I want to point out an important point from today’s Bible reading, in Acts 16. In Acts 17:2-3, we see that
Acts 17:2–3 (CSB)
2As usual, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah.”
And in Acts 17:11
Acts 17:11 (CSB)
The people here were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
In both cases, Dr. Luke tells us by example that it’s important to read and study our Bible. As I have pointed out several times over the past few weeks, we have to be ready to tell people about Jesus. (1Peter 3:15) And we must be familiar enough with the Bible that we can point people to key Scriptures where we see those truths.
(Note, I didn’t say that we need to know key Scriptures that back up what we say. That sounds like we’re trying to make Scripture back up our view instead of getting our view from Scripture.)
Last year in church, we memorized twelve Bible passages, each aimed at helping us to do just that. Here’s a link those verses. Spend a little time each day committing them to memory.
You never know when you’ll need to pull a verse or two out of your quiver to share the Gospel with someone … or even to preach the Gospel to yourself!
In today’s Bible reading from Acts 16, Dr. Luke says some things that don’t sound right. Actually, based on what many of us have heard in church, it doesn’t sound biblical at all! It doesn’t fit!
In Acts 16:6-7, Dr. Luke tells us,
6They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
7When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
As Paul and Silas were attempting to do God’s work, God prevents them from even preaching the Gospel! That doesn’t fit with the way we’ve always heard it! Why would God prevent these missionaries from preaching the Gospel?
I don’t know. But I do know that God is God. And I’m not. God is a loving God. And God is all about spreading the fame of His name.
Step back for a moment. Take a deep breath. Remember that we need to get our theology (our understanding about God and His ways) from the Bible and not from what we think we’ve heard in church.
When God prevented these two men from preaching in Phrygia, Galatia, Asia, and Mysia, He may have just been saying that now’s not the time to minister here. Or He may have been saying to Paul and Silas that He’s going to use someone else to reach these people. Or He may have been saying something else. I just don’t know.
Regardless of why, seeing God’s opposition to their plans, Paul and Silas plan to go a different direction. Overnight, Paul has a vision of a man in Macedonia calling for help. The next morning, they set out for Macedonia (Acts 16:10) and God blesses their obedience.
Whenever you come across something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, realize that God is God and you’re not. Ask Him for understanding. But trust Him to be the God that He is.
So it finally comes to a head. In today’s Bible reading in Acts 15, we see that the Judaizers (aka, the “Circumcision Party”) have insisted that anyone who comes to faith in Christ must also be circumcised in order to be a good Christian. (By the way, they’ll keep raising their ugly heads through the rest of our Bible readings this year)
Just coming to faith in Jesus isn’t enough. It’s never enough for religious people.
They’ll tell you that you have to join a church. You have to pray a prayer. You have to be baptized. You have to read your Bible. You have to go to Sunday School. You have to go on a mission trip. You have to write a big check to the church. You have to drive the church bus. You have to ______. (fill in the blank)
The bottom line is, they don’t believe that Jesus is enough. Somehow, they think that they have to contribute to their salvation. And they insist that you should, too!
That was the crux of the Reformation in the early Sixteenth Century. The Church agreed with the Reformers — like Martin Luther — that people can be saved by grace by faith in Jesus. But Luther and the other Reformers added one little Latin word sola. Sola means alone.
The Reformers said that it wasn’t just salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. They said that according to the Bible alone, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone to the glory of God alone.
The Reformers insisted that no one can add to what Jesus did for us. What Jesus did (once and for all) is sufficient to make us right with God. Period. Nothing can improve our standing before God. Nothing!
Now, lest I be misunderstood, there is nothing wrong with (and a lot can be gained by) praying, being baptized, reading your Bible, going to Sunday School, going on mission trips, giving money to a church and so many more things.
But the bottom line is that if what Jesus already did for us isn’t enough, then Jesus didn’t have to do anything at all!
Spend a few minutes today praising God that everything that was necessary to make you right in God’s eyes has already been done by Jesus. Rejoice that you get to enjoy a relationship with your Creator without having to do anything but rely on what Jesus has already done. That’s great news!
By the way, if you want to learn more about the key issues for the Reformers, check out my sermon series, The Five Solas of the Reformation that I preached in October 2017 in celebration of the Five Hundredth Anniversary of The Reformation.
In today’s Bible reading in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabus continue their work of taking the Gospel message to lost people. As is their habit, when they enter a city, they go to the synagogue. In the First Century, the local synagogue isn’t just for worship; it’s a common gathering place for the people. Obviously, not only Jews went to the synagogue, but Gentiles were there as well. Both Jews and Gentiles respond to the Gospel message and are saved. (Acts 14:1-2)
When an attempt was made to kill these missionaries, they fled the scene. But it’s important to note that they never stopped preaching the Gospel message. They just changed where they did it. (Acts 14:6-7)
All too often, we’re tempted to not want to rock the boat too much when we talk about Jesus. It’s like we don’t want to offend people with the Gospel. But the Gospel message is an offensive message. And we do a disservice to people when we sugarcoat the message.
So if you’re talking with somebody about Jesus, what He’s done in your life, and how He can do the same in their life, just give them the Good News (that’s what “gospel” means) and leave the results to God. If they reject what you’re saying, that’s ok. Just take the message to someone else.
Note: Our next scheduled Bible reading and devotional will be on Tuesday.
In today’s Bible reading, in Acts 13, we read where during corporate fasting and worship at the church at Antioch, the Holy Spirit tells the church to set apart Saul and Barnabus to the mission field. (Acts 13:2) Obediently, the church fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, sending them out. Just in case there’s any doubt, Dr. Luke reemphasizes that this commission is from the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:4).
All was well on their journey; God blesses their work and more Gentiles are saved. The word of the Lord spreads through the whole region. The Jews in the region are offended and they stir up persecution. Paul and Barnabus are sent away (Note the name change from Saul to Paul in Acts 13:9)
How did Paul and Barnabus respond? Just as Jesus had told the seventy-two disciples when He sent them out:
Luke 10:10–11 (CSB)
10When you enter any town, and they don’t welcome you, go out into its streets and say,
11‘We are wiping off even the dust of your town that clings to our feet as a witness against you. Know this for certain: The kingdom of God has come near.’
Note that after they left for Iconium, they didn’t just shake the dust off their sandals. Dr. Luke tells us that they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:51-52)
Once again, we see believers rejoicing in the face of persecution (cf Acts 5:41). Maybe there’s a lesson here!
After Jesus’ baptism, Dr. Luke tells us:
Luke 4:1–2 (CSB)
1Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness
2for forty days to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, he was hungry.
14Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity.
The Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas for the work. The Holy Spirit sent out Paul and Barnabas as they ministered. While he was ministering, Paul — filled with the Holy Spirit — rebuked the sorcerer/false prophet Elymus/Bar-Jesus [which, by the way, means, “Son of Jesus”]. And when they were persecuted, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps whenever we’re persecuted, it’s an invitation to go deeper with the Holy Spirit. So instead of complaining and telling the devil to leave us alone, maybe we simply need to ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit.