“But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.”
Heresy is a common accusation leveled against any and all who find themselves embroiled in any dispute or contention. It is the quint-essential anathema that banishes the opposition into oblivion while at the same time resolving the issue in favor of the accusers. Yet the testimony of this chosen vessel of Yehovah, sent forth with the commission of the gospel to the nations, declared that he indeed worshiped God “after the way which they call heresy”. He welcomed their aspersions as he continued to enter into the synagogues to dispute and reason with them from the testimony of the ages, the law and the prophets.
The act of heresy is the ‘taking to ones self by strength’, ‘selection through discernment’ or the ‘dissension caused by the diversity of opinions’. The apostle Paul was not seeking to take anything unto himself, he was not making any choices by discernment nor was he assuming an office position that he had been selected to by man, thus the ‘heresy’ that he was referring to must be the dissension that had arisen from his preaching. This mission gave the appearance, to others that he was endeavoring to court followers, away from the established and accepted manners of religious thinking, unto himself, much as the modern neo-evangelical movements do today. Yet Paul wrote to the churches; “Be followers of me, even as I also (follow) of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1).
This is a very strange accusation since the groups of philosophers and religious teachers were all earnestly contending for the principles of their positions or the doctrines of their supposed deities. The scribes, the lawyers, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Jews and the Greeks each had their own ‘spin’ on their understanding of God and the proper way to keep the law. They each had writings of eminent men, held daily conferences and lectures and could clearly demonstrate the unbroken line of antiquity which proved their interpretation to be the correct understanding of the fathers. Yet when Messiah confronted them on their conduct and teachings, He said, “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, for you devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers; therefore you shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, for you compass land and sea to make one proselyte and when he is made, you make him twice the child of hell as yourselves” (Matt. 23:15). Now Yehovah God had given His chosen vessel the commission to preach the kingdom of the everlasting ‘unknown God’ whom the ‘learned men’ ignorantly worshiped in their superstitions and idolatry and this servant of the Most High God is accused of trying to make converts through dissension.
The nature of man enjoys contention and dissension as he has been equipped with ‘itching ears’ that search diligently to “spend their time in nothing else but to either tell or hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). This is the mark of an open minded and socially agreeable philosophy that does not offend anyone in the tenants of doctrine or the application of principles. The vaguer the text of the argument or supposition the more it may be accepted as it is generally applied to the masses. Thus the, Greek, Roman and far eastern philosophies are so easily assimilated and implemented as the carnal mind of Adam reasons his numerous postulates and theorems to find meaning to life, self and existence.
The Apostle Paul was commissioned by God and empowered with the Holy Spirit to, as was his custom, enter into the synagogues (the places of assembly) of the Jews every Sabbath and reason with them from the scriptures. Here he, ‘after the reading of the law and the prophets’, would open the very same writings to contend with them that Jesus of Nazareth, was both Lord and Messiah (anointed) and that He had fulfilled all that was written of Him in the law and the prophets. He further declared that this is the same man whom God had delivered up into the hands of the nation of Israel, who, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (2:23) and by wicked hands, had taken and slew Him, hanging Him upon the cross. But he did not leave the Word of God unfinished for he declared with certainty, that “God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:30).
This was not a new interpretation upon an old theme but was identical to that which every disciple of Christ was not only commissioned to preach to all the world but endued with power from on high to perform. This is the same Word, which is God and cannot change, that is preached today by the servants of the Most High God, without variation. And should there be any other response from the philosophers and theologians of the world today than was at the time when the Apostle Paul “stood up, and beckoning with his hand said; Men of Israel and you that fear God, give audience” (13:16). Was this a gospel invitation for any and all who desired to “tell or hear something new”? Not in the least bit! This was the sound of the alarm of the trump of God and only those who had ears to hear were able to “give audience”. This is why when Paul spoke this Word of God “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed and the Word of God was published throughout all the region, but the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women and chief men of the city and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them out of their coasts” (48-51).
The church of Jesus Christ is not licensed to make converts or to create a following after doctrines, ideologies, denominations or the pretenses of Adam. The preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to the praise and glory of His name. His kingdom is not of this world and the subjects of that kingdom, though they are in the world, are not of the world. They have been born from above of an eternal and incorruptible seed which remains and cannot commit sin because he is born of God (I John 3:9). Even though they have been made subject to the vanity of this world and the corruption of the flesh (not willingly but by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope (Rms. 8:20) as they have been made partakers of flesh and blood for the duration of the time of their habitation, yet their affections are set on the things from above as they long to return to the Father’s house. This is an exclusive family, limited to those who have the eternal living unity with the Father.
“But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45).
A man who was schooled in the ways of the Pharisees, a man who had “profited, in the Jews’ religion above many my equal in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1:14), came into their place of assembly and spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue about the Messiah but now, “the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (13:44). This was an outrage! The Gentiles were not permitted into the synagogue for the Messiah was not promised unto them. They had not been delivered from Egypt and brought to the mount where was given the hand writing of ordinances or the law and the prophets. They had no right to the blessings of Israel or the inheritance of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were not, in type, the chosen people of God but they were indeed elect according to the foreknowledge of God and given to gladly receive the word.
This infuriated the men of the nation of Israel who could not see the power of God nor the fulfillment of the words of the prophets of old, that the nations would be partakers of the same Spirit. They looked upon the outward evidences of works of righteousness which they had done as proof of the kingdom of heaven and so “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and made their minds evil affected against the brethren” (14:2). This divided the multitude of the city which was followed by an assault made both of the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers “to use them despitefully and stone them"(5).
No matter where the Apostles went to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as granted liberty of the Spirit, contention journeyed with them, yet the Word of God grew mightily (19:20). But what was this that was being preached that caused the men of the nation of Israel in Corinth to “oppose themselves” (18:3). What could make the Jews who were in Thessalonica to be moved with envy and “took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort and gathered a company and set all the city in an uproar and assaulted the house of Jason and sought to bring then out to the people” (17:2). These same heard that this gospel was being preached of Paul at Berea, “they came also and stirred up the people” (13) and when Paul spoke boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus “for a space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God” divers were hardened and believed not but “spake evil of that way before the multitude” which caused Paul to depart from them.
What was this gospel? It certainly was not the socially acceptable ecumenical palaver that is spewed forth from the pulpits of the world today. Neither was it a call to ‘who-so-ever will’ to come and accept Jesus as their savior. It was the sword of division that Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry (Matt. 10:34). It was the Word of God which resulted in the prophets of old being despised and rejected, many to be abused and killed for the testimony, for it was and is the same yesterday, today and forever; that Jesus is Messiah of the Sovereign of the universe; that He came and fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law of God in complete righteousness; that He was despised and rejected of men, namely the nation of Israel, who took Him and by wicked hands slew Him, but God has raised Him from the dead in the manifestation of power that he is the Son of God. This is Christ in you the hope of glory and the mystery of the gospel.
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you but seeing ye put it from you and have judged yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (13:46).
This is the heresy that Paul was accused of; that he was attempting to overthrow the traditions of the elders of the nation of Israel and, through the ‘dissension caused by a diversity of opinions’ draw off a following after himself. This servant of Messiah was accused of abandoning the Law of Moses and discarding the traditions. “Men of Israel, help: This is the man that teaches all men every where against the people and the law and this place and further brought Greeks also into the temple and has polluted this Holy place” (21:28). The atrocities committed by Paul were against the words on two tablets of stone as interpreted by man, a people who called themselves by the name of Yehovah but not in truth or in righteousness (Is. 48:1), a building built by Herod of Idumea and the desecration of an area within that building.
He spoke of the fulfillment of the pattern given in the mount contained in the Law and the words of the prophets as given to man by the mouth of God. He earnestly contended that the Word of God became flesh and tabernacles among men. He proclaimed that the day of vengeance had come as foretold of old, that day of reckoning when the fierceness of the wrath of God was poured out upon all unrighteousness and fury of His righteous judgment would be manifested against all wickedness. He also proclaimed the day of liberty in the jubilee of God. This was the day when the captive would be set at liberty as all debts would be paid in full. This was the time when according to the reasoning of Yehovah when the sin of His people though as scarlet would be made whiter than snow and though they be red like crimson, yet they should be as wool (Is. 1:18) because of the remission of sin through the shedding of blood (Lev. 17:11). This blood of the sacrifice was shed only for the remission of the sin of His people and no one else. It was sufficient to appease the demands of the perfect Law of God for it was equal to the sin of Adam for all His elect, the actions of Adam which fall short of the glory of God and the desire of Adam to show forth his righteousness by the works of his hands. It is the atonement (covering) for all who are cleansed by it as it is the sacrifice for sin which was offered in that holy place not made with hands and now appears in the presence of God (Heb. 9:24).
“But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstborn of them that slept” (I Cor. 15:20).
The resurrection of Messiah is essential to the eternal life of His people. If He had not satisfied the demands of the Law of God, He could not be raised again until the work was completed. The priests were not permitted to return home until their lot of service in the sanctuary was completed and the High Priest was not permitted to exit the Holy place until the work was finished. When these men had accomplished all that was set before them in the types and foreshadows of the Law, they presented themselves to the High Priest to demonstrate that what they had been given was completed. So the Elect Servant of God could not be raised up until He had finished all that the Father had given Him to do. He also could not be raised up if there remained any sin for then would He still be polluted and unclean.
He kept the Law as it became Him to fulfill all righteousness. He protected and preserved all the children that the Father had given Him and, loosing none, He raised them up with Him to be seated together with Him in the heavenlies. He was manifestly declared to be the Son of God by the power of His resurrection and so also is His generation, who have part in the first resurrection, declared to be the sons of God. This excluded all those who had done good works. It precluded all those who claimed a lineage through Abraham and concluded all the works of righteousness done by the hands and devices of man as filthy, polluted, bloody rags.
This gospel of deliverance from sin and resurrection from the dead by the power and will of Almighty God, through Jesus the Messiah, called those who were Jews after the flesh, who boasted in the circumcision of the flesh, as outcast heathens while it manifestly declares those who are Jews inwardly, having the circumcision of the heart in the Spirit as children of the Heavenly King. Any wonder why the established religious leaders of the day called it heresy and sought to destroy the followers thereof? Any wonder why the doctrine of Jesus Christ is despised by the religious leaders of today? Then there should be no wonder why those who have this hope of glory are also despised and rejected of men and hated by the world.
“And the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47)
In order for Paul, or any other child of grace, to worship God aright, it must be in the Spirit and truth (John 4:24). This worship is contrary to the mandates, practices and thinking of Adam (Gal. 5:17). He worships what he perceives as god after the carnal mind, which is hated, hostile and odious against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God (Rms. 8:7). If the gospel were for man in his natural state, then it would be in harmony with his ways and thoughts but it is not. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the deliverance from the sin whereunto His people have been sold and brought into bondage.
The church is the love, property and responsibility of Her Lord and Master to do with as He has afore decreed. He came into this world at the appointed time, “to send fire on the earth” and to cause division (Luke 12:49f). His people worship Him after the way that the world calls heresy. The gospel is of the Sovereign Omnipotent God who has loved His people with an eternal love and has redeemed them to Himself a peculiar people. He has declared His generation in the first resurrection and upon these the second death has no power. This is the work of Yehovah God and it is marvelous in our eyes (Ps. 118:23).
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
January 26, 2014