Hell: Covenant: Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Part 7

Objective: To understand (John 4:22) SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS. (Luke 1:1 thru 2:52 & Acts 4:8-12) Jesus is born a Jew and earned salvation for (Acts 8:35-38 & Rom. 5:8-21) those who will believe. (Mark 3:14-19 esp. V.18) The twelve disciples were Jews. (V.18) Simon was from Cana in Galilee (John 2:11) and is referred to as a Canaanite. The actual Canaanite tribes had disappeared as such in the time of Joshua and thereafter between about 1440 and 1100 BC.

(Acts 2:1-8) The twelve disciples, (Acts 1:16-26) minus Judas and plus Matthias, (Acts 1:15 keyword: disciples & 2:1 keywords: all with one accord) and the rest of the one hundred and twenty were the first Jews to believe and experience Holy Spirit salvation.

(Acts 2:9-41 esp. V.41): For the first time Jews of the diaspora believed and received the salvation Jesus offered. (Acts 2:46-47 esp. V.46 keyword: temple & V.37 keyword: church & 3:25 thru 4:4 esp. V.25 keyword: children of the prophets) For the first time orthodox Jews living in Israel believed and received the salvation Jesus offers (V.47) and the believers were first called a church (a calling out, a religious congregation, a Christian community of members on earth or in heaven). (Rom. 1:16) The believing Jews were ordained to be the first to receive salvation. WHY?

(Deut. 7:1-8 & 14:1-2) Israel (the Hebrews, Jews) is God’s chosen people. WHY? (read in order: Gen. 1:1-31 & Ezek. 28:13 keyword: created, Psa. 24:1 then Psa. 115:3) God created everything including man, He owns it and He can do whatever He wishes with it. SO: (Rom.3:1-2) To the Jews were given the oracles (those who spoke or wrote the utterances of God) of God who recorded the history of man, the history of Israel, the Law of Moses, the Prophesies, Psalms and etc. (1Tim. 3:16 & 2Pet. 1:21) as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. And through that we see God’s relationship with mankind.

We will study how God used Jews to found the Christian Church which is God’s chosen way to redeem all of mankind (Heb. 10:1-20 esp. V.10-12) who will believe that God sent His own Son Jesus to be the supreme sacrifice for man’s sins.    

In Part 6: (Acts 5:33) We stopped when the Sanhedrin Council, composed of a majority of Sadducees and a minority of Pharisees, took counsel to slay (murder) the apostles. BUT: (Acts 5:34) Gamaliel spoke up.

Gamaliel was a Pharisee member of the Jewish ruling Council, a doctor (Rabbi, teacher, expounder) of the law (Law of Moses), had (held, possessed of) in reputation (honored, esteemed, beloved, precious) among all the people.” Obviously, people listened when Gamaliel spoke. Gamaliel “commanded (ordered) to put the apostles forth a little space (place).”

(Acts 5:35-39) (V.35-37) Gamaliel advised the Council to take heed as to what they were doing; then he recounted two instances of Jewish rebellions that had resulted in the deaths of the participants. History shows us various segments of Israel’s population or religious sects were almost constantly fomenting rebellion against someone, usually one oppressor nation or another.

(V.38-39) “And now I say unto you, refrain (desist, draw away) from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught (make of no effect): But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply (at all) ye be found (perceived) to fight against God.” It was a voice of reason in the swirl of anger and vengeance.

The situation makes one wonder about Gamaliel. (John 12:42) Was Gamaliel one of the chief rulers who secretly believed on Jesus (John 3:1-21) like Nicodemus? Had God kept believers like Nicodemus and Gamaliel in leadership positions to help the fledgling church get started? (John 12:43) Obviously Gamaliel did not love the praise of men more than the praise of God because he spoke up and saved the apostles’ lives.

Several things are obvious about Gamaliel. He had intimate knowledge of Israel’s history (the Talmud). (Acts 22:3 keywords: taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers) He was extremely well versed in the Jewish Law of Moses (Torah) and (Acts 22:3 keywords: at the feet of) Gamaliel was so famous and so trustworthy Jews in other countries sent their children to live at his rabbinical school of Phariseeism and to be taught the above which, of course, would include prophesy and Psalms.

It is obvious Gamaliel was extremely intelligent. Some modern Biblical scholars have said he was a moderate or even a liberal. Others have even called Gamaliel an opportunist and politician. Obviously, they are wrong (Acts 5:35 & 38-39) because his advice to the Council shows Gamaliel knew there was a veiled (hidden) part of Abraham’s covenant (V.39 keywords: fight against God) and that the law, Psalms and prophesy proclaimed a coming Messiah.

(Acts 5:29-32) Peter had proclaimed Jesus as the Saviour (deliverer). The Bible does not say if Gamaliel was a believer or that he ever became a Christian through the born again event (Acts 5:34-35) but, for sure, he wasn’t taking any chances and his cautionary advice to the Council shows that Gamaliel knew a Saviour was on the way (Isa. 53:1-12 & Psa. 22:1-18) and this man Jesus just might be the one.

(Acts 22:3) Gamaliel’s most famous student was Saul of Tarsus (a principal city in the Roman province of Cilicia now located in south central Turkey) whom we shall soon meet.

(Acts 5:40-42) The Council agreed with Gamaliel but it must have been a half-hearted agreement because when they had called the apostles, and beaten (to flay- implying a scourging) them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.(John 8:44) It makes one wonder if the devil (Satan) clapped his spiritual hands in glee at what he had inspired in the Council’s minds.

It didn’t work because the apostles departed rejoicing that they were worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. They went right back to work teaching and preaching Jesus in the temple and in private homes. Obviously, a multitude of people accepted Jesus’ salvation BECAUSE:

(Acts 6:1-15) Favoritism came up between the Hebrews (Jews) and Grecians (Greek speaking Jews). The old habits of Judaism were hard to break and the native Jerusalem Jews served their own widows first in the daily ministration of the necessities of physical life. The Grecian widows were considered non-native, foreign Jews and something needed to be done to stop this escalating unfairness bringing division into the early church.

Praying, preaching and teaching were the apostles’ job. So, to avoid being bogged down by mundane church work the apostles appointed seven men, one of which was named Stephen, to the position of deacon. (V.7) More and more people, including a great many Jewish priests, accepted Jesus as their Saviour.

(V.5) Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, (V.8) performed great wonders (transcending the common course of nature, remarkable events) and miracles (something that authenticates that the man is from God) among the people. Some of the Jews were treating Stephen’s miracles the same way (John 11:40-46 esp. 46) they did Jesus when He had raised Lazarus from the dead. Some of the Jews had ignored Jesus’ miracle and ran to the Jewish leadership to start trouble for Jesus.

(V.9-12) A group of Jews from a synagogue could not resist Stephen’s preaching and teaching but instead of believing and accepting salvation they suborned (introduce by collusion- defined: conspiracy to deceive) men to swear Stephen was a blasphemer and they brought him before the Sanhedrin Council for judgment. 

(Acts 7:1-60) The high priest questioned Stephen. Stephen’s answer started with Abraham’s departure from Mesopotamia, on to God’s covenant with Abraham, then to Israel’s bondage in Egypt and on to Moses’ trials that resulted in the signs and wonders that accompanied Israel’s exodus from Egypt. (V.38) Stephen recalled the events on Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the Law (V.37) and he prodded the Council’s memory that Moses prophesied a prophet was coming out of Israel (brethren) just like Moses to lead Israel to another Promised Land (eternal heaven).

(V.39-50) Then Stephen recounted how stubborn, rebellious and disobedient Israel had been despite all of God’s provision, signs, wonders, protection, miracles and even God’s presence in the tabernacle. (V.51-53) Then Stephen told them a great truth they refused to accept. He told them they were just like their forefathers who had persecuted and slain the prophets who had foretold the coming of the Just One (Jesus) whom they (the Sanhedrin Council and the Jews) had betrayed and murdered.

(V.54) Again “they were cut to their heart and they gnashed (to grate the teeth in pain or rage) on him (Stephen) with their teeth.” In other words, they attacked Stephen with red hot fury and bit and chewed on him like furious, ravenous wolves gnawing on a carcass. (V.55-56) Why was Jesus standing (Heb. 1:3) instead of sitting beside God? (John 20:25-28) Surely Jesus had His hands out showing Stephen the nail scar sign of the blood bought grace covenant and that He was up and ready to take Stephen home! When Stephen said what he saw the crowd went wild.

(V.57-58) Can you see them throwing, shoving and knocking Stephen staggering, falling and rising through the streets. What was Stephen thinking? (John 11:32) Nobody had ever died in Jesus’ presence. (John 11:24-26) Jesus had said; “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 14:6) Jesus said; “I am the way, the truth, and the life:” Being a Jew Stephen had seen stoning before and he knew where they were taking him.

(Psa. 23:4) “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;” Stephen was entering the valley of the shadow (shade) of death BUT (John 8:12) Jesus said; “I am the light of the world.” How can the darkness of death touch me when the light of the world is with me?” “How can death ever claim me when life itself is walking with me?

(Acts 7:58 & 8:1) They laid their clothes at the feet of a man named Saul because they needed arm freedom to cast stones with more force and accuracy. Saul was obviously a leader of some influence, possibly even a member of the Sanhedrin Council, who had voted to kill Stephen.  (Acts 22:3-4 esp. V.4 keywords: unto the death) Surely Gamaliel’s prize student had not heeded his advice.

(V.60 keyword: asleep) As he knelt beneath the cascade of cruel stones Stephen’s last breath was expended in praying for his murderers; “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (put to one’s account, a reckoning).” They looked with satisfaction upon Stephen’s crumpled, broken, bloody, dead body (Acts 6:15 keywords: face of an angel) but more than one was troubled that his face looked like a sleeping angel. “Its as if he didn’t feel the stones striking him.”

They, like us, could only see this side, man’s side, of death. (Luke 16:22 & 25) They could not see into the spirit world and they did not know Jesus had walked the valley of the shadow of death with Stephen. THINK NOT? (Heb. 2:9-15 esp. V.9 & 11 keywords: they who are sanctified and brethren) If you had felt everything within you painfully, seemingly endlessly dying as Jesus had and you had the power to prevent your dear loved one from experiencing that horrid process WOULD YOU PREVENT IT?

For a real-life true story with witnesses of that type of event please click on the commentary The Holy Spirit & You on this website. Scroll the menu to the two articles titled I Have Experienced Christian Physical Death and read them. You will be shocked and amazed that Jesus’ love and mercy goes further than we ever imagined.

Think about this. (Gen. 1:1 to 2:7) God is life itself (essence or spark of life) and He gives that (Matt. 25:46 then Rev. 20:10-15 & 21:1-4) eternal life to all people. Whichever place you decide to go, (2Cor. 4:3-6 esp. v.4 keyword: god) with whichever God/god you choose to serve, you will always be you forever and you will live with that God/god forever! God Jesus or god Satan? It’s your choice?

 (Acts 8:1-4 esp. V.3 keyword: havock- defined: violent destruction) Devout men buried Stephen. And Saul, filled with angry, self-righteous violence, set out to destroy the church by even entering the private dwellings of the new Christians and committing them to prison.

Saul did have the church on the run as the Christians fled in every direction (V.1) throughout Judaea and Samaria and eventually (Acts 11:19-22) even as far as Phenice (Phoenicia), Cyprus (an island off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean Sea), Cyrene (the region around Libya a city in northern Africa) and Antioch (a city in Syria).

But Saul’s furious efforts to destroy the church blew up in his face (Acts 8:4) because the Believers, (Acts 11:26) first called Christians at Antioch, that were scattered abroad “went everywhere preaching (to announce good news, to declare glad, good tidings) the word.” (Acts 8:3 keywords: men and women) The church, men and women, were scattered and they went everywhere preaching the word.

(Acts 8:5-17) One of the scattered, Philip, went to Samaria, the capital city of the country of Samaria, and preached Christ to them. (Christ is defined as Anointed One in Greek- Christos and Messiah in Hebrew- Mashiach: It is the title of Jesus, the Anointed Son of God who came –John 3:14-19- to deliver from their sins all who would believe).

As we have before shown, the Samaritans were not Jews. (2Ki. 17:1-33) God removed His protective hand from the Hebrews (V.7-17) because of their sins (V.17) which went so far as offering their own children to Baal as burnt offerings, and the northern ten tribes, called Israel, were conquered and carried away by the Assyrians (V.18 keyword: none) until there was none left. (V.3) Then king Shal-man-e’ser of the Assyrians (V.24) replaced the Jews with people from five of the provinces of his kingdom.

(V.25-28 esp. V.26 keyword: land) God would not let them live in the Samaria land unless they acknowledged Him. (V.27-28) The Assyrian king had (V.9-18) sent one of the Jewish priests (V.27) to teach them the manner (cause, reason, style) of the God of the land. (V.29-33) God did not force them to worship Him but they truly knew the manner of the real God of that land. (V.6 keywords: the ninth year of Ho-she’a) This event had happened about 722 years before Jesus was born and Jesus lived 33 years.

So, when Philip went to Samaria to preach about 750 years had passed. BUT: (John 4:3-42) Jesus had already been there. It is revealed that (V.9) the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans because the Jews knew the Samaritans were counterfeit Jews (V.12 keywords: our father Jacob) who, with the passage of time, considered themselves Jews due to the teaching they had received from the beginning.

Obviously that teaching had evolved through a “handing down” generational concept of the manner of the God of the land. (Isa. 43:3, 45:15 & 49:26 keyword: Saviour) The Samaritans had received enough teaching that they knew a Saviour was coming (V.42) and they recognized Jesus as that Saviour (Acts 8:5-17 esp. V.12) and as a result of Philip’s preaching they accepted Jesus (Isa. 49:26 & 60:16) as their Redeemer. For the first time Gentiles from other nations who were not proselyte Jews had accepted the salvation Jesus offers.

(1Ki. 10:1-15 & 2Chron. 9:1-14 keywords in both: queen of Sheba and kings of Arabia) According to some ancient records one Arabian nation called Ethiopia was located in southern Arabia, present day Yemen, and sometimes called Sheba (Sabaeans/Sabeans) (Gen. 10:28-32) after its founder Sheba, Noah’s great, great grandson. They were of Semitic bloodline. It was a very rich country because it was on the trade route between India and the Middle East nations. The African Ethiopia is addressed next.

 (Acts 8:26-39 esp. V.39 keywords: went his way rejoicing) (V.27) Candace is a name for a dynasty of Ethiopian (African) warrior queens. The title Candace corresponds to President, Caesar, Pharaoh and etc. There are existing monuments that show armed female Ethiopian warrior queens dragging enemy captives to offer to their gods.

This very wealthy African Ethiopia lay south of Egypt and historically was well known to be a trading hub that traded and sold the products from Africa to the Near East and Middle East nations and vice versa. Much later this particular Ethiopian kingdom was eventually destroyed in wars with the Egyptians and Romans. (V.27) Ethiopian is defined as blackamoor which is defined as a black African.

(V.27 again keywords: had come to Jerusalem for to worship) Obviously this Ethiopian eunuch was a proselyte or he would not have come to Jerusalem to worship in the court of the Gentiles. (V.28-34) He was reading from the book of the prophet Esaias (Isaiah Isa. 53:7) but he did not understand. (V.35-39) Philip preached Jesus unto the Ethiopian, the Ethiopian accepted Jesus, Philip baptized him and the Ethiopian went his way rejoicing. For the first time a proselyte Jew, a Gentile, of another race had accepted Jesus’ salvation.

Here and there in the preceding twenty-nine paragraphs we have seen Saul’s beginning as Gamaliel’s star student and how he became a devout follower of the Jewish Law of Moses in the Pharisee persuasion. He was extremely well versed in the Torah, Law of Moses, God’s covenant with Abraham, the prophesies, Proverbs and Psalms. Saul was a brilliant, passionate, opinionated, stubborn man.

(Acts 9:1-21) Saul was convinced of his own righteousness and with great ferocity and threats of slaughter against the disciples (learners, pupils) of Jesus Saul set out to destroy the fledgling church whom he considered blasphemers. He wasn’t satisfied with what he had done to the church in Jerusalem so he went to the high priest to obtain letters giving him permission to go to the synagogues in Damascus to arrest any Christians he found there.

One can only imagine Saul’s thought process. By his future writings we can see that Saul must have known something of a coming Deliverer. All of Israel expected a Deliverer but they expected one who would lead them to a physical world kingdom. (Mark 10:45 keyword: minister- defined: to serve) They could not conceive that the God of all glory would come as a servant “to give his life a ransom for many” and build a spiritual kingdom in the souls of physical men. Neither could Saul.

Saul must have had intimate knowledge of Jesus’ activities because for three and one-half years Jesus had set all of Israel on fire with his words, miracles and signs. Saul must have wondered why Jesus spoke in so many parables. Saul could not have known (John 12:32 & 14:26 then Acts 2:1-4 & V.37-41) Jesus was paving the way for His own work in His Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost, Spirit) person.

(Rev. 19:11-21) The Jews knew their Deliverer was coming as an Avenger who would set things right and break the yoke of Israel’s oppressors. The thought that The Lord God Almighty would come as a servant was blasphemy. (Phil. 2:5-8) Had someone had the audacity to tell Saul he would someday write the same thing Saul would have furiously and swiftly killed them! Perhaps Saul was thinking about a Deliverer when he came into sight of Damascus as he crossed the last rise in the road and surely his angry heart rekindled with righteous indignation at the sight. BUT:

(V.3-9) “Suddenly there shined (to flash and envelop) round about him a light (rays of luminousness) from heaven. And he fell (to fail) to the earth.” Obviously, Saul recognized the event as supernatural, his body went weak from shock and wilted to the ground. Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? The point made is that whatever a person does to a Christian who is inhabited by the Holy Spirit that act is also done to Jesus! The relationship between Jesus and a Christian is that personal.

Saul was no longer furious nor was he bold. You know that he was trembling and afraid because he knew persecutest is defined as to chase, to hunt to bring someone down like an animal, hostility, to cause tribulation.  Dry mouthed and trembling Saul asked; Who art thou Lord (God, Master, Sir, supreme in authority- an address of the greatest respect). Saul must have been thoroughly shocked, demoralized, crestfallen and afraid. Saul had been defending God with every fiber of his strength and all of his fiery soul but now he is told he is persecuting God instead!

It was a sublime moment beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation! “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:Then Jesus told Saul his actions were like kicking against ox goads (pricks, sharp). If you kick an ox goad you won’t hurt the ox goad but it will hurt you. Saul’s whole life’s purpose had crashed to dust all around him (Heb. 8:1 thru 10:1 esp. 8:5 & 10:1 keyword in both: shadow- defined: darkness of error, adumbration- which is defined: foreshadow, foretell, prophesy) because he had missed the whole purpose of Judaism.

 (Lev. 24:16) The Law demanded the death sentence for blasphemy. (Acts 6:13-14) Saul was persecuting Christians because he thought they were blasphemers (1Tim. 1:13) but Saul realized he was the blasphemer! Trembling, astonished and surely frightened Saul’s voice quivered; Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Jesus answered; Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

The men with Saul had heard the voice but they had not seen the man and they stood speechless while Saul dragged himself to his feet. (Acts 22:11 keywords: the glory of that light) Saul opened his eyes, blinked, wiped his eyes, blinked some more, his shoulders sagged and he whispered; “The light has made me blind. But, but, it did not blind you?” (Acts 9:3 & 22:6 keywords: round about me) The light had not shined on them.

(Acts 9:8 & 11) And they had to lead him on to Damascus where he fasted and prayed for three days in his darkness. What was Saul thinking? What was Saul asking himself? What was the subject of Saul’s prayers?

Surely Saul was thinking: (Acts 9:5 keywords: who art thou Lord- defined: God, Master, Sir, supreme in authority- an address of the greatest respect) “I have been blind of soul! I persecuted God!! (1Tim. 1:13) “I am a blasphemer!” (Acts 22:4 & 20) “I am a murderer! I persecuted the believers in Jesus.” And that made Saul think about God’s covenant with Abraham.

(Gen. 17:7 keywords: everlasting covenant) It was an everlasting covenant. “ (defined as: #1 eternal, always, perpetual and #2 concealed, to veil) covenant (covenant is defined as a compact made by passing between pieces of flesh by cutting, a confederacy), to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.  

Surely Saul was asking himself: (Acts 8:3 keywords: men and women & 9:4 keywords: why persecutest thou me) “How can mere men and women be the Lord? (Acts 9:5 & 1Tim. 3:16) How can God be a man? (Acts 9:6) What does the Lord mean “it shall be told thee what thee must do?” (1Tim. 1:13) “Has everything I have believed in, lived for, fought for and defended been in ignorance? Was the Covenant and the Law just a story or does it point to something that is coming?”

Surely Saul was in tears and shame as he prayed: repenting, begging for forgiveness, crying out for knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Saul was asking for spiritual sight. It was not to be (Gal. 1:16) not yet anyway. Saul had to learn that Jesus had struck him blind so he could see. (Acts 9:12) Saul did not pray to receive his physical sight because the Lord had given him a vision that Ananias was coming to restore his physical sight.

(V.10-16) Ananias, a disciple of Jesus living in Damascus, was sitting in his own house, minding his own business, until he saw a vision (a supernatural spectacle) from which Jesus spoke; “Ananias.” Ananias answered; “Behold, I am here, Lord.” Jesus knew exactly where Ananias sat and had called his name. Ananias’ reply shows his willing heart and reverence (Lord) for Jesus. Jesus told Ananias to arise (get up) go to a certain man’s house where Saul was praying and that Jesus had also told Saul in a vision that Ananias was coming that Saul might receive his sight.

Like many of us when the Holy Spirit calls us to do some seemingly impossible task Ananias was about to wilt. Paraphrased: Lord that man has terrorized many at Jerusalem, he’s come here to do the same thing to us and You want me to go to him?” Jesus informed Ananias; “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.Ananias went.

Several things are revealed here. 1) Jesus knows what our reaction and answer will be before we make them but we don’t. 2) That leaves the decision up to us and our free will is left intact. 3) Saul could have accepted his blindness. 4) He could have refused to go to the house of Judas. 5) He could have refused to see Ananias. 6) Saul could have told his men to arrest Ananias and have him bound and sent to Jerusalem. 7) Ananias could have let his fear rule him and refused to leave his house.

(V.17-21) Both men were obedient and the situation unfolded just exactly as Jesus had prophesied. Saul was healed, filled with the Holy Spirit, baptized, spent time with the disciples at Damascus to recover and to learn what they knew about Jesus (Acts 2:23-24, 3:15-19, 4:10-12 & 7:52) which was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, repentance and miracles wrought through the Holy Spirit.

Then, being the character he was, (V.20) Saul went to the synagogues in Damascus and preached Christ is the Son of God. It was all he knew at that time! They were amazed that Saul had changed sides so quickly! He had come to bind the Christians but he had joined them! We can only imagine their conversations!

(Acts 9:22-25 esp. V.22 keyword: confounded- defined: to throw an assembly into disorder, to perplex the mind, stir up also: keyword: proving- defined: to unite, show, teach, knit together and) With his great knowledge of the Law, prophets, proverbs, psalms, the prophesies and even the trappings of the Tabernacle and temple Saul obviously understood (Isa. 53:1 thru 54:5) Isiah had written about Jesus and he preached that Jesus was Son of God. It was all he knew at the time.

The Jewish synagogue assembly at Damascus were stirred up, perplexed and went into a great disorder. The Jews were not about to be changed by this renegade Pharisee. They would have their physical world kingdom and his preaching that Jesus was the Son of God was blasphemy as far as they were concerned. (V.23) It went on many days, they could not sway Saul back to Judaism so they decided to assassinate him. The gates were closely watched but the disciples (Christians) saved Saul by letting him down the wall in a basket.

(Acts 9:26-30) Saul went to Jerusalem where he had first started persecuting Christians and had wrecked such awful havoc on Stephen (Acts 26:9-10) and the fledgling church. We can only imagine the mixture of shame and gladness in Saul’s heart. He had much to be ashamed of yet he must have been glad to tell them he had met Jesus, had been saved and was now one of them. They were terrified. “This guy destroyed our church and now he claims to be one of us? I don’t believe it! No way!”

During the diaspora of the Jews a colony of Jews had been founded on the Island of Cypress more than three hundred years before the time of Christ (BC or BCE). (Acts 2:5-47 & 4:8-37 esp. V.36 keyword: Levite) Obviously a man named Joses was a Jew from the tribe of Levi who was part of the diaspora and had come from the island country of Cyprus to worship the Jewish way at the temple but had accepted Jesus as Saviour. The apostles surnamed him Barnabas (the son of consolation- defined: compassion, comfort, solace, exhortation, entreaty).

(V.37) Barnabas must have accepted Jesus (Acts 2:41) during the first great conversion of Jews to Christianity because (V.37) he’d had time to sell his property in Cyprus and had brought the money to the apostles (V.35) to be distributed among the believers. This beginning of the church was a time of great closeness to God through the Holy Spirit as the believers tried to emulate Jesus in their giving and doing. Obviously, Barnabas, this son of consolation, had earned his surname by his activities although only his giving of the proceeds of his property to the church is mentioned.

As you have seen through the first eight chapters of the Book of Acts the apostles and believers focused all their ability and passion on serving Jesus. But Barnabas had been singled out so he obviously had great ability and a burning passion to serve Jesus and to be like Jesus. Barnabas was compassionate, loved to give comfort and solace, was educated and talented in exhortation: defined as: emphatic, passionate communication urging someone to do something and entreaty: defined as an earnest and humble request.

At this time Barnabas did not know God would select him to be (Acts 14:8-18 esp. V.14 keyword: apostles) an apostle who would accompany Saul (Paul) on many of his missionary journeys. Though unspoken it is obvious the Holy Spirit was enlarging, blessing and using Barnabas’ dedication, talents and passion. SO: (Acts 9:27) God, through the Holy Spirit, used Barnabas to smooth Saul’s way into the Christian community by presenting Paul to the apostles.

(Acts 9:28-31) (V.28) After Saul was introduced to the apostles Paul immediately went and started working with them in their ministry in Jerusalem. (V.29) Saul spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed (to investigate jointly, discuss, enquire, question, reason) against (opposite) the Grecians (Greek speaking Jews, sometimes referred to as Hellenistic Jews).

NOTE: There is much discussion and even contention about what language or languages the apostle Saul spoke. (Acts 22:3 & 26:24 keywords: much learning) Saul was highly educated. (Acts 9:29) He spoke Greek, (Acts 22:25 & 23:11) Latin and (Acts 22:2) Hebrew (John 19:20) which were the three main languages spoken in that part of the world. BUT:

Please be patient. There was a fourth language spoken, Aramaic, that is much discussed, argued about and, well, you know how it is; the non-believing scholars like to get all red in the face and puff up if one uses the Bible to prove a modern theory. 

(Gen. 10:1-32) <-This chapter gives the history of the descendants of Noah. (V.8-9) Nimrod, the great grandson of Noah, became a great leader, held the people together in one group which spoke the common Eden language Noah and his family had brought across the flood from the Garden of Eden.

(Gen. 10:8-10 esp. V.8 keywords: Nimrod, a mighty one & 11:10 keywords: beginning of his kingdom was Babel) Nimrod led the group (the whole world population) of people toward the west (Gen. 11:1-9) from the east where they discovered a plain (wide, level valley) in the land of Shinar. (V.4) Under Nimrod’s direction they built a city and a tower and they dwelt (to settle, make houses) there.

(compare the above to Rev. 13:11-17)-> Unwritten but obvious, it was Satan’s first attempt to inspire man to create a one world religion and a one world government. There have been many others after Nimrod that have tried; Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Kahn, Caesar, the Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and etc. Governmental dictates or proclamations (communism, Nazism and etc.) can become a religion.

(Rev. 13:1-8) It was not yet time for the beast (Gen. 11:1-9 esp. V.4 & 8 keyword: scattered- defined as: to disperse, disperse selves, spread abroad & V.9 keywords: confound the language: confound is defined- to mingle, to mix) so God confounded the common Eden language and scattered all the people on the earth at that time.  (Gen. 11:9 then 10:8-10 keyword: Babel) Babel is defined as confusion.

SO

The Bible scholars say at the time of Saul there was also a fourth common language in use called Aramaic. Modern linguists have identified at least nineteen ancient dialects in northern Africa, southern Europe and the Near East that are based on an ancient language of the Semitic family group. Semitic is not a Biblical word. Semitic was first used in the 1770’s by members of the Gottingen School of History who derived the name from Shem, the son of Noah.

Semitic is defined: #1) relating to or denoting a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and certain ancient languages such as Phoenician and Akkadian, constituting the main subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic family. #2) relating to the peoples who speak the Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Arabic. They all originated from the Babel languages (Gen. 11:1) which had resulted from the time God confounded the one language at Babel!

THINK ABOUT THIS: It had been about twenty-one hundred years of the growth of the diverse population of the human race since the scattering of the people when God confounded the Eden language at Babel until the time of Saul’s ministry.

During that two millennia due to word usage, ethnic influences of pronunciation, different group lifestyles, different environments, their worship of different pagan gods and etc. among the cultures of various clans, tribes, and kingdoms the dialects had evolved into national languages even though they were based on a common ancient (ancient at that time) Semantic language. (Gen. 10:1 then 6-8 key: Nimrod was Noah’s great-grandson= only four generations) The language of Babel was the language brought across the flood from Eden by Noah and his family.

There are even a few modern languages in the middle east and southern Europe that claim to be Aramaic but they are unrecognizable when compared to ancient Aramaic. Further research is available on your computer if you so desire. See:  www.peshitta.org/initial/aramaic.html an article by Paul D. Younan. (Acts 28:4 keyword: barbarians) It stands to reason that Saul spoke in at least one or more of these languages especially when you read the N.T. and view a map of the scope of Saul’s missionary journeys to such a great variety of nations.

OR

(Read these: Acts 2:4-11 esp. V.4 & 1Cor. 14:18 keyword in both: tongues Anglicized Greek word: glossa- defined: a language not naturally acquired) (1Cor. 14:18) Paul (Saul) said; “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:” Perhaps God, through the Holy Spirit, supernaturally enabled Paul (Saul) to speak the language of the people wherever he preached. Various ancient scrolls were written in all four languages. END OF NOTE.

(John 6:44 & 12:32 then Acts 9:4-6) Like any true Christian experience, in the beginning Saul had been drawn by Jesus. (Acts 9:17-18) When Saul submitted to Jesus he was accepted by Jesus and he received the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit). That is the deciding factor; (Rom. 8:9) if you have the indwelling Holy Spirit you are a Christian. If you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit you are not a Christian.

(John 3:5-8 esp. V.8) Non-Christians (sinners, lost people) cannot understand the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and they will not understand it until they accept the salvation Jesus offers. After salvation the indwelling Holy Spirit is the only way a person can know they have been accepted by Jesus through the born again salvation experience. See the Breath of Life commentary on this website for full details.

(Back to Acts 9:28-31 from fourteen paragraphs above) Obviously it was the same old argument. These Greek speaking Jews were content with their Judaism type of worship but Saul showed them in their own Jewish writings, translated into Greek, which proved Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 17:20-21) and the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom within people and is not the physical kingdom the Jews were waiting for.

The Greek speaking Jews were furious and made plans to murder Saul (V.30) but the brethren took Paul northwest of Jerusalem to the Mediterranean seaport at Caesarea about 23 miles south of Mt. Carmel, put him aboard a ship that would travel north across the extreme eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea to Tarsus in Cilicia at the mouth of the Cydnus River in what is now modern day southern Turkey.

And there Saul, the new Christian and new apostle, disappears! (V.31) Saul was gone and the churches throughout all of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were at rest and began to multiply (grow). Without saying it this verse points out five facts.

#1) The churches had rest so that means (Acts 5:34-40) the Jewish high council was heeding Gamaliel’s advice to let the church live or die by its own hand. If it was of God they couldn’t stop it. If it was not of God it would be destroyed. #2) Against his teacher and mentor Gamaliel’s advice Saul had been the instigator and driving force of the persecution against the church. SO:

#3) (Acts 9:8 keywords: led him by the hand) Saul could have remained blind and helpless and his persecution of the church would have also ceased. #4) (Acts 9:15-16) Jesus knew what Saul’s decision would be (Acts 9:11-17) thus Jesus could prophesy and instruct Ananias what to do concerning Saul. AND: #5) (Acts 9:12 & 17-20) Jesus knew stubborn Saul the zealot, the passionate, educated firebrand desperately wanted to serve God but Saul didn’t know how to accomplish that serving so Saul’s free will to choose was left intact. But what had happened to Saul?

(Acts 9:31 thru Acts 11:25 esp. V.25 keyword: Saul) We will see that a lot of time is passing when we explore these scriptures. Just remember the apostles were walking, preaching, camping out or staying overnight with various people and visiting homes as they passed from town to town.

(John 21:15-17) Jesus had told Peter to feed his sheep. It was a spiritual order. Jesus was going to heaven, He didn’t have any livestock, He was referring to the people who would comprise the church. Peter was supposed to feed them the word of God and to take care of Jesus’ flock of people.

(Acts 9:31-35) Peter went to work. As Peter walked from town to town, house to house and group to group he stopped many times and spent many nights here and there and wherever. Peter passed (to fill, fulfill, complete) throughout all quarters (V.31) in Judaea, Galilee and Samaria. He checked on and spiritually built up the groups of believers (disciples) there (V.32) then he went to the saints (consecrated, blameless, the believers, disciples) which dwelt at Lydda (a city in Judaea). It took a lot of time.

In Lydda Peter, (V.34) through Jesus, healed a man who had been bedridden with palsy for eight years and all the people who dwelt at Lydda and Saron (the area between Joppa and Caesarea) turned to the Lord. It took time. (Acts 9:36-43) In Joppa a female disciple named Tabitha died and, with much grieving, she was laid out for her funeral. Lydda was close to Joppa so they sent and asked Peter come and help. (V.40) Peter prayed and, of course, he asked the Lord for help.

Jesus did answer Peter’s prayer and Tabitha was raised from the dead. (V.42) This astonishing miracle and Peter’s preached word caused many people throughout Joppa to become believers and accept Jesus. (V.43) Peter tarried (to stay in a given place) many days with Simon a man who tanned animal hides into leather. It took a lot of time.

But where was Saul? It appears nobody missed him because they were too busy serving the Lord and building a church through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:6) Jesus had told Saul what to do in the near future, Saul had obeyed and had been healed from his blindness! (Acts 9:15-16) What about Jesus’ vague, somehow concealed prophesy that Jesus was going to subject Paul to a future showing?

At this beginning, from the resurrection of Jesus until nearly 100AD, none of the Apostles knew their writings that would become the New Testament (Heb. 8:1-13 esp. V.13 keywords: new covenant), and would contain the complete unveiling of the concealed part of the original everlasting covenant God made with Abraham.

And they did not know that new covenant would be handed down through the generations to now, June 26, 2019, and on to (1Thess. 4:13-18 & 2Thess. 2:1-17 esp. V.14 keywords: he called you by our gospel <- refer to Dan. 11:36 thru 12:3 esp. 12:1-2  keywords: at that time thy people shall be delivered everyone that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt, Joel 2:1 thru 3:21, Zech. 13:1 thru 14:21 then Rev. 14:1-13 & 19:1 thru 20:15) the ending of the "Church Age".

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