Good Morning to you!
It’s a great day to be in the Word!
Today’s readings are Acts 11-13
Y’all might want to run to the bathroom, grab a drink, maybe make breakfast and pack a lunch – this is a bit long today.
Yesterday we went pretty deep on Peter’s vision, even reading ahead a bit into chapter 11 to finish our point, so today we’re going to circle back and talk about
And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes…Acts 9:18
The Aramaic NT says
And at once something that resembled scales fell from his eyes, and his eyes were opened.
I just have to say that this is a reference I hear so often from people to describe what happened to them once they set their hearts to read the Bible, start to finish, and it is one I have used myself to describe the experience of reading the entirety of the Word on many occasions. I think we can all identify with this to an extent and I’m so grateful this example is in the Word for us to relate to both for ourselves and as an illustration to offer up to others. Another verse which I think completes the picture is Daniel 10:12 where the angel says to Daniel that from the moment he set his heart to understand, his prayers had been heard. Something changes when we open the Word and set our heart to understand. Not reading it to prove ourselves or our doctrine right but to see what YHWH says is right so that we may follow Him.
Let’s go into chapter 11. Beginning around Acts 11:19 we see that the Believers are scattered after what happened to Stephen and in this scattering they are still preaching the gospel, but exclusively to the Jews as they had been up until this point.
However, some of them began preaching the gospel to Hellenists or Gentiles. Now this is causing quite a stir because there are all of these new gentiles who are converting to “the Way”. The body of Jewish believers in Jerusalem (which the ESV translates as “the church”) gets wind of this and so they send Barnabas to check it out. No doubt those that heard this news were divided with some being in wonder that this was taking place (as we saw yesterday) and some being none too pleased, as we also see in our readings.
But Barnabas was a man of YHWH and when He arrived He immediately recognized YHWH’s hand, seeing His Grace in the movement, and this caused him to rejoice and encourage them in the good work they were doing. Not only this, but he decided to go find Saul/Paul and bring him back with him to help teach these Gentiles who were now converted to worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It says they were there for an entire year teaching!
And when did they teach? We’re about to read that these new converted Gentiles joined them on the Sabbath, and they even took part in the oldest organized Bible study in history, which is still going on today. I’ve spoken on that before but I’ll cover it again in a few.
In Acts 12:3 We see that Peter was arrested during the days of Unleavened Bread but in Acts 12:4 it says that they intended to bring Peter out to the people after the Passover.
Now you may or may not know but there are two Biblical Feasts being spoken of here. Passover takes place as a one day feast and then the following day we enter into the Feast of Unleavened bread which lasts seven days. They are two distinct feasts but since they take place right on top of each other they were generally (and often now) referred to collectively as “Passover”. It’s like how some Christians refer to the time of November – December as the “holiday season”.
However, there is a BIG translation issue here if you are reading the King James version.
In Acts 12:4 The King James version translates Passover as Easter. Please do not take my word for this (or for anything for that matter). Click here to see this verse in several translations on Biblehub.com. Click here to see the interlinear Greek to see that Passover is the accurate translation.
This errant translation choice has led many Christians to believe one of two things :
- Easter is the modern version of Passover
- Easter is the “Christian” version of Passover.
Neither is the case.
There need not be a “Christian” version of any of YHWH’s Holy days because they are His, they are not Jewish to begin with. They belong to the Father and are for anyone who wishes to honor and obey Him in keeping them.
“…These are the appointed feasts of the YHWH that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.” Lev 23:2 This is YHWH talking. I trust in His Word.
He never declared them as Jewish. Further, there are customs on easter that directly contradict how we are told to keep Passover and Unleavened Bread and that the apostles would most assuredly not be taking part in. I’m not going to get into those but you can do the legwork if you like.
My intention here is not to speak to easter but rather to point out the jarring translation from a Holy day declared by YHWH to an entirely different event. Passover is the day that the Father set aside as Holy unto Him and He fulfilled that feast as He said He would in the death and resurrection of His Son. Just as He gave the Ten commandments on Shavuot and then later fulfilled that further by giving the Holy Spirit on that day as well.
The Father has already set aside appointed times for these significant events, with a founding event for each and a future event for each. A study of the Biblical Feasts will show that there are Spring feasts and Fall feasts, the Spring feasts have all been fulfilled but the Fall feasts are yet to come. The Biblical feasts were set up and intended by the Father as teaching tools so that we will know Him, our history, and our future.
Main point: Passover and easter are not the same thing. A single translation treating them as the same does not change that.
In Acts 12:12 We see something that you may just read over but it actually is something we need to make note of.
“John, whose other name was Mark…”
So what we are reading here is something that would have made a lot of sense to a Jewish person living in Rome at that time. It was very common for Jews to have a Hebrew name and a Roman name because they were also Roman citizens. Plus, there are two languages here: Hebrew and Greek, so they had a name in each language. In this passage, we are being told his Hebrew name and also his Roman name.
Now to us, John and Mark seem like nice English names and that is because they are. I think that is why we don’t really notice this much. If we were reading their transliterated names, their names as they would have actually heard them in their lifetime, the sentence would say:
“Yochanan, whose other name is Marqus…”
Yochanan, which we would immediately recognize from the “Old Testament” as being a Hebrew name and Marqus, which is a Greek name.
Why is this important? Because in Acts 13:9 we read a sentence very much like this again.
“But Saul, who was also called Paul…”
You see, Paul was also a Hebrew who held Roman citizenship and therefore he, too, had both a Hebrew and a Roman name.
Many people assume that his name was changed to Paul after he became a believer in Messiah but that is simply not the case. Paul’s name was never changed. You will not read that in the Bible. This is an assumption and errant teaching that has been passed down and is therefore assumed to be in the Bible by folks who have not read it.
Did you notice that I said many believe his name was changed to Paul after he became a believer in Messiah, not after he “converted”? Y’all, Paul never converted because there was no need to. He was born a Jew, raised a Jew, lived a Jew, and remained a Jew. He then came to the realization that Yeshua was the promised and predicted Messiah. There was no need to “convert” to anything as He was already a follower of YHWH. He did need to repent (goodness, don’t we all) but once He met Messiah and believed in Him, there was no need to convert from being a Jew. Just as we, as Christians, do not need to convert to anything once we realize that the whole Bible applies to us. We merely go on to live a fuller version of our lifelong faith. The same is true for Saul, whose name was also Paul.
It is a tragedy of eternal proportions that Christians have taught for thousands of years that our brethren must abandon their Jewishness in order to believe in Messiah. This has created a tremendously painful fracture in the family tree of YHWH’s people between Jews and Christians. It is likewise an equal tragedy which we will read that the Jews believed Christians must convert to Judaism in order to be grafted in as YHWH’s people.
We are going to see poor Paul talk himself blue in the face trying to explain this and here we are in 2020 with folks still not getting it.
Wait, Paul and Saul also sound very much like English names, too, right? Transliterated those names would be Sha’ul and Pavlos.?
Something to look for: After Paul’s encounter with Messiah, he is still called Saul 11 times in the “NT”. Keep an eye out because those are coming up! I’m sticking with mostly Paul for my notes because that is what is most familiar to the modern reader but it is important to know that Paul’s name was not changed as was the case with Abraham or Israel. He simply had dual citizenship and therefore a name in each language.
At the end of chapter 12 we see Herod’s death but it is a little difficult to grasp what it being told here.
One of our early historians, Josephus, who actually lived around this time, recorded information on Herod’s death that tells us a little more detail. Why do I trust Josephus? Well I certainly don’t trust him as much as I do the Father but he is a noted and revered historian and he has the distinction of having authored the first extrabiblical text, considered a historical account by modern scholars, which references and speaks of our Messiah – in a favorable fashion no less. I’m not saying he was without flaw or an inspired author, but rather he is a historian whose writings have been proven valid from a historical standpoint.
So here is his account of what is taking place in Acts 12: 21-23
He put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good,) that he was a god; and they added, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.” Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.
This is from Antiquities of the Jews written by Josephus book 19
In Acts 13:13-15 We see Paul and his companions go into the synagogue on the Sabbath. This is when they were teaching the new converts. In fact, in Acts 15 we will see folks debating on what all to teach them and Paul pretty much tells them “keep it simple, give them the basics, because they are in the synagogues each Sabbath being taught from the books of Moses and the prophets so they will learn the rest of it there over time.”
Do you remember when you first set out to read the Bible in its entirety and how overwhelming it seemed? The Father is patient with us and teaches us over time, this is a truth that Paul knew.
So what are they talking about here when they say reading from the Law and the Prophets. The term “law” is used as a replacement for the word “Torah” which we also see referred to as “the books of Moses”. Sometimes we see this all referred to as “Torah and Prophets”, “Moses and the Prophets” or “Law and the Prophets” as we see today in the ESV translation. Either way, Torah, Law, and Moses refer to the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
These are the foundational Scriptures in which YHWH speaks, tells us how to live, and imparts His instruction to all of His people. You know how some traditions are deeply rooted in honoring YHWH and that alone? They are actually taking part in one of them there and today it is called the Torah Cycle.
There is a cycle of reading Scripture which the Jews began before Messiah was born in which they read certain portions of the Torah, certain portions of the Prophets, and certain portions of the “writings” (the term to denote the remaining books in the “old” testament).
Keep in mind that the New Testament did not exist at this time and so these are the books they were raised on, studied, lived by, and taught and this was a wonderful system that had been set up which would have everyone reading through and diligently studying the entirety of Scripture each year. Why did they go to the synagogues for this? There were no printed Bibles in every home. This is how they learned the Word. We will talk more about this in tomorrow’s notes.
It was set up as a brilliant cycle in that all Believers read the same passage each week around the world. Still, today, if you’ve ever taken part in reading according to this cycle you’ll find that each week new articles are published as well as notes, discussions, videos, on the very part of the Bible you are reading. It is an astoundingly convenient thing, that actually starts out feeling a bit odd until you get used to it. You don’t notice it until you start reading according to the cycle but once you begin reading something and then noticing a new article, blog post, or such with someone talking about what you are reading that week – well it’s a pretty neat thing to be on the same page as believers on a global level. Messiah Himself took part in reading on the Torah cycle and we’ve even talked about that here before so I hope this was just a refresher and I’ll move on…
Spoiler alert: I have been praying and hoping to have a Torah Cycle study for those who have gone through the whole Bible in this study and I think the Father is making a way for that to happen in the near future. UPDATE for 2022: Fam, He’s got us in His whole word for a reason. I spent most of my life with a whole lot of grace and very little truth and that way of living is in error. The same goes for people who have an awful lot of truth and very little grace – and I’ve seen more than my fair share of people go down that path, too. The Father, in His wisdom, gave us the whole Bible so that we have access to His truth, the foundational texts of our faith, along with the example we need to walk it out in Grace (our Messiah). While we could absolutely have a Torah cycle study in the future, we’re studying that and more right now, learning how to implement the wholeness of His word in our lives in order to follow Him. His entire word is what we need most right now and that is where He has planted us so I’m not about to be so bold as to transplant what He has planted. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the Bible at this point, but I can tell you that I learn more and more on each go around and I’m always so grateful I decided to keep reading. I hope you’ll do the same.
Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
“‘Look, you scoffers,
be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”
As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. Acts 13:38-44
What could we not be freed from under YHWH’s law, which was given to us in the books of Moses? You remember all of those sacrifices in Leviticus that we read about? If you go back and read them or pay attention when we go through them again as we start over, you’ll notice one common thread that may have escaped you the first time: All of those sacrifices were for unintentional sin. There was no sacrifice available for intentional sin.
In fact, there are 36 sins listed in the books of Moses which are punished by being cut off from Israel, these are intentional sins and there is no sacrifice available to atone for them or restore fellowship between the transgressors and Israel. These include blasphemy (Numbers 15:30, check different translations to get the full meaning as some are vague), idolatry, necromancy (Lev 20:6) and profaning Shabbat (Ex 31:14), among others.
The sin must be high handed according to Numbers 15:30. The key element in any unpardonable sin is acting with a “high hand”, which means that you willfully sin, knowing it is a sin, and do it anyway = High handed sin.
Messiah stepped in to cover all sin and allow all to be forgiven who would repent, call upon His name, and turn to the Father. Hebrews 9:23-25, Hebrews 10:5-14. There are other references but I’m putting these here as a proof text and moving on.
I love the reaction of Paul and Barnabas when they were run out of town in Acts 13:51-52
But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:51-52
They didn’t stay and argue with them. They are obeying Messiah in Matthew 10:14.
And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
And the apostles did just that when they met strong resistance, they shook the dust off of their sandals and remained in the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 10:14
This is the example of how to respond to those who would argue incessantly and not receive the truth of the Father.
Messiah didn’t tell us to argue with them on Facebook or to constantly post biting messages indirectly targeting them on our personal page.
He did not tell us to comment on all of their posts or speak ill of them publicly by listing their transgressions while disguising it as a prayer request.
And most importantly He did not tell us to abandon our purpose, what the Father has us doing for him, in order to gratify our desire to prove ourselves “right” in this person’s eyes.
Instead, He instructed us to lean not unto our own wisdom, but to follow His instead.
Shake that dust off, brothers and sisters.
Keep your chin up.
We’re serving the King.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!