Acts 15:22-41  It Seemed Good to the Holy Ghost and to Us

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Acts 15:22-41 It Seemed Good to the Holy Ghost and to Us

[Study Aired May 21, 2023]

Act 15:22  Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
Act 15:23  And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
Act 15:24  Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
Act 15:25  It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Act 15:26  Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Act 15:27  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
Act 15:28  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 15:29  That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Act 15:30  So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
Act 15:31  Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
Act 15:32  And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
Act 15:33  And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
Act 15:34  Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
Act 15:35  Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
Act 15:36  And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
Act 15:37  And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
Act 15:38  But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
Act 15:39  And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
Act 15:40  And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
Act 15:41  And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

We ended our last study with the judgment of the apostles being to send a letter to the Gentiles which was intended to irradicate the heresy being taught by many believing Jews that the Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved. There had been “much disputing” about this question and everyone was given the opportunity to give their own convictions for consideration.

Act 15:7  And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

Why was there “much disputing” about this question? The answer is that the heretics, as is always the case, appeared to have the scriptures on their side:

2Co 11:13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
2Co 11:14  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2Co 11:15  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

How do all heretics transform themselves into the apostles of Christ? They do so by taking the many blessings poured out upon themselves, His faith and His chastening grace, and using those gifts to cover the idols of their own hearts:

Eze 16:9  Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.
Eze 16:10  I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.
Eze 16:11  I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
Eze 16:12  And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
Eze 16:13  Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
Eze 16:14  And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 16:15  But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.
Eze 16:16  And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.

The Lord’s most successful heretics are those He blesses the most outwardly. They give God the credit for their outward blessings, while at the same time refusing to do the things He says we are to do to avoid schisms and heresies among ourselves. By “doing many good works” which really do appear to be selfless, and which do indeed appear to be “the righteousness of saints”, they are given to “deceive many”:

Mat 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 7:22  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Mat 7:23  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Mat 24:5  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Luke puts it in these words:

Luk 21:8  And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.

The most effective heretics have also been chastened by the Lord and have been through a baptism of fire:

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
Heb 6:5  And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
Heb 6:6  If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Then heretics take the Word of God and twist it by wrapping the Lord’s ‘gold’ and His ‘silver’ (His Words and His Doctrines) around the idols of their own hearts:

Eze 16:17  Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images [doctrines] of men, and didst commit whoredom with them,
Eze 16:18  And tookest thy broidered garments [many good works which appeared to be “the righteousness of saints” (Rev 19:8)], and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil [the Lord’s words, which are spirit (Joh 6:63)] and mine incense before them [the idols of your heart].
Eze 16:19  My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, [the Lord’s precious words] wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them [before the idols of your heart] for a sweet savour: and thus it was, saith the Lord GOD.

Here is how all of this played out in this first recorded heresy which attempted to divide the apostles themselves. The Lord’s own words were used to cover the idol of their heart, which was physical circumcision is essential to salvation. Here are the Lord’s own words concerning the need for circumcision for anyone to read:

Gen 17:9  And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
Gen 17:10  This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
Gen 17:11  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
Gen 17:12  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
Gen 17:13  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
Gen 17:14  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

Those are clear instructions, and those who were insisting that the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved no doubt also pointed to these words of the Lord:

Deu 13:6  If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
Deu 13:7  Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
Deu 13:8  Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
Deu 13:9  But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

Those are the words for which Saul of Tarsus had been so very zealous. So Saul, whose name is now Paul, was very familiar with their doctrine, as were Peter and Barnabas. Deuteronomy 13 however, is not “the sum” of the Lord’s Words. There are also these words:

Deu 18:15  The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
Deu 18:16  According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
Deu 18:17  And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
Deu 18:18  I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
Deu 18:19  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

The most striking way in which Christ is “like unto [Moses]” is that both are great reformers. Moses made many profound changes to the way things had been. Before Moses, there was no Aaronic priesthood, no tabernacle, no ark of the covenant, no tithing, and one could offer an offering to God at any time and in any place. Christ, like Moses, was a great reformer, and Moses Himself has prophesied:

Deu 18:15  The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

“Unto Him ye shall hearken” is telling us that He will not be saying the same things Moses said. Both Peter and Paul had been made painfully aware of just how much difference there was between what Moses said and what ‘the prophet like unto Moses’ had said to them.

Peter was three times told to slay and eat unclean creatures which he was made to understand meant that he was no longer to call Gentiles common or unclean, contrary to the doctrine Moses taught which was:

Deu 7:2  And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:

Paul had been struck down on the road to Damascus and made blind for three days. At the end of those three days, he willingly accepted that the Christ he was persecuting was that “prophet like unto [Moses]”, and that contrary to Moses’ doctrine, Christ was now sending Saul, soon to be ‘Paul’, to take the gospel to the Gentiles.

At this conference, which was called to consider whether Gentile converts were required to be physically circumcised, Peter, speaking for himself, and Paul and Barnabas, made it clear that the three of them believed that God “put no difference between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles] purifying their hearts by faith” and not by being physically circumcised nor by keeping the law of Moses.

The rest of the apostles and elders agreed with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas that the Gentiles did not need to be physically circumcised, but they did not agree with them that the Jews did not need to continue to be circumcised and keep the law. They all felt that the Jews must continue to be circumcised and keep the law.  At this conference we must notice and follow the example of all the apostles who all submitted themselves and their convictions to the consensus of their leaders as we are all commanded to do:

Heb 13:17 Be persuaded by your leaders, and be deferring to them, for they are vigilant for the sake of your souls, as having to render an account, that they may be doing this with joy, and not with groaning, for this is disadvantageous for you.

Being persuaded of and deferring to your leaders is not checking your brain at the door. Rather, it is a simple matter of being obedient to the Lord’s commandment which is anything but checking your brain at the door. Faith in “the things that [He] says” (Luk 6:46) is very well founded and is essential to knowing Christ and His Father, and it will lead to life eternal.

Joh 17:3  And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Knowing Christ and His Father is a matter of knowing how They think and then acting accordingly. This letter to the Gentiles tells them that they need not be physically circumcised or keep the “carnal commandments” of the law of Moses… and at the same time it affirms that the Jews must do so. This decision was really nothing more than the holy spirit acknowledging that the Jewish Christians were still ‘weak in the faith’:

Rom 14:1  Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

Rom 15:1  We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

At this point Peter, Paul, and Barnabas were spiritually more mature than the 11 other apostles. Nevertheless, they humbled themselves and submitted themselves to the consensus of the other apostles, and that decision was inspired of the holy spirit just as surely as these words are also inspired of the holy spirit explaining why the fullness of understanding at this Jerusalem conference is not yet known on this matter:

Joh 16:12  I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Joh 16:13  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will [eventually] guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come [“Words which it is not (yet) lawful for a man to utter” (2Co 12:4)].

The judgment was made to send a letter to all the Gentile converts and the decision to do so was unanimous:

Act 15:22  Then pleased it [all] the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
Act 15:23  And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
Act 15:24  Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
Act 15:25  It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Act 15:26  Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Act 15:27  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
Act 15:28  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

This decision was not just the decision of the apostles and elders. It was also sanctioned by “the holy spirit”. They all agreed that the Gentile converts did not need to keep all the law of Moses, including the law of circumcision. Here are the few things that were still expected of the Gentile converts:

Act 15:29  That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

These are a mere four requirements which were expected to be observed by the new Gentile converts to the gospel of Christ. They were 1) abstain from meats offered to idols, 2) from fornication, 3) from things strangled, and 4) from blood. “Abstain from meats offer to idols” in verse 29 explains what is meant by “abstain from pollutions of idols” in verse 20.

Act 15:19  Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
Act 15:20  But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

While I was a faithful member of the Worldwide Church of God from 1963 through 1973 we circumcised our males on the eighth day, we kept the weekly sabbath and all of the holy days except for the new moons… we tithed a tenth of our gross income, and we kept the laws which proscribed which meats were clean and unclean. Yet we somehow told ourselves that we were “not under the curse of the law.” Our reasoning was that the many laws not mentioned in the letter to the Gentiles here in Acts 15 were obviously meant to be kept because many of the Old Testament commandments not mentioned here are mentioned in Romans 13 as things which the Gentile Romans were expected to keep and observe:

Rom 13:8  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
Rom 13:9  For this, [1] Thou shalt not commit adultery, [2] Thou shalt not kill, [3] Thou shalt not steal, [4] Thou shalt not bear false witness, [5] Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Rom 13:10  Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

“Love is the fulfilling of the law” was explained to us as being the same as keeping the commandments of Moses. To make this clear we were shown:

1Jn 5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

“His commandments are not grievous” means they are not a yoke “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” as Peter characterized the law of Moses:

Act 15:10  Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

It is obvious that “His commandments [which] are not grievous” is not referring to the commandments of Moses but is referring the “but I say unto you…” commandments of Christ.

We who were in the Worldwide Church of God at the time I was a member of that church were in the same spiritual position as the eleven apostles who thought it was a very good thing that:

Act 15:21  For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

At this early stage of the reforms which Christ came to make, the apostles could not yet conceive of this being the time for “worshiping God in spirit [and not] at Jerusalem”, which is exactly what Christ Himself had told the woman at the well would someday come:

Joh 4:21  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Joh 4:22  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the [spiritual] Jews.
Joh 4:23  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
Joh 4:24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

A reformation of the scope Christ brought to His people took time. No flesh, other than Adam and Eve, is given to be born in a mature physical body. It certainly is not given to be born spiritually mature, and that applies to Adam and Eve who were both made “marred in the Potter’s hand” (Jer 18:4). We all, including the original apostles, begin our spiritual lives as “carnal babes in Christ”:

1Co 3:1  And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
1Co 3:2  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
1Co 3:3  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
1Co 3:4  For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

It is natural for children to think of themselves as mature adults, long before they become mature adults. No one just naturally conceives of himself as a “carnal babe in Christ”. Yet that is exactly how Christ in us brings us to see ourselves before we can become spiritually mature:

Mat 18:3  And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:4  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

A humble child is a teachable child. Any child who is brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord reveres and respects his parents and believes what his parents teach him. Christ is not commanding us to become naïve or foolish. What He is commanding us to do is “humble [our]selves [and become teachable] as this little child” or we will “not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Children are not given charge of the Lord’s flock. That duty is placed only upon mature men who have their own spiritual house in order:

1Ti 3:1  This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
1Ti 3:2  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife […if he is married. Neither Christ nor Paul were married], vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
1Ti 3:3  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
1Ti 3:4  One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
1Ti 3:5  (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
1Ti 3:6  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
1Ti 3:7  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

All the events leading up to this 15th chapter of Acts, and all the events recorded in this chapter, are written for our admonition to teach us the need for heresies in our midst, and to teach us how to deal with those heresies when they rise up against the knowledge of God.

2Co 10:5  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing [false doctrine] that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

There were many in the church in Antioch, and in all the churches, who were familiar with the laws of God concerning the covenant of circumcision and all the other 612 laws of Moses. Those laws were concerned with everything from not plowing with different animals being yoked together, to tithing, to not weaving with different fabrics, to which meats could be eaten and of course the commandment for all males to be circumcised, all necessary for them to be considered the seed of Abraham. If the Lord had not given the Gentiles in Cornelius’s home the holy spirit without the benefit of circumcision (Act 10:44-45), and if Saul of Tarsus had not been zealous of destroying Christ before being struck down and converted to being zealous of preaching the gospel of Christ (Act 22:8) and sharing with us “words which were not [yet] lawful for men to utter” (2Co 12:4), then we Gentiles and Jewish Christians would still be under the law of Moses which Peter confessed ‘neither we nor our fathers could bear’:

Act 15:7  And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
Act 15:8  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Act 15:9  And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Act 15:10  Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Act 15:11  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we [Jews] shall be saved, even as they [the Gentiles].

Peter was speaking about what the Lord had revealed to him and Paul and Barnabas. These three apostles also knew that the Lord Himself also inspired the other apostles to teach that, for the present, the Jews were still obligated to keep the law of Moses. So, Peter, Paul, and Barnabas were persuaded of their leaders, and they deferred to them (Heb 13:17 CLV) and went back to Antioch and gave the church in Antioch the good news that all the apostles and elders agreed that the Gentiles were not required to keep the law of Moses, but the Jewish Christians were expected to do so.

Act 15:30  So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
Act 15:31  Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
Act 15:32  And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them [confirmed the words of the epistle from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem].
Act 15:33  And after they had tarried there space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
Act 15:34  Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
Act 15:35  Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

In this very same chapter, we are given a story which confirms that agreeing on spiritual doctrines does not mean that we must also agree on which flavor of ice cream tastes the best. This story confirms that none of us has dominion over another’s faith. That is the significance of the story of how Paul and Barnabas went separate ways but preached the same gospel.

Act 15:36  And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
Act 15:37  And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
Act 15:38  But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
Act 15:39  And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
Act 15:40  And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

Let us not think that because we are told Paul and Silas were “recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God” that Barnabas and Mark were not also recommended by the brethren to the grace of God. Unless the scriptures qualify any point, it is never good to insert our own opinions into scripture. For example, when were are told that God is “the eonian God” (Rom 16:26 CLV), we are not being told that He was not God before the eons began, or that He will not be God after the consummation of the eons. When we are told that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exo 3:6), we are not being told that He is not also the God of the Gentiles (Acts 17:30). Also, when we are told He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psa 50:10), we are not being told that the cattle on hill one thousand and one are not His cattle also. There is no doubt that Barnabas and Mark were also “recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God” as well as Paul and Silas.

Act 15:41  And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

Paul and Silas did not sail to Cyprus as Paul had done with Barnabas on their first missionary journey. This time he went by land, and he and Silas first went to Derbe and Lystra, the last two cities Paul and Barnabas had visited on their first journey.

In our next study, before we continue with the chronological order of events in Paul’s missionary journeys, we will take time to analyze what brought about the complete apostasy of the church before the death of the apostles who had raised up those very same churches.

The apostle Paul tells us simply that “all the churches in Asia be turned away from me” (2Ti 1:5). Referring to the same churches, the apostle John calls them “the seven churches of Asia” (Rev 1:4, Rev 1:10). While the only two churches in Revelation 2-3 which are not admonished for their failings are Smyrna and Philadelphia, nevertheless Paul tells Timothy, “All they in Asia have forsaken me” (2Ti 1:15), and John tells all seven churches, “He that hath an ear let him hear what the spirit says to [all seven of] the churches” (Rev 2:7). That would include Smyrna and Philadelphia. We will see how the Lord worked matters to bring about the apostasy of His church and turn His own physical church into “the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Rev 17:4).

Before we continue following the chronology of Paul’s second journey, we will consider what would have happened if Peter, Paul, and Barnabas had rejected the counsel of their elders. The church will completely apostatize toward the end of Paul’s life when he tells Timothy:

2Ti 1:15  This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

“All they which are in Asia” refers to “the seven churches of Asia” to whom the book of the revelation of Jesus Christ is addressed:

Rev 1:4  John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

Rev 1:10  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Rev 1:11  Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

It is this same ‘John’ who also tells us that the apostasy of the church was so complete before his death that a “false apostle” named “Diotrephes… cast… out of the church” those whom John had sent to them:

3Jn 1:9  I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
3Jn 1:10  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

‘Loving to have preeminence’ is just another way of saying “the pride of life”, the last and most insidious of the three categories which encapsulate “all that is in this [evil and wicked] world”:

1Jn 2:16  For all that is in the world, [1] the lust of the flesh, and [2] the lust of the eyes, and [3] the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Doctrinal differences, as we have learned, should be settled within the body of Christ by seeking the counsel of the elders. That counsel is rejected only because of “the pride of life” which afflicts us all. When “all they which be in Asia” and when “the seven churches of Asia” apostatize, they do so because they were made to make the conscious decision to follow “false apostles” who ‘appear as angels of light’ and take away disciples after themselves. Paul had been made to know this would happen in his own lifetime. This is what he prophesied to the elders of Ephesus:

Act 20:30  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

2Co 11:13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
2Co 11:14  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2Co 11:15  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

There is nothing new under the sun, and there is no doubt that false apostles have been key to the scattering of the Lord’s flock in every generation. We ourselves have seen it happen. Men who had been appointed in our own fellowship and by our own leaders, were sent an evil spirit from the Lord which insisted that there is no natural element to the Lord’s words. After all, Christ did indeed say, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” As mentioned earlier in this study, just because Christ says His words are spirit does not mean there are no words which have a natural application. We are in fact told the exact opposite:

Joh 6:63  It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

As I made clear earlier in this study, there is no qualifying statement anywhere in scripture which states, “The words I speak unto you are only spirit.” In fact, the exact opposite it true:

1Co 15:46  Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
1Co 15:47  The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.

Every spiritual doctrine and the mind of God and His Godhead are “understood by the things that are made”, meaning things that are not spiritual.

Rom 1:19  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. [How has ‘God shown it unto them?]
Rom 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are madeeven his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Next week we will see how not recognizing the truth of Romans 1:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:46 can and has led many to believe there will be no literal thousand-year reign of Christ and His Christ over the kingdoms of this physical world:

Rev 11:15  And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

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