“Full Time Service”

There’s no Scripture heading for this post because it’s a “rabbit trail” from the previous post.  That post finished with the idea that, short of death itself, the Apostle Paul could never stop serving his Lord and God.  He was, heart and soul, into “full time service.”

Every so often, we’ll hear of a young person who has surrendered to go into full time service.  Usually this means that he has been called into some form of ministry, a pastorate, missions, or some other form of full time involvement.

The truth of the matter is, every true believer is called into full time service.  This does not mean that we’re all called to preach or teach or some other “public” thing.  The world needs Christian janitors as much as it needs preachers.  It needs Christian delivery men, secretaries, plumbers.  It needs Christian men and women on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday, as well as on Sunday, and perhaps moreso.

If one isn’t “a Christian” on the other days of the week, does Sunday matter all that much?

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Advertisements

Acts 14:19, 20: Left For Dead

19] Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  20] However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.  And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Perhaps this is the time Paul experienced what he recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know such a man – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

From time to time, someone comes along who claims to have died and gone to heaven, only to return to this life and tell us all about it.  Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, “God knows,” but Paul says some things about his experience that we ought to compare these other experiences by.  First, what he heard was “inexpressible.”  Second, it’s “not lawful for a man to utter.”  Third, lest he be puffed up with pride over this experience, he was given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet” me, “lest I be exalted above measure,” v. 7.

If we were actually caught up to heaven in this body, I’m not sure we’d be able to describe that experience.  There is nothing in this life to compare it with.  That’s one reason the Book of Revelation is so difficult to understand.  We’ve very little, if anything, to compare it with.  “Streets of gold,” “gates of pearl.”  John describes these things that he actually saw, but maybe these visions, while describing things that are real, are also the Spirit’s way of telling us that God measures wealth by a far different standard than we do.

That’s not the interesting thing to me, though, about these verses.  Verse 19 tells us those multitudes who once wanted to worship Paul as a god, now wanted to kill him.  Ah, the fickleness of human nature.  Popularity may come and go, and usually does, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   “I am the LORD God, I change not,” Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6.

There’s only one sure and certain thing in this world, and that is the faithfulness of God.  Even in those relationships of life which are the closest to us and the most meaningful – spouse, parent, sibling – there are likely to be disappointments.  Even on those occasions where we blame God for “disappointing” us, the fault is with us, not with Him.  We have too much of Adam in us, wanting to do things our way, but His way is the good way.

The other thing that interests me about vs. 19, 20 is Paul’s “reaction” to being killed – as the townspeople thought.  His body was dumped outside the city.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  V. 20 continues, However…  As the disciples gathered around his body, he stirred, rose up and went into the city.  And the next day, he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

“The next day”…!

A few cultures still practice stoning, but such a thing is far removed from us here in the West.  Indeed, we bend over backwards to protect the “rights” of the condemned.  Not so in this case.  Surely, Paul had severe cuts and bruises, perhaps some broken bones.  These “stones” were not little pebbles.  And I’ve read that as a final stroke a large rock was used to crush the skull and finish the job.  That may or may not have been the case with Paul, but whatever happened, his condition would not have been good.  No doubt, his injuries were treated as best they could by the disciples, but still….

The next day.

The next day, Paul was “back on the job,” so to speak.  Nothing short of actual death could prevent him from serving His God.

Isn’t this a lesson for us?

Acts 14:15, “The Living God Who Made…” …Everything.

“We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, Acts 14:15.

We referred to this in our last post, that the Lord Jesus walked on dusty paths in Israel on the planet which He Himself had created.  Of course, in our “enlightened” society, we no longer believe such out-dated ideas as creation by an omnipotent being.  We can look at the marvels of nature – the flit of a butterfly, the soaring majesty of an eagle, the grace of a deer, the speed of a cheetah, the marvelous engineering of a honeycomb, the unbelievable complexity of even a single cell – and are quite convinced that these all sprang – albeit over a v-e-r-y  l-o-n-g  t-i-m-e – from a blob of very hot material which suddenly appeared all on its very own.  We ourselves finally decided to come down from swinging in the trees and began to walk upright, leaving them to our close relatives, the apes, monkeys, etc.

The stories in Genesis 1 and 2, which tell a far different story, are dismissed as irrelevant, disagreeing as they do with the latest “science.”  However, these two chapters are not the only references to creation that are found in Scripture.  As I read through the Bible, I’m struck by how often it’s mentioned.  We’re going to look at these references to see how thoroughly embedded the idea of the divine origin of things is in Scripture.

Genesis.

1:1; also chapters 1 and 2, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 makes the simple assertion that God created everything by His word and power.  He spoke…and it was so, as in v. 7 and others.  Further, each part was finished and complete as it came into existence.  Ten times in chapter 1, it’s emphasized that the animate part of creation, birds, fish, animals, were to reproduce according to their kind, or its kind.  That’s also true of vegetation, vs. 11, 12.  This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t room for adaptation to changing situations; it does means that guppies give birth to guppies, cocker spaniels give birth to cocker spaniels, and dandelions produce seed for more dandelions.

Furthermore, all this took a mere six days.  There was no need for the millions or billions of years imagined by evolutionary teaching.  If it’s argued that God could have taken such a long time to create, the simple fact that vegetation was created before the sun – how did the plants survive without sunlight for ages and ages?  Further, in Exodus 20:10, 11, as Moses gives the Law to Israel, he said that they were to work six days in the week, “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God….For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them….”   See also Exodus 31:17.

Genesis 1 and 2 record the original creation.  Chapter one deals with creation in general; chapter 2 focuses on the creation of mankind.  Adam was created out of the dust of the earth, v. 7, by a special and unique act of God.  He didn’t “descend” from “other” animals.

Genesis 6:5-7 says that because the wickedness of man was great in the earth, that the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, whom, He said, “I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them,” emphasis added.  See also 7:4.  God created in infinite variety; things didn’t just “evolve” without rhyme or reason.

Without getting into detail, Genesis 1-11 forms the foundation for the rest of Biblical teaching.  We’ve dealt with this in other posts.  Without these chapters, we have no account of the Fall of man and thus the need for redemption, the wickedness of man and his judgment by means of Noah’s flood, which was not just a “local” flood or else God lied when He said He would never again flood the earth, or the dispersion of nations and the rise of many different languages, see 9:11.

Exodus.

Exodus 20.  In this chapter,  the Lord Himself gives commands as He enters into a covenant relationship with Israel.  We know the first seventeen verses as the Ten Commandments, though there is a great deal more involved in what God promised to and expected of Israel than just a few verses in Exodus.  In His instructions regarding the Sabbath, or the seventh day, God said Israel was to “labor and do all your work” in six days, but was to “remember the Sabbath” and do no work,” because “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.”

Just in passing, have you ever wondered why God told Israel to remember the Sabbath day?

The answer is in Exodus 16.  I’ll leave you to read it, but Israel was to “remember” the Sabbath because they had already been given it.

Exodus 31 tells us that the Sabbath, or the seventh day, was given to Israel as “sign forever between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,” v. 17, emphasis added.  I emphasize that the Sabbath was given to Israel because of those who insist that Christians are also obligated to keep it.  We’ve dealt with this in other posts, as well.

Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 4:32.  In this review to a second generation of Israelites of the giving of the Law, Moses simply asks if it’s ever happened before “since the day that God created man on the earth” that God has said and done the things He’s done for Israel?  Again is emphasized the fact that man was created; he didn’t come in any way from “lower” animals.

2 Kings.

19:15.

Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.”  

Hezekiah and Israel were in trouble.  Assyria had invaded the land with superior forces, after having overrun a good part of their world.  Jerusalem was surrounded by the enemy and the leader of those forces taunted Hezekiah for trusting in God.  This leader mistakenly thought that Israel’s God was no different from, no more powerful than, the gods of the lands he had conquered: “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” 2 Kings 18:35.

He found out.  When he got up the next morning, he discovered 185,000 of his men dead in their tents, 2 Kings 19:35.  Indeed, as the next verses tell us, he also found out that his own god couldn’t protect him from his own sons, who murdered him while he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god.

2 Chronicles.

2:12.

Hiram also said:

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth….

Hiram supplied most of the materials with which Solomon built the Temple.  Even a pagan king recognized creation.

Nehemiah.

9:6.

You alone are the LORD;
You have made the heaven,

The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And you preserve them all.

In this worship service of Israel returned to her land after the Babylonian Captivity, the Levites rehearsed the sad history of an unfaithful Israel and the faithfulness of her God, Who is the creator of the heavens and the earth.

Job.

35:10, 11.

But no one says, “Where is God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
And makes us wiser than the birds of the air?”

38:4-11.

Here God answers Job and his three “friends,” though He doesn’t really “answer” them.  He just reveals Himself in chs. 38-40.  We’re quoting only a small part of that revelation, which shows God’s creation and control of this world.

4] “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding
.
5] Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6] To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7] When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8] “Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
9] When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band:
10] When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
11] When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’

The Psalms.

33:6.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

90:2.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

115:15, 16.

15] May you be blessed by the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

16] The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s;
But the earth He has given to the children of men.

121:2.

My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

124:8.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

134:3.

The LORD who made heaven and earth
Bless you from Zion!

146:5, 6.

5] Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God.

6] Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever.

Isaiah.

37:15, 16.

Isaiah 36 and 37 give us Isaiah’s account of Assyria’s invasion of Israel and her miraculous deliverance from the enemy.

15] Then Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying: 16] “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.” 

40:22, 28.

22] It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

28] Have you not known?
Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

45:12, 18.

In these verses, God says,

12] “I have made the earth,
And created man on it.
I – My hands – stretched out the heavens,
And all their host I have commanded.”

18] For thus says the LORD,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the LORD, and there is no other,” 

65:17.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

A similar statement is in Revelation 21:1, where John wrote, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea.”  And Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:10-13, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells [or, “is at home”, certainly something that can’t be said about this present world].

There’s some discussion about these verses which mention new heavens and a new earth.  I’ve dealt with this elsewhere.  Some say they all refer to eternity, as indeed the verses in Revelation do.  But Revelation also says in 21:4, there shall be no more death….  That’s not what Isaiah 65 says in verse 20:  
“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.”

This is not a “mistake” in the Bible.  It is God saying that there is more than one time when He will yet actively intervene in the affairs of men.  While John indeed refers to eternity, we believe Isaiah refers to that time we call “The Millennium,” where the Lord Jesus will rule this world from Jerusalem, where the very physical structure of this planet will be altered, Zechariah 14:4, 6-7, to say nothing of it’s social structure, Revelation 19:15; 20:4-6.  For more detail, see our posts on Revelation 20:1-6 and 20:7-15.

Jeremiah.

10:11, 12.

11] Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.”

12] He has made the earth by His power,
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.

31:35.

Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The LORD of hosts is His name):

51:15.

He has made the earth by His power;
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.

Jonah.

1:9.

So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Malachi.

2:10.

Have we not one Father?
Has not one God created us?

Matthew.

19:4.

And [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’  Also Mark 10:6.  Adam and Eve were made “at the beginning” of this earth’s history, on the sixth day of creation, and not at “the end” of a few billion years.

Luke.

10:21.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”

John.

1:3.

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Acts.

4:24.

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,

14:15.

and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things?  We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.”

1 Corinthians.

11:9.

Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

Ephesians.

3:9.

and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.

Colossians.

1:16, 17.

16] For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him. 17] And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Hebrews.

11:3.

By faith we understand that the worlds [or “the ages”] were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Revelation.

4:11.

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

10:5, 6.

5] The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven 6] and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,
________________

These 35 or so references show that the idea of God creating the earth and the heavens isn’t just some arcane idea found only in Genesis 1 and 2.  It was woven into the very warp and woof of Israel’s existence.  I’m sure there are more references to creation that express it differently than the words I used in searching a concordance.  In fact, three or four showed up which I was typing this, one even heading a program I use to search, and one as I was reading the Bible.  And this doesn’t include the many references to the Lord, or the God, of heaven and earth beside the one I listed.  The God of Scripture wasn’t just some “tribal” god, the god of a bunch of ignorant slaves in Egypt, created by a priestly class to empower it over the people.  He is the God who created the heavens and the earth and sustains them by His power and providence.

So….

What does this mean to the average Christian, or even an unbeliever, for that matter?  It means that if Genesis 1 and 2 are untrue, then there is no explanation for the origin of the earth or mankind, it just happened; there are no absolutes (except that one), there is no real “higher being” to whom we are accountable, there is no need for redemption and, thus, no reason for the birth, life, or death of the Lord Jesus, and, finally, nothing beyond the grave after all.

But these chapters are true and even a cursory glance at this world, corrupted and ruined as it is because of the wickedness of men, still shows evidence of the handiwork and wisdom of its Creator.

Do you know this God?  More importantly, do you know His Son, the Lord Jesus?  He came to this planet He created; He walked its dusty paths, breathed its air and died on one of its hills.  But He didn’t stay there; He rose from the dead, ascended into the heaven He created, and one day will return from there to judge the world and restore things to righteousness.  He came to die for sinners like you and me, and those who receive Him as Lord and Savior, those who throw down the weapons of their rebellion against Him, will live and reign with Him forever and ever.

Do you know this God?

The living God who made…everything.

 

Acts 14: 13-15a, We’re Just Men

13] Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

14] But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15] and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things?  We also are men with the same nature as you,”

This is the response of Barnabas and Paul to the  efforts of the astonished townspeople and leaders of Lycaonia to sacrifice to them as a result of the miraculous healing of the man born crippled and unable to walk, as the previous verses record for us.  Barnabas and Paul were greatly distressed at this misguided attempt to worship and honor them, and did all they could to dissuade the people from this, even tearing their clothes and crying out.  They were barely able to stop the people, v. 18.  We’ll have more to say about these verses, Lord willing, but for now want to focus on their assertion that they were just men with like nature as the Lycaonians.  They were no different from them, not superior to them, not “gods”.

I think sometimes that it’s easy for us to forget this.  Men, and women, are just that – men and women.  And it doesn’t matter whether they are in the US or Africa or Asia or Europe or some island in the sea – they, and we, are just human, “just men”.  Men and women have been able to do astonishing things, amazing things, things which might seem to belie the fact that they, and we, are “just men”.  But they’re still “just men,” just human.

Paul had to deal with this problem, as well.  Writing to the Corinthian believers, he said, For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.  Now I say this, that each one of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you”  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  1 Corinthians 1:12, 13.  It’s easy to set men on a pedestal.  Those whose ministry has been blessed to us – it’s easy to hold them in high esteem.  And Paul even tells us to do that:  Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine, 1 Timothy 6:1.

The problem with these what seem to be contrary ideas is that while there is to be a certain respect paid to those who lead us in the Lord, at the same time we must remember that it is the Lord who has called these men and equipped them for their ministry.  We may “plant,” and we may “water,” and indeed, we must do these things, but unless the Lord “gives the increase,” there will be no growing, no flowering and no harvest, 1 Corinthians 3:6.  The reason the church, and thus the culture, is in such a mess is that we’ve forgotten that basic truth and have tried to bring about the harvest – that is, to “get results” – on our own.

There has only been one time that “the gods,” and I hate even to put it like that, “have come down to us in the likeness of men,” one time when the true God came down to this earth.  It was the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, Philippians 2:6, 7.  Believers are so used to that idea that we really don’t stop to think about what that means.  “Oh, yes,” we say, “Jesus was God incarnate, God in the flesh,” but do we really stop to consider that the One who walked the dusty roads of Israel was the some One who created and sustains the planet on which those roads were located.  Paul mentioned this.  He wanted these Lycaonians to turn from the useless false gods they worshiped to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, Acts 14:15.

We’ll have more to say about this, Lord willing, in our next post.

Acts 14:5-13: Miracle and Misunderstanding

5] And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6] they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.  7] And they were preaching the gospel there.

8] And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked.  9] This man heard Paul speaking.  Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10] said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!”  And he leaped and walked.  11] Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”  12] And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.  13] Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

Paul and Barnabas had escaped for their lives from those who were trying to kill them at Iconium and had come to the cities of Lystra and Derbe, where they were preaching the gospel there, v. 7.  Not even the threat of death could deter these men from doing what the Lord had called them to do.

There’s probably a great deal that happened in the lives of the early church that we’re not told.  That’s true of all the narrative portions of Scripture, not just Acts.  For this reason, we ought to pay more attention to what is told us.  It isn’t just words to fill up a quota, like a student who might have to write a paper of so many words.  It’s important.

What is told us in our text is about a man, whose condition was terrible.  And that condition is emphasized.  He was a man without strength in his feet.  He was a cripple from his mother’s womb.  Because of his disability, he had never walked.  In short, he was hopeless and helpless.

Even so, he was not beyond the reach of grace and mercy.

Verse 9 says that Paul saw that he had faith to be healed.  I’m not exactly sure what to make of this.  We’re not told how Peter saw this man’s faith.  It doesn’t really matter.

In some circles much is made of “faith healing,” and it’s said that if a person isn’t healed, it’s because he didn’t have “faith.”  Now, I believe that God heals.  My own mother was told that, because of complications, she wouldn’t walk after she gave birth to me.  Well, she did.  Yet at least once in our Lord’s ministry, He healed a man who was arguing with him about it, John 5:1-8, although “arguing” is perhaps too strong a word.  And in that crowd that surrounded the man, his healing is the only one recorded.

There’s a lot of confusion in current Christianity about this matter of “faith”.  Some people seem to think it’s some sort of cosmic bell you ring so that God will come running to see what you want.  Other’s say it’s believing what you know isn’t true.  Others seem to think it’s some sort of “abracadabra” or “open sesame”.  But it’s really very simple.  According to Hebrews 11, faith is an active, obedient response to God.

Noah built a huge boat to escape a coming flood, v. 7 – when the science of that time might have said, “Noah, what are you talking about?  A flood is impossible.  It doesn’t rain.  It’s never rained.  It can’t rain!”

Abraham packed up and moved a long way simply because God told him He would show him when to stop, v. 8.   Sarah herself was enabled to become a happy mother when she was at an age where she was way beyond such things, v. 11.

The armies of Israel conquered an impregnable city by simply walking around it for seven days, v. 30, Joshua 6.

To return to Acts 14, there might be more to this healing than is seen at first glance.  Luke wrote that he leaped and walked, v. 10.  He went there from a place of inactivity and inability.  A little child has to go through several stages to learn how to walk, let alone leaping. This man made that transition all at once, with all the knowledge and balance needed.

Leaping and walking, the man was probably also exclaiming and shouting for joy, “I can walk!  I can walk!”  A natural response.  This demonstration of power electrified the crowd, who immediately acknowledged what happened as something only the “gods” could do, and they set about to give these two men the proper reception, as they saw it.  They were going to worship them.

Lord willing, we’ll see the response of Paul and Barnabas in our next post.

Acts 14:1-5: “They…so spoke”

1] Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.  2] But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.  3] Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

4] But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.  5] And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6] they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycanonia, and to the surrounding region. 

In our last post, we saw that Paul and Barnabas had been chased out of Antioch in Pisidia and had fled to Iconium.  Antioch of Pisidia was one of several cities named Antioch.  This particular city was in Galatia.  Iconium was the capital of Lycaonia in Asia Minor (modern Turkey).  Today known as “Konya,” it’s the seventh largest city in Turkey.

Having arrived in Iconium, as was their custom Paul and Barnabas went to a synagogue.  Scripture records that they so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed, v. 1.  The title for our post is found in the first verse:  “they so spoke.”

I believe we’ve lost sight of the importance and purpose of preaching.  It isn’t just so men can get a name for themselves, or for the feeling that comes from being the focal point for an audience.  I understand why aging athletes or movie stars find it hard to “retire.”  I’ve never preached before thousands, but even so – there’s just something about being in front of people that I can’t describe.

Nor is preaching something to be “staged.”  I’ve known of preachers who would rehearse their sermons and make notes about when to gesture or raise their voice or do other things.  There’s may be nothing wrong with rehearsing if it’s a part of careful preparation,  but preaching is not about “theatrics.”

On the other side, there are preachers who make no preparation at all, but stand before their people and wherever their Bible opens, that’s where they “preach.”  They call this being led by the Spirit.  This goes too far the other way.  We must indeed have the blessing of the Spirit if our words are to do any lasting good, but that blessing and leading goes into our study as well.  I don’t think God is honored by careless or haphazard preparation.

What’s done from the pulpit affects eternity more than any other form of teaching.  If I teach something wrong about, say, math or geography, that is important, but it will probably affect only this life.  If something is taught from the pulpit that is wrong, that has eternal repercussions reaching down through the ages.

At the same time, it isn’t just about the preacher.  He is important, but Scripture says he is only an instrument in the hands of God.  Paul put it like this to a church which had focused on human personalities, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase,  1 Corinthians 3:6, 7.

Those who heard Jonathan Edwards, a man used of God in great revivals in the true sense of that word, describe him as preaching in a monotone, and holding his notes close to his face because he was near-sighted.  Not a man whom we would expect to be “successful” in preaching, yet he was.  He was an instrument in the hand of the God who created everything, that God who started with nothing.  I believe that until we understand that we are “nothing” compared to God when it comes to eternal things, we can’t really expect God to do anything with us.

We who preach or teach or write, for that matter, may plant and water, as it were, but we can’t give the increase.  Only God can do that.  And though we recognize that this particular promise deals with the future of Israel, yet He said, “So shall my word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it, Isaiah 55:11.

The Word always has an effect:  God’s preachers are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.  And who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God we speak the things of God in Christ, 2 Corinthians 2:15-17, emphasis added.

The most serious place in the world is behind a pulpit.  Because Paul and Barnabas  understood this, “they…so spoke….”

Acts 13:42-52: Turning To The Gentiles.

42] So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.  43] Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
44] On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.  45] But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.  46] Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.  47] For so the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
48] Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the LORD.  And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
49] And the word of the LORD was being spread throughout all the region.  50] But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them for their region.  51] But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium.  52] And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)

These verses show us the response to Paul’s first message as he begins to emerge as a leader after having been teamed with Barnabas.  After the message was over, the Jews left, but Gentiles who were in the audience begged that they might hear the message again on the next Sabbath.  We’re not told all that was said, except that Paul and Barnabas persuaded them to continue in the grace of God, v. 43.  We’ve dealt with this idea of “continuing” elsewhere, so will just briefly touch it here.

A few days ago was Easter, and many people attended church who normally don’t.  They probably won’t back until Christmas.  But “salvation” is meant for Monday as well as Sunday, for days on the calendar that aren’t “special days”.  “Being saved” isn’t just about our eternal destiny; it’s about how we live until we get there.

So a week passes, and we read, almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.  Gentiles were excited; the Jews, not so much.  After all, they were the chosen people; Gentiles were less than nothing.  As we’ve noted before, believing Jews had a really difficult time with the idea that, as far the Gospel was concerned, Jews and Gentiles were on an equal footing. Throughout their history, Jews had been commanded to remain separate and more than once had gotten in trouble for mingling with Gentiles.  God had chosen Israel to be His special people, Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalm 135:4.  But now, that distinctiveness was being set aside and the Jews were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul, v. 45.

The Jews should have understood that God intended all along to bless Gentiles; He had promised throughout the OT – Scriptures which the Jews believed.  Even before the beginning of the nation, God promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” Genesis 12:3, emphasis added.  It’s true that God never actually said how he would do this, just that He would.  It’s only in the NT that we find out about a body called “the church,” a distinct body, a body separate from Israel.

Now we come to a verse that causes an uproar:  And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed, v. 48b.  In fact, just recently a pastor who was teaching through Acts completely ignored this verse in his posts.  And there are some who turn it around to say that “as many as believed were appointed to eternal life.”

How can God do such a thing?

In the first place, He’s God and can do whatever He wants to.  But beyond that, and I’ve done a whole series on this, if He had not chosen some to be saved, none of us ever would be.  The Scripture is clear that there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God, Romans 3:10, 11.  As we’ve mentioned before, these verses show a progression:  not even one among us is “righteous,” that is, has that moral and spiritual character which would allow us to stand before God uncondemned; not one of us understands our spiritual condition, and because of that, not one of us seeks God, Who is the only One who can do anything about it.  We think our religion, our good works, our best, is good enough.  If He had let us go, we would all wind up in hell.  I’m thankful He didn’t.

Vs. 49-52 show the pattern that has continued to this day; there is always opposition to the preaching of the Gospel.  Men do what they can to get rid of such preaching, but the Gospel is always preached somewhere.  And disciples, not just church-goers, but disciples – those who are students at the feet of the Lord Jesus – are filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.