Monday, April 18, 2011

Repentance, good works and Paul

If Grace isn’t about repentance and works, what did our Apostle Paul mean when he says what he does in Acts 26:20?

Acts 26:20
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

First, like every verse in scripture, this particular verse has a larger context in which it was written. That context is not only found in the particular chapter in which this verse was written, but in the actual book that it was written as well. As any good bible student who rightly divides God's Word as God instructs us through Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15 knows, the book of Acts is a book that is outside of the 13 letters written by our Apostle Paul written to us today, Romans through Philemon.

The book of Acts has (1) a context, (2) a theme, and (3) a particular audience. The audience is the Jewish people, and therefore the language and words used in the book are familiar to a Jewish audience, and that is important when looking at this verse. The theme of the book is the Fall of the Nation of Israel in the plan and purpose and program of God in the earth, and His salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ coming out to us gentiles through the gospel of the Grace of God committed to our Apostle Paul, as well of His plan and purpose in the heavenly places through those of us who are saved into the church, the Body of Christ!

Therefore, the context of the book of Acts shows simply the actions or the activities of the 12 Apostles to Israel, and then the actions and activities of that one unique, distinct apostle Paul to us gentiles (that is what “The Acts of the Apostles” [so named in your Bible] means). So with that said, let’s look at the passage in question.

The verse in Acts 26:20 has a larger context and, the larger context is found in the following verses...

Acts 26:13-23
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.  And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.  But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people [the Jews], and from the Gentiles [non Jews], unto whom now I send thee,  To open their eyes [both Jews and non Jews], and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision But shewed first unto them [the Jews] of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.  For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.  Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:  That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Here we see in context that our Apostle is recounting his salvation and commissioning by the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus to those leaders who are holding a trial concerning him. Notice that vere 20 is a continuation of what he was saying in verses 16-19. In verses 16-19, we see that Paul is recounting the words of the Lord Jesus in reference to his ministry, how that Paul would be Christ's chosen vessel to both Israel (the "people" of verse 17), as well as the gentiles. It would be to both of these people groups [note: the bible divides mankind as being ‘Jew and gentile’] that the Lord would send Paul. Today, in the dispensation of God's Grace, ALL mankind, both Jew and Gentile are lost and in Adam, and can only be saved by Paul's gospel! Notice that the Lord said that way back in Acts 9.

Acts 9:15
ut the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings [the leaders of both Jews and gentiles], and the children of Israel:

Notice here that the Lord makes it clear that Paul would speak to all lost mankind, the heathen made up of both lost Jews and gentiles! Today, in the dispensation of Grace every man is under God's authority. But if that is so, why did Paul say in Acts 26:20…

Acts 26:20
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Here we see the bible principle that God established, that being the people of Israel would always be the first to get the Word of God. This is something that God established with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob's physical seed way back in the beginning. And beginning with the Law of Moses, and the prophets of Israel, God gave His word to those people first! Even our Apostle Paul says that...

Acts 13:46
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you [Jews]: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
And later in Acts 28...

Acts 28:25-28
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,  Saying, Go unto this people [Jews], and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:  For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

And in the book of Romans...

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

So Paul starts preaching to those Jews and gentiles in the synagogues there in Damascus because that is where he was commissioned by the lord Jesus to go first!  Both, to get well while with Ananias [a Jew] and to begin preaching in Christ's name [Acts 9:8-18]. He then went to Jerusalem both to meet the other Apostles and to preach in Jesus name! And after Jerusalem, the other parts of the regions of Israel.

Acts 22:10
And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.

Acts 9:17-28
And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?  But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:  But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the [Jewish] apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.  And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

So we see why our Apostle "shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles" was because that was his God-given ministry!


But now, why did he speak of "that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance"? Well because, like we saw earlier, the book of Acts was written to and about Jews! And because of that, the book of Acts was using Jewish terminology like "repent," and "do works meet for repentance," terminology that would be proof to the Jewish readers that a person has truly and sincerely trusted Paul's gospel of Jesus Christ and is living a life serving the Lord. We see that with the Jewish prophets, John the Baptist, and Peter...

Matthew 3:1-2, 7-8
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Acts 2:36-38
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.  Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

So although the words of our Apostle Paul are not inspired of the Holy Ghost to say those things to us in his gentile epistles of Romans through Philemon, like the Holy Ghost inspires in the words of the Jewish proselyte writer Luke in the book of Acts to Israel, the concept of turning to God and doing good works of grace is there in Paul's epistles when he tells us believers [gentiles] to leave idols and turn to God in Christ and live lives of service for the Lord until He returns!

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye [believers in Thessalonica] turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;  And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we [as believers] should walk in them.

2 Timothy 3:17
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Titus 2:14; 3:8, 14 
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

Hopefully this helps! 

Do you have a question for Pastor Ron?

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