Dr. S. Lewis Johnson continues his examination of the new relationship between Jews and Gentiles according to the Epistle of James.
[Prayer] Father, we thank Thee for thy word and, again, we ask for thy help as we study the Scriptures together. Enable us to understand. Enable us to profit from the things that we learn. We ask that thou wilt give us especially the ability to think the prophets thoughts after him and Peter and James thoughts after them as well. We commit the hour to Thee.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
[Message] Now, we are studying the nature of the present age and the viewpoint of James as expressed in Acts Chapter 15, Verse 1 through Verse 19 and the citation particularly from the Book of Amos Chapter 9.
So for a beginning tonight I would like to read these passages, and I’d like for you to turn first to the Old Testament to the Book of Amos, and we’ll read Verse 7 through Verse 15, and this way I think you will have a better grasp of what we will be talking about when we turn to the exposition. Amos Chapter 9 in Verse 7 — and remember as I mentioned last time this is a chapter that has been called a war on pretense, and Amos is bringing some very condemnatory words toward the nation Israel. And in verse 7, specifically, he says “Are ye…” [Now, he’s thinking about the northern kingdom and he says,
“Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?”
In other words, when it comes to divine judgment there is no difference between Israel, the elect people, and the non-elect people.
“Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom [that’s Israel] and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”
Now, remember what that means is essentially a worldwide discipline for the nation Israel. They will be sent out scattered among the nations, and God will use this as a disciplinary judgment for them. And when he says, “Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth,” he doesn’t mean that the good is kept from falling on the earth. He means that every evil Israelite shall be judged. Those that fall through are the remnant, but those that do not are the members of the evil nation that come under divine discipline. So, “yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth” means that there is no one who is going to escape the disciplinary judgment.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword…” notice that. That emphasizes that fact. “…which say, The evil shall not overtake nor (meet) prevent us.” The reason they say that, of course, is they’re pleading divine election. They are saying we’re the elect people and therefore, we cannot be judged and disciplined and so Amos has a different view of election then a lot of people have. He’s the one who says in the third chapter in the second verse, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore,” he adds, “I will judge you for all your iniquities.”
So to be one of God’s elect nation meant that still they were subject as a nation to divine discipline. Men are judged for their sin. We are chosen by God for salvation, but at the same time we are responsible as men to divine judgment for our sins. And now having said that, in the eleventh verse the prophet says, “In that day…” You’ll recognize it immediately as a messianic phrase. If you look at the Old Testament and look through the prophets particularly, you’ll see how often when that phrase is used the reference is to the messianic age. “In that day while I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen (or the Gentiles), which are called by my name…”
Now, when he says, “Possess all the Gentiles that are called by my name” or over whom my name is called, as the Hebrew text puts it, he’s talking about saved Gentiles. In other words, Israel in that day will be blessed. They will have their kingdom, and they will possess the nations, “saith the LORD that doeth this. Behold, the days come…” He’ll now give more details,
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.”
In other words, they have an eternal inheritance of the land.
Now, let’s turn to the New Testament and let’s read the passage in Acts Chapter 15 because it’s here that James in the meeting Antioch and Jerusalem refers to this text.
Now, we’ve been saying that we must pay careful attention to the thought of chapter 15. We know that the question of circumcision arose in Antioch, and that raised the question of grace in salvation. Evidently, it was such a concern to the church there that they felt it necessary to appoint Paul and Barnabas and other to go up and talk to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this.
They went their way passing through Phenice and Samaria and as they met and talked with the people in those places, they told about the conversion of the Gentiles. They caused great joy to the brethren so Luke says. And finally they came to Jerusalem and there again, just as in Antioch, they had a great deal of discussion. In fact, it was a very hot discussion. The terms that are used express the kind of discussion in which there was a great deal of debate over the points at issue. And finally Peter rose up and said unto them Verse 7,
“Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bear them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”
Now, I’d like to argue at this point just from reading the text that the question that they discussed in Jerusalem was settled right here. Two things or three things make it evident. In verse 7 he says, “God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us.” In other words, Peter says there’s no difference. The Gentiles may be saved as Gentiles and possess the same blessings that we posses, and then to further say that he says in his great apostolic creed, “We…” This is consensus, consensus doctrine, not simply Peter but, “…we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” In other words, again Peter says there’s no difference in the way of salvation, both are saved by grace.
Now, I’d like to suggest that at this point the major question concerning which they’d go onto Jerusalem was settled. Further evidence of that is what happened. Verse 12 says, “Then all the multitude fell silence…” You read that in Greek text, and you’ll see immediately from the erest tense that that’s the force of it. It’s an ingressive erest. They were not silent before. They fell silent. And Peter’s climactic statement, so far as I can tell from this account, was accepted by them. We read, “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace…” That is after Paul and Barnabas finished, there was again silence and at this point James arose.
Now, why he arose and why he said what he said well we’ll save some of that for next week, but what he says is very significant. He says, “Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.”
Now, of course, Simeon is a reference to Peter, and they at the first — for the first time or first — it’s a little bit of discussion exactly how that adverb ought to be rendered but all agree that the sense is that he’s referring to what happened in Cornelius’ house described in Chapter 10. Peter referred to it above when he said, “…a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.” So James then says, “Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.”
Now, notice he doesn’t say to save all of the Gentiles. In a moment, he will cite the text in which Amos says that. Verse 17, “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called…” But here it’s simply to God has visited the Gentiles to take out of them, out of the Gentiles, a selective salvation from the Gentile mass, and they are to be taken for the name of God to take out of them a people for his name. In other words, the Gentiles become people of God. And as I mentioned last time, that’s a very emphatic expression in the original text. It’s from Gentiles, mind you, a people, the term that so often in the Old Testament is a reference to Israel as distinct from Gentiles. So obviously James is laying great stress upon the fact that Gentiles now are part of the people of God.
Now, then in the 15th verse James goes on to say, “And to this…” Now, there’s a great deal of discussion of what this refers to, and we’ll refer to that later on. I don’t know whether we’ll get to it tonight. If we do, fine. If we don’t, it’ll be next week but this most naturally refers to the nearest antecedent, which is just what has been said. God or, “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this…” That is, to this present time as a visitation to the Gentiles. To this agree the words of the prophets. A lot of people lay stress on the fact that James doesn’t say the prophecy of Amos is fulfilled, or he doesn’t use other expressions in order that it may be fulfilled, but he says simply to this agree the words of the prophets. And I don’t know that we could really settle the question of whether this is the same thing as that it might be fulfilled or not, and I don’t think that a whole lot depends on it. So we’ll just let that rest. There’re lots of things about passages like this that one cannot be absolutely certain about, at least according to my present knowledge. And so far as I can tell from reading others, so far as their knowledge is concerned too. “And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this…”
Now, this is another debatable point. We’ll talk about this in a minute. So I’ll let it rest right here. “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”
Now, just to show you some of the questions that we have when we study the Bible, I’m going to ask you to turn back to Amos 9. I hate to do this in one sermon one message have you turn to one of the minor prophets twice because usually exhausted from finding the prophet the first time, you didn’t think that there was any possibility that you’d be asked to turn back there, and so — but still we’re going to do it.
Now, notice the way in which the New Testament citation differs from the Old Testament. I’ll read the Old Testament again. “In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen…”
Now, the New Testament says, “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down…” The Old Testament says, “and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.” The New Testament says, “…and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.” The 12th verse says, “That they,” that is Israel, “may possess” or those represented by the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the Gentiles.” In the New Testament, “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles.” That seems quite different, doesn’t it? It is quite different. And to explain it, how it arose, will take a little bit of time. I’m not sure that it’s worth it because the major point doesn’t really hinge upon this, but I think later on I will say something about it. I want you to simply realize this, that when the New Testament writers cite the Old Testament they have many options. They can freely paraphrase the Old Testament. They can cite the Hebrew text if they knew the Hebrew text. There’s some indication that some didn’t. For example, the author of the epistle of the Hebrews at least ninety-eight percent of the time and many scholars feel a hundred percent of the time cites from the Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and it may indicate he was not that familiar with the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. They can actually cite combinations. They could even cite from a Targum-ized kind of text. In fact, they can cite from text that we don’t have. So the freedom that they exercised is unimportant for us except if its touches a sense that they are drawing from the Old Testament.
Now, if they were to cite a passage and to make a point from that passage, that is important for their argument, and if you turn to the Old Testament and it was not in the Old Testament, and we would say not in the Old Testament Hebrew text as we have it, then we do have a problem. That is, if we say we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. If we don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, it’s still a problem, but it’s a different kind of problem, and the problem then becomes how can I tell what texts that I’m going to believe if some are erroneous. So we still have certain kinds of problems. We don’t have time to go into that. I just want you to notice that the Old Testament says that they may possess the remnant of Edom. The New Testament says that the residue of men might seek after the Lord.
Now, one of the reasons this occurred is because in the Hebrew text yarash means to possess and darash means to seek. In fact, yerashew and yidrashew are very similar. In fact, there’s one letter different and different word is very easy to confuse. So evidently the Septigent translators either read another verb than appears in our Hebrew text. They may have had a Hebrew text that’s different from the one that we have today. We don’t have the original text of any of the ancient writings, Old or New Testament for that matter. So somehow or another there came confusion in the transmission of the text. That accounts for this because the New Testament writers — James, if he’s the author of this. I think he is. He was familiar with the Septigent passage and therefore, he said that the residue of men might seek after the Lord. Most of his other quotation is more similar to the Septigent then the Hebrew text. So that’s why in the Old Testament we have that they may posses the remnant of Edom and over here we have that the residue of men might seek after the Lord.
Now, there’s some other things there. In fact, some words that were objects of the verb in the Old Testament have become subjects in the New Testament. “Edom” in Hebrew means Edom. “Adam” means man. And if you didn’t put the vowels underneath the pointing, they are the same, same characters. So looking at it you would not know except for the context whether we have man or Edom, and so obviously as there is a different reading and so we have in the New Testament that the residue men might seek after the Lord, whereas in the Old Testament we have that they may possess the remnant of Edom and of all the Gentiles who call by my name. Well, no need go into all of that but you can see if you’re a careful student of the Bible — and you ought to be a careful student of the Bible — some of these things ought to puzzle you. They ought to puzzle you enough so that you go to commentary and say why is this? And maybe the commentary will help you.
Now, last time we were looking, I believe, at the Old Testament context of the citation, and I had said something about the preceding context in Amos Chapter 9 Verse 7 through Verse 10 as I remember, and then we had spoken about well, first of all, under the context of the Old Testament we talked about the preceding context, and then we talked about Israel and the nations in Verses 7 and 8 of Chapter 9. Then we looked at Israel against the nations in Verses 8 through 10. Then we cited — we looked at the citation itself of Verses 11 and 12, and I think I have really kind of forgotten exactly where I stopped. I didn’t have a pencil with me to mark my stopped, but I believe I did say something about Verses 13, 14, and 15 in which we have reference to Verse 12, the nations or the Gentiles, and then the following context in which we have reference to the blessing upon the earth, the blessing upon the people, and the blessing upon the land. So let’s move on now in our outline to that which is Roman III, the comparison of Old and New Testament texts. And here we’re going to lay a bit of stress on some of the things that we find in comparing the texts. This is going to be important for understanding the way in which James has used the Old Testament.
Now, look at some of the variation. I’m not going to look at all of them. There’re ten or fifteen of them actually, but I’m going to pick out just a few that are really important and then will begin our discussion of the hermeneutics and exegetical analysis of the texts.
Now, first of all, and very warmly debated by some biblical scholars is the meaning of the fact that Amos introduces Chapter 9 in Verse 11 of his prophecy with the phrase “after this.” Now, I have — I’m sorry I said Amos. I should have said James introduces the Amos quotation with the expression “after this.” In Verse 16, James says, “After this, I will return…”
Now, if you turn to the Old Testament and you look at Verse 11 of Amos Chapter 9. Incidentally, it’ll help you to keep something in Amos Chapter 9 and something in Acts Chapter 15. You’ll notice that while James has introduced this passage from the Old Testament with the phrase “after this” literally after these things in the Old Testament in the Hebrew text we have in that day.
Now, what is important for this in connection with this is that the Greek translation of the Old Testament also has in that day. So the Hebrew text and the Greek translation of the Hebrew text both have in that day; whereas in the New Testament James writes after these things.
Now, some scholars and some students, some Bible teachers have contended that these expressions are the same. That is, they are simply the same thing. This is James’ way of saying in that day. Let me ask you to reflect upon this. In the first place, after these things doesn’t really say the same thing as in that day and, secondly and more importantly, James usually cites from the Septuagint, but here he varies from it. So the very fact that he varies from his normal way of citing and added to that is the fact that after this is not really the same as in that day, I think that we’re justified in saying that Amos intentionally introduced this quotation with that phrase. So therefore, we should ask ourselves what is the meaning of his after these things.
I mentioned the fact that this is a debated point, but I think if you will think about what I’ve told you, most of you will agree that that’s the way we should go unless we have strong reason for going some other way. The phrases are different. It’s contrary to James’ style to do this; therefore, I conclude that he did it intentionally.
Now, if that is so, is it justifiable, is a question we might ask. Well, yes if the sense is true to the Old Testament text and context. In this case, there seems to exist no problem, and then we might ask if we are reasonably certain that James modified the Old Testament passage and he did it intentionally then we should ask ourselves why did he do it? Why did he modify the citation from Amos 9?
Now, of course, he said that to disagree the words of the prophets plural but it’s evident that Amos is primarily in James’ mind. It’s true that in one of the prophets of the Old Testament we do have something similar to this, the prophet Jeremiah in Chapter 12 Verse 15 of his prophecy and James may have borrowed the phrase from that, but it’s unlikely most scholars feel. So why then did he modify the text? Well, the simplest answer is that Amos the Amos passage for James speaks of events that are to follow the present events.
Now, if that is true then that confirms what I said above that at Verse 11 the question that caused the Jerusalem council or the meeting between Antioch and Jerusalem to be convened was really settled then, and so James now feels in the light of the situation to go on and say something else that is apropos to the relationship between Gentiles as Gentiles and Israel in the plan and purpose of God.
Now, later on at the conclusion of the meeting, they will look back over what they have been talking about and issue a general letter that resulted from their gathering, but it’s evident, it seems to me, that what we have now is something that James feels is important for the questions that they’ve been discussing. I mentioned, I think one of our first times together, in fact, maybe the time when I was so confusing and since then I’ve been so clear as you know, but when I was so confusing I did mention the fact that it is a legitimate approach to this chapter to assume that the question was subtle with Verse 11 but then James arose because this had caused a great deal of difficulty in that gathering. There was some hot debate and people were just like people today. If you get a people together who have different viewpoints on Scripture and they have hot debate, it’s very easy for some to feel the issues personally.
And so James may have thought while the question is settled these believing Pharisees who’ve raised the question in the first place, and remember they are specifically said to be believers. They’re not like the Galatians Judaizers who, it seems from Paul’s language there, that Paul regarded as non-Christians though they were professing believers. These were truly Christians. And so I just suggested to you that while the question was settled James felt that the pharisaic believers who in a sense had been their position had been rejected needed some soothing. And so James, as the leading figure in the church in Jerusalem, arises to poor a bit of oil on the waters and remind all there that while it’s true that today is the day of Gentile salvation and the day of Gentile equality, Israel’s future and also their preeminence in the future one they posses Edom, using the Amos passage, posses Edom and the Gentiles, that still is part of the word of God.
So that would have been an encouragement to them to remind them that they were not saying that the program of God that the Old Testament is set forth to fulfill the covenantal promises has been done away with because the Gentiles now have equal position in the people of God with the Jews. So that’s the first thing. I suggest then that for James he was soothing the situation. And there’re several ways in which this might be true for James. I want to say just a few things, and we’ll move on. Looking at Amos 9:7-10 context and equating it with the present status of Israel before God as seen in the events described in the passion of Christ and the early history of the church, James may also mean that today is the day of Israel’s casting off — or to use Paul’s — to use Paul’s equivalent expression, “and thus the day of Gentile salvation.”
In other words, James may be making a specific application of Verses 7 through 10 of Amos 9 to the present time and reminding them that today is part of that day of discipline that God had announced in 9:7-10 of Amos 9 when Israel was going to be scattered among the nations and, furthermore, put in God’s sieve and all of the sinners were going to be destroyed except for the remnant. So that, I’m inclined to think, was very much in James’ mind. James may be laying stress, someone else has suggested — this is not my view but I suggest it to you or mention it to you so you can evaluate it. James may be laying stress on the future, pointing out that when Christ comes again Gentiles are being saved as Gentiles and that’s why they may be saved as Gentiles today. If he — when he comes at his Second Advent finds Gentiles saved as Gentiles, then obviously they can be saved as Gentiles today. Dispensationalists refer the phrase after this to the statement of Verse 14, thus severing it from the context of Amos entirely. Well, we’ll discuss that later in the paper. So I won’t say anything about that now. I do think there is a connection between the Amos 9 passage and this passage, but it’s specifically with 9:7 through 10.
Now, another difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, I’m having such a good time with this. As I’ve mentioned to you, I’ve been working on this the last three days, and I dream about this now and I go out and look at my yard, and there I don’t find what Amos talks about here, vineyards and people drinking the wine of it and eating the fruits of the gardens. And I don’t find the hills all melted together or anything like that, but it’s been upon my mind and I’ve spent a lot of time here. In fact, Martha’s gone back to calling me Dr. Johnson [laughter] over the past three days.
So I’ve had a good time restudying this section. I hope that I’m not burdening you too much, but I’m interested in digging into it as deeply as possible. The second thing that James does is he modifies both the Hebrew and the Greek Old Testament text with his “I will return” in Chapter 15 in Verse 16. Notice how the text reads, “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David…” but if you’ll turn back to the Old Testament and you look at Verse 11 of Amos 9, “in that day.” There is no I will return but simply “will I raise up the tabernacle of David.” So here we have an addition, “I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David.”
So it’s natural, you would expect, for someone to say well, James is adding this on purpose too, and he wants us to see that what he’s talking about is going to occur when the Lord returns. I will return, and so that verb is added to the text. It’s not found in the Hebrew. It’s not found in the Greek Old Testament. The Hebrew text has simply, “I will raise up.” The Septigent has “I will raise up,” but the New Testament has “I will come again and will raise up or build again the tabernacle of David.”
I will return might refer to the second advent of our Lord, but if it did, it would be the only time that this verb honorstrafold is ever found in the sense of the Second Advent. That’s something to cause pause. And then secondly there is an expression in Hebrew in which in order to express that something is going to be done again, in the Old Testament you will frequently have I will return and do such and such. The Hebrew verb shuwb is the one that is used there ordinarily, and the meaning is I will again do something. That is I will return and do. That is I will do it again. That isn’t a precise construction here, but it’s at least close enough for some Bible scholars to suggest that may have been in James’ mind. So I’m more inclined to think that it’s unlikely that James is referring specifically to the Second Advent. It’s something I keep in my mind and debate back and forth.
What I think that James is doing is simply making it clear by expanding Amos’ words that he’s talking about a rebuilding — not a building, but a rebuilding. That’s the point of both the Hebrew and the Septigent make, and I’m inclined to think that that’s the way we should look at this. I will reestablish the tabernacle of David.
Now, let’s see. Among the other things that we could talk about that might be of some importance. I’d like for you to notice a fourth thing. I’m skipping number three. So that’s four for me, three for you. Both Amos and the Septigent have phrases identifying the restoration with the ancient Davidic monarchy. The Hebrew has, notice it, in Chapter 9 in Verse 11, “and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it…” Now, notice the phrase, “…as in the days of old.” In other words, there’s a definite linking of what is going to be done and with what was done in the past. The Septigent also has the same thing. It has as the days of the age, which is an idiomatic expression to express the same thing.
Now, the New Testament doesn’t say anything about that. Obviously what James has already said has said that when he says, “…I will again build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof and will set it up.” It hardly seems necessary to say as in days of old. So James has omitted it. I don’t think that’s too more important, but I’d like for you to note that the Old Testament does say as in days of old.
Now, we’ve talked about that they may possess and how in the Old Testament the text is Verse 12 that they may posses; whereas, in the New Testament we have that the residue of men might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called. There’s a bit of a question about whether the residue of men is a reference to Gentiles or to Jews, and the debate again is rather warm over that point. Although, I don’t know that there’s any reason why we shouldn’t go ahead and say, as many do, that the residue of men in James’ Verse 17 of Acts Chapter 15 is a reference to the nation Israel. That is that the residue of men from Israel might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles upon who may name is called. It could be taken in a way that would equate them.
One other point, you’ll notice that in the New Testament we have that the residue of men might seek after the Lord. In the Old Testament, we don’t have that. We have that they may posses the remnant of Edom and all the heathen, which are called by my name, sayeth the Lord that doeth this. Well, James doesn’t seem to make any big point over that. So we will let that distinction go. I’ve already talked about how it might have arisen. You can see, I think, fairly clearly from the study of the Old Testament and the New Testament that the thing that lies in the background of the passage in the Old Testament is the restoration of the Davidic kingdom. And the same language is cited in the New Testament, I will build again the tabernacle of David. And so that, in itself, suggests that what we’re talking about, but the restoration of the Davidic empire. One of the — he’s not a liberal man professor of Old Testament at Union Seminary in Richmond has written a number of commentaries on the mind of prophets, a very fine commentator. Always read what he has to say. Writes it well. He’s a very accomplished scholar. He adds this comment, the background of the idea is once again the Davidic Empire. Those nations conquered and ruled by David are regarding as Yahweh’s possession and will be included in the restored kingdom, but the article expects in the future is not a universal worldwide kingdom but a revival whose contours conform to what had already occurred in Israel’s history under Yahweh. Isn’t that something for you to think about?
Now, let’s come for the remaining few minutes that we have to the hermeneutical and exegetical analysis of these texts. And we’re going to look first at two of the amillennial interpreters and their analysis of the text. We come really to the heart of the debate here. Is James’ use of Amos supportable and what then is his view of the present age and into what theological camp would he fall. Be quiet, you Baptists. I will — when I can see that just passed over the head of all of you but evangelicals who are Baptists like to say, of course, he would fall into the camp of the Baptists. Well, we haven’t got enough Baptists around evidently or else you’ve lost your voice. Anyway, I want to discuss it under the headings of amillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, and historical premillennialism. Amillennialists like premillennialists come in different varieties and they are limited by their own age and its concerns. It would be hardly fair for me to say now let’s look at the amillennial viewpoint.
So we’ll turn to Augustine. Augustine is the father of amillennialism. And if we look at Augustine’s treatment of amillennialism, we’d see really how weak it is. In fact, if that’s all that could be said about amillennialism, most of us would probably not even consider seriously amillennialism. The only major objection that Augustine seemed to have was that premillennialists had overdone the exposition of passages in the Old Testament, that they had talked about limitless gormandizing. That is, they made a great deal of the carnal delights of the kingdom and Augustine that finally got on his nerves. He thought if that’s the picture that premillennialists insist is the teaching of the Bible, then I’d better go another way. That’s what he said. So we won’t use Augustine. Furthermore, his treatment of the thousand years was very difficult to sustain and most amillennialists have abandoned his particular views.
To be fair, it seems to me we should face the staunchest defenders of the various positions, and so that’s what I’ll try to do. So first of all, we’ll turn to the interpretation of James and Amos by Oswald T. Alice, late professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary and I think also later a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. Professor Alice’s book is called Prophecy and the Church. It’s had a wide acceptance among amillennialists, and it has also had a rather wide acceptance among those who have been premillinnealists but who have not liked dispensationalism because it’s primarily an attack on dispensational theology, but it positively offers an amillennial alternative, and so we’ll talk about it from that standpoint.
Alice, fortunately, discusses this particular citation from Amos in some detail and his position may be summed up in these points. This is what Professor Alice says that this passage means. First of all, the issue at the council, Alice says, was the status of Gentiles in the church and their obligation to observe the Mosaic Law. In other words, he goes on to say, it concerned the nature of the Christian church and the relationship of Gentile to Jew in it. This issue, Alice believes, was the point to which James was speaking when he cited Amos.
Now, we have said that that may not be true. And in a very interesting way if you read Professor Alice, you’ll see that it never dawned upon him that there might be a significant change of thought at Verse 11, never dawned on him. He never discussed it and so far as I know he was unequated with that possibility. So he assumes then that James’ citation of Amos is the expression of the issue in the discussion. We’ve said that there’s some question about that. Second, Professor Alice says James’ quotation refers to the building up of the Christian church. Thus, he says, it’s wrong for dispensationalists to say that prophecy skips over the church age.
Now, frankly, I think that Professor Alice is right about that. I think it’s wrong to say that prophecy skips over the church age. There are many things in the prophecy of the Old Testament. The prophecies of the Old Testament refer to this particular age. And a number of dispensationalists have made some very serious errors by stressing that there’s no connection between the Old Testament age and the present age. We’ve talked a lot about that. So I don’t think we have to repeat it, but you remember how I set out for you how Dr. Chafer came to the viewpoint that the church age is an intercalation; that is, not connected with what preceded, not connected with what followed. And I suggested to you — it will be interesting when I see Dr. Chafer in heaven because he’ll be there — and what we say when we get there, and my contention is that Dr. Chafer used the right word but used it at the wrong age. That is, the age of the law is the intercalation. That age of the church is not an intercalation. The law came in at Sinai and the law departed at Calvary.
There was an intercalation — an intercalary period in that sense, but unfortunately many dispensationalists have insisted that the present age doesn’t have any relationship to the old covenant age nor any relationship, strictly speaking, to the future. So when Alice says it’s wrong for dispensationalists to say that prophecy skips over the church age, I tend to agree with Mr. Alice — or Professor Alice. In fact, to affirm Amos that Amos’ words have no reference to the present age is to contend that the citation Professor Alice says had no direct bearing upon the question at issue. How would Amos’ words relate to the status of the Gentiles of the church? So Professor Alice asks. I don’t agree with him on that, but that’s his viewpoint. A third point that Alice makes is this: Alice asserts, therefore, that the Amos quote applies directly and definitely to the situation under discussion, the status of the Gentiles in the church.
Now, one could agree with him there but one would then ask how does it apply? Now, he wants to say it was fulfilled, but I would look at it slightly differently. The words after these things I will return and build, Alice says, do not refer to the future from James’ time or to the Second Advent. The church age and the ingathering of Gentiles is a signal proof of the worldwide sovereignty of the son of David. That’s James’ point according to Professor Alice. And fourth, Alice contends finally that the words “I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen,” do not refer to a future Davidic kingdom.
Now, that’s a very interesting thing for him to say, and I must clarify what he said. I think it needs clarification, even in his own discussion. When he says that phrase I will raise up the tabernacle of David which has fallen does not refer to the future Davidic kingdom but to the church age and the gathering in of the Gentiles now, he does go on to grant that the redemptive program suggested by the words includes this age and will culminate in the second advent. So you can see he’s not altogether precise in what he’s saying.
Now, let me offer a few things in critique of Professor Alice, and I don’t know whether we’ll be able to finish or not but just a few things before we stop in a few moments. First of all, Alice’s statement of the issue, while certainly accurate in part, may stumble over these things. First of all, as I’ve said, he doesn’t seem to see that Verses 1 through 11 reach what seems to be a natural climax with Peter’s statement and that the statement of the apostle really settles the question of Gentile salvation. Listen to it again, and I will underline the salient words. But we, the expression of a consensus, believe that through the grace, circumcision therefore, cannot be required for salvation, see Galatians, of the Lord Jesus Christ, we should be saved even as they, Gentiles, as Gentiles are saved just as the Israel of God.
That makes every point that one would expect to be made in this conference. We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, Israel of God, apostles, the elders, believers, that make up the Israel of God, the remnant if you will, we shall be saved even as they. So Gentiles are saved as Gentiles and have equal status in the church. That’s what Peter is saying. Perhaps the section Acts 15:1 through 29 has to do with an issue of Gentile salvation and the natural following question of how this Gentile movement has to be harmonized with God’s plan of the ages concluded with an appropriate practical response to the historical situation, and that’s what we have following this. We have James elucidating the relationship of this to the overall program, and then finally how will we deal with this question as the matter goes out and is discussed over the Christian church in the early days. And so James’ final words and then the words of the council sum up the whole situation. So that’s one thing. Second, in response to Alice’s claim that the situation refers to the building up of the Christian church, I would reply yes and no. Yes, Gentile salvation is alluded to in the citation and is wrong to say that prophecy skips over the church age. The question is: In what way does Amos’ citation allude to the present age? And I would argue undogmatically that the preceding context in the Old Testament Amos 9:7 through 10 sets out Jewish national casting away for a time and the assumption of Gentile blessing as Deuteronomy 32:21 says Paul affirms that that is what is happening now in James’ use of Amos is in harmony with that view. In fact, that’s what James himself says in Verse 14 where he acknowledges present Gentile election and salvation from the mass of Gentiles. Amos’ words imply the present work of God. James’ use of Amos with its after these things goes on to deal with what Amos deals with also in Amos 9:11 through 15. Hope that’s clear to you.
One more point, then we’ll stop. It’s clear that James’ modification of Amos in that day by after these things, to me, is intentional. So far as I can tell — I admit my research is incomplete. There is no instance of “in that day” being equated with after these things in the rendering of the Old Testament in the Septuagint. That’ll be an absolutely unique use of terms.
Now, if you want to prove me wrong, go to your concordance and look up the expression in that day and then look up the Greek translation at that point and maybe you can come with some illustration to say it happened once. I’d say yes, that’s once. My score is 375 and yours is one, which one shall we follow in the doubtful case? Well, you’d have to say you win again Dr. Johnson. You phrased it so you would win. Well, of course, that’s what we do when we try to argue, isn’t it? I’ve got a book on my desk, which I bought a couple of years ago. I haven’t read it but its entitled How To Win Arguments, and I’m looking forward to reading through it so I can be impeccable in my argumentation. At the present point, I’m not.
It’s time for us to stop. I hope I’ve not bored you too much with this, but I’m having fun. So I hope at least you see that this is not an easy question and that if you’re going to think about it you really ought to study the Bible for yourself and reflect upon it. It’s not something that a teacher should tell others and you then have the attitude so and so says it’s this, I believe it’s this because I believe him. That’s not the way to study the Bible. The way to study the Bible is to go to it yourself. If that were the way to study the Bible, I wouldn’t believe a lot of things that I know the Bible teached today — teaches today because I’ve been told a lot of things by men that I respected which I have found didn’t hold water as the years have passed by. And if you listen to me very long I’m going to ask you to say anything because you could provide enough illustration for another message but I have said of lots of things that I myself have changed, and I know some of my friends would like to change some other things too.
So when we study the Scriptures, let us come to the Scriptures and study them for ourselves and be sure we have some good reasons for what we’re talking about but don’t accept truth because it comes from some particular person, even though they may be generally reliable. No man is perfectly reliable. It’s 8:30. Let’s close with a word of prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the privilege of the study of the word, and we thank Thee for men like Peter and James and Paul and Barnabas and others who wrestled with some of these questions in days in which the mighty power of God was at work in days in which they were forced to rethink things that they had thought were settled for them. We remember Peter when he didn’t even want to preach the Gospel to Gentiles, but in a supernatural way his views were changed and thou did use him in grace in Cornelius’ house. We thank Thee for these reflections and accounts of the argumentation [end of tape]