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….

To Savour the Flavour of the Saviour #3

Monday, July 12, 2021

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men (Mark 8:33 KJV).

What can today’s Scripture and its context teach us about Satan’s policy of evil?

The Bible is always honest, even about its heroes. Peter the Apostle was a mighty vessel of the LORD—and will be throughout the endless ages to come! Yet, Peter was just a man like all of us. He had his faults, weaknesses, limitations. His faith wavered. Many times, he blurted out silly comments without thinking. He meant well, but he should have simply agreed with the Lord Jesus in Mark chapter 8 and Matthew chapter 16. When he learned of Calvary—Christ’s death—he should have responded, “Amen! So be it!”

Jesus Christ was undiminished Deity and full humanity. As a Man, there came days when He was reading His Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures, those Messianic prophecies, and exclaimed, “Hey, that is Me being described there! I need to fulfill these verses. My Father wants Me to do that—and I will enjoy doing it with Him too!” Let us be mindful of Psalm 40, a direct reference to Calvary: “[6] Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. [7] Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, [8] I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart(cf. Hebrews 10:5-10).

When the Lord Jesus revealed His impending suffering and death in the context of today’s Scripture, He was fully aware of the prophecies that had to be fulfilled (Psalm 22, Isaiah chapter 53, and so on). Yet, Peter was walking in the flesh, thinking like a lost man, encouraging Jesus not to fulfill Bible prophecy. Therefore, Jesus was prompted to reply most sharply to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (That is, “Move out of My way, Adversary!”) Indeed, Peter was inadvertently functioning as Satan’s spokesman….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Why forgive ‘seventy times seven?’

“Pick and Choose” Religion!

Friday, May 7, 2021

“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away” (John 19:30,31 KJV).

Like modern denominationalists, the apostate Jewish people carefully picked and chose which Bible verses to follow and which to ignore.

Christ Jesus died on Passover, when the sacrificial lambs were slaughtered (3 P.M.), some three hours before the meal. The first day of Unleavened Bread began at sunset. As per the Law of Moses, leaven/yeast (a type of sin) was to be removed from all Israeli houses. Exodus chapter 12: “[15] Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.…. [19] Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.”

Crucified individuals could linger for days, pushing up with their legs to breathe. Therefore, their legs were broken to hasten death and burial. Israel knew not to leave “cursed” Jesus of Nazareth hanging there, lest He defile their land. Deuteronomy chapter 21: “[22] And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: [23] His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God; ) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”

Yet, they failed to see Jesus as the ultimate Passover lamb who would pay for their sins. They chose to believe only parts of their Bible. “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46).

Dayspring #4

Monday, April 26, 2021

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78,79 KJV).

What is this “dayspring?”

Having seen the light of Messiah’s First Coming, His earthly ministry, we now glimpse the radiance of His Second Coming. For example, Isaiah 60:1-3 speaks to Israel: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” The nations languish in spiritual darkness and pagan idolatry as per Romans 1:18-32 and Genesis 11:1-9. However, once the LORD imparts spiritual light to Israel as she rises to kingdom glory, she preaches that Word of God to the Gentiles so as to dispel darkness from the Earth!

Looking beyond our Dispensation of Grace, we see the Apostle Peter urging Israel to trust Jesus as Messiah, that He first enlighten their souls with Divine revelation. When He returns, and they are redeemed, the converted nation evangelizes the lost Gentiles. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). In addition to spiritual darkness, Christ’s Second Coming will drive out physical darkness. His glorious return will be a literal sunrise, to end the night of His extended absence: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Malachi 4:2). Second Thessalonians 2:8 alludes to this “brightness of his coming.”

Finally, Revelation 22:16: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Come, Lord Jesus, Thou Dayspring!

Our two latest Bible Q&As: “Why was the levirate marriage important in Bible times?” and “Why was Moses ordered to be shoeless?

Dayspring #3

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78,79 KJV).

What is this “dayspring?”

The Prophet Isaiah, circa 700 B.C., penned: “[8:22] And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness. [9:1] Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. [9:2] The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Isaiah’s words are interpreted in Matthew 4:13-17, Christ’s earthly ministry: “[13] And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: [14] That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, [15] The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; [16] The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. [17] From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” By Jesus preaching God’s Word, the Gospel of the Kingdom, He is spreading spiritual light and driving out the persistent spiritual darkness from Israel’s land and people.

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4,5). Yet, Israel rejects that Light who gives light, and in His absence comes more darkness….

Dayspring #2

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78,79 KJV).

What is this “dayspring?”

Using simple common sense, we see two ideas in the word “dayspring”—day and spring. The day is springing forth, appearing or emerging. In other words, it is sunrise or dawn. (The Greek word, “anatole,” is elsewhere rendered “east,” as in the direction of sunrise—Matthew 2:1,2,9; Matthew 8:11; Matthew 24:27; Luke 13:29; Revelation 7:2; Revelation 16:12; Revelation 21:13.) As touching the “dayspring” of Luke, however, a source of light other than the sun is being referenced. Before we identify the light, we make note of the darkness. Today’s Scripture, in part: whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

Let us turn over now to chapter 1 of John: “[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life; and the life was the light of men. [5] And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. [6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [7] The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. [8] He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. [9] That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. [11] He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

Scripture, of course, is speaking of light in a figurative sense here, but that does not detract from the literal truth being conveyed. Israel languishes in spiritual darkness—ignorance—but Messiah from Heaven has appeared to enlighten her….

Dayspring #1

Friday, April 23, 2021

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78,79 KJV).

What is this “dayspring?”

After John the Baptist’s birth, his father Zacharias preached a lengthy sermon in Luke chapter 1. Let us read it in full: “[67] And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, [68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, [69] And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; [70] As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: [71] That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; [72] To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; [73] The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, [74] That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, [75] In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

“[76] And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; [77] To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, [78] Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, [79] To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” As the Holy Ghost led him, Zacharias declared the various Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament were coming to pass. Christ Jesus had already been conceived in Mary’s womb, and was to be born in roughly six months. John the Baptist would play an exceptional role, introducing Israel to her Messiah.

With the arrival of God’s “anointed,” the “dayspring from on high” would visit the Jewish people. Exactly what is this “dayspring,” and how will it affect Israel? Let us study the Scriptures to find out….

Bible Q&A #830: “What is the ‘bound’ of Hosea 5:10?

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.