The Bible Answers Short Questions From Our Readers
Plain Truth Staff
"In the May Plain Truth in the article on the twelve apostles you used Matthew 10:5-6 to prove the twelve apostles were not commissioned to take the Gospel to the Gentile nations, and that Paul was commissioned to that responsibility, If Paul was the one to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, then who was Jesus commissioning in Matthew 28:19, when He said: 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?" C. M., Centre, Alabama
Christ's parting command — to take the gospel to all the world — is a command to the whole Church for all time. Any other command of lesser scope — to take the Gospel to any part of the world — must then of necessity be only a part of the over-all commission of the Church. The earlier command to the twelve: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles ... but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," is a part of the over-all commission. It was impossible for anyone apostle or even twelve apostles to go co all the world in those days. There had to be divisions of responsibility in fulfilling the commission of the Church. Paul clearly showed this division of responsibility in Galatians 2:9, "... they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen [Gentiles], and they unto the circumcision [Judah and Israel]." This account in Galatians proves that certain apostles (Paul and Barnabas) were to go to the Gentiles (in the Greek-speaking Roman world) while others — the twelve — were to carry the gospel to Israel. Both commissions were fulfilled in apostolic days by Ibis division of labor. Today Jesus' parting commission is being thundered over Israel and the Gentiles by radio (on The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast) and in the printed page (The PLAIN TRUTH). Mr. Armstrong and his son Garner Ted broadcast in the English language to all inhabited continents. Others on our staff broadcast in French, German and Spanish. Jesus is keeping His promise to His Work: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Mar. 28:20).
"Would you please explain what 'not under the law, but under grace' (Romans 6:15) means? Does grace do away with the law? I have long puzzled over this verse." J. D., Johannesburg, So. Africa
You have probably heard the saying: "If you keep the law, you have 'fallen' from grace." Is a Christian free to sin? Let's understand what "grace" means. Webster defines it as "mercy, favor, unmerited kindness, an exemption or pardon as from a penalty," It is by grace, the undeserved pardon of God, that you are delivered from the penalty of sin (Rom. 6:23). Christ paid the penalty in your stead. If you accept the grace of God, who permitted His Son to die in your stead to free you from sin, then you are under grace. You are under unmerited pardon, not "under the law," no longer under its penalty. It no longer bas a claim on your life. Christ took the penalty in your stead. He volunteered to come under the penalty of the law to redeem you from death! "What then?" asks Paul, "shall we sin (that is, transgress the law — I John 3:4), because we are not under the law, but under grace?" (Romans 6:15.) Shall we sin — shall we break the law? Remember, sin is the transgression of the law — the Ten Commandments (I John 3:4). What is the Bible answer? "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin (transgressing God's law), live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1, 2.) If we are under grace, the pardon of God, we are not to live in sin. We are not to continue breaking God's law. If we break God's law by sinning, then we again come under the law. It is over us. It again has a claim on our lives. It is only those who — through Christ — keep the law that are NOT under the law. The law has no claim over their lives. "Under the law" does NOT mean under its jurisdiction. This erroneous idea arose from a MISTRANSLATION in I Corinthians 9:21. Notice verse 21. To the Gentiles who did not know God's law "to them that are without law" — Paul said he approached them without mentioning the points of God's law. Not until they recognized God as Creator and Ruler and Lawgiver did he show them from the Scripture what law they had been breaking in ignorance, and why they needed to repent of that sin. But was Paul breaking the law? No! Paul says he was "NOT without law to God, but WITHIN the law to Christ." This verse is nearly always mistranslated. The inspired, original Greek is improperly translated "under the law to Christ." It ought to be translated "WITHIN the law to Christ." Through Christ, Paul was within the law — Christ enabled him to keep it. To be within the law means to obey it! Grace does not do away with the law. Grace is God's unmerited pardon for OUR sins, making it possible for us to keep the law through the Holy Spirit that is given only to those who obey God — who keep His Law (Acts 5:32). Wouldn't it be ridiculous for a judge to grant a pardon to a criminal and then tell him to commit the same crime again? Yet, that is exactly how ridiculous most people make God's grace. They turn the grace, the pardon of God, into lasciviousness-license to do evil. If grace could abolish the law, then there would be no more sin — because there is no sin where there is no law (Rom. 4:15). And if there were no sin, there would be no more need of grace! Christ died in your stead and mine to free us from sin, so that we quit sinning and to make it possible for us to obey God's law according to its spiritual intent. As long as we were under the claim of the law because of transgression, sin had dominion over us; we were its slaves. But now, if we repent and accept God's unmerited pardon, we are free to obey the law "unto righteousness" (Rom. 6:16),
"Would you please explain why there seems to be a contradiction between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9?" P.K., New York
The occasion, about which the questioner asks, is the conversion of the Apostle Paul, He was journeying to Damascus. Suddenly a tremendously brilliant light filled the sky. Paul fell to the earth. There were other men with Paul when this happened. "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, HEARING A VOICE, but seeing no man" (Acts 9:7). The apparent contradiction arises when we compare another scripture with it, This other scripture records the same event. "And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but THEY HEARD NOT THE VOICE of him that spake to me" (Acts 22:9). In one scripture, we plainly read that these men heard a voice. But then another scripture — in the same book — seems to say the opposite. First, realize that it is possible to hear a voice — and not understand the words spoken! That is a common occurrence. Sometimes a person speaks to us. We hear his voice — but we are NOT SURE of just what he said. The Bible records a similar example to the one in Acts 9. "Then came there A VOICE from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" — notice, this was a voice . .. speaking INTELLIGIBLE SPEECH — "The people therefore, that stood by and heard it" — note, they heard this voice . . . but these same people — "SAID THAT IT THUNDERED: others said, An angel spake to him" (John 12:28,29). This is what happened in Acts 9. The people heard the voice — but they did not understand it!! Both the verses are complementary to each other — rather than contradictory. In Acts 9:7, we find that the people beard only the sound of a voice speaking to the Apostle Paul. Later Luke further clarifies the event. He shows that even though they heard the sound of the voice — they were not able to UNDERSTAND what this voice was saying to Paul. Acts 22:9 should more properly be translated from the original Greek: "And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they understood not the voice of him that spake to me." The original Greek word akouo has both meanings: "hear" and "understand." In fact in I Corinthians 14:2 it is translated "understand" — "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for no man understandeth him" — his listeners hear (akouo) him, but "understand" (akouo) him not!
"Why malign Simon Magus? Does not Acts 8:24 tell us he repented? If the apostles didn't question his sincerity, why should you?" Mrs. A, H., Duluth, Minn.
Acts 8 has been grossly misunderstood. This chapter does not say Simon the sorcerer was converted. It says he believed (vs. 13). The devils (demons — fallen, evil spirits) also believe, and tremble! (Jas. 2:19.) When Simon was baptized after hearing Philip, he wondered, because he saw the miracles Philip performed through the power of the Spirit of God (Acts 8:13), But baptism alone does not automatically give anyone the Holy Spirit. You must first repent and begin to obey (Acts 5:32). Simon wanted the power of the Holy Spirit — and more. He coveted the apostolic office that Peter had (Acts 8:18-19). Coveting is sin. Simon did not repent when Peter rebuked him for his evil attitude and commanded him to repent (verses 20-23). What did Simon do? Did he confess his guilt? No, he only asked Peter to pray for him so that the doom Peter warned him about would not come upon him (vs. 24). Simon was only interested in avoiding the penalty of his deeds. He did not change his ways. He did not repent and pray to God for forgiveness. Instead he asked Peter to pray for him because he had no contact with God.