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).
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