Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© 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 185 – Gentiles Coming into the Church
10 Jan 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
To get perspective on this section that we’re working through on the emergence of the church from Israel, I think maybe the best way to kind of get a relief from what we’re doing, just momentarily, is to turn to Matthew 22 because Matthew 22 is a parable in which Jesus is predicting what’s going on here in the book of Acts. I think you’ve already seen from the three steps that we’ve had so far in the emergence of the Church, the book of Acts is anything but a simple book. It’s a historical book that bridges across a transition from Israel to the Church. And it’s not necessarily an easy book to interpret. It is a historical account of the work of the Holy Spirit through many different things.
One of the benefits of paying attention to the text of Acts is that it’s a classic and perfect interpretation of how the Holy Spirit works, and I think you’re already seeing that the Holy Spirit, while He can do the miraculous things, the really miraculous significant things that He does are more mundane, they’re not the hocus-pocus mystical kind of thing, rather they’re a public reasoned out set of circumstances driving men into the Scripture to derive from the Scripture a modus operandi of responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 22, the first few verses, that’s that parable that Jesus told; we’ve referred to it two or three times but it bears repeating. It says, “And Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables, saying,  the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast and they were unwilling to come.” So the first invitation goes to those who had been invited, He calls to them. And this is a picture of the disciples calling the people of the nation Israel to come and accept the King. Then it says, “Again he sent out other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, ‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.’” So it’s a feast, a celebration. This would be the coming of the Kingdom that was anticipated in the Old Testament. That’s how it would have been understood.
Verse 5, “But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,  and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.  And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.” It goes on to describe the dressing of the people who came without [proper] dress.
The point is that there is this invitation that goes out and you’ll see in verse 3, “he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited,” then in verse 4 “he sent out other slaves,” and the second set of slaves in verses 4-5 get killed in verse 6. That’s interesting because at no point during Jesus earthly ministry with the disciples going into all of Israel was anybody killed. Jesus was killed eventually but none of the disciples. The killing occurs when? In the book of Acts; in the book of Acts is the first notice of this killing. So what we have here is the second invitation, and you’ll notice the progress. If you draw a time line in the parable there’s the first invitation that goes out, that’s verse 3. Then there’s the second set of slaves that go out and they go out to the same people the first set of slaves went to, “other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited,” same message to the same group of people. “But they paid no attention and” they killed them. “But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.” What does that sound like? AD 70—the destruction of the temple.
So here’s the destruction of the temple, AD 70. And then it says, now you go out “to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast,” a totally different group of people being invited here. Now we have this group that is invited and that’s verse 9, so this parable is sort of an outline. The problem is that verse 3 encompasses the time of the Gospels, and verse 4 and 9 is the book of Acts. Acts actually was finished before AD 70, but the idea here is that the first part of the book of Acts you have the second call to Israel, and progressively in the book of Acts you have a transition where Israel takes less and less of a position and the church takes a larger position. The gospel increasingly goes to the Gentiles as the book of Acts works forward in time. And the King.., when this is happening, even though in AD 70 the armies come in and destroy Jerusalem, the decision to destroy Jerusalem obviously God is making in response to verse 4. It may not occur until then, but the point is that God is going to discipline Israel. Why? Because she turned against Messiah and she’s had two invitations.
Remember the Old Testament and we went through Joseph’s story and we went through Stephen’s recitation of the Old Testament? Does the theme “two” come to mind, the two times in Joseph. Every time Joseph had a miracle, remember it was two. That goes back to a law of evidence in the Scripture, by the mouth of how many witnesses? By the mouth of two or three witnesses. So you’ll see this repetition, God repeats; He’s a gracious God and He repeats, He goes to the last mile in giving evidence. That’s Matthew 22 and that gives some background to the book of Acts.
Back to Acts, we’ve gone through the first stage where the Holy Spirit makes [can’t understand word] that was stage one; the Holy Spirit makes the difference. When the Holy Spirit came the Holy Spirit came upon those who had responded to Jesus Christ, and immediately the Holy Spirit does His work. We said that you can summarize the work by at least six different categories, much more than that, but six are easy to remember and they are a way of counting our blessings. These are concepts that will fortify your soul by just reflecting upon them and thinking, you know, here I am, I’m regenerated. The whole world may be against me, this may be a bad week, all kinds of problems, but I know that I’ve been regenerated. What was the picture we saw behind this one? The picture was creation—that the God who spoke the universe into existence is also the One who regenerates. If you are a believer God has done in you an act of regeneration that is comparable to the creation of the universe. Does that make us seem significant or not? Talk about modern self-esteem, right away it’s kind of nice to know that you are the recipient of regeneration.
We also know indwelling; the Holy Spirit has chosen to indwell each and every believer. What was the image behind indwelling? The temple, the meeting place of God. So you don’t have to go to a mountaintop to meet God, the temple in the New Testament is both said to be each individual is a temple, that’s 1 Corinthians 6, and the Church itself is a temple, not the building but the gathering of the people, and this is why salvation can only come by contact, meeting God in the temple. Think about how any person on earth is saved. Isn’t it always through the content of the gospel? That comes from where? Christians. So there always has to be contact with Christians somewhere, somehow, some way in order for salvation to happen. Isn’t that interesting and encouraging in the light of the fact that no matter what the political power structure is, no matter what the world leaders are saying, no one can get saved unless they come into contact with believers, either historically through the Scriptures that are written by believers, through tracts, through people’s lives, through personal witnessing, somehow. The way of salvation bypasses all the high-fluting political structures and all the grand corporations, all the great CEOs. None of those are channels of salvation. This is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Then we said the Holy Spirit baptizes us, or identifies us with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom; that’s a work that is done only by the Holy Spirit and it separates and discriminates. By the way, something else in all this to remember is in our time it’s considered politically incorrect to discriminate. We have all kinds of problems with this in our society right now, because of legitimate causes; I’m not saying that all discrimination is good. I’m simply saying you cannot say that all discrimination is bad. What does law do? Doesn’t law by its very existence define a criminal, and then doesn’t the law therefore discriminate? I sent this to some of the legislators in the House of Representatives here, that was back a year or two ago when this discrimination thing was coming up and I said you know, you people discriminate all the time, every time you make a piece of legislation that defines a punishment for certain acts you’ve discriminated, you’ve discriminated on a behavioral basis. So law inherently is discriminatory.
Salvation is discriminatory; so we can’t be afraid of discrimination. Some discrimination is illegitimate, other discrimination is all right. The spectacle we face since Sept. 11 of everybody getting treated like they’re a terrorist, grandmothers and eleven year olds taking their shoes off and doing all kinds of things, I mean, the police have to do that because they have to play the game, political respectability, but so far I haven’t seen too many grandmothers blowing up air bases and eleven year old children carrying bombs into the airplane. But we all know that there’s a profile, and the point is that that’s not bad. Where it becomes bad is when it is used to attack somebody just because of the profile. In other words, make a judgment profile is just examining and raising your warning signals. The Holy Spirit discriminates and profiles right here. The whole salvation plan is discriminatory profiling and politically incorrect.
The other thing is, the Holy Spirit seals every believer, so we are eternally secure. You were sealed unto the day of redemption, and that’s a truth that we can rejoice in and be glad. Our lives are not contingent upon some factor once we have been regenerated. Then spiritual gifts. God has invested capabilities for production in the Church Age, and every believer has some spiritual gift. Then we know the Holy Spirit makes personal intercession for each one of us in a personal way, tailored to each one of us, Romans 8.
So these are all the things the happened and these are unknown in this form in the Old Testament. This is a new thing, so that’s why we said that’s stage one. That’s all new stuff, peculiar to the Church Age. Then we said number two, stage two in the early book of Acts is where we have… page 59 of the notes, and that was the recognition, Acts 6-7, this is where men began to recognize that something was brewing here that was new. We spent three weeks going through Stephen’s Acts 7 address. And in that brilliant address by a deacon, who had studied Scripture, but a deacon who was a member of a certain kind of a Jewish body, the Diaspora, he was a Diaspora Jew, and that circumstances compelled him to recognize faster than the Palestinian Jews what was going on. Diaspora Jews had much more of a - simply they were more well-traveled, they were more cosmopolitan culturally. So it was a circumstance.
The thing we want to recognize about this is that the Holy Spirit uses details of everyday life to illuminate us to what He’s doing. And clearly, just because of the fact of his cultural background, he, through those set of circumstances, was led to the truth faster than other people were. The Holy Spirit uses providential factors in waking people up and moving us along. And it’s a warning to us that what happens in the periphery of life often times is instrumental in leading us into the will of God. Acts certainly is a testimony to this; these people weren’t sitting around after the Holy Spirit started doing this and say well gee, let’s all sit down and have an investigation of what the Holy Spirit is doing. It didn’t happen: it happened far more indirectly than that. It happened because one deacon happened to put it all together and was led to a public hearing, etc.
Then we have stage three, we’ve had stage one, Pentecost; stage two the recognition, and now in stage three… first you have a work of God, then you have a reflection upon the work of God, and now there’s another work of God. See, God paces us, He gives us so much stuff and He allows us time to reflect, and then He’ll start something else. This is how the Holy Spirit leads the Church historically. So in step three now Gentiles explicitly enter the Church. There’s no getting around it, and that’s why page 62, with the “Penetration of Samaria,” you have a clear cut illustration, you have one of the mini-Pentecosts, and then on page 63 you have outright Gentiles. So it’s quite clear now that the Gentiles are coming into the Church.
Our problem is we read the book of Acts some twenty centuries later and we know how the story came out, so we tend not to [can’t understand word] with the people that were walking through this process, because we’ve got it all down, we’re looking backwards. But what you have to do to become empathetic listeners to the Holy Spirit here is you’ve got to kind of in your head put yourself as a Jewish believer who was used to the temple, who would go to the temple. You were raised Jewish, you knew the Old Testament. This Messianic thing was a new thing in your life, but that which was most familiar to you was your Jewish customs, every way you’ve been taught from when you were a little kid about the Torah. And now there were these things and you’re not in a comfortable zone, it’s out of your comfort zone.
In stage four we’re going to see that the results of step three… we have a work of God, reflection upon the work, we have another work of God and we’re going to have reflection upon that work So we’re going to have now more recognition. Whereas step two was recognition of the Church’s worldwide mission, something bigger was going on here that wasn’t just Palestine. The Church, at this point, and we’re going to turn to Acts 15, because this is a major passage like Acts 7, now we come to a passage of Scripture where the Church has to decide, “What do we do with the Gentile believers?” So here’s the question: You have Jewish believers here, there’s no problem with the Jewish believers because they are following the Torah. They did not stop following the Torah when they became a believer. The problem is what do you do now with the Gentile believers? What’s their relationship to the Law? By definition they’re not Jews, they’re not part of the house of Israel, so what do you do with them.
So again here’s the process of the Holy Spirit leading; this takes years, this is a “years” process here, this is not something that happened overnight. It takes historical time for this to happen, just like it takes us time to learn. When you first become a Christian you don’t learn everything, every day we learn, it takes time. Some of us are slower learners than others but that’s all right, it takes time to learn this and that’s why in any given local congregation you’ve got a problem. I don’t know any pastor who hasn’t come to dread the problem, but in any congregation of Christians you have adolescences, young adults and older Christians. How do you get them all together? That’s a perennial problem, because the young baby Christians want to do this, they’re all excited about it, they don’t know too many things, they’ll do weird stuff, and then you take the older Christians and they’re going like this, what are these kids doing, and hey, they’re just kids, that’s all right, they’ll grow up, you don’t squash them, you have to let them go out. And the adolescence, that’s when they get fatheaded, think they know everything, and you know they don’t bother to listen to anybody. So you just do what a parent does, bite your tongue, and pray, and let them reap the consequences. That’s the only way they’re going to learn, because you’re not going to teach them anything.
It’s interesting, I have a friend who is a long time teacher and he’s recently come across some very interesting material in which he notes that prior to 1890 there was never a concept of adolescence in this country. The whole idea of adolescence is something that happened after 1890. That should immediately cue us to wait a minute, what happened in 1890. They had a few writers, philosophers of education who invented the term adolescence. Well, this guy was so intrigued by this he said wait a minute, what did we do we with 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old people prior to 1890, if we didn’t treat them like adolescence how did we treat them? And the answer comes back if you look at the history, is that there were only two statuses, kids and adults. And when they hit their teens they were expected to be young adults, there wasn’t any zone of twilight here where you can act like a kid, you know, you’re a big person but you act like a kid. That wasn’t acceptable.
So this teacher, the friend of mine who teaches seminars all across the country, said he started doing an experiment because he goes to these Christians groups, he works with ICR, and so he started doing an experiment with his workshops, and that was when he had middle school and high school kids in his classes he’d start off with something like saying, well there aren’t such things as teenagers, I don’t recognize teenagers, I recognize children and adults and you can choose which one you want to be. Most of you look like you’re adults and I’m going to not only handle you as adults, I expect adult behavior from you. And the other thing that he found out before 1890 was that it was commonly assumed that young adults learn how to be adult from older adults. I mean, marvelous stuff here, and this has all gotten buried with special cases of the adolescence and the special problems of the adolescence, and isn’t it amazing that historically that would never have occurred until 1890. That’s a neat illustration to me, it pays to know your history, it unravels a lot of this hocus-pocus stuff.
Now we come to Acts 15 and we’re going to deal with Gentile believers. This is a big problem for the Church. If they didn’t face the issue of the Law, they sure have to face it now, and the question is what is the function and purpose of the Law? This is not easy here; there are still major disagreements in contemporary evangelicals about this whole issue, what about the Law? Everybody agrees, everybody that is who submits to the authority of Scripture, agrees that the law was never given as a way of salvation. It was given to challenge people to live by these standards so that in trying to live by these standards if they weren’t looking to the Lord to empower them, they would wind up defeated lives and it would awaken them to their need for a transformed nature and an empowered nature. So the Law always performed that function, Old Testament, New Testament, wherever. Wherever you have a rule the sin nature wants to violate it. And that’s just endemic.
One of my friends who is a Hebrew Christian tells the story of back when they had the World’s Fair in New York, whenever that was, his mission, which was a mission to the Jews, had an exhibit, and the Jews were not coming out to the exhibit, so the guy gathered together to pray, hey, you know we’re Messianic Jews and we don’t see too many… you know there’s enough Jews in New York to populate Israel three times over, so what’s the story. Well they started praying about it and then a funny thing happened. After they started praying about it, taking it to the Lord, one of the rabbis, prominent rabbi in New York City happened to go by the stand, and he got so ticked off that he went back and told all the synagogues to stay away from it. So now all the Jews came out to the exhibit because the rabbis told them don’t go out to the exhibit. And they had a wonderful ministry after that. So it’s the old story that when you tell someone not to do something they’ll always do it. That’s just perverse.
Now that’s what the Law does, it stimulates that rebellion so they can come out into the open so that people can look to the Lord to solve the problem. But we must also remember another thing about the Law. The Law in itself is not bad. We’ll see some verses about that. The Law is not bad, the Law is an exposition of the will of God, and the Mosaic Law is an exposition of the will of God, not just for the individual but for a nation, for a society. There are social ethics embedded in the Law. And one of the weaknesses in our evangelical Christianity is that we have ignored what righteousness means socially. We have largely spent our time worrying about what righteousness means as individuals and that’s okay, but we have failed to understand that the Law of Moses to Israel defines economics. I mean, who would think today in the average church that loans and interest rates are subject to divine control, but they are in the Old Testament.
Of course in the Middle Ages they distorted that, but the point is that such simple things like that, who would think that righteousness deals with sewers, that there were public health provisions in the Mosaic Law Code. Who would think that righteousness pertains to handling welfare for poor people? But it does. So righteousness as it’s defined under the Law of Moses pertains not just to individuals, it pertains to families, it pertains to society, it pertains to education. There are rules about education in the book of Deuteronomy, who does the educating, what philosophies they approach education with. There’s a whole panorama out there and I think in our Bible teaching churches we’ve lost a lot of perspective on the holiness and righteousness of God and the healing part, the empowering part of that because we don’t ever go through the Mosaic Law.
When I was a pastor I spent the first year and a half of my ministry going through the book of Deuteronomy, and when I started that people said oh man, what are you going through that for. By the time we got through the first four or five months people stopped saying that, because all of a sudden it was all new material, never heard of this before. Oh gee, God’s interested in your finances, God’s interested in how you build houses, safety in construction, God is interested in that, God is interested in this, God is interested in the standards of weights and measures. Is inflation of a currency evil? These are all issues that are involved in the Mosaic Law Code. So when we deal with the Law, understand it had all that background.
Now we come to Acts 15, we’re going to go through this chapter, we probably won’t finish it tonight but we want to get a dose of Acts 15 because here’s the church struggling with what stage three was. What had happened prior to this stage? What had happened in Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 11, [and] Acts 12? It was all the Gentiles coming into the church. So in Acts 15, now the Jews say, hold it, we’ve got to take time out and think this one through. That’s how the Holy Spirit leads. Usually the Holy Spirit will initiate some circumstance and then He wants us to reflect on what He’s done.
Acts 15:1, “And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren,” so now we have saved people, notice it’s “brethren” in verse 1, and by the way, they “came down from Judea,” they came out of the Jewish sector and presumably began to teach people who might have been Gentiles, people who were saved outside of Israel. They came down and said, “‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Now that introduces an interesting theology. They’re saying that circumcision is necessary for salvation. This would be sort of like today we’d teach baptism; certain churches teach baptism is necessary for salvation. So does this mean that Gentiles are excluded salvation wise by the Law, so that the Gentiles have to acknowledge at least the circumcision of the Law? The point about circumcision in verse 1 is that it defines the parameters of citizenship in the nation Israel. You couldn’t be a member of Israel without being circumcised. So if circumcision is necessary to be a member of Israel, and the Church says circumcision is no longer necessary, what has that done by way of defining the Church and defining Israel? The Church must be different. See why verse 1 is important? Because if circumcision is not necessary for salvation, then the Church can’t be Israel.
Now it wasn’t necessary for salvation spiritually in the Old Testament, but it was necessary for salvation in a physical sense of participating as a citizen in the nation Israel. You couldn’t do it if you weren’t circumcised. So if that’s the case, now you can see… because the people who are doing the teaching in verse 1, why do you suppose they taught that? What conceptually was going on in their heads that made them think that they had to say that? Because if these people were professing to follow the Lord and Israel was the chosen nation, doesn’t it follow that they would become a member of the nation Israel? So they were trying to be consistent here, but it led them to a bad theology.
Verse 2, “And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them,” notice this was not handled in a two minute discussion here. Here’s where Christians in the book of Acts…, everybody wants to get back to the book of Acts, oh, there were no arguments then and we didn’t have theological disputes, just go back to the simple book of Acts. Oh yeah, what do you read in verse 2? It wasn’t simple, they had a major theological argument that was going on and it went on and on, this is not a point act, this is something that continued on, a big dissension. Notice the word “great,” it wasn’t just a simple argument; it was a theological conflict between believers. “…had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning the issue.”
Notice how they resolve it, they say okay, we’ve got to get the founders of the movement here, the apostles, remember there’s no Scripture here, no Scriptures have been written yet, so where do you go. You go to the men who had been with Jesus. And of course, this is like going back to the text of the Bible. Verse 3: “Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles and were bringing great joy to all the brethren.” So in verse 3 news of stage three is all over the place, because stage three was an act of the Holy Spirit, bringing Gentiles in, and you notice people are excited about that in verse 3. People are willingly receiving that.
Verse 4, “And when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.” Now they’ve got another problem. In verse 1 the problem was you had to be circumcised to be saved, so now we’ve got a compromise about how you’re saved. In verse 5 a second argument occurs and this is a little bit more subtle. Let’s watch it. “But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed,” so here also are believers but they are believers who in their pre-Christian days were legalists, were very concerned with details of the Torah. So after they’re saved, what’s the deal? They are concerned with details of the Torah. Well who was also a Pharisee? Paul was a Pharisee. So it’s going to be interesting to watch because here you have believers who come out of a Pharisaical background arguing one way. Then you have Paul coming out of a Pharisaical background and he’s going to argue with these guys because Paul is theologically advanced. He’s going to deal with this.
Here’s what they say, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” Now they’re a little more subtle, they don’t really come out and say that you have to be saved, but you have to hear and observe the Law of Moses. So what they want to do is bring the Gentiles, maybe not salvation by the Law but at least sanctification by the Law, or said another way, that the Torah contains the will of God for Gentiles. The problem is going back in history, to whom was the Torah given at Mt. Sinai? It was given to Jews, it wasn’t given to the world, it was given to the Jews. So they’re saying that it’s the will of God for Gentiles. Now how do we deal with that? That still comes up, let’s think about. Let’s not go through this too fast. If they’re saying that Christians should observe the Mosaic Law, they’re in essence saying the Mosaic Law contains the will of God for Christians. What does the Mosaic Law say? It gives instructions for temple worship, it gives instructions for diet, it gives instruction for finances, for education, for other things. Are those things bad? No. So now the problem is if those things aren’t bad, and they were stated by God to Moses, don’t they reveal the will of God, and therefore as believers shouldn’t believers adhere to that?
Today the proponents of the universality of the Mosaic Law are called theonomists. I won’t go into details but the word theonomy here is being used in a narrower sense than historically it has been used in church history. Actually anybody who believes the Bible is theonomous, we use autonomous, man makes the law, or theonomous, God makes the law. But in this case there are a group within the Reformed people, now not all Reformed people are theonomists, there’s a small community inside the Reformed area that are theonomists, and they would hold that stoning, for example, should be done today, that the Law should be applied in its rigor to today’s world. And not just in Israel, it should be applied in all the nations. That’s the position of certain people called theonomists.
Verses 6-7 show what the Church did to handle this problem. “And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter,” so there’s some serious reflection on what’s going on here, because on the one hand everybody is joyful that the Gentiles are being converted. Verse 4 says God is said to be the cause of this, so now they’ve got reports that God is doing something. They also have a problem, however, with what does the Word of God say, and they don’t have any New Testament to go by. The New Testament actually is being generated right here. Acts 15 is an example of why the content of the New Testament came into existence.
Verse 7, “And after there had been much debate,” notice that, same as in verse 2, again “much debate,” so even the apostles had to think this one over; this is not an easy thing for them. “…Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” It talks about a time has elapsed, the idea that Peter had gone out to Cornelius, remember he was led by the Holy Spirit to go to Cornelius, one of the big breakthroughs in Gentile… it wasn’t Paul, it was Peter that started that. He says “in the early days,” I just want you to see that text there to get an idea that it took time for the Christians to think this through. Even the apostles, it took time for them to think it through. “…in the early days God had a choice among you, that by mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” Now what did Peter have by way of previous chapters in Acts, what do you suppose he’s thinking about?
What’s the one event prior to this chapter that stands out in your mind? Remember Cornelius, Acts 10, and Peter had to go there. Remember all the preparation God had to do for Peter, He had to give him a vision, he had to see all the food, he had to say wait a minute, it’s not going to be a kosher deal here, this is a non-kosher party you’re going to be invited to, and you’re going to sit at the table and you’re going to eat non-kosher food Peter. He had to work his way through this. And then he gets there and what does he observe with his eyes and ears? He observes the Holy Spirit doing exactly to Cornelius what the Holy Spirit had done in Acts 2. So now he’s got a real problem, how can you have this? All my life I’m a Jew, all my life I’ve been told that the Jewish people are distinctive from Gentiles, now it looks like God doesn’t make any difference between them. What’s the deal? So Peter was the first one to get into this prior to all this conversion stuff that’s going on in verses 1-4. So that’s why Peter finally, after all this debate that’s going on, he’s the only apostle outside of Paul and Barnabas, those guys, he’s probably the lead guy that’s observed God working among Gentiles of those people that stayed in Jerusalem.
So “Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth…’  And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us.” So that’s Acts 10 plus Acts 2, note that. Those are the two events he has on his mind. Acts 10 and he could have Acts 8 on his mind, but primarily Acts 10, I saw the same thing in Cornelius’ house that we observed in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Notice, “God who knows the heart bore witness to them,” so what insight do you notice in verse 8. What do you observe Peter’s attributing to this process? That in the heart of a Gentile these people can believe, just like Jews. There’s a unity. The human heart of a Gentile, there is no real difference than the human heart of the Jew. Insight!
And now look what he says in verse 9, think of how hard this must have been for Jewish Christians. “And He made no distinction between us and them, giving them the Holy Spirit, cleansing their hearts by faith.” “Cleansing their hearts by faith!” And by the way, that’s an eloquent statement that Peter was not thinking about baptism as something that was a ritual version of regeneration, that it had to be there. Notice the cleansing, of course that has in mind the idea of water cleansing, but he says the cleansing is by faith. When Peter expounds this in 1 Peter 3, you’ll see him do the same thing there. So He made no distinction, He cleansed them by faith.
Verse 10, “Now therefore,” this is a classic, this is really a classic insight, Peter’s come a long, long way. “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” [blank spot] Verse 11, “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” One way of salvation! That glimpse of the one way of salvation was the big breakthrough, right here. Just as back here Stephen recognized that Israel’s existence was rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant for a worldwide mission, that the nation inevitably opposed every advance the Holy Spirit made, now Peter comes along at this point and says look, these guys are saved the same way we are, what is your problem? However we deal with a relationship between Gentiles and the Torah, we have got to hold that no man is saved except by faith, whether Jew or Gentile. So this is an amazing advance here. The gospel is made clear that salvation is only by grace.
Verse 12 reports the result of that little discussion, it says everybody shut up, because they’re all believers, they know the deal, come on, you guys aren’t saved by your good works, you’re not saved because you’re better, you’re not saved because you did 18,252 good works. Nobody is saved that way. That’s the sad thing about Islam, all these people running around trying to do good works for Allah, never knowing whether they’re going to be saved or not; let’s be a martyr so we can get special merit. It’s a sad thing. A friend of mine has written a tract that I’m trying to get published from Dallas Seminary, it’s title is Understanding Islam, and this man has been in Muslim missions for thirty years, and one verse that he says he found works in the streets, in people’s homes, the one verse in the Bible that is the most welcome verse, in all the verses of the Bible, for Muslims, “Come onto Me ye that labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
He says of all the verses over my years of witnessing to Muslims, that one strikes their heart, because people who want to work their way up the ladder are never sure. There’s always that nagging doubt, are my good works good enough. They can’t rest, there’s no rest, everything is an agitation, and it shows socially. This is why Muslim countries never can develop, they’re always behind the times, economically, politically, they’re just chaotic nations because there’s just no rest; inside the people have no rest. Of course the Western world doesn’t have any rest either since it left the gospel. But that’s what they believe and it comes because we’re saved by grace.
Verse 12 we go further, now theology comes up, because they’ve got to come up with something. What are we going to do with these people? How are we going to deal with the Gentiles? We’re not going to get into all the prophetic passages here. That’s a whole study exegetically in the book of Acts. What I’d rather do in the interest of time is we’re going to go through verse 12-21 and see if you can sense the logic of the argument. What I want you to observe…, they’re going to tell the Gentiles they have to do something. They are going to direct the Gentile’s behavior, but what I want you to see is the logic involved in how they tell the Gentiles what to do. That’s the revelation in this passage, the logic, the mode of reasoning that the guy uses. Let’s watch it.
Verse 12, “And all the multitude kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.  And after they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me.  Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.  And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,” and he cites an Old Testament passage that shows that [not sure of word] is going to be rebuilt and the Gentiles are going to come. That goes back to Stephen, the Abrahamic Covenant, what are three provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant? Land, seed, and worldwide blessing. So the Old Testament knew that the blessing would flow from Israel to the Gentiles. That would have been known.
Verse 19, “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among Gentiles,” notice how they think of the Law as causing trouble. James does it in verse 19, verse 10 Peter says the same thing, Paul said the same thing, the Law is tough, it’s the will of God in its bare naked righteousness. These guys aren’t saying the Law is bad, they’re saying that it’s just tough. But notice what they do, “we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles.” This is a major church statement about the Torah’s authority, and here’s where we begin to see the separation of the Church and Israel, because now there’s a separation at the high level of what part of the Word of God applies to these people.
Verse 20, “but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.” So there are things that they do ask the Gentile believers who are fellowship with Jews to do. But the key in this is found in the first word of verse 21. Why do I say that’s the key? Because that’s the reason that he’s giving why he wants the Gentiles to obey verse 20.
Stop and think about this, let’s not go through this too fast. If the Law applied to the Gentiles the way it applies to the Jews, it would have been unnecessary to put verse 21 there. All that would have been necessary is the Gentiles are under the Law, that’s the Word of God. Period! But what does he do? The logic that is being used in verse 21 says “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” What do you suppose he’s getting at by saying that in verse 21. There are Jews out there; the Torah is being read to them every Sabbath day in the synagogues. And here we have Gentiles who are believers; we have Jews who are believers. The Jews are the ones who get the Torah every Saturday. They didn’t have pocket Testaments; when they heard the Word of God it was Saturday at the synagogue, so that was when they read the Word of God. What did they read in the Word of God? The Torah, the Law.
So here they’re getting the Torah every Sabbath day and they’re very sensitized to it. The Gentile believers, because they’re believers are going to have fellowship one with another. So in effect what he’s saying is I want to keep peace in the Church, so please Gentiles, stay away from these things because these things are hot buttons with your Jewish brethren, and he gives you the four hot buttons. These are the things, idols dedicated to food, let’s look at those: hot button number one, “things contaminated by idols.” That issue came up again in Corinth. The reason that this kept coming up in the ancient world is that food, the best food usually came out of the temples where the slaughter was going on, but the problem was that in the processing of the meat, it was done by the priests of the heathen who were involved in idolatrous worship. So now the guys say wait a minute, if I eat this hamburger, you know, McDonalds of Corinth, if I eat a hamburger and McDonalds didn’t do this, the priest did it, Venus and her priest down there, they generated the McDonald’s hamburger, so if I go in and I eat a hamburger, aren’t I supporting this whole religious thing? That was the problem. What he’s saying is that they abstain from things contaminated by idols. 1 Cor. enlarges that hot button by saying if you can do it without offending, go ahead and eat, it’s immaterial. The hamburger is not contaminated by the idols. But if you have a listener or an observer and he’s offended by what you’re doing, knock it off.
The second hot button is “fornication.” Apparently these four hot buttons are not the moral center of the Law, the Ten Commandments. If you look at hot button number one, things contaminated by idols, skip the fornication one, go to number three, “from what is strangled and from blood,” what is strangled is unritually slaughtered meat. A lot of food is involved here. And these are dietary provisions in the Mosaic Law. Fornication obviously is the central one, the question however is, fornication is a word that covers a multitude of sins, and the commentators seem to suggest that the kind of fornication thought about at this point concerns forbidden marriages in Leviticus. Leviticus goes into about who can marry what, Lev. 18 is where that’s found in the Torah, and it talks about people marrying too close in the family, and this sort of thing, which we now know genetically why that’s there.
So these are hot buttons, but isn’t it funny that the reason why the Gentiles are told to abstain from these things is not directly because of the authority of the Torah, it’s because the Jews, he “has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues,” it’s an expedient, it’s a social expedient. So the question that arises out of Acts 15 is the logic of the Council’s final report seems to be based on expediency. Why isn’t it based on a direct command of the Mosaic Law? It’s based on an expediency of getting along with Jewish brothers. You would think that if the Church at the Council of Acts 15 really thought that the Mosaic Law should apply to the Church like it does to Israel they would have said so, clearly and plainly. But they have this round about approach in verses 19-21, and then they find out in verse 20 they don’t even talk about the essence of the Mosaic Law, they’re talking about all these little deals that come up around eating, fellowship, when they’re going to get together socially, these become an issue. So for social expediency we ask that the Gentiles not do this.
Now I submit to you, that’s a pretty weak argument, if the Mosaic Law applies to the Church the way it applies to Israel. It seems implicit in all this the guys have already recognized that the Mosaic Law does not apply to the Gentiles like it does to the Jews; they’ve already made a distinction, and they’ve already admitted in verse 11 that God has saved both Jew and Gentile the same way. So now what we begin to see in the book of Acts is a new thing happens. Now we have Jew, we have Gentile, with the Torah over here but not over here. This is just part of this weeding out process that is being observed.
In the notes on page 64-66, on the top of page 65 you see a diagram that shows you the two ways that Gentiles were to come into the Kingdom of God. The first one is the Old Testament way. Could Gentiles affiliate with Israel? Yes. How? Were they saved the same way? Yes. But how are they treated? They became part of Judaism, they became non-Gentiles, [and] they became proselytes. They had to be baptized, they had to be circumcised, [and] they had to obey the Torah. Do you want examples of that? The four women, Gentiles in Jesus lineage, Ruth was a Gentile, a Moabitess, but she comes into the Jewish home, she obeys Jewish mandates. There is an assimilation of a Gentile. She comes to God through becoming a Jewess, a Gentile woman proselyted. So that’s the way they approached. The question was, is it necessary for the Gentile to come through Judaism to get to the Kingdom? And what you see in the Council is a big major change. Now Jew and Gentile come to the Kingdom of God without the Gentiles having to go through Judaism to get there. This is a big theological break.
That leads then to reflect on… wait a minute, what’s the purpose of the Law and we’ll deal with that and all the verses next time, what does this do to the Torah? How do we maintain honor and integrity of the Torah and at the same time we have this expediency argument in Acts 15.
Question asked: Clough replies: Were you thinking of a particular text? I would have to see the text to get the context of that. I don’t know what the flavor of the local context is of that. [same person says something else] Well, the problem is, I would just have to see the verse itself because to pray spiritually you’re using “spiritual” there as an adverb and I’m not familiar with any verse that uses “spiritual” as an adverb. So either that’s an interesting translation that I have never seen, because there’s only really one way of praying and that’s praying like you talk, praying like you think, so I don’t know, I’d just have to look at the text.
Question asked, something about are you going to really get into the question what do you do with the Law now that you’re saved: Clough replies: The question is the key behind… that’s the whole theological issue that’s going on in the New Testament, the Church’s relation to the Law, and unfortunately it’s not a straightforward easy question to answer. That’s why you’ll see in the notes I start to do that. To think about it, let’s clear up some categories, because you can’t think without vocabulary and you can’t think without categories. So let’s understand that l-a-w can be a common noun or a proper noun. What do I mean by that? You can have law, the law of Christ, the law of Moses, the law of Noah, the law of Adam, you can have l-a-w as a common noun meaning that… what do we mean by l-a-w as a common noun? We mean that it’s a set of precepts that apply to life. Was there law before “the Law?” Obviously. Didn’t God reveal His will prior to Mount Sinai? Obviously. Did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob know what God’s will was? They sure did.
If we define the revealed will of God to be l-a-w with little “l,” a common noun, then you can say the law’s always been there, from Adam forward, it’s still here, it’s with us now. We still have law. So it helps if right off the start you clean up rough edges in your vocabulary, and l-a-w as a common noun is ubiquitous, there is not a dispensation in Scripture without l-a-w, law is always there. Moreover, l-a-w, common noun, always refers to the revelation of God’s will, same God; God is immutable, the same yesterday, today and forever. That doesn’t change. So the basis of the law, common noun, never changes. It never has. Fornication was wrong for Adam, fornication is wrong for Christians, fornication was wrong for Moses, fornication was wrong for Noah, it doesn’t change, it’s l-a-w, common noun. However, the issue in Acts 15 was L-a-w, capital “L” the Mosaic Law. Now we’re dealing with Law as a proper noun. So it would help clear things up to start with because if you don’t make this distinction everything else you talk about is just a balled up mess, you wind up going down absurdities and into internal conflicts and everything else. So right from the start of the discussion you’ve got to clean up rough edges and vocabulary. So if you distinguish between l-a-w with a little “l” and L-a-w with a capital “L” where the capital “L” refers to the Mosaic Law, you’re miles ahead in solving this problem, this dilemma.
Now I’ll give you the core of where we’re headed because you can’t repeat it too often. In the Old Testament there seems to be a distinction within the Law, capital “L,” of the basic moral precepts that God spoke on Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments and what followed, because remember God spoke the Ten Commandments directly. The casuistic law: “if-then” if this happens then you do this, if this happens you do that, the plan of the Tabernacle, all that stuff was revealed privately on Mount Sinai. So traditionally down through Church history people have argued that the Mosaic Law has multiple parts to it. It has a moral law, the Ten Commandments, it has a judicial component, which is the case law, and it has ceremonial law. Generally what the Church has done down through history is say that the moral law is unchanged. They differ on the judicial law, whether that comes over or not, and everybody agrees the ceremonial law is gone, Christ ended it. You don’t have the temple any more, you don’t have the sacrifices any more, that’s ended, and the New Testament is clear about that. So there’s no argument about the ceremonial part going down the drain.
The question is however, does the end of the ceremonial law also end the Law, capital “L”? People say how can you end the Ten Commandments, the Ten Commandments are moral law, they’re unchanging, that’s God’s character. Well… not quite. I can think of one commandment of the ten that no church follows? The Sabbath. Okay, then you’ve broken the Ten Commandments. So the Ten Commandments don’t carry over. Even the most ardent proponent of the fact that the Law continues, in other words what I call the fuzzy approach, where the Law is not clearly distinguished as Israel centered, it’s just kind of plopped on top of whatever the redeemed community is in whatever age of history. The problem with that is that the Ten Commandments themselves are broken - no church worships on Saturday, they worship on Sunday. Sunday is not Saturday so you’ve got a difference. You say well that’s just adapting. Well that’s right, but once you’ve allowed adoption within the moral code of the Law then you’ve just allowed adoption of the whole codex. So the point then is, the easiest way of looking at it, that’s why I’m a dispensationalist, frankly, I mean, I believe in the overall Protestant Reformation and election and all the rest of it, but I have to be a dispensationalist because of this kind of thing that happens.
The way to think about it is this: God has successive administrations down through history. To get away from the controversy, back up a moment. Let’s go to the difference between the periods of history from Noah to Mount Sinai, and from Mount Sinai to the end of the Old Testament kingdom. I say that because that’s where the Law was really going and had authority. After the Jews went into exile we didn’t have any temple, so that got kind of messed up. So let’s just take the heyday of the Law and let’s take from Noah to Abraham. Is God different? Has God changed from Noah and Abraham to Moses? Did He? Can’t be, God is immutable; He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Is His righteousness changed? No, His righteousness hasn’t changed either. What’s the change, something’s changed because before Sinai you don’t have a law given to twelve tribes to do something behaviorally in certain real estate for a number of centuries. You don’t have a tabernacle, you don’t have a temple, you don’t have all this stuff going on, [and] you don’t have dietary law. Well then, did God change from Noah and Abraham to Moses? No. So what changed? What changed was the way He administered history. This isn’t denying Himself here; He has ways of working in certain ages. For example, before Abraham in the early part of that period, which dispensationalists traditionally call the age of conscience, God worked through Gentile priests. Who was one of them? We’re given his name? Melchizedek. And Melchizedek hands over to Abraham the baton. Something changed; the whole conduit of revelation was shifted from Gentiles to Jews. Did that shift mean God changed? No, but God has the freedom to change the way He administers history.
When He comes to the Church we do the same thing. The Church involves a change in history and things are different with the Church than they are over here with the Jews. I’ll give you a very practical example: tithing. In the New Testament where is a major passage on tithing. Everybody brings up tithing from Abraham and Moses. Does that mean the tithing principle inherently is wrong? No it doesn’t. What it means is that the tithe in the Mosaic Law - capital “L” - was the tax that was the income tax. We’d think we were blessed through our sox today if the income tax rate was only 10%. I’d love to have a tax rate of 10% right now; I think it would be great, straight across the board. By the way, a cleverly designed tax law structure, no accountants necessary, you could fill out your tax form on a 3x5 postcard. Here’s my salary times point one, there’s my tax, here’s the check. So it’s a very simple tax structure.
Let’s take that tax structure. The tax structure is not defined for Abraham; no tax structure is defined for Noah. Adam didn’t pay any taxes that I know of. In Israel they did pay taxes and it was a matter of the will of God for them to pay that tax, and they would be cursed if they didn’t pay the tax. Then we come to the Church made up of Gentiles and we have gifts, so now the Gentiles are saying what percent of my salary should I be giving? Now you have to go back and say okay, what’s wise? How do we use the Torah, the capital “L”? When God introduced the Torah what did He say it was? He said I have given you a Law more righteous than all the nations. An exercise for home schoolers would be to take some of the provisions of the Mosaic Law, challenge the kids to do a little project. Let’s write out what God wanted the nation Israel to do, Mosaic Law. Now go to the library and pick up the Code of Hammurabi, and what did King Hammurabi want for Babylon. Then take the law codes and put them side by side and see if you can’t verify Deut. 4 which says the Mosaic Law Code is more righteous than any other law code. And if you look in the Code of Hammurabi, people are treated as things, there are degradations of human value in the Code of Hammurabi, there’s no gradation of human value in the Law of Moses. So the Mosaic Law is better than all the contemporary law codes that existed.
So the word to describe the contribution of the Mosaic Law, capital “L”, is the word chokmah, wisdom. So how do we use the Mosaic Law today in the Church? It’s a source of wisdom, and that’s where, frankly, a lot of people in Bible-believing churches are lost out because they’re not going back to the Mosaic Law as a source of chokmah or wisdom. What we can say is God doesn’t demand that the Church abide by that. Why can’t He really, in one sense? Because the church isn’t a nation. The Church doesn’t have a tax; the Church is not a nation. Israel was a nation, the church is made up of people living in different nations and God isn’t going to set the church in conflict, deliberate conflict, with the law codes in all these different nations. The Roman law code, for example. Caesar had a tax, Jesus Christ said, remember at the trial He said My Kingdom is not of this world. He wasn’t at that point; He will one day, when He comes back—there’ll be a challenge to all the nations, that’s coming but not yet.
So in this period of time of the “not yet” we as Christian citizens, if we’re thinking and we’re smart we say all right, Lord, we have limited franchise as Christian citizens, we can vote, we can input to the decision making process of our society. So shouldn’t we try to input wisdom into the decision making process of our society and the answer is yeah. Where do we go for wisdom? I say we go to the Mosaic Law Code and ask ourselves if God saw that this was the way to run a nation back then, in Israel, don’t you think we might learn how to run a nation today by going back and checking out how the Master did it? Granted, He did it back then in Palestine, in that era, so things have… you know, we have to make cultural changes. We can’t do the real estate deal, that doesn’t work. We’re in America; they’re in Palestine. But we can take wisdom out of the real estate. Can you think of some of the provisions of the Mosaic Law that apply to real estate? I’ll tell you some that would revolutionize our society. Number one is you don’t mess with boundaries. And number two, the interesting thing was, real estate was never taxed. Ooh, tell that to the local county.
Do you know why it wasn’t taxed? Now we don’t know exactly the history of it but we think we can infer why there was not a property tax. Property taxes are anti-capitalist, in other words, take a retired person, a person who all of his assets are in the land and they’re retired, they don’t work, they’re not producing. Where do they get their money from to pay a property tax? Remember property in the Old Testament had to remain with whom? It had to remain with the men in a tribe, it was anchored; it couldn’t be moved. That was the permanent living area, that expressed a freedom for that group of people to have a place to live, and it could not be taken away by any other source, period. It was given by God to the tribes. It was a real estate. What do I mean when I say a real estate, versus fake estate? Real estate means you can touch it, feel it, walk on it, and it was not to be taken away and tampered with and messed with. But where they did get their revenues was they taxed the income, income tax was the Biblical tax, that’s what the tithe was. So they had money to provide for their things but it was all off of what? Productivity. It was the productivity, the fruit that was taxed, not the root. But we have the idea of property tax and it goes back historically, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with out county right now, I’m just saying that the point is that deep down in history there were reasons for some of these structures.
The banking in our country, the whole idea of banking and some of the transactions that go on money wise would be radically different if we followed the policy of the Mosaic Law Code. How many of those policies you could bring over, a lot of the policies couldn’t be brought over because you don’t have a regenerate population, but if you have a majority of godly people in a social entity it would seem to me like we could bring some of the Mosaic Law Code.
Let me give you an example because I worked with jails and with criminals. Do you know one of the interesting things about the Mosaic Law Code is they had four ways they punished people. Four ways! First of all they had speedy trials; they didn’t have 18 attorneys sucking everybody dry, for a little minutia in seeing how we can put a semicolon after this and a period after that. None of that stuff. There was an open quick trial with laws of evidence. The Bible is filled with laws of evidence and the reason they had to have laws of evidence was they had four ways they punished people. The first way was corporeal punishment. People say oh, that’s abuse. I don’t think so. I think putting someone in a cell of life is abuse, treating them like an animal for the rest of their life; I think that’s very abusive. In the Old Testament they either corporeal punished in public, they had capital punishment, and they had an interesting way of approaching capital punishment. They had capital punishment for the crime, but they also had capital punishment reserved for another thing, which I’ll come back to in a moment. The third thing they did was fines - just like we have—people were punished with fines.
The fourth thing, people had to make restitution, and the restitution wasn’t simple restitution, it could be two for one, three for one, because the restitution argued that if you stole this thing from somebody, it’s not just the cost of the thing you stole, but it’s the damage you caused stealing. People don’t understand; crime has enormous rippling effects. When my mother was robbed, an elderly woman, ever since that point she was just paranoid about getting robbed again, locks on the doors, my gosh, when I went up to move my mom out of her house when she was getting senile, she kept losing her keys. I went into her drawers, she must have bought five different locks for the front door because she kept losing the key, a guy would come in and put another lock on, lose that one, put another lock on. She had enough keys and locks to run the jail. That’s what happens when people are hurt and abused. Rape is the same sort of thing, women that have been raped never get over this; by God’s grace they might but I’m talking about the ramifications. So restitution was multiple, not simple one to one. I think that’s a profound insight.
So you had fines and restitution, capital punishment and corporeal punishment. Now here’s the zinger, if somebody was put into a sentence of restitution and didn’t, defied the court by not paying it back, capital punishment. Ooh, do you think that sort of stimulated some obedience to do restitution? I think so. That’s how God designed crime. This junk that you hear today… yea, there are problems administrating capital punishment justly, if you’re an O.J. Simpson you can hire an attorney and get off from it and that’s sad. The poor guy that doesn’t have a lawyer, he gets capital punishment and the guy who can get off doesn’t, so that’s an iniquity problem. But I don’t buy this stuff about oh, that’s wrong, capital punishment is bad. If it’s so bad, how did God do it in the Mosaic Law Code when God said that the Mosaic Law Code was more righteous than all the nations? What are you telling me, God doesn’t know what He’s doing? That’s in effect what’s happening. People who argue against capital punishment are arguing God was wrong. So you have to say if they’re against capital punishment then God is wrong and you know more than God does about how to punish people. I don’t think so; I certainly am not going to take that position.
That’s some of the things you could bring out of the Law, the Law is filled with wisdom, treasures. When Nancy Jacobs took her position in the House of Delegates I sent her a book, called Institutes of Biblical Law by Rushdoony, and he a post-millennialist and he’s a theonomist but I don’t care, I knew Rushdoony personally, and I would disagree that you can bring the law over without transforming it and adapting it, but the neat thing was, this 450-page book, you can look up in the index every major social problem, and it directs you to where it’s addressed in the Mosaic Law. It blows your mind to think that look at this repository of wisdom principles and nobody looks at it. It’s a great book, I don’t know if it’s still available or not.
I remember Nancy telling me one time she had it sitting on her shelf in Annapolis and this lobbyist came in, one of the big lawyers down there, and he was looking at her books and … Institutes of Biblical Law, what’s that Ms. Jacobs, and she said why don’t you take it off the shelf and read it and you’ll find out what it is. So there’s an example, it’s an area that most evangelical churches don’t know anything about, and it’s an area where, frankly, we’ve been way behind in utilizing, and I think God brought the theonomists, for all the agitation they’ve caused, I think God brought the theonomists aboard in our generation to prick the church’s conscience about guys, you haven’t used all your tools, now use them. Not necessarily what the theonomists says but you can use it. So law has a lot of good stuff in it. Child raising, education, etc. but you have to bring it over as a wisdom principle. God does not direct America, the United States to follow that Law Code because He didn’t address it to the United States, He addressed it Israel.
Question asked, something about Paul doesn’t seem to give us an option to say you don’t have to live by the law but if you want to follow it, it’s okay. It seems like there’s just a harsh …: Clough replies: There’s a harshness between law and grace, because of the necessity of salvation issues that Paul wants to remain clear on. However, if you do look, he himself uses the Law for wisdom. I’ll give you some references. If you look in Corinthians where he talks about the pastor’s salary, he has a citation from the Law there where he talks about the ox muzzle, etc. He also has another issue in there that’s built off the implication of the Mosaic Law and that is it’s wrong for children to save for their parents, rather parents should save for their children. That comes out of that whole flavor of the Torah, so we do find Paul, in fact, in these wisdom… he dips into it, but you’re right in pointing out that he will not permit the law ever to be applied as the authoritative tool of the church. Law, capital “L”, but that doesn’t mean he’s antinomian because the New Testament is filled with imperative verbs, and what does Paul call that? The law of Christ.
[message ends abruptly]