The Apple Of God's Eye

June 18, 2009

The Apostle Paul: Commandment Breaker Or Keeper?

www.art.com/MILLIONS of professing Christians assume Paul taught Christians to disobey the Ten Commandments. If you keep the Law of God, it is claimed, you are under a curse! You probably have heard this teaching from childhood and have assumed it to be true.

To be sure, many have sincerely thought and assumed that this is New Testament teaching. But God commands us to quit assuming — to “prove all things …” (I Thess. 5:21).

Does it make any difference to God whether you obey Him?

How to Begin

Some of what Paul wrote is admittedly difficult to understand. Peter was inspired to say that Paul wrote “some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable WREST, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:16).

But on the other hand, Paul also wrote much which is clear, plain and EASY to understand. In those passages it would be impossible to misunderstand what he is saying.  The logical way to understand Paul’s teachings about the Ten Commandments is to go first to his plain, clear, straightforward statements on this subject. Only when we first understand these, are we ready to intelligently study Paul’s more difficult passages.

However, because the natural mind of man has a built-in hostility toward God and His Ten Commandment Law (Rom. 8:7), men don’t follow this logical approach. Instead of understanding Paul’s difficult statements in the light of his PLAIN, CLEAR, easy-to-understand words, many do just the opposite. They totally discard, reject and IGNORE Paul’s direct, straightforward, UNMISTAKABLE statements about the Ten Commandments. They then twist and distort his more difficult-to-be-understood statements.

What Paul Clearly Taught

Now what are some of Paul’s clear statements about the Ten Commandments? One such statement is found in I Corinthians 6:9-10. Here Paul warns: “Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers… nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

In this one short passage the Apostle Paul names the breaking of FOUR of the Ten Commandments — idolatry, adultery, stealing and coveting — and dogmatically states that any found guilty of breaking these commandments will not inherit God’s Kingdom! And he warns us not to deceive ourselves by thinking otherwise!

Notice another unmistakably clear and easy-to-understand passage: “Now the works of the flesh … are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry… wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).

This passage repeats two commandments — those pertaining to adultery and idolatry — and adds one more — the command against murder.

This makes a total of FIVE commandments which Paul has specifically and unequivocally stated Christians must keep if they are to inherit or enter God’s Kingdom. And since idolatry, which is mentioned in both of these passages, automatically breaks the first commandment, which is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3), Paul has actually commanded obedience to six of the Ten Commandments in just two short passages!

Now turn to Colossians 3:5-9. This passage reads: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of DISOBEDIENCE… But now ye also PUT OFF ALL THESE: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. LIE NOT one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.”

This scripture names and condemns disobedience to two more of the Ten Commandments — bearing false witness, or lying, and taking God’s name in vain through blasphemy and filthy talk. (See also Ephesians 4:29.)

Next open your Bible to Ephesians 6:1-2. Here we read, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.” This is a direct quote from the commandment in Exodus 20:12. Yet here Paul explicitly COMMANDS Christians to obey it!

This makes a total of NINE commandments which Paul has distinctly and separately named as being binding on Christians. Only the Sabbath command is left. Let’s see what Paul taught about it.

Paul and the Fourth Commandment

Every argument imaginable has been advanced against the command to keep holy the day God made holy (Ex. 20:8). Some want to use time as they please. They don’t want God telling them what to do! Some hate this command more than any other, it seems. It is the “test commandment” to show who God’s people really are.

Did Paul obey this commandment? Did he personally keep the day God made holy — and did he teach others to obey it? Let’s not just guess or assume. Let’s examine the Scriptures and “prove all things.”

In Acts 13 we have the account of Paul and Barnabas coming to Antioch in Pisidia. There they “went into the synagogue ON THE SABBATH DAY, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on” (Acts 13:14-15).

Then Paul stood up and spoke, preaching Christ to them.

“And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the GENTILES besought that these words might be preached to them THE NEXT SABBATH” (verse 42).

Now since Paul was preaching “the grace of God” (verse 43), here was his opportunity to straighten out these Gentiles. Notice what Paul did.

“And the NEXT SABBATH DAY came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (verse 44). Here Paul waited a whole week in order to preach to the Gentiles upon the day God made holy!

But this is not the only passage showing that Paul obeyed this commandment. In Acts 18:1-11 there is the account of Paul living with Aquila and Priscilla for one and one-half years (verse 11). During this time we read that he “reasoned in the synagogue EVERY SABBATH, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (verse 4).

Notice it! This New Testament passage tells us that Paul labored the six working days and taught in the synagogue every Sabbath for one and one-half years!

Likewise in Acts 17:2, Paul “as his manner was, went in unto them, and three SABBATH DAYS reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” It was Paul’s MANNER — his CUSTOM — to keep God’s day holy. Did he follow Christ in this? Certainly! Jesus, “as his custom was… went into the synagogue ON THE SABBATH DAY” (Luke 4:16).

It was Christ’s custom to keep the Sabbath. Paul followed Christ and he commands Christians: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). Paul kept the fourth commandment and he commands Christians to follow him in this regard.

For a final clincher of this fact, turn to Hebrews 4:9. Here, according to the original inspired Greek, Paul makes the direct statement, “There remaineth therefore a sabbath observance to the people of God.”

This passage is obscured in the King James Version which reads, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” But the word translated “rest” comes from the Greek word sabbatismos and, as the marginal readings in many Bibles show, means “keeping of the Sabbath observance.” Because the King James translators didn’t believe this verse meant what it said, they translated sabbatismos by the obscure word “rest.”

This verse, then, tells us point-blank that those who really are God’s people will be keeping holy the day He made holy.

What Will YOU Do?

The evidence is overwhelming! Paul personally kept ALL TEN of God’s Ten Commandments. In doing this he followed in the steps of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul could say, “Be ye followers [imitators] of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
Christ taught obedience to the Law. In John 15:10 Jesus said, “I have kept my Father’s commandments….” He says to His true followers, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.”

The question for us today is: Are WE willing to follow Christ, too? If we, like Paul, are crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) and Christ lives His life in us by His Spirit, Christ IN us will still keep God’s Ten Commandments, for He is the SAME, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

There are hundreds of additional New Testament passages covering obedience to God and His Law, both from the writings of Paul and others. We have, however, given sufficient information to prove conclusively and beyond a shadow of a doubt that Paul DID teach obedience to the Ten Commandments.

Don’t be deceived by those who teach disobedience! Many who hate God’s Law are very skillful at putting a clever twist on certain of Paul’s more difficult passages to make it appear that the Ten Commandments are “done away.”

Heed Peter’s warning! Don’t be deceived!

Source: Tomorrow’s World, January 1972

Why Was Barnabas Called The Son Of Encouragement?

www.oneyearbibleblog.com

The apostle Barnabas bent over the bloodied body, perplexed and distressed. At the first moan and stir of what had appeared to be a corpse, the little coterie of Christians gasped in disbelief. Then the short, stocky torso turned. Paul slowly sat up among the blood stained stones.

An ecstatic Barnabas helped Paul to his feet. Paul had survived a stoning. Astonished, the group heard Paul announce he was alright, and watched him turn back toward the city again (Acts 14:19-20).

Such was the character of the man God chose to get the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the known gentile world. But what of the character of his relieved and grateful partner? What was the role of Barnabas in the Work at that time? What value does his example hold for us today?

Some may be surprised to learn that Barnabas was the major human instrument God used to employ Paul in the ministry, and to get the gentile Work off the ground.

Barnabas’s unique qualities

Barnabas was genuinely humble. He was able to see the good in others. Because of this, he became a prime factor in the growth of the early Church. Cultivation of his qualities in our lives can enhance our impact as Christians today.
Scripture makes some unusual statements about Barnabas. One concerns the special name he was given by Church leaders — a name that seems to have characterized his ministry.

In the early weeks of the fledgling Church, the wealthier converts sold real estate and other possessions to share with the more needy brethren. Curiously, the only person named as an example of this generosity was a certain Joses. We are told that he “was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement)” (Acts 4:36).

The use of this name Encouragement is significant. The Greek word has also been translated “consolation” or “comfort.” John 14:26 uses a slightly different form of the Greek:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (Authorized Version).

The name Barnabas, then, has essentially the same meaning as the word Jesus used to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The personification of encouragement as the “father” of Barnabas is also significant. He must have manifested this trait in an outstanding way. This unique individual was a warm and encouraging person. He was positive and uplifting. He was able to see the best in people — to overlook the differences that could produce personal prejudice. This very virtue was used to open the possibility of membership in the early Church to converts of all nations.

Reaching the gentiles

Jesus Christ had shown His intent, just before His ascension to heaven, to ultimately reach all nations with the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:19-20). After He provided His Church with sufficient human and material resources to evangelize foreign lands, Christ had a major hurdle to overcome. Many Jews were prejudiced against non-Israelites. Many felt superior, being the chosen of God, and harbored bias that would have weakened their willingness to reach out to gentiles.

God revealed first through the leading apostle, Peter, His will for the gentiles, through the incident of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). Yet the Jews were still hesitant to admit that God must be dealing with gentiles (verse 28). There was some plain foot-dragging going on.

Whom would God use to get things going in the Work to the gentiles?

Enter Saul

Saul of Tarsus had been public enemy No. 1 to the Christians. He led a gestapo-like group of Jewish zealots on a crusade to completely eradicate the Christians (Acts 8:1). While on his way to Damascus, Saul was struck blind and brought to repentance by Christ Himself (Acts 9:1-22). Jesus made it clear He had chosen Saul to “bear My name before Gentiles” (verse 15).

After a narrow escape from would-be assassins at Damascus, Saul went to Jerusalem to join himself to the Christians there. But his reputation as their chief tormentor kept him on the outside looking in (verse 26). God began to use a certain man to champion the cause of suspect Saul.

Barnabas had perhaps believed Saul’s story, perceiving in him the Holy Spirit. Or he had heard of his conversion and powerful preaching in Damascus. He was able to put aside fear and bias to see the good in Saul. Barnabas stuck his neck out to help Saul win acceptance from the apostles (verse 27).

But Saul’s time had not yet come. After more threats on his life, Saul was sent home to Tarsus. God let a number of years go by while He further prepared His Church for the entrance of the gentiles. Growth continued, but no real effort was made to take the Gospel to gentile lands. Something did finally happen far up the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, in a gentile city called Antioch.

When the Church was scattered after the initial severe persecution, some of the believers journeyed as far as Antioch and took up residence in various gentile cities. These brethren witnessed to Jews only, until certain ones of them preached to some Greeks. God backed up their effort, and “a great number believed” (Acts 11:19-21).

When the Church leaders at headquarters in Jerusalem heard this news, they decided to investigate, and selected Barnabas for the trip (verse 22).  He arrived at Antioch and found that the Work of God among the Greeks was genuine. Being the positive, warm fellow he was, Barnabas was delighted. He “encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (verse 23). Unhampered by pride and preconceived notions, he could see the potential for good in gentiles. Barnabas lived up to his name, welcoming the new converts.

Another unusual statement is found in the following verse. Luke was so impressed with Barnabas that when he compiled the book of Acts, he stated, under inspiration, “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (verse 24). Barnabas was filled with the Holy Spirit, known also as the Comforter, which his name meant. He literally stands out for his special ability to see the good in others and encourage them.

Acts 11:24 ends with, “And a great many people were added to the Lord.” The growth was so rapid that Barnabas realized he was overextended. Assistance was needed to properly pastor the new brethren and allow additional growth. Barnabas was about to make a second major move that would ensure the great impact of Saul of Tarsus on the future of gentile Christians.

Remembering what had been prophecied about Saul, Barnabas realized that now was the time, and that Antioch was the place, to activate Saul’s ministry. So, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul” (verse 25). Together they returned to Antioch, staying there for a year. Saul probably acted as a kind of associate pastor, subject to the leadership of Barnabas. When the two are mentioned together, Barnabas is named first (verse 30).

Meanwhile, “The word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). By the time chapter 13 opens, we find five ministers operating out of Antioch. God’s time had come to expand the Work into other parts of the world.

While the ministry there was fasting and praying about this matter, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit made it plain that God had set apart Barnabas and Saul for a special mission (Acts 13:2-3). A new phase of the preaching of the Gospel was about to unfold.

The pair took along young John Mark and set sail for Cyprus, Barnabas’ home country. It is ironic that a major change in the roles of Barnabas and Saul occurred on this very island. They preached the Word at Salamis on the eastern end, then crossed the entire island to the city of Paphos (verses 4-6). Here, the party encountered Elymas the sorcerer. It was through a confrontation with this false prophet that assistant Saul became leader Paul.

Paul emerges as leader

Elymas withstood the efforts of the missionaries to preach the word to an interested deputy of the country. “Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?’ ” (verses 9-10).

Paul, perhaps remembering the impact of his own bout with blindness on the road to Damascus, used God’s power to smite Elymas with blindness. On this occasion he stood out as a dynamic spokesman. But consider Barnabas’ position. He had been in charge over Paul. He had championed the cause of Saul and helped him into the fellowship of the Church. He was the one who dug Saul out of the woodwork at Tarsus and reactivated him. He was the pastor at Antioch. He was the leader of this evangelical tour.

What if Barnabas had dwelt on all these things?

Barnabas had to decide there at Paphos whether to humble himself and submit to God’s greater purpose. All we know is that verse 13 simply records, “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga.” Previously it had always been “Barnabas and Saul.” Now it was “Paul and his party.” Paul was the leader. The entire focus of the rest of the book of Acts is on Paul. But let’s focus on the example of Barnabas.

Perhaps he was willing to admit that Paul had certain characteristics that were better suited for the job at hand. Barnabas was a warm and encouraging sort, which is a necessary quality of leadership. But he may have been of such a temperament that he tried to avoid confrontations. On the other hand, Paul was like a seething volcano, always ready to erupt with powerful, convicting preaching or debate, and never backing down from a battle.

Perhaps Barnabas realized this once and for all at Lystra, the city on that first missionary tour where Paul was stoned. Watching beleaguered Paul struggle to his feet and head right back into the city may have convinced Barnabas of the unique qualities Paul possessed.

At least it is safe to say that he had a similar attitude to that of John the Baptist. Submitting to the new leadership of Jesus Christ, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Barnabas practiced what Paul later preached: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

Are you like Barnabas?

Barnabas’ humility is also seen in his freedom from feelings of prejudice. Had he been biased, perhaps Paul would not have gotten anywhere with those at Jerusalem. Barnabas was willing to welcome into the Church brethren of other nationalities and cultures. He didn’t let petty differences keep him from serving God’s people.

God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). Barnabas manifested this same attitude by seeing the good in people. He dwelt on positives. He saw potential for the future. Exactly how much he had to do with Paul’s development, and therefore with the growth of the gentile Work, we don’t know at this time. We do know enough that we can benefit from his sterling example. What else, after all, would you expect from a man called the Son of Encouragement?

Source: The Good News, 1986

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