Tag Archives: Acts

God’s People, part 260: We

Read Acts 16:6-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples.”  (Luke 1:1-2, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 60: We. The people in the Bible we have been discussing as of late have been in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, which is the second volume of a two volume account on the life, teachings, death and resurrection of the Christ and the workings of his earliest followers following his ascension into heaven. Up until this point, it was written in the third person, meaning that Luke telling of these acts of the apostles as though he was not there at the time that they happened.

With that said, something very intriguing and unique happens very subtly, and one could easily glaze right over it without even paying it any attention. But this detail is actually a rather important one and lends apostolic authority to Acts. Let’s take a look at what I am writing about. In Acts 16:6-9, let us look at how the author wrote:

“Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!””  (Acts 16:6-9, NLT)

Yet, in verse 10 Luke switches to the first person:

“So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.”  (Acts 16:10, NLT, emphasis added)

What this indicates is that at this point in the journey Luke, the author of Acts, is with Paul as one of his fellow companions and missionaries. That makes Acts, from chapter 16 onward, a first-hand account of the travels of Paul. This, combined with Paul’s letters, gives us a real insight into Paul and his missionary journeys. Anti-theists and others will often question the reliability of Scriptures; however, here in Acts we have a first-hand account written down 2,000 years ago about the last two remaining missionary journeys of Paul.

If the reliability of sources like Plato’s writings on Socrates don’t get questioned, there is no reason why we should question the reliability of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, the letters of Paul, or any of New Testament. Why? Because most of these writings were penned within 40 to 60 years after Christ died. Paul’s letters were written by him in real time, and Luke/Acts came out a mere 15 years or so after Paul’s death.

That is incredibly close to the time of the events described in terms of ancient manuscripts. For instance, Homer’s Iliad took place 400 years before Homer penned his poem recounting the Trojan War. 400 years! The earliest manuscripts we have of Homer’s Iliad are dated to the 10th century AD, while homer wrote it in the late 8th or early 7th centuries BC!!! Yet, no one spends much time questioning Homer’s existence or authorship.

On the other hand, the earliest fragment we have of a text in the New Testament is from the Gospel of John, dated to the early 2nd century AD. A mere 10 – 30 years after John wrote his Gospel. The earliest completed copies of a New Testament book dates to 200 AD, a mere 160 or so years after Christ, and the earliest completed copy of the New Testament dates to the 4th century (300s). So, the reliability of the New Testament is far greater than that of Homer’s Iliad. All of this, to say that we can trust what the Bible conveys because it contains eye-witness accounts from Luke, Paul and others and where there are accounts written second-hand, the events were so close to the people writing that it is more unreasonable to doubt their veracity than it is to not.

Let this be a challenge for us then. As Christians we need to take the Bible seriously. It is authoritative in conveying to us the way of Salvation and Christian living. Surely, there are somethings in it that no longer apply to us (e.g. laws on diet, clothing, tattoos, piercings, etc.); however, the core of the Bible is our authority and points us to Christ who died that we might have abundant and everlasting life. Let be a people of THE BOOK so that we might grow even closer to the TRUE WORD OF GOD: JESUS CHRIST. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The WORD of God is our Lord Jesus Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, make us thirsty for your word so that we may grow even closer and connected to your LIVING WORD, Jesus Christ.

Dying for Both Sides

Read Galatians 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:31)

saint-paul-the-apostle-07In the Bible, there is a man named Saul who was born in the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia. He was well educated and rose up to be a scholar of the Torah, a Pharisee, and a zealous defender of the Jewish faith. When a new sect of Judaism broke out claiming that a Nazarene rabbi by the name of Yeshua bar Joseph was the messiah and that Gentiles should be included in the Jewish covenant, he lashed out against the group, having many of them arrested. According to Acts, one was even killed.

With that said, this Saul encountered the risen Yeshua, you may know him by his Greek name Jesus, somewhere in or around Damascus, which is a city in Syria. This experience transformed Saul into a follower of Jesus. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that, following the encounter with Christ, he went into Arabia for a while and then came back to Damascus. After three years he went to Jerusalem and met with Jesus’ brother James, and his disciples Peter and John.

To make a long story short, Jesus’ brother James and Paul didn’t really get along…at all. Peter and John weren’t too crazy about Paul either. James believed that in order for Gentiles (non-Jews) to become a follower of Christ they had to first become Jewish, since Jesus was a Jew. Paul thought this was ludicrous, seeing Jesus’ death and resurrection as the opening up of the covenant to Gentiles. If they had faith in Jesus who was likened to a Gentile on the cross (being under God’s curse as the Torah claims of anyone hung on a tree), then they would be brought into the Jewish covenant despite not being circumcised or being bound to any one of the Jewish laws.

Though they struck a deal and Paul left thinking he had their blessing to go and preach the Gospel as he felt Jesus had called him to do, James, Peter and John never really accepted Paul’s vision. We find out from Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and in Acts, that James and his followers were counteracting Paul’s Gospel message and causing people to question this “self-proclaimed apostle” who had never been an eye-witness of Jesus. This angered Paul, as anyone would imagine, but it did not stop him from trying.

Paul had been gathering up a collection for the church in Jerusalem and he was going to bring that collection to them, hoping to reconcile their differences if it cost him his very life. Paul was afraid it would. His last written words, written to the church in Rome (a community he had never met), ask for prayers that the non-believing Jews won’t attack him (as he was a heretic in their eyes having abandoned his Pharisaic Judaism for this new messianic Judaism) and that the church in Jerusalem would accept his offering. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered.

Paul was arrested, and eventually died, trying to get both sides (his and James’) to be unified, even if different, in the cause of Christ. Today, like then, the church is split on many fronts and we seem to get stuck on one side or the other. We fail to see Christ in the midst of our differences. Like Paul, we are called to see Christ in those who believe differently than us. We are called to find the balance of reconciliation, even while remaining true to what we firmly believe. There are many contentious issues dividing the church, yet there is still ONE Lord! Rather than deeming each other heretics, let us have the grace and the humility to see that Christ is indeed working in, through, and in spite of us all! Remember, he Gospel calls us to be a people who are unified in LOVE, even if divided by difference.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get unity by ignoring the questions that have to be faced.” – Jay Weatherill

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see you even in those who think and believe differently than me. Humble me, I pray. Amen.