The Pursuit of God

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Category Archives: Know Your Bible Series

Know Your Bible Lesson 82: The Stoning of Paul

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TROUBLE IN ICONIUM (The 1st Mission Trip)

At the end of our last lesson, an angry Paul and Barnabas were shaking their sandals at the crowd in Antioch of Pisidia [pih-SIH-dee-uh], and leaving that hostile group of folks to travel east to the city of Iconium [i-CONE-ee-um].

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Iconium is in the Roman province of Galatia.  This is the area which Paul was preaching in before he teamed up with Barnabas.  Back in Lesson 79, we learned about the letter of Galatians which Paul wrote to Gentile believers in this area who were getting hassled by Jews for not getting circumcised.  Now Paul is returning to this region again, and he’s eager to get more converts.  The problem is that word is already spreading in the Jewish community about how irritating Paul is.  Back in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul really insulted his fellow Jews by accusing them of rejecting Yahweh’s salvation and saying that he was giving up on them to go preach to Gentiles.  Of course this was all a bunch of guff on Paul’s part—Paul is a total bigot who loves his fellow Jews far more than he does icky Gentiles.  But Paul also has a hot temper, and when he is annoyed, he runs his mouth and ends up making comments which get him into trouble.  It’s simply unheard of for a Pharisee to publicly side with Gentiles against Jews, and the display Paul made back in Antioch of Pisidia is going to come back to haunt him. Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 81: Trouble in Antioch

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JOHN MARK GOES HOME (The 1st Mission Trip)

In our last lesson, we learned how Paul, Barnabas, and Barnabas’ nephew John Mark all set off to spread the Good News that Yahweh’s promised Messiah has finally come.  This is the trip which Christian teachers refer to as Paul’s First Missionary Journey. It’s not that Paul hasn’t already been traveling about preaching to people, but this is the first trip that Luke gives a detailed description of in the book of Acts. Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 80: The Wrath of Agrippa

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As we begin Acts 12, we’re in Jerusalem: a city which is ruled over by Herod Agrippa I—a zealous follower of Judaism.  Passover is rapidly approaching, and Agrippa decides that now would be a fine time to purge Jerusalem of these Jewish traitors who are exalting that blasphemous Jesus fellow who went around claiming equality with Yahweh.  How can any true Jew be a fan of that outrageous Traitor?  The Christians are teaching that Israel’s long awaited Messiah turned out to be nothing more than some unknown son of a carpenter who was quickly crucified without lifting a finger to save Israel from Roman oppression.  Well, no, zealous followers of New Testament Judaism are certainly not going to accept such a despairing message.  Yahweh promised them a hero—Jesus turned out to be a zero.  So how dare these Jewish punks say that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah?  Agrippa tells his military muscle to start hunting down any known fans of Jesus and an intense persecution begins.  John’s brother James—who was one of the original twelve—gets chopped down with a sword.  When Agrippa receives word that Jewish Jesus haters are singing his praises for launching this assault on Jewish Christians, Agrippa is pleased and he decides to keep going.  Let’s see, who else could he kill to put an end to this annoying exaltation of Jesus?  Who do these Jewish traitors view as their greatest, most influential leader?  Peter of course, so Agrippa has Peter arrested right before Passover.  This is devastating news for the Christians, and just in case any of them decide to attempt a jailbreak, Agrippa assigns sixteen soldiers to guard Peter in his cell.  Then, feeling fabulous about his progress, he takes a break to enjoy Passover, after which he plans to put Peter on trial. Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 79: Tolerating Gentiles

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One of the defining marks of an Old Covenant believer is that he has been physically circumcised.  Circumcision wasn’t a choice under the Old Covenant—Yahweh commanded parents to have their sons’ foreskins removed when they were eight days old.  Males who came to the faith later on in life were also required to get circumcised.  Jewish men were further commanded to make sure that every male in their households was circumcised—even non-Jews who were not followers of Yahweh.  This means that if you were a young man who was sold as a slave to an Old Covenant believer, you were going to get circumcised, regardless of your personal beliefs.  All of these rules were given by Yahweh to Abraham and there was no room for negotiating.  Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 78: Foolish Leaders & False Converts

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In our last lesson, we discussed the shocking reality that the apostle Paul was nothing more than a Christian poser.  His conversion to Christianity was simply not sincere, and we know this because of the overwhelming amount of false teachings that permeate his epistles.  From his blatant rejection of the Divinity of Christ to his gross misrepresentation of Yahweh, Paul’s letters are filled with teaching which directly counters what Jesus and Yahweh teach elsewhere in Scripture (see The Great Offense of Paul: Rejecting the Divinity of Christ).  Because the man claims to be passing on direct revelations from Christ, there is simply no defense we can give him.  Anyone who claims that Christ told him to preach that Christ is not God is an obvious liar.  And while Paul promotes the Old Testament as “God breathed,” he constantly misquotes and contradicts passages from it.  If you want to misquote David, that’s one thing.  But preaching total reversals of what Yahweh says?  That’s inexcusable.  Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 77: Debunking the Conversion of Paul

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At the beginning of our last lesson, we learned that there is one very determined Pharisee named Saul who has launched a very aggressive assault against the believers in and around Jerusalem.  This Saul is the same fellow who you know as the apostle Paul, and we’re going to refer to him as Paul from now on to minimize confusion.  Luke will continue to refer to Paul as Saul until a certain point in his letter when he’ll make the switch.

Now Paul is so effective in his manhunt that nearly all of the believers have fled from the city.  This tells us that Paul isn’t doing a half-hearted job.  He’s gathering intel.  He’s planning his moves.  He’s nailing his targets.  Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 76: The God Dispensers

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SAUL

While a lot of guys struggle to make it in politics, some are born with a great instinct for timing and a great talent for manipulation.  Our young Pharisee named Saul is one of the naturals.  Filled with ambition and confidence, Saul is determined to climb the ranks of Israel’s power structure.  He’s already got breeding and education on his side—now he just needs to make his mark by doing something big.  Stomping out the new Jesus movement and putting an end to this incessant talk about some blasphemer being Israel’s Messiah would be the perfect feather in Saul’s cap.  After all, he can see how frustrated and humiliated the priests feel by these resilient apostles.  And Saul is smart: he hasn’t tried to rush ahead of the Sanhedrin and steal their thunder.  But now that the high priest has stoned Stephen, Saul is clear to launch a violent assault against the Jesus followers without the Sanhedrin feeling threatened. On the contrary, they’ll love him, and they’ll see his efforts as a clear sign of his devotion to all things carnal—er, holy. Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 75: The Wrath of Priests

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ANANIAS & SAPPHIRA

Israel has two new miracle men in her midst: Peter and John. As the popularity of these two men soars, a Jewish man named Ananias [ann-nuh-NYE-us] and his wife Sapphira [suh-FI-rah] start brainstorming a way that they can try to win the favor of the leaders of the new Jesus movement. Right now it sounds like donations are what’s scoring big points among the community of Christ followers. Well, Ananias and Sapphira have some property they can sell. It’s a sacrifice, but it seems like a smart one if it will get them in solid with the powerful miracle workers. So the couple sell their land, pinch off some of the profit for themselves, and then Ananias takes the rest over to where Peter is. But Ananias doesn’t want to admit that he’s only giving some of the money to Team Jesus. That would make him sound like a tightwad. So instead, he boasts that he’s handing over every dime as he dramatically lays a sack of money down at the feet of the highly revered Peter. Then he waits for the applause to begin. But the applause doesn’t begin. Instead, much to Ananias’ shock, Peter gets mad. Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 74: Fishermen vs. Priests

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At the end of our last lesson, we left Peter and John standing before a panel of Jewish authorities preparing to give an explanation for all the fuss they caused in the Temple. But before we check out their defense, let’s take a moment to ponder what went so wrong with some of the Church’s early disciples. Read more of this post

Know Your Bible Lesson 73: Peter Reduces Christ

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In our last lesson, we learned about how the magnificent Holy Spirit put on a theatrical show on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and caught the attention of many Jews. Peter has launched into a long sermon in which he’s ripping Old Testament passages out of context and making Jesus out to be nothing more than a mere mortal who the God Yahweh has exalted with great honors.

Now before we continue examining Peter’s speech, there is a major theological snare that we need to avoid falling into, and that is the belief that this is the first time the Holy Spirit has ever involved Himself in human affairs. We have three Gods, and all three of Them have been intimately involved with humans since the very beginning. The fact that Jesus and the Holy Spirit chose not to draw attention to Themselves before now does not mean that this is the start of Their existence.

A second essential truth that we must keep a grip on is that Jesus is God Almighty, not a mere bumbling mortal. This might sound obvious at first, but if you say Jesus is “fully God and fully man” enough times, you’re going to start getting muddled about His identity. Jesus is not “fully man,” nor did He set His Divinity aside when He showed up on earth. We get such notions from the apostle Paul, who claims in Philippians 2 that Christ “emptied Himself” of any Divine qualities He had prior to showing up on earth. And just when you want to believe that Paul is finally admitting that Jesus is and always has been God, you hear Paul talking about Yahweh exalting Jesus and you realize that Yahweh is still outranking Jesus in Paul’s mind. Read more of this post