No, not those kinds of things. I’m seeing things in the Bible – things I had been taught should not be there!
Some of you are probably saying, “Mark, what are you talking about?” That’s fair. Over the next few posts, I will attempt to answer that question. Buckle up. This could be a wild ride – for some of you, anyway.
Did he just say that?!
Tucked away in Acts chapter 21 is a single verse with staggering implications. Yet, the comment that Dr Luke (the author of Acts) faithfully records, has been missed by generations of believers.
Let me rewind the tape for a minute. I said the verse has “staggering implications”. The question is, for whom? The answer: For the majority of Bible carrying evangelical Christians in the West. How so? Because it shatters a set of core beliefs – beliefs that are based on a false doctrine called Replacement Theology. (I have a lot more to say about this diabolical doctrine but it will have to wait for a later post.)
First, who are the actors?
The apostle Paul has just arrived in Jerusalem, ending his third missionary journey. According to first century historian Gene Edwards, it is now 26 years after the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the young rabbi from Nazareth. Paul heads into town to meet with James the brother of Jesus and all of the elders in Jerusalem. They listen as Paul recounts the efforts and the fruit of his trip. They are ecstatic to hear of all that God has done.
The elders in turn, have something to share with Paul. They are SO excited. They tell Paul (with obvious pride), “see brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed . .” Okay. So thousands of Israelites now recognize that Yeshua (which means “The Lord saves”) is the promised messiah. That’s great! No, it’s SUPER great. But it’s what they say next, that, well . . .
“and they are all zealous for the law”. (v20) Did you catch that?! “THEY ARE ALL ZEALOUS FOR THE LAW!” Just to make it perfectly clear here, when Scripture says “the law”, it is talking about the law of Moses, not the law of physics and certainly not the law of Rome.
What does this mean?
It means that first century believers were taught to obey the laws of Moses and did so, passionately. In fact, they had now been doing this for 26 years, almost 3 decades! How do we know? It turns out that the book of Acts alone, provides plenty of clues for those who are paying attention. I’ll be connecting the dots as we go along.
So why does this “zealous for the law” thing sound so foreign? Is it because we’ve often heard “the law” associated with that nasty stuff called “legalism?” Is it because well-meaning (but misguided) teachers pit “the law” against “grace?” Is it perhaps because people still wildly misinterpret things that Paul wrote? My hunch is, it is for all those reasons – and more.