Tag Archives: Gentile

Spiritual Nourishment ~ Acts 16:1-5

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.                         ~ Acts 16:5

Paul and Silas first met Timothy in Lystra. Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek (Gentile) father. He had not been circumcised but Paul does so here “because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek” (vs 3). It appears that Paul came to Lystra, at least in part, to find Timothy as we are told that the disciples in Lystra and Iconium had spoken well of him. Paul wants to take Timothy along on the journey. Although not required, Timothy’s circumcision gave him credibility among Jewish Christians.

Paul also is delivering the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem recorded in chapter 15 regarding salvation for the Gentiles. The apostles and elders, in coming to consensus on the Gentiles, gave these directions to the Gentile Christians: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality” (15:29).

English: Communion setting at an Evangelical L...

English: Communion setting at an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America worship service: an open Bible, both unleavened bread and gluten-free wafers, a chalice of wine, and another containing grape juice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul’s mission, and that of all of the apostles traveling in ministry was twofold. First, they visited the churches to strengthen the faith of those already converted. Second, through the church they reached out to those who did not yet believe. By nurturing the flock of believers and equipping them to witness, the church grew. The modern church can take a lesson here. Many churches today have diluted Scripture’s message in an effort to not offend the non-believer who just might wander inside. They often focus more on style (entertainment) than substance (Word and Sacrament). They serve up milk, but little solid food.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)

This diluted approach to worship and preaching is of little value to the mature Christian, and hence he becomes malnourished; and a malnourished Christian is ill equipped for witness. Diluted preaching and teaching is of little value to the nonbeliever either. The lost need to hear the truth: We are dead in our sins and in need of the forgiveness that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. They can go anywhere to be entertained or affirmed as individuals; the church must present the Gospel. If the church does not strengthen the believers and preach the entirety of God’s Word, neither the church nor its membership is equipped to reach the lost with the eternal truth of the Gospel.

Ponder this: Does my church present Law and Gospel? Do we celebrate Word and Sacrament? Am I being properly nourished for witness?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, today I lift all pastors, teachers, and leaders in Your church. I pray that you would guide their ministries so that they are effectively nourishing and nurturing Your flock. Equip us for ministry, Lord, according to Your will. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

Remove the Yoke! ~ Acts 15:1-41

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. ~ Acts 15:5-6

Upon arriving back in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were advised that some of the Pharisaic Jewish believers still questioned the validity of Gentile salvation through the Messiah. They felt that Gentile believers must first obey the Law as handed down by Moses and be circumcised before they could be accepted into the church. The Pharisees are known for their legalism, so this comes really as no surprise.

English: Strongmen event: the Yoke Walk or the...

English: Strongmen event: the Yoke Walk or the Heavy Yoke or the Super Yoke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to address this question with church elders. Peter reminds the brethren that God has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to Gentile believers, just as He has to Jewish believers. He continues, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (15:10-11) James, citing Old Testament prophecy, validates Peter’s position. The decision is reached not to hold Gentile believers to a legalistic, law-based set of rules as proposed by the Pharisaic Jews; rather, to direct them to follow these precepts for living, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (15:19-20). A letter is written and sent with messengers to be shared with Gentile believers. “The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.” (15:31)

Even today, there are some in the church who seek to burden we believers with complicated rules. To be clear, we are to glorify God in the way we live our lives, but when legalistic preaching and teaching supplants the Gospel it’s time to reexamine our priorities. That’s exactly what the brethren did in this passage. The Law cannot save us; only the Savior can do that. Let us go forth and celebrate our freedom from sin and death by sharing the Gospel with those still living under the yoke of sin.

Ponder this: Am I overburdened with rules to the point at which I forget the Gospel?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Law, for through the Law I see clearly my need for a Savior. Thank you also for the gift of faith in your Son, Jesus Christ, through whom my transgressions are forgiven. Let my living be a witness to You today and every day. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Guide Me, Holy Spirit! ~ Acts 14:1-7

But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders ~ Acts 14:2-3

Directional Signs

Directional Signs (Photo credit: Mykl Roventine)

The pattern of the establishment Jews persecuting believers continues as Paul and Barnabas share the Gospel at Iconium. Here, so many Jews and Gentiles respond that the Jews who refuse to believe begin to “poison the minds” of the Gentiles thus dividing the city. Guided by the Holy Spirit, with their words backed up by signs and wonders, the apostles preach on as more and more people come to faith. Perhaps feeling a bit desperate, a plot is launched to have Paul and Barnabas stoned. They learn of the plot, so they left to preach elsewhere.

Notice the work of the Holy Spirit? Paul and Barnabas are guided to a destination, given powerful words supported by signs and wonders, warned of a plot against their lives, and guided to leave. Through all of that, many Jews and Gentiles come to faith in Jesus Christ. We see no signs of fear on the part of the apostles, although they would have had good reason to be afraid for their lives. Trusting completely in God, they press on.

When we honor God by doing His will in our lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us as well. He will give us a path, He will bless our actions, and He will protect us. A favorite promise from God through the prophet Isaiah comes to mind:

Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:20-21

We must seek His voice. He will show us the way He wants us to go, and in seeking and doing His will we will be blessed indeed.

Ponder this: Am I doing what God wants me to do?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, gift me with the Holy Spirit and give me the desire and courage to seek and follow Your will. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Why Church? ~ Acts 11:19-30

The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. ~ Acts 11:21

The church at Antioch now becomes a focal point, along with the church at Jerusalem. Paul (still called “Saul”) and Barnabas spent much time there, preaching the Gospel to the Gentile population who converted in great numbers. We are told it is here that Jesus’ followers were first named “Christians”.

I am struck by the purity and sincerity of the apostles’ faith. Acting with sincere hearts under the clear guidance of the Holy Spirit, the church grew; not because of booming sound systems or feel-good sermons, not because of creative marketing committees or gimmicky social events. The church grew because the apostles presented the Gospel openly, honestly, and truthfully. The Gospel, and only the Gospel, is the message this dying world is so hungry to hear!

Trinity Lutheran Church

Trinity Lutheran Church (Photo credit: Seiya234)

Our churches today must take a lesson from the early church. The church is not to “fit in” to society politically, popularly, or socially. Sadly, many modern churches, including some large denominations and independent churches, have fallen into this trap so craftily laid by the evil one. Indeed, the church is to preach God’s Word so that believers are equipped to nurture one another, lovingly hold one another accountable, and effectively witnesses to those who need to know Christ.

Ponder this: Does your church stand firmly on God’s Word, or has it succumbed to societal pressure to conform with societal values? Are you willing to stand firmly on the Truth?

My prayer for today: Father, I pray today for Your church. Strengthen and bless those church bodies that faithfully stand on Your Word and preach Your Gospel. Convict those that have succumbed to the temptation to please society and guide them back to the narrow road of your good and perfect will. Give me the tools to lovingly witness to those who need to know our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray in His name. AMEN.

Lovingly Accountable ~ Acts 11:1-18

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” ~ Acts 11:18

I would love to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when Peter returned to Jerusalem from Antioch and was confronted by the church elders regarding his visit with Cornelius’ family. Such a visit in a Gentile home was forbidden under Jewish law, and his brethren called him on it. When Peter explains the basis for his actions, the brethren begin celebrating the fact that the Gospel was also intended for Gentiles. Jesus’ statement about spreading the Gospel to the entire world was indeed coming to fruition!

I am struck by the apostles’ treatment of one another: As they seek to hold one another accountable for their actions, they are also willing to listen out of mutual love and respect. We can take a lesson from them. We are often too quick to rise up in judgment and jump to conclusions. And when we do, we often don’t listen to one another. Rather than working together out of mutual respect, dissention and division sometimes unnecessarily take over. In times of conflict we must stand firmly on God’s Word and hold fellow believers to that same standard; but in doing so, we must always treat one another out of Christian love and respect, even when we ultimately disagree.

Handshake

Handshake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ponder this: Do I listen well? Does my discourse contribute to the problem or to the solution?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me how I must treat my brothers and sisters in Christ. Although we will sometimes disagree – and not always reach agreement – help me to always see others with the kind of love You have for each and every one of us. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

No Longer Unclean ~ Acts 10:8-23

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” ~ Acts 10:15

English: Peter's vision of a sheet with animal...

English: Peter’s vision of a sheet with animals, from Acts 10; illustration from Henry Davenport Northrop, “Treasures of the Bible,” published 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter, a Jew by birth, was about to be visited by Cornelius’ messengers – all Gentiles. The messengers would ask Peter to go with them to meet with Cornelius, also a Gentile, so that Peter could explain the Gospel to him. Commentaries offer a dual meaning to the vision Peter had – hungry and awaiting his lunch, Peter goes onto the roof to pray. As he prays, God gives him a vision of a sheet lowered from heaven containing various animals and creatures. “Kill and eat”, the Lord tells Peter, who responds that he has never eaten anything impure or unclean. The Lord tells Peter not to call anything impure that God has made clean.

As Peter was pondering the meaning of the vision, God answered his questions with the appearance of the Gentile messengers sent by Cornelius. Peter knew that God wanted him to go with them to declare the Gospel to Cornelius. God had not only delivered His promised Messiah to Israel, but He was extending that promise to the entire world and, in this situation, Peter was to participate. Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples recorded in Acts 1:8? “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” God’s plan to save the world through Jesus was indeed coming to fruition.

Commentaries also suggest that God, through this vision, abrogated Mosaic laws declaring certain animals unclean and therefore forbade their consumption. One could certainly draw that conclusion – Peter was hungry, a kosher meal was most certainly being prepared for him, and God sends this vision telling Peter that God considers these creatures also worthy and fit for human consumption. Gentiles already consumed such things; perhaps this was just one way of building the proverbial bridge between Jewish and Gentile tradition.

Through Jesus, God has freed us to enjoy His creation fully. He also wants us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone. God loves each and every one of us; even those who currently deny Him. We should love them, too; the greatest demonstration of such love is sharing the Good News of the Gospel.

Ponder this: People who need to hear the Good News cross my path daily. Who are they? Do I love them enough to share the Gospel with them?

My prayer for today: Father, please equip me with the wisdom and knowledge to appropriately consume that which You have given me; and give me the desire, courage, and opportunity to share Your Gospel with those around me who need to hear it. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

%d bloggers like this: