Torah in the Book of the ACTS of the Apostles: Chapter 13 (Part 1)

Acts 13 – The Acts of Paul

The remaining chapters of the Book of Acts are concerned with the ministry of Paul and his assistants. Paul is of special interest to us, since it was primarily he who founded and mentored the Gentile churches.  It will be interesting to see what we find relating to Torah in Paul’s ministry.  

 To the Jew First

And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John [1] to their minister.  Acts 13:5

To the Jew FirstWe are accustomed to thinking about Paul’s initial approach in any city being “to the Jew first,” (Rom 1:16, 2:9-10), but we do not often stop to think what that really entailed.

In some cities, Paul was well-received by the synagogue congregations, while in others he was rejected and had to find some other place from which to minister.  Why?  What were the dynamics of these situations?

Getting into the Hebraic mindset (again)

Once again we have to put ourselves into the minds of those long-ago Jews.

Like Jews today, they were proud of their position as YHVH’s Chosen People. They were proud of their special relationship with Him, and they were especially proud of the gift He had given them – His Torah.  Their personal, religious, civic and cultural lives revolved around the instructions given in Torah (as well as the additional doctrines of the Pharisees), whether they were personally religious or not. [2]   Everything they said, did, ate, wore and thought – even their national code of law – was dictated by their adherence to Torah, and they were proud of that fact.

Ancient Synagogue 2
The ruins of an ancient Israeli synagogue.

In addition, when they met together in synagogue, it was not just a religious service – it was a gathering of the family. They were very aware of and very proud of their common ancestry. They met as brothers.

The detested Romans had invaded their country and brought countless ‘unclean pagans’ with them, from whom the Jews recoiled in disgust.  When the Jews discovered that these pagans despised the cherished faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and despised the Jews as a people, it made the Jews even more conscious of their bond with one another – it was a case of ‘us against them.’

Torah was the glue that held them together. The man who threatened Torah’s authority took his life in his hands – they would stone him to death, just as they had stoned Stephen.

Early on, many Jews gladly received the news of Messiah and His Kingdom

Early in his ministry, when Paul came to the synagogues of these proud and oppressed people, he seems to have received a hearty welcome.  The reception they gave him depended on two factors: [3]

  • Whether or not they perceived the teachings of ‘this Y’shua’ as agreeing with what they knew of Scripture (especially Torah), and
  • Whether or not they accepted Y’shua as the promised Messiah King of Israel.

Some synagogues listened to Paul but rejected his message.   Therefore, we must infer that either they did not perceive Y’shua’s teachings as being in agreement with the Scriptures, or they could not acknowledge Y’shua as the promised Messiah, or both.

Other congregations welcomed Paul’s message.  Therefore, we must infer that they did find His teachings to be in conformance with the Scriptures and they accepted Y’shua as the promised Messiah.

The Bereans: We are told in Acts 17 that the Berean synagogue welcomed Paul’s message because, when they searched the Tanakh (OT), they found that everything he was telling them agreed with what they found in the Ancient Scriptures.

Bereans searching scriptureNow the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Acts 17:11 NIV

If Paul had indeed been telling them that they were ‘released’ from Torah, they could never have found anything in the Tanakh that would have agreed with such a teaching.  There are many, many references to the Covenant and the Torah instructions which say that they are “for ever” and “for every generation,” etc., but not a single passage that ‘promises’ or even implies that someday the Israelites will be ‘released’ from Torah.  Torah is intended to be an eternal blessing.

There are quite a few very important promises, though, in which:

  • YHVH promises never to reject Israel or abolish the Covenant. (See below)
  • YHVH promises that He will one day give the His people ‘a new heart’ that will allow them to ‘walk in His statutes and keep His ordinances and do them’ (Ezek 11:18-20). (In the church, this is called the New or Refreshed Covenant.)

In fact, when there is any talk of a ‘release’ from the Covenant and Torah, it is spoken of as the worst thing that could possibly happen! (Ex: Deut 30:17-20)  YHVH says repeatedly that He will never break the Covenant, even if the Israelites fail on their side of the bargain, because of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  For their sakes He will be faithful to the faithful remnant of Israel, no matter what any descendants might do.  When the Eternal YHVH makes a promise, He keeps it eternally.

It is YHVH who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night, and who stirs the sea into roaring waves. His name is YHVH of Heaven’s Armies, and this is what he says: “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!” This is what YHVH says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, YHVH, have spoken! Jer 31:35-37, NLT

Also see Lev 26:44-45; Deut 29:14-15; Josh 7:11; Eze 36:22-28, 32, among many others.

Getting back to the Bereans:

The Ancient Hebrew Scriptures teach that Man will always be required to live by YHVH’s standards.  If the Bereans could find no scriptural error in Paul’s teaching, we have no choice but to infer that Paul taught that Y’shua confirmed and upheld Torah. This is exactly what the scriptures prophesied about Messiah – see Isaiah 42, especially verse 21.

Apparently the Bereans were satisfied that Y’shua was the promised Messiah because of His fulfillment of prophecy and the correspondence between His teaching and that of the Scriptures.

What about the Jews who rejected Y’shua as Messiah?

If Paul’s teaching agreed with scripture and Torah, the congregations that rejected his message must have done so because they could not accept Y’shua as Messiah.   Why not?

Y’shua Didn’t Kick the Romans Out!

HosannaMost Jews expected the Son of David to organize his people into a mighty army and kick the Romans out of Israel. This is why, when Y’shua entered Jerusalem, they greeted Him by shouting Hoshianna, Ben David!  Hoshianna hashamayim! (Save us, we beseech you, Son of David!  Save us in the heavens!) (Matt 21:9).  There is strong textual reason to believe that what they actually yelled was “Save us from the Romans![4]  It is very easy to understand why they might have rejected Y’shua as their Messiah – He wasn’t there in the flesh leading an army to free them from the Romans!

Scripture told them that Messiah would establish the Throne of David, so in their minds, that meant Messiah would have to kick out any other rulers first. But ‘this Y’shua’ (even if by some chance he really had been resurrected) had gone off somewhere – who knows where? – and He had even specifically said that His Kingdom “is not of this world.”

The response of these people was along the line of: “He worked miracles?  Okay, so he was a holy man, but Messiah….? Nah!” (How many times have you heard Y’shua described as ‘a great teacher, but nothing more’?)

The idea of resurrection was unacceptable to many Jews

Another difficult idea for many to accept was that Messiah had to suffer, die and be resurrected. The idea of a suffering messiah was foreign to those who envisioned a conquering King, despite the fact that the sages had taught of a suffering messiah in the preceding centuries.   In addition, many Jews (especially the Sadducees) did not even believe in life after death, so resurrection was also outside of their belief system.  We are told several times that Paul proved his case for the resurrection from scripture, but we all know how difficult it is for folks to give up cherished beliefs.   It is easy to understand why many Jews would have rejected this ‘resurrected’ Messiah as a fairy tale.

But Some DID acknowledge Y’shua as Messiah

There are as many reasons to reject Y’shua as there are people to reject Him, but there are only two reasons to acknowledge Him as Messiah:

  1. He fulfilled the scripture prophecies, and
  2. He upheld Torah, as prophesied in Isaiah 42:21 and other verses.

Magnifying glassBehold my Servant whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his Torah…. YHVH is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the Torah, and make it honourable. Isa 42:1-4, 21

Have you ever wondered why the Jews are so adamant in their refusal to recognize ‘Jesus’ as their Messiah? After all, doesn’t He fulfill all the prophecies? Jim Staley [5] relates what he was told by a highly respected Jewish apologist:

Jim, I’m going to tell you a secret of why Jewish people do not believe in Jesus, your messiah. Jim, it’s because we [Jews] read the front of the Book. You guys [Christians] read the back of the book, but the front of the Book tells us that the Messiah IS the Torah, and Messiah is going to come and teach us how to keep the instructions of YHVH. Your Jesus, you believe, came to do away with the instruction manual, and that, by default, disqualifies Him as the Messiah. [6]

We need to read the front of the Book! It tells us consistently that Messiah will uphold and ‘magnify’ Torah!

Even today, when Jews are shown that Y’shua DID uphold Torah, it does not take much for them to recognize His fulfillment of prophecy.  More and more of our Israelite brethren are declaring their allegiance to Messiah Y’shua!  This, too, is fulfillment of End Times prophecy!

THE BOOK OF ACTSIntroduction * Chapters 1-5 * Chapters 6-10 * Chapters 11-12 * Chapter 13 (Part 1) * Chapter 13 (Part 2)Chapters 14-15 * Chapter 16 * Chapters 17-18 * Chapters 19-20Chapters 21-26 * Chapters 27-28

By John and Sue Wyatt, lambs.servant@gmail.com


© John and Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, 2014.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Lamb’s Servant Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to John and Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


FOOTNOTES

[1]  The ‘John’ being referred to was the “then-youthful John Mark, better known as Mark, the writer of the Gospel Book of Mark, a relative of Barnabas.” (The Ministry of Paul and Barnabas, by Wayne Blank, accessed 9 July 2014)

[2]  For example, an American may not be a Christian, but more than likely he will get a big dose of ‘the Christmas spirit’ everywhere he goes when December rolls around, and he’ll probably be given Christmas day off at work.  People will think him rude if he does not respond politely when they wish him a “Merry Christmas!”  At the grocery store, he will need to be careful not to accidentally pick up eggnog instead of milk.  Torah culture was far more pervasive. The Jew of Y’shua’s day experienced the influence of Torah in his life all day long every day, whether he ‘believed’ or not.

[3] Later on, when Paul’s ministry had become more Gentile-oriented, another factor entered the picture, which was Gentile-phobic jealousy. This will be discussed as we get further into the Book of Acts.

[4]  hosanna-in-the-highestIn Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages in which the people would have greeted Y’shua, the words translated in English as “Hosanna in the highest” (Matt 21:9) make no grammatical sense. The Hebrew (Hoshianna shamayim) means, “Please save us in the heavens!”  No such usage exists anywhere else in the Hebrew or Aramaic languages.  However, the word translated as ‘in the highest’ would originally have been spoken in Hebrew as shamayim.  This word is extremely similar to the Hebrew colloquialism for “the Romans” (haMayim – waters), who had ‘flooded’ into Israel.  The Gospel writer could not quote the people exactly for fear of Roman reprisal, but he could phrase their cry in such a way that Hebrew speakers knew what had actually been begged of Y’shua that day.  “Please, save us from the Romans!

[5]  Jim Staley, Passion for Truth Ministries.  We by no means agree with all of his teachings, but he does have many valuable things to say.

[6]  Unnamed Jewish apologist, as quoted by Jim Staley in Truth or Tradition – Should Christians Celebrate Christmas and Easter?, a video available at YouTube.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s