Tom: In this our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we’re in the [Book of Acts:9:28]: “And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.” And of course we’re talking about the Apostle Paul here, who was Saul, had a conversion experience at Damascus, and this is what follows.
Dave: Yeah, it’s very interesting. We get further details in Galatians 1, of course. This is three years after Paul’s conversion. He spent that time out in Arabia…
Dave: …yeah, alone with the Lord. He never studied with the disciples under Jesus. Of course, he was opposing them at that point. Here he is the chief opponent of the church to have Christians killed, arrested, imprisoned, and so forth, and suddenly he becomes the chief apostle. Tom, I don’t want to digress, but you wonder what recovery program he was involved in that he had to meet with weekly that kind of helped him along the way where he could confess his former murderous tendencies and opposition…
Tom: Anger management.
Dave: Right. That is so contrary to Scripture, and yet we’ve got so many Christians, churches who are involved in that—3,500 of them, of course, following Rick Warren’s Celebrate Recovery.
Tom: Dave, you and I just returned from Winnipeg for prophecy conference. Now, this is Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and I was absolutely stunned, because many…a greater percentage of the people who attended—I think there may have been 1,200 or more—and many of them had a Mennonite background, some from the far reaches of Manitoba, and they were saying, “Wait a minute, we have 12 Steps here. We have these recovery programs.” I was shocked! I thought I was kind of introducing them to something that was prevalent here in the United States, but certainly not in Manitoba; but it’s everywhere, Dave!
Dave: So the idea is you’ve got to be in a recovery program, and there is a recovery process that you must follow. Unfortunately, it’s based upon pop psychology, which doesn’t work. It’s based upon Alcoholics Anonymous.
But anyway, Tom, I’m getting us off the subject, I guess. But how did Paul, who was the chief of sinners, become the chief apostle, and who was the chief opponent of the church become the chief proponent and the expert on doctrine, far above the other apostles? He met Jesus and he spent time with Jesus, and we can do that too by spending time in His Word.
But in Galatians 1, he tells us it was three years later after his conversion that he first went up to Jerusalem, and he says, “I did not go up…” You know, Galatians 1—terrific chapter—he says, “I certify you, brethren, the gospel that I preach is not after man. I neither received it from men, nor was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Then he can rebuke Peter when he meets him: “Peter, you are wrong! That’s not what Jesus said.”
“Well, Paul, you didn’t even study with us. I mean, I was one of the chief disciples.”
“Well, wait a minute—I’ve been with Jesus, and He has told me…”
Okay, so Paul, the expert on Christianity who never studied under Jesus in this life, he becomes one of the great proofs of the resurrection, and the other apostles have to recognize he knows everything they know and more.
So anyway, this is three years later when they first brought him—first contact with Christians, they were afraid of him, because all they knew was he was having them arrested. They didn’t want to…
Tom: Mm-hmm. And worse.
Dave: Right, and killed, and they didn’t want to have anything to do with him. But it was Barnabus who took him, introduced him to the apostles, and so forth, and then they began to accept him. And v. 28, you said he was with them—that is, with the disciples, the apostles—coming in and going out of the church (you know, they’re meeting, and so forth) at Jerusalem, freely accepted by them, trusted by them.
Now we come to a little change here, because he is doing something that the rest of them were not doing, and “he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians.”
Now, Tom, it kind of relates to what we just were talking about with relation to Rick Warren’s PEACE plan, you know, and work with a Muslim, spiritual leader, in a village…Paul would not do that! Absolutely impossible! That’s like imagining that Elijah—why wouldn’t he work together with the prophets of Baal for improvement of the social conditions both in Israel and in the surrounding nations? It doesn’t work. Paul—why doesn’t he just work with the Grecians? Why isn’t he just positive with them, and try to gain their confidence, and cooperate, and then maybe some years later he will have opened a door of opportunity. It says, “…he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Grecians.” Well, what was the result? They went about to slay him! They’re going to kill him! I’m afraid that the leaders in the PEACE plan in these Muslim areas would not last very long if they told the truth, as Paul did, to the Muslim leaders around.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, I’m thinking about New Tribes [Mission]—when they go into a culture, first they go to understand the culture, and their chief concern is they don’t want confusion to take place. They want to understand the language; they want to understand, you know, their theology to a certain degree so they can present a very clear gospel that the people who they’re trying to witness to don’t misunderstand what they’re saying. Dave, that’s what we need today!
Dave: Tom, I hope people out there understand—look, I’m not trying to criticize Rick Warren. I think he really loves the Lord and has a passion for souls, but he’s going about it in the wrong way.
Now, it may be very successful. You may get a big PEACE plan movement going all over the world, but if it’s not based upon the Bible, and it is not. You see, I have to go by what the Scripture says.
Paul—we get into chapter 17—he disputed in the synagogue, then he disputed in the marketplace. He’s not saying, “Guys, well, we’ve got some common interests here, and let’s try to cooperate and have a discussion…” He preached the gospel.
Jesus didn’t say, “Go into all the world and try to get together on a proposal to make the world a better place or more peaceful place for people to live in.” Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
Now, my number one responsibility before God—and I will stand before Him one day and give an account—my number one responsibility is to preach the gospel, to make it very clear to people the truth of the gospel. That’s why one of my books, Tom—as you know, I wrote it for myself to give to people that I’ve talked with and tried to reach—it’s called Seeking and Finding God, and we just lay it out in that book why we need to seek God. Life is very short. One day, we’re going to stand before him. Why we need to know Him, and so forth… Tom, we have to tell the truth to people, and we can’t just kind of beat around the bush and somehow hope that one day it will work out.
Tom: Dave, Jesus’ prayer, as you know, to the Father: “Sanctify them by thy truth. Thy word is truth.” Sanctify—that means “set them apart,” because if they’re not set apart, then there is confusion, there’s…you know, and that’s one of the greatest concerns we have about this ecumenical thrust. It just creates confusion, and then delusion, and then diluting the gospel. That’s the only thing that can come out of it.
Dave: And leads to what we were talking about earlier, that words mean nothing. What does it really mean? Well, it doesn’t mean anything, because you can say the opposite of what I say and what I believe. That’s like the New Age: “Well, you’ve got your ideas, I’ve got mine, but it doesn’t really matter, because we all mean the same thing.”
Well then, the brethren, of course, they learn about this plot to slay Paul, and they bring him down to Caesarea and they send him forth to Tarsus (that was his hometown).
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”
Now, Tom, I’m very uncertain about the interpretation of that. You got rid of the troublemaker—they’re trying to kill him—but if you all stood up…I’m not trying to criticize the early church; far be it from me! Maybe I misunderstand this verse, but you hustle Saul—who’s now become Paul—you hustled him out of town; he’s the guy that’s disputing, he’s the guy that’s causing this uproar and the Greeks are out to get him, and if you stand by his side, they’ll be out to get you, as well. So we take him away for his safety instead of standing up with him, and then the churches had rest. Well, it says they were edified, and they were walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost were multiplied. So they’re not a condemnation for that. Don’t misunderstand me, but it’s almost like it has a little double meaning there.