Acts 20 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. 9 And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 11 When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12 They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted…
17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them,
“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26 Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.
In the beginning of today’s text we read the account when Paul: began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. A young man was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. With very little fanfare Paul, went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” Paul and the rest of the people returned upstairs and went on with their meeting until daybreak. Jesus says: “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20) Certainly He was there, present at that gathering. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Resurrection and the Life was there. There was no hysteria, no fanfare simply an expectation, faith and confidence in the presence of Jesus. We too should have that same confidence, the same expectation, that the same God, Jesus Himself will be present when we gather in His name. We should expect miracles, not be surprised by them.
As the text continues, Paul declares another thing which he anticipates and has an expectation of: that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. Paul knew and expected these afflictions would come because as he says: “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The message of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ will offend many. Some will be offended, for no real reason, by Jesus Himself. He says: “He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”(John 15:23-25) It is Jesus works, His living and being light in the darkness which causes some to hate Him. In John 3:19-20, following the verse which says: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus says: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
You see that brings us to the second part of what Paul says, the other thing which will offend people: testifying of repentance toward God. Few if any will be offended if we share and proclaim only the part where God so loved the world. But the message of the need for repentance, the message of the need to choose between the Light of Christ and the darkness of the world will offend many. We, like Paul can expect that if we too will testify and declare of both the unconditional love of God and the need for repentance, the need to turn from the darkness of the world, many will be offended. Paul says: But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. Will we too, in the face of expected bonds and afflictions, finish the course and the ministry we received from the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify of the gospel of the grace God?
Paul issues this warning to the church: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” These savage wolves come from among the believers. This is not the rejection and persecution of believers by unbelievers. What Paul is warning against is those who will speak perverse, contrary or opposing things. Those who speak only half of the truth actually speak contrary or opposite of the truth. Both those who focus only on repentance and judgment, without love and grace as well as those who focus only on love and grace, without the need for repentance draw people away from the whole truth of God’s word. Either or both can ravage the flock.
Paul says: “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” To God and the word of His grace, we are justified, redeemed from our sin through the cross, by the grace of God. There is nothing more we can do or add to our salvation than to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. But if we want to walk in the fullness of the inheritance we have in and through Christ, we must also be: those who are sanctified. We must respond to God’s love and grace in repentance, in choosing light rather than darkness. Only when we have both halves of the truth will we have the whole truth.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; Holy Spirit thank You for Your love and grace, the finished work of the cross which justifies and redeems me from sin. Thank You also for the ongoing revelation and work of sanctification in my life. That as I continue in turning to You, in choosing daily to live in the light rather than the darkness, I gain the fullness of the inheritance available in Christ. May I live and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. Amen
Acts 19:13-41 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
“I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” In today’s text these men received a whopping because they were not identified with Jesus. As bad as that is there is an even worse outcome for those who are not recognized and identified by and with Jesus. In Mark 8:34-38 Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” In Matthew 7:21-23 He says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
So not only is there the lack of authority in the life of the one who is not identified with Jesus, there is also the risk of eternal separation from God and Christ. Knowing Jesus and being known by Him requires more than a verbal acknowledgement of belief about Him. James 2:19 says: You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. As in today’s text the demons recognize the authority of Jesus and tremble at it. But, we must have more than just a belief about or a knowledge of Him This is not to make us fearful or doubting salvation. We can have confidence in our identity in Christ, our knowing Him and being known by Him. In John 5:24 Jesus says: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” He who hears my word and believes; in today’s text it says: This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. The word of the Lord will have a life changing impact on the one who hears and believes. Romans 10:9-10 says: if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. If we believe in our heart the result will be righteousness, there will be a perceivable change in how we act. It doesn’t mean that we are immediately or ever without sin, shortcomings or failing, but if we believe in our heart that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sin through His own death on the cross, how can we not be changed? How can we not despise the sin that caused Jesus the suffering of the cross?
We must both confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart. If we confess with our mouth and there is no evidence of change, if our life and our righteousness does not line up with our witness and
our testimony, people will call us a hypocrite. We can’t though for fear of the world’s judgment simply hide our belief and not confess that Jesus is Lord. Remember that Jesus says: “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this
adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” It’s not the approval or the opinion of people that we should concern ourselves
with, rather it is the approval of God and the quality of our testimony for Christ that we should care about. The word of the Lord will change us and others. Isaiah 55:11 says: So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It
will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Our lives should be evidence of the change that the word of the Lord causes. We should be living testimonies of Christ’s redemption and restoration. We should also be witnesses and testify with our words, proclaiming His word. If the evidence of our lives does not match the confession of our mouth the world will call us a hypocrite. If on the other hand our words are not His words, if we proclaim a gospel that does not call and cause people to change, to believe in their heart resulting in righteousness, then we misrepresent Christ. We must both know and be known by Jesus. He says: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23-24) We must keep His word, resulting in a change in our lives and we must proclaim His word resulting in change in the lives of others.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the revelation of who Jesus is and what He did. Thank You that through the cross and the resurrection I can live a victorious, abundant life. I am not ashamed, I confess with my mouth and I believe in my heart, I know You Lord and want to be known by You. May both my life and my words be evidence of the change that Your word causes, that others too will know and be known by You. Amen.
2 Kings 13:14-21 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 He said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck it three times and stopped. 19 So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.”
20 Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet.
Elisha was the successor of Elijah; both were great prophets and spiritual leaders. At the time of Elijah’s death Elisha asked to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit so that he could carry on and continue the work and ministry of his master. The same words which Joash spoke from today’s text, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” were also spoken by Elisha when Elijah was taken up into heaven. The account is in 2 Kings 2:9-14:
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.
Elisha did indeed inherit the spirit of Elijah. The account says he took up the mantle of Elijah, he carried on Elijah’s work, in the same spirit. We too have a master who has gone before us, trained and equipped us to continue His work and ministry. Jesus Himself says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12) We do those greater works because Jesus gives us His spirit. He continues in John 14:16-17 saying: “ I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” He, the Holy Spirit abides with us and in us. In verse 23 of John 14 Jesus also says: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” We then, have the Father, the Son and the Spirit, a triple portion of the Spirit. We are called, like Elisha to pick up the mantle of our Master, to continue His work, His ministry, to do the things He did.
We have been trained and equipped by Jesus. We have His words and His example in the Gospels to guide us. We also have the Holy Spirit of whom Jesus says: “He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13) We also have God the Father, working in and through our own lives, using the circumstances of our lives to prepare us for His purpose. Romans 8:28-29 says: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. God doesn’t cause the bad things that happen in our lives. But He does cause all things, both the good things and the bad things to work together for our good. To conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, that we would be like Him. Jesus was the first born of many brethren. He was the first to conquer sin and death. We too are to walk in the mantle of that victory.
There is another application for us in today’s text. Before he dies Elisha gives Joash a prophetic instruction: Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. He said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck it three times and stopped. So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.”
We too have been given the victory over our enemies. It is granted and assured, if we read the end of the book we see that Jesus and His followers prevail, we win! Sometimes though we, like Joash, stop short of the complete victory we have been given. As soon as we see the situation or the circumstances change we relent. Rather than simply rejoicing that we see our situation improve, we need to continue to strike the ground of our enemy. Rather than relent and pull back, we need to press in. We need not to always be only on the defensive, responding to the attacks of our enemy, we need to press the attack. We need to continue to strike until the enemy is defeated. In Matthew 16:15-19 Jesus speaks of the power and authority we have through the revelation that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord of lords and the King of kings, our Master.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Jesus says the gates of Hades will not over power His church, His followers. There is an important key in Jesus words which we must remember and apply to walk in and win the complete victory. It is the principle of binding and loosing. “whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” When we strike and bind the enemy, we need also to loose the realities of heaven. When we bind sickness and death, we need to loose wholeness, healing and life. When we bind the plans of the enemy in a situation we need to loose the plans of God for that situation. Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. On earth as it is in heaven. We are to be those who continue the work of our Master. He has given us His Spirit to empower us and enable us to complete the work. May we not stop until it is finished, until the kingdom of heaven has come to earth.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen
Acts 18:1-22 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, 3 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. 4 And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; 15 but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” 16 And he drove them away from the judgment seat. 17 And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.
18 Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. 19 They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21 but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.
22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch.
By the standards many today set forth as evidence of following Christ, of living as Christ lived, of being Jesus representatives to the world, Paul would be a failure. He would not fit the criteria many today have established for “true” Christian living and ministry. The text says: he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath… Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ… The text says: But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Paul, much like Jesus Himself, did much of his teaching and preaching in the synagogues. In addition to preaching, he ministered in and to the established churches, helping believers to better understand and live as followers of Christ. He was devoted to the word, which at that time was what we know as Old Testament scriptures, not the written gospels. It was through those scriptures, his devotion to them and knowledge of them, that he proclaimed the gospel, the good news. It was through the word that he persuaded people and testified that Jesus was/is the Christ. He preached a hard uncompromising message and when his message was not received he moved on.
Paul’s devotion to the word and his devotion to the church translated into him becoming, with the Holy Spirit, the author of a large portion of our New Testament. His letters of exhortation, encouragement, instruction and discipline are foundational to the church and individual believers. Before Paul’s encounter with Jesus, he was a zealous persecutor of the church and followers of Christ. Acts 9:3-5 says: As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” In Acts 22:3 Paul says: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. In Philippians 3:5 Paul writes: I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin--a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.
After Paul had his encounter with Christ, he was changed, he became as every believer, a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Here’s the thing though, when Paul was changed God didn’t take away Paul’s zealousness. He didn’t take away Paul’s love and devotion to the word. God changed Paul’s heart, He didn’t change the way He, God created Paul. God created each of us with a specific temperament, some are more outgoing, some are more reserved. Some people are very structured and detail oriented, others are more spontaneous. Some are logical and diagnostic, while others are creative and expressive. Some people are highly emotive, compassionate and empathetic. God created all of these characteristics, every temperament, for a purpose, for His purpose. When we are changed by Christ, God doesn’t change how He made us. He changes our heart so that we can fulfill His purpose according to the way He created us. In Romans 12 Paul exhorts individuals and the church collectively to live for Christ. He begins saying: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Now watch and see how God puts individuals together, not that they all become alike, but so that through the various gifts and temperaments He created in them they can work together to accomplish His purpose. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
God has created and gifted each of us uniquely for His purpose. Why do we confuse unity with conformity? If God wanted us all to be the same and to do things the same way He would have created us identically. We tend to see things from our own perspective. We believe others should see things as we see them, should do things as we do them. Instead the church, God’s body of believers need each one to do what God has called them to do in the way He has created them to do it. Paul continues in Romans 12 saying: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. In John 13:35 Jesus says: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” He wasn’t speaking about our love for sinners or our love for the lost, the outcasts and the unlovely, surely we are to love those. But if believers are not unified, if they do not love one another how will men know they are disciples of Christ? Unity is not conformity. We shouldn’t seek to all do things the same way. God created us differently for His purpose. His purpose, what He wants is that: all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.(1 Timothy 2:4) He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.(2 Peter 3:9)
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit: Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. May we each individually work and walk according to the way You have created us, that collectively we will fulfill Your purpose. Amen
Acts 17:10-34 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. The city of Athens was not that different than some aspects of our culture and society. The Greek people thought themselves to be educated and open minded, free thinkers. Many people today would say they are not religious, they would say they are anti religion. In truth though most people today, like the people of Athens, are very religious. Religion is defined as: 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. -2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects -3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices – 4. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience So while many people may reject God and reject Christ, they are very religious, very devoted to their own beliefs. They may be religious about any number of things, climate change, animal rights, political affiliations; they may adhere to and promote a religion of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion. They may, like the people of Athens even worship what they do not know. In today’s text Paul says: “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD’” Paul said they worship in ignorance.
Many people today worship in that way. They don’t really know what it is that they are religious about or they don’t recognize that they have made idols or gods out of philosophies or human causes. Paul says: This I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things. Regardless of whether people acknowledge God or not, He is God. He is the God who made the world and all things in it. Romans 1:19-23 says: that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Paul didn’t debate the religions of the people of Athens. Neither though did he accept or condone their worship of man-made idols or creation. Rather Paul simply but boldly declared the truth of God’s word. He said: “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” We too are called to declare the truth of God’s word, to proclaim the gospel to all creation. We, like Paul should declare the truth that there is a fixed day of judgment, and the good news that we can be judged in righteousness through a Man, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the grave to prove God’s word to all men.
Earlier in today’s text, when Paul declared God’s word to the people of Berea it says: they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed. If people will examine the scriptures to see whether these things are so, they too will believe. It is those who reject, misquote or misinterpret God’s word, who do not receive the revelation of Christ, God’s plan for the redemption, reconciliation and restoration of man and creation. In Isaiah 55:11, God speaks through the prophet saying: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” At the end of today’s text it says: Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” If we, like Paul, boldly declare the truth of God’s word, if we proclaim the gospel, if we like Paul, will be: determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, (1 Corinthians 2:2) some may sneer, some may say we will hear you again concerning this and some will believe and receive the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer and Savior, the resurrected King of kings and Lord of lords. We are not responsible for the results, God says His word will not return empty, it will accomplish what He desires. We are called to, like Paul and like the early church, respond to Jesus call when He says: “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Heavenly Father, thank You for the revelation that You are God as shown throughout creation. Thank You also for the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, through Your word and by the Holy Spirit. May I be faithful to declare Your word, the truth that Jesus is the Christ, that He died for the sins of all mankind and that You raised Him from the grave as proof that He is the Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of all who believe. May Your word not return empty but accomplish all that You desire, may many believe. Amen