2019 Study Summary 29: The Lord Had Called Us for to Preach the Gospel | Israel Revealed

2019 Study Summary 29: The Lord Had Called Us for to Preach the Gospel

Acts 16–21

“The Lord Had Called Us for to Preach the Gospel”

Summary:
Paul is directed in a vision to preach in Macedonia—He casts an evil spirit out of a woman—He and Silas are imprisoned, and they convert the jailor—They admonish all to believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved.

Paul and Silas preach and are persecuted in Thessalonica and in Berea—Paul, in Athens, preaches from Mars’ Hill about the unknown god—He says, We are the offspring of God.

Being rejected by the Jews, Paul turns to the Gentiles—He preaches, ministers, and travels—Apollos also preaches with power.

Paul confers the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands—He preaches and works many miracles—The sons of Sceva fail to cast out devils by exorcism—The worshippers of Diana (Artemis) raise a tumult against Paul.

Paul raises Eutychus from death—Paul is free from the blood of all men—He predicts apostasy from within the Church—He reveals a teaching from Jesus, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Paul journeys to Jerusalem—He is persecuted, arrested, and bound.

What replaced Temple worship?
A look at Jewish life at the time of the early Saints helps to understand the setting of these chapters. The Temple of Jerusalem and the priestly government in Jerusalem were no longer the focal point of worship. Synagogues were becoming more autonomous centers of local leadership and community discussion, as well as worship centers.

What is a synagogue?
The common term “synagogue” comes from the Greek language. It means “meeting house,” Bet Knesset, in Hebrew. Meeting houses existed before the second temple was destroyed, although there were few of them that have been uncovered archaeologically. Several synagogues were mentioned in Jesus’ ministry. “And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:” (Matthew 12:9) “And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?” (Matthew 13:54) “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.” (Mark 1:21) “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” (Luke 4:16) “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” (John 12:42)

What pattern were synagogues likened to?
After the Temple was destroyed, many synagogues were built. Their construction was similar to previous synagogues in that they had three meeting areas. The outer area was for the congregation, usually divided into two parts or two sides, one for women and one for men. The second part had a “Bimah” (usually a raised platform) with a table for Torah scroll as it was being read. The third part of the meeting house contained the ark that held the sacred scrolls. The ark was usually decorated with a “sun stone” or sunburst design above it and had a curtain (veil) that had to be parted as the scroll was retrieved. The “Bimah” sometimes had moon decorations around it. The congregational area had stars decorating it. The Temple had similar decorations of sun, moon and stars. Modern temples still do. “In the first century C.E., the synagogue emerged as a firmly-established institution. It is mentioned in all literary sources of that period, from various parts of the world. When the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., many of the rituals formerly conducted there were transferred to the synagogue, and organized prayer became the substitute for sacrifice. The sages referred to the synagogue as mikdashme’at (“little sanctuary”), viewing it as a miniature Temple where Jewish congregations all over the world could gather and, to some extent, fill the void left by the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.” “The remains of numerous synagogues dating back to the first few centuries of the Common Era have been uncovered, attesting to the widespread acceptance of the institution at that time.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

How did synagogues become community centers?
It was in many of these synagogues that fervent discussions ensued about the future of Jewish worship now that the temple had been destroyed and the priestly cast had become so divided and fraught with wickedness. Various executions and death attempts had been planned for believers in Jesus of Nazareth. The true believers in the restoration of ancient covenants as preached and administered by the Twelve and the Seventy grew in multitudes well beyond the borders of Israel. Many non-Jews also felt the true spirit and believed. Their conversions bothered some of the Jews because the Jews wanted to hold on to past customs and social traditions. Soon, the growth of the Church became an even greater threat for the Jewish community leaders. “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,” (Luke 4:28) “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing . . .” (Acts 6:9) “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” (Acts 26:11)

How were synagogues used to teach the gospel?
Yet, in many cases there were those who believed in and sought after truths. When Jesus and later the Apostles and Seventies taught, the congregations were ready to listen and follow the spirit. “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” (Matthew 9:35) “And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.” (Luke 4:15) “And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1) “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)

What other means were used to spread the gospel?
Another part of Jewish life included writing letters to various congregations or synagogues when personal visits were too difficult. “The letter holds an honored place in Jewish history and literature. Since the form includes earliest diplomatic and state correspondence, business and private mail, discussions and arguments between communities on local or religious questions, polemics and controversial issues, letters have also provided for scholarly research. Letters were often written to leading rabbis on questions of Jewish law, a practice that prevails even today. Collections of the answers, authoritative rabbinic opinions, are in a body of literature called Responsa). Jewish letters were written mainly in Hebrew, even after Jews adopted the languages of the countries of their exile. Hebrew was the language common to all Jews and remained the vehicle of all scholarly communication. The form of the letters included the date in Hebrew and the sedra of the coming week. At a later stage, Yiddish occupied a similar position for European Jews.” “Writing usually required a professional to execute it. In ancient times a royal court officer, the sofer (scribe), was undoubtedly the letter-writer as well. The professional letter-writer was an important post even into the 20th century. Seals which were used to sign and close the documents of antiquity as well as letters, are displayed in the Israel Museum, and in other collections. Throughout the Middle Ages letters served as a major Jewish literary form. They were widely used as a means of publishing the writers’ statements and views and were not necessarily private communications. They were delivered by a messenger whose errand was often interrupted on the journey so that the letter could be read to the public. Messages of importance were copied for reference and often read aloud in the synagogue or other gathering place.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What is truth?
The truth as it was being taught by the Lord’s chosen added to the rich culture and tradition that many people still followed. Truth always builds rather than destroys. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, God revealed a three-point standard by which truth is recognizable. “Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (Doctrine & Covenants 50:22-24) “Being truthful is one of the most important virtues that a person can possess. In the Bible God is described as the “God of Truth” and truth is one of the 13 divine attributes. The rabbis taught that “truth has feet,” i.e., is well founded and will endure. A sign of this was found in the very word itself. The Hebrew word for truth is emet; the first letter of the word is the first letter of the alphabet, the second is the middle letter of the alphabet and the last is the last letter of the alphabet. Thus, the three “feet” of truth are spread out and form a solid base. The Hebrew word for falsehood, however, is sheker, which is formed from the three letters of the alphabet before the last letter. The letters are not in their alphabetical order and represent feet which are too close together and not properly fixed. Falsehood has no foundation and will not last.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What can we learn from Gamaliel?
Paul’s mentor and teacher, Gamaliel, had wise counsel for those who wanted the erstwhile Pharisee Saul, now an Apostle of the Lord, brought to death. “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5:34-35,38-39)

What needs to precede accepting truth?
It is important to realize and remember that many are prepared before they embrace the truth. In their best efforts and faith, they respond to the Spirit that directs all open-hearted people. They need not reject their former teachings. Yet, making corrections when needed and building upon the truths they already perceive, these faithful people are edified. The spirit reveals things as they were, as they are, and as they will be. “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:24)

Where is the Holy Spirit?
At a recent conference of scholars dealing with “The Bible Code,” one orthodox Jew stated simply, “Judaism does not have the Holy Spirit. “The rabbis regarded Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi as the last of the prophets, the “divine spirit” having ceased in Israel with their deaths.” “Ruah ha-Kodesh (holy spirit) is often used as a synonym for prophecy. However, according to some rabbis, unlike prophecy, there are some types of ruah ha-kodesh which also can be attained by doing good deeds.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What biblical tool assists the “Spirit?”
“The first mention of the Urim and Thummim appears in the passage in Numbers which describes Moses’ transfer of his authority to Joshua prior to his death.” “he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord.” Much later, in the Book of Samuel, King Saul unsuccessfully sought information from the Urim and Thummim about the outcome of an impending battle with the Philistines, and his failure to receive any response led him to seek advice from the witch of En-Dor who conjured up for him the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What do Urim and Thummim look like?
The Magen David is always shown as two triangles, interwoven. One possible explanation is that the two triangles represent a characterization of the Urim and Thummim. According to Joseph Smith, the Urim and Thummim were two triangular stones connected by a silver bow. One pointed up and the other pointed down. Superimposed, they make a fascinating Magen David! John Tvedtnes, former Senior Researcher at FARMS (BYU), point out that the words Urim and Thummim may come from Egyptian words similar to “RMMM” and “TMMM,” one with positive meaning, the other a negative meaning. As simple as the most complicated computer, heavenly answers, if we are ready, will be yes or no.

What requirements are necessary to have the true spirit?
One of the necessary requirements to have the true spirit is to have true faith in the Lord. It is a true test with true results. It requires an open heart and an open mind to exercise true faith. Jewish scholars have described the Christian faith as follows. “Christianity is the religion which derives from the original followers of Jesus of Nazareth, and which became a major religion in the Western world during the common era.” “Strictly speaking, the ministry of Jesus himself does not come under the heading of “Christianity,” but rather is part of the history of different Jewish-Christian sects which developed at the beginning of the common era. The first Jewish sects which followed Jesus’ teachings still observed much of the Torah but added the belief that Jesus was the messiah.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What competing factors did the early Church encounter?
Surrounding cultures and religions also added their contrasts and created disputations. A popular worship culture included gods of the earth, wind, rain, and sun. Anciently, the religion of Baal featured different gods. Female gods became popular, such as goddesses of victory, a fish goddess (mermaid), and one connected with fertility, Astarte. This goddess was later know as Ashteroth (the word Easter seems to have been derived from Astarte). A very popular goddess was Diana. “While the pagans believed that the natural phenomena rain, fertility, health etc. were controlled by idols, the prophets taught that God is in control of nature.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What is friendship?
“The ideal of friendship in the western world is derived from classical Greece, which exalted friendship as one of the great human achievements and prime goals of life.” “The Bible also warns against false friendship, saying that people might be attracted to a person solely because of his wealth, and not out of motives of respect.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

How is a friend different from being friendly?
The new Saints were constantly challenged by the “glitz” of the religions around them. Assimilation was a great challenge. The Apostles taught them to be in the world yet not of it. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;” (Philippians 2:15)

How can we preach?
The lesson title means that to preach the Gospel, we must live in the spirit, while yet in the world. That will guide our life in the society of the world community.

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