Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #7

Saturday, July 24, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Doubtless, Satan is always determined to use whomever and whatever he can to undo God’s work. Since unbelieving Israel was in bondage to the Devil, they disliked Paul’s ministry and message reaching the Gentiles. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had once been a Christ-hater too; he was a strict observer of the Law of Moses, a self-righteous religious fanatic and teacher. Consequently, apostate Israel considered him a renegade or traitor. The very Jesus he had so passionately hated during early Acts (like them) was now the God-Man he had been faithfully serving in ministry for the last 30 years! Growing jealous of him, they retaliated by recurrently harming him and harassing his Gentile converts with false teaching (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15,22-28). With the Lord Jesus Christ personally absent from Earth, they proceeded to relentlessly attack Paul, His apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).

The miracle of Paul surviving the snakebite in today’s Scripture is not apocryphal folklore or fantasy. It illustrates most graphically how unbelieving Israel unsuccessfully sought to damage and even destroy Christ’s heavenly ministry, His spokesman of this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. As hard as sinful man tried, as much as Satan attempted, God ensured Paul would remain on Earth until he had finished his course. Instead of the viper harming Paul, Paul kills it! Verse 5 again: “And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.” Once more, here is apostate Israel, being cast off into judgment! Her fall occurring back in chapter 7, her diminishing now complete as Acts closes (chapter 28). With Paul’s provoking ministry ending in conjunction with Acts ending, the Dispensation of Grace continues alone….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #6

Friday, July 23, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

In Scripture, fire represents wrath. When fire drove the snake out to bite Paul, it parallels unbelieving Israel responding negatively to God’s judgment against them. Instead of converting to Christ under Paul’s ministry, they continued opposing the Lord’s will. Furthermore, they militantly resisted Paul’s apostleship—that Gospel of Grace being the very present truth that delayed Christ’s Second Coming wrath from falling on them!

Paul wrote during Acts: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath [Israel’s fall] is come upon them to the uttermost(1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Not only was national Israel content in being dead in her trespasses and sins—refusing to be God’s channel of salvation and blessing to the Gentiles—her extensive unbelief caused her to outright hate and persecute Paul because Christ had sent him to preach to the nations without her!

In today’s Scripture, Paul is preaching amongst pagan idolaters—the very people to which redeemed Israel would have ministered had they accepted their King decades prior. The heathen citizens of Melita are taking care of Paul, but the viper (Israel) strikes to kill! Gentiles are surprised. Undergoing that much destructive hostility for 30 years, Paul should have been long dead. The Gospel of Grace should have disappeared decades earlier. Yet, it has endured, and Paul has survived….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #5

Thursday, July 22, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

The LORD God dealt with the world through Israel from Genesis chapter 12 (Abraham) into the early Acts period. Whether the 20 centuries prior to Christ’s earthly ministry, or Matthew through John, or the opening of Acts, Israel overwhelmingly refused to believe God’s words to her. Her people did not want to be His kingdom of priests in the Earth: they declined their privilege to go to the Gentiles. Eventually, they killed their King (Jesus Christ) and remained in unbelief into Acts. Having blasphemed (spoken) against God the Son in Matthew through John, they were forgiven; however, they were not forgiven when they blasphemed (spoke) against God the Holy Ghost in Acts chapters 1–7 (cf. Matthew 12:31,32). In Acts 7:55,56, as they are about to stone Stephen to death, he sees Christ standing—no longer sitting—at the Father’s right hand. Second Coming wrath, which should have occurred here (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34-36), was delayed!

“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Romans 11:11-14). Israel stumbled at Calvary, but did not fall. She stumbled and fell in Acts chapter 7, and she diminished for the remainder of Acts. Paul’s ministry began in chapter 9, but Israel refused to believe his Gospel message too….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #3

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Throughout Acts, national Israel obstinately remained in unbelief. Only a remnant trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether increasingly persecuting the Apostle Peter and the other 11 Apostles during the opening chapters, or constantly mistreating the Apostle Paul for the remainder of the Book, corporate Israel was undeniably hostile toward Christ’s representatives. Contrary to what denominationalism has taught us, Acts is not a Book of doctrine. Instead, it is the progressive record of how God was just or fair in transitioning from Israel to us Gentiles, from Peter’s ministry to Paul’s ministry, from Little Flock to Body of Christ, from Prophecy to Mystery, from Law to Grace. Chapter 28—the context of today’s Scripture—is the Holy Spirit’s final commentary on Israel’s status during the Dispensation of Grace.

Remember, unbelieving Jews did everything they possibly could to hinder, discredit, or kill Paul (Acts 9:23; Acts 13:45,50; Acts 14:2,5,19; Acts 17:5,13; Acts 18:12; Acts 20:3,19; Acts 21:11,21; Acts 22:30; Acts 23:12,27,30; Acts 25:7,15,24; Acts 26:2,21). Hence, the Holy Spirit also places into the record of Acts interspersed accounts of pagan Gentiles (non-Jews) accepting him and believing the Gospel of Grace. Today’s Scripture is one such example, especially as Luke has begun concluding Acts. Chapter 28 opens: “And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people [foreigners ignorant of Greek language and culture—namely, Phoenicians or Punics] shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.” The negative—“shewed us no little kindness”—means these Gentiles were extremely friendly or hospitable to Paul and his companions. This was certainly in contrast to apostate Israel’s behavior toward him….

Christ Liveth in Me

Sunday, April 4, 2021

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

“He is risen” is not a simple blasé cliché!

When Jesus’ disciples came to His tomb on that glorious Sunday morning nearly 2,000 years ago, they were startled to find it empty! Angels inform them that He has resurrected, but they are still in shock (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8). Jesus Christ Himself must later explain the Scriptures to them regarding what happened those last few days (Luke 24:44-46).

However, until Paul’s ministry, Christ’s finished crosswork is not preached as good news for salvation. Peter and Israel’s other apostles simply preach that Jesus Christ is now resurrected to “sit on [David’s] throne” (Acts 2:30)—that is bad news for much of Israel, for they still reject Him, weeks and months after His resurrection and ascension. Throughout early Acts, Israel’s apostles warn her that Jesus Christ is coming back to judge them.

When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, we learn that we Gentiles can benefit from Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. Israel’s rejected Messiah is now our way to heaven! Yes, Israel hated Him, and demanded that He experience the most awful method of execution devised, but God allowed it in order to accomplish His will. Satan attempted to hinder God’s will by having Christ killed, but all that did was provide the method whereby God could save us pagan Gentiles. Calvary’s finished crosswork frees us from Satan’s evil system and gives us a chance to be God’s people (Acts 26:17,18)!

As people who have trusted Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins, that crucifixion is our death to self and sin, and that resurrection is our raising to walk in newness of life—His life (today’s Scripture; cf. Romans 6:1-11)!

Indeed, Jesus Christ is alive, and He lives in and through those who walk by faith in God’s Word to them, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon! 🙂

HAPPY EASTER!

*Adapted from a larger Bible study by the same name. That study can be read here or watched here.

That They All May Be One! #8

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:20,21 KJV).

What exactly is this unity?

Israel and Judah divided was foreseen in the Jewish religious calendar given to Moses. Leviticus chapter 23: “[15] And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: [16] Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. [17] Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.” Roughly 50 days after Passover, the Jews were to bring two wave loaves of two tenth deals,” or a new meat [meal/grain] offering.”

As touching the fulfillment of the aforementioned Leviticus passage, the issue of harmony among Jesus’ disciples is accentuated. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place(2:1). “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,…” (2:46).

“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:….” (4:24). “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (4:32). “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch(5:12). This was a foretaste of the New Covenant friendship…..

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Why does ‘revived’ appear in Romans 14:9?

An Anchor of the Soul #6

Sunday, October 18, 2020

“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 6:17-20 KJV).

What can we say about this “anchor of the soul?”

Bear in mind the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

This was fulfilled in the short-term with Isaac’s birth (cf. Genesis 17:19 and Genesis 21:12, for instance). In the long-term, however, it refers to Jesus: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). Yet, Israel being a blessing to the world is still future. They have not yet risen to kingdom glory in order to convert the Gentiles (cf. Isaiah 60:1-3; Isaiah 61:6; Zechariah 8:20-23).

When the writer of Hebrews alludes to Abraham in the context of today’s Scripture, he is reminding his Jewish audience they are the heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant. At Christ’s Second Coming, Israel’s believing remnant will finally become God’s kingdom of priests. Until then, though, the Jews must endure Daniel’s 70th Week, and not let the Antichrist deceive them. The winds of false doctrine are blowing strongly, and Satan is attempting to distract them with error, so their souls must be anchored in sound Bible doctrine….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Did God really demand Ezekiel eat excrement?

An Anchor of the Soul #5

Saturday, October 17, 2020

“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 6:17-20 KJV).

What can we say about this “anchor of the soul?”

Read all of chapter 6 of Hebrews. Notice today’s Scripture is the closing section. After exhorting the Jews to advance in spiritual maturity (verses 1-3), the writer describes the unbelievers who have rejected the Holy Spirit in the early Acts period (verses 4-8). Then, he switches back to spiritual maturity among Israel’s believing remnant.

“[9] But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. [10] For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. [11] And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: [12] That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

To prove his point, the writer of Hebrews subsequently alludes to the promise the LORD made to their father Abraham: “[13] For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, [14] Saying [Genesis 22:17], Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. [15] And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. [16] For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.” As Abraham through faith and patience inherited God’s promise to him, so his descendants (the audience of Hebrews) should trust God and patiently wait for Him to finish fulfilling His pledge to Israel….

Israel Blinded Thrice! #3

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9,10 KJV).

Friend, did you know this passage is applicable to three particular times in Israel’s history?

The Holy Spirit was poured out on Israel’s believing remnant in Acts chapter 2, bearing witness of Christ’s resurrection by performing miracles through the Little Flock. Yet, national Israel remained in unbelief, persecuting the Apostles and Prophets—Peter, John, Stephen, et cetera. Christ raises up a new Apostle, Paul, to begin the Dispensation of Grace and the Church the Body of Christ. Israel continues opposing God’s work through the rest of Acts.

With Acts closing, Paul quotes today’s Scripture in chapter 28: “[25] And when they [the Jews] agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, [26] Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: [27] For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

Read Romans 11:6-10,25-27 (cf. Isaiah 29:10). God again removes whatever spiritual light Israel had and willfully refused. Israel’s blindness will not be lifted until God gives her a sign, another miraculous demonstration intended to teach doctrine. Following the blinding of Israel in our dispensation, God will send Israel a sign, Christ’s Second Coming, as in Matthew 24:30: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” At Christ’s return, as per Romans 11:25-27, Israel is nationally enlightened and converted, and enters the Millennium!

Israel Blinded Thrice! #2

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9,10 KJV).

Friend, did you know this passage is applicable to three particular times in Israel’s history?

The Lord Jesus Christ conducted His earthly ministry for three years in Israel. Yet, they overwhelmingly rejected Him as Messiah-King. Consequently, He began to gradually withdraw from public ministry, dealing with just believers. He quotes today’s Scripture twice—Matthew 13:14-16 and John 12:37-41. Read from John: “[37] But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: [38] That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? [39] Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, [40] He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Again, God removes whatever spiritual light Israel had and willfully refused. She is blinded a second time (beginning with Jesus’ parables). That darkness will not be removed until God gives her a sign (another miraculous demonstration designed to teach doctrine). Following Israel’s blinding in Christ’s earthly ministry, God sends Israel the sign of Christ’s resurrection, as per Matthew 12:39,40: “[39] But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah]: [40] For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

After Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit preached to Israel through the 12 Apostles (see Acts chapters 2–7). Israel is enlightened, having another chance to believe! Alas, she persists in unbelief again, still refusing to trust the Gospel of the Kingdom. God blinds her a third and final time….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Does Acts 7:6 have a mistake?