seven years. You’re my daughter, forget that baby, you’re out of here! The issue was the Torah, the issue was because she was a Messianic Jew and accepted Christ, and because she accepted Christ she wasn’t going through all the little orthodoxy things that therefore she had apostatized as a Jew, and that’s not true. She’s just as much a Jew today as she was the day she became a Christian. So that’s this heritage.
I think the big picture in Acts is that God is just bypassing Jerusalem. It’s sad, but He’s bypassing them because they bypassed Him. In fact, I didn’t have time to point this out, but there’s a passage, in Acts 21 or 22 but the Greek is they laid hands on him, and I noticed that the same Greek expression is used in Matthew for when they laid hands on Jesus. Here’s Luke writing, from a human point of view he’s selecting his own vocabulary, and why do you suppose he describes the assault on Paul with the vocabulary that is used in the gospels for the assault on Jesus. I think the Holy Spirit has a message there too that what’s happening is Paul is basically acting as a surrogate for Jesus, and in rejecting Paul they’re rejected Christ again, because they’re rejected His representatives. So you have the next step that happens in the history of the church, after Acts 28 you know what happens, nasty business.
Question asked: Clough replies: Well, because God’s moral character doesn’t change. It’s immutable, I am the same yesterday, today and forever, and that moral character radiates its righteous standards in all kinds of ways. One is in our heart, in all the dispensations. Romans 1:32 says not just murder, if you look in Romans 1 it says, there’s about thirty things that God lists and it says who know that those do such things are worthy of death. That’s the sense that all men have, that’s Romans 1:32, so what that says is the human heart, when it hasn’t fooled itself, when we haven’t covered it over with all kinds of fancy excuses…, the classic one is the murder trial in California several decades ago called the Twinkies defense, please excuse so and so from murdering somebody because their blood sugar was high, and ever since it’s been known as the Twinkies defense.
The issue here is that there’s always law with a little “l”. That never changes, and the other thing that never changes is, previously instituted authority never changes, and previously instituted authority from Genesis 9 is the fourth divine institution which is civil government. I remember I was called to a jury thing and I was walking back to the parking garage and this guy was walking with me, the jury pool was dismissed, and this guy was saying well, they’re probably never accept me, I don’t believe in capital punishment. So I quickly returned well, they probably wouldn’t accept me because I do believe in capital punishment. But the point is that capital punishment is, if you read Romans 9 the right to take life is what makes civil government civil government. There’s no other right. The patriarchs had rights over their children to discipline them, to take property away and corporeal punish. The new thing that happened was capital punishment that was given to the state.
People, because they say we live in the age of grace, etc., yes, we do, I’ve been in jail ministries, we try to work with people. But the point is that the basis, the moral and ethical basis of the state’s power has not changed. And there’s a reason why it hasn’t changed, because ultimately the fourth divine institution is going to be absorbed and run by whom? Jesus Christ. And when He comes back He’s going to be using capital punishment. So that institution is kept alive, kept alive, kept alive, kept alive over the centuries, and that authority hinges right there. If you can take life you can do anything else. That’s why the state can take property.
If you look in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, I don’t like this, I resent it deeply in the sense that property under Gentile power of the four kingdoms is totally the power of the state. That’s why you don’t have title to your own property; you really don’t, because there’s something called the law of eminent domain. If they want to expand I-95 through your backyard, they have the right to expand it, and compensate you, there’s just compensation, “just” depending on your real estate guy. But the state has the right to take your property away from you regardless if it’s been titled to your family for five generations, that’s their right. Where does that come from? Most people don’t know where it comes from. It’s written in the Bible, in Daniel 2. What does the Holy Spirit say through Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar? I’ve given you all people under your hand and I’ve given you all their land.
Question asked: Clough replies: The wisdom literature, by which we designate …, Daniel, by the way is in the wisdom corpus of the Old Testament canon, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, [and] Psalms. Those Books, wisdom characterized the Mosaic Law also because in Deuteronomy 4 God says after I’ve given you the Law, O Israel, and I’ve given you a Law that is more wise than all the other nations. It was the framework of the Law. See, you can’t have wisdom unless you have a culture that breeds it. Wisdom is something that is corporately produced; it’s not just a person as an individual. And the whole idea, remember wisdom literature culminated when? In the golden era of Solomon. So it is as though God built this Jewish culture, brought it into the Promised Land, yeah, it was full of warts and sin, but God brought it into the Promised Land and corporately they had a social life as well as an individual life, and out of this corpus superintended by God, came a flourishing culture. It’s the manifestation of a divinely oriented culture that is wise. So Proverbs and these other books become the educational material of a wise society.
Someone says I can see why the Jews would be having this problem: Clough says: Absolutely, it’s not easy for them. [same person says something else] But actually Paul was not ever saying abandon the wisdom and the good things of Judaism. He never did that, because if you look back, the night we were talking about law, Paul is excerpting from the Law and the wisdom sections. He’s taking the Law and applying it to the church in a wisdom way, and you can see where he does it. For example, he talks about pastors being paid and he uses the law for animals, prevention of cruelty to animals, and there was a law to talk about pastors, you know, an ox can eat while he’s doing his thing, etc. Paul uses that, Paul goes back and a financial thing. There’s a passage in Corinthians where he says parents should lay up for their children, not children for their parents, and he’s applying it again to salary issues, and he’s saying look, I’m a church leader, I don’t want to corrupt the congregation who cannot afford to pay me. So he says you guys are the children in this spiritual relationship, I’m the parent, so it’s really my responsibility to support myself here, because I don’t want to be a burden to my children.
Now he’s getting that out of the Mosaic Law Code. So you see, if you read the epistles, and the best way to do this is if you have one of these study Bibles look at the margins where they refer to Old Testament passages, you’ll see how frequently he’s doing that. He’s doing it all the time. So there’s an example of yeah, he was applying the Law to the church, but never, never, never in the sense of that Jewish pride that if I keep it that makes me points with God. There was never that attitude.
Someone says something: Clough says: Yeah, and sanctification, because if you’re saying that you can’t be sanctified unless you keep the Law. We Christians have this tendency to drift from one extreme to the other, and we all do, it’s law and grace. The problem is that when we get hung up, we get so uptight about keeping this law, oh, am I violating this, am I doing this, you drive yourself nuts after a while, get a life, relax, and fall back on grace. But grace always has substance because if we are oriented to grace we are reminded of the fact, why do we need grace? Because we’re sinners, and grace comes through a very costly thing called the blood atonement of Jesus Christ. So grace is sobering, but grace is also a recognition that, like Peter said in Acts 15, remember the dialogue, he said why are you guys laying this on the Gentiles when we couldn’t keep the blasted thing, and you’re going to lay this on the Gentiles. The Law aggravates when it’s presented as Law. When it’s properly presented, and I think even the Ten Commandments, if you look at the Ten Commandments when God spoke the Ten Commandments into existence, He very graciously put a preview on before He started, remember what He said? “I am the Lord God that brought you out of the land of Egypt,” in other words, what’s the insinuation? That you ought to be grateful, I saved you. I did the work first. And then if you think in terms of the framework, what comes first, Exodus or Sinai. Exodus? So what comes first? Salvation. After salvation we deal with the issue of what does God want me to do, and there’s Sinai and the Law. Even the sequence of events protects you. Sinai comes after Exodus, not before Exodus. They weren’t saved by keeping the Law in Egypt.
Question asked: Clough replies: Good point, we’re looking at the Law through Christ, that’s a good safe way to use it.
We’ve run out of time.