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.
In today’s Bible reading in Acts 12, we see that Herod kills James. Because the Jewish leaders respond favorably, Herod jails Peter, presumably to be executed. Knowing how badly things have turned out in the past with Jesus and His followers, Herod assigns four squads of soldiers to guard Peter. This seems like overkill since there were four soldiers in a squad. The idea was that during each of the
When an angel woke up Peter, he thought he was seeing a vision (Acts 12:9). But he followed the angel out of the prison and realized that he had truly been delivered from certain death. He immediately headed to John Mark’s mother’s house, thinking the disciples were gathered to pray. When the servant girl told everyone that Peter was outside the door, they assumed it was his ghost.
Both Peter and the people gathered to pray weren’t expecting God to do what He was doing.
John Piper has said that God is always doing 10,000 things and you may be aware of three of them.
God doesn’t always work the way we expect. And He often surprises us. He reminds us that He’s God and we aren’t. And that’s always good! I know that if it were up to me, I would surely mess things up. Every. Time.
God is good all the time. Spend some time today asking Him to show you those three things clearly. And then praise Him for it!
In today’s Bible reading from Acts 11, we read that several people call into question Peter’s wisdom of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. As I said yesterday, Peter did something that ran contrary to everything he has known about Jew and Gentile relations. And now, he has to give an account to the circumcision party for why he ate with Gentiles. (Acts 11:3)
We will read more about the circumcision party later in our New Testament readings, but for now, I’ll just sum up the central issue. The circumcision party insisted to new converts that to be a good Christian, you had to be a good Jew, including abstaining from certain foods and (for men) being circumcised; this goes all the way back to God’s call to Abraham. (Genesis 17:10–14)
Think about your dealings with people who don’t live like you, or look like you, or talk like you, or even smell like you. Do you realize they need Jesus just as much as you? (no more and no less!) And they are no more and no less deserving of God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness that you are.
If you feel that for someone needs to do something — anything — before they can come to Jesus, you really don’t understand what the Gospel is all about! The Gospel is all about what God has already done in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Think about it: Did you have to do anything before you could become a Christian?
Did God require you to get cleaned up or stop some behavior before He extended His grace, mercy, and love to you? No, He didn’t. And neither should we expect anyone else to do anything before becoming a Christian.
The very definition of “Grace” is that God granted His favor to undeserving people. He still does. And so should we.
In today’s Bible reading in Acts 10, we read about the visions of Peter and Cornelius. Already, we have seen salvation come to the Jewish People (Acts 2) and the Samaritans (Acts 8). When God saves Cornelius and his family, Salvation has been extended to the Gentiles. God has shown Himself to be a sovereign Lord Who cares, not just for the Jewish People, but for all people groups.
The Old Testament tells us about the birth of the Jewish People through their ancestor, Abraham. God declared Abraham righteous because of his belief. (Genesis 15:6) God said that all families of the earth would be blessed by Abraham. (Genesis 12:3)
Later, when Paul expounded on Abraham’s experience with God, he said,
Galatians 3:6–9 (CSB)
6just like Abraham who believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness?
7You know, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons.
8Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and proclaimed the gospel ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.
9Consequently those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.
And he adds in Ephesians 3:1–13
1For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—
2you have heard, haven’t you, about the administration of God’s grace that he gave to me for you?
3The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above.
4By reading this you are able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.
5This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
6The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power.
8This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ,
9and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.
10This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.
11This is according to his eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12In him we have boldness and confident access through faith in him.
13So then I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory.
When salvation came to Cornelius and his family, the mystery hidden for ages and generations has now revealed to his saints. (Colossians 1:25-26)
Note that Peter was initially opposed to going into a Gentile’s home. This is due to generations of prejudice passed down to him. How difficult it must have been to do what had been so repulsive to him for all of his life.
Are you content to do your missions by proxy? By that, I mean, are you content to give financial and prayer support to others so they can do the work (so you don’t have to)?
God calls all of his kids to reach out to others, crossing cultural, racial, and other barriers in order to take the Gospel message to even more people.