The Bible is all about revealing God to mankind. Jesus was and is God and is therefore the perfect revelation of God but, we have too often viewed Jesus in light of our understanding of the Bible.
We need to read the Bible through the lens of Jesus. Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth as we depend on God and not our own wisdom or insight.
I’ve heard it said that we need to stop reading the Bible like it’s a flat book. The revelation concerning God in the beginning is not as clear as that given by Jesus at the end. Even the original 12 Apostles had disputes about Theology and doctrine. ~ Hmmm…
So we can be comfortable disagreeing about some finer details of the Scriptures and we can also learn from each other. That’s liberating to me! Let’s consider the “First New Covenant Church Council” recorded in the Scriptures around 50 AD.
“1Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.”
This was a period in early New Covenant history that was full of tension between Jews and Christians. Even between believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Perhaps much of the problem is described in Hebrews 8:13 ~
13When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.”
These Scripture loving Jews had been taught in the Old Covenant ways for about 40 generations and even though Jesus came as fulfillment of all that was written about him; the old was still passing away (even until 70 AD).
So, the Apostles and elders met to discuss how to handle these new Gentile converts.
5But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”…Isn’t it interesting that the Church still has “mixture” of LAW and grace almost 2,000 years later!
6The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter.
In verses 7-11, Peter briefly speaks of the freedom from the Old Covenant rituals for both believing Jew and Gentile through faith. Then Paul and Barnabas testify to the signs and wonders God performed to the Gentiles.
This is where it get’s interesting!
15And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
17that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things 18known from of old.’19Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.”
James clearly references Amos 9:11 & 12 which is the very end of his prophecy. Almost all of the preceding 8 chapters declare coming judgement on Israel! (Chapter 1 Declares judgement on their neighbors)
Consider a few immediately preceding verses ~ 9:8-10
8“Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom,
And I will destroy it from the face of the earth;
Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,”
Declares the LORD.
9“For behold, I am commanding,
And I will shake the house of Israel among all nations
As grain is shaken in a sieve,
But not a kernel will fall to the ground.
10“All the sinners of My people will die by the sword,
Those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’
The point is that these prophecies were all before the prophecy James quoted and no one is recorded to have disputed his exegesis or hermeneutic. We also know that they weren’t beyond disagreeing because Luke had no problem recording their “sharp disagreement” in 15:36-41.
Apparently James quoted the proper passage at the right time. What if this (like other apocalyptic prophecies) have already been fulfilled in Israel at 70 AD?
Let’s consider that James declared ~ “The words of the prophets agree with this…” James quoted only Amos here but, stated that more than one prophet (2 or 3 witnesses) testified that “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the fallen tent of David; I will rebuild its ruins and restore it,”
This is consistent with the Greek text but not actually a direct quote from Amos 9:11. It is very slightly altered from the Hebrew text of Amos which says ~ “In that day will I raise up…” instead of “After this I will return and will rebuild…”
Significance? Maybe, it’s that the O.T. prophets had no understanding of the Messiah leaving before he “returned to rebuild”. Doesn’t that sound consistent with the Disciples understanding immediately before Jesus ascended to the Father in Acts 1?
There is one more very significant mention in James’ quote that I want to draw out but, that will have to wait until Part 2.