Tag Archives: preach

Gospel Impact ~ Acts 19:23-41

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. ~ Acts 19:28-29a

The Artemis of Ephesus, 1st century AD (Ephesu...

The Artemis of Ephesus, 1st century AD (Ephesus Archaeological Museum) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Gospel’s impact on the people of Ephesus reaches a crescendo as local silversmith Demetrius raises concern among his fellow craftsmen that the Gospel message could damage their business. Demetrius made silver shrines of the Ephesian goddess Artemis and sold them to travelers coming to Ephesus on religious pilgrimage. If Paul’s message continues to spread, the silver trade could be hurt and Artemis’ credibility could be damaged thus having a negative impact on the Ephesians’ economy, Demetrius warns. Whipped into frenzy over this dire warning, the people seize two of Paul’s traveling companions (Gaius and Aristarchus) and drag them into the assembly hall.

The riot gains momentum. The Scripture tells us that there was mass confusion as people were shouting different things; “Most of the people did not even know why they were there,” we’re told in verse 32. Paul is kept from entering the hall, so Alexander, a fellow Jew attempts to address the crowd but they will not hear him. It is not until a civic leader, the city clerk, steps up to address the crowd that they quiet down and listen. The city clerk admonishes the crowd, telling them that these men have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed Artemis’ name. He tells them that this is not the proper way to handle this dispute. “The courts are open and there are proconsuls,” he says, “They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly” (verses 38-39). Upon hearing this, he dismisses the crowd, presumably peacefully.

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over about two years’ time, Paul’s ministry made a significant impact on the people of Ephesus and surrounding areas. The Gospel has taken root and begun to grow into what would become one of the strongest churches in Asia.

If we plant ourselves firmly in the fertile soil of the Gospel and share the Truth out of sincere love, God can and will use us to change our corner of the world as well. We don’t need booming sound systems or kitschy sermon themes; all we need is the Gospel and the will of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s instruction to Timothy would be well heeded by us today: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

Ponder this: What does an honest and straightforward presentation of the Gospel look and sound like? What impact could I have on my world for the Lord?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the power of the spoken word. That power is misused and abused at times; forgive me, Lord, for my abuses of your gift of language. Father, help me to speak all that I speak to Your glory. And when you give me the opportunity to witness, let my words be Your words so that the Gospel is in clear focus. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

Lay Ministry in Action! ~ Acts 18:18-28

He (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. ~ Acts 18:26

After remaining in Corinth for quite some time, Paul departs with Aquila and Priscilla (the married tentmakers whom he met earlier during his visit to Corinth) and pays his first visit to Ephesus. After hearing him speak in the synagogue, the Jews of Ephesus ask him to stay longer, but Paul declines, promising to return later according to God’s will. Paul departs for Jerusalem, leaving Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus.

We are introduced to Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, who arrives in Ephesus after Paul’s departure. He is a very skilled speaker who “spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately” (verse 25). Interestingly, Luke mentions here that Apollos only knew the baptism of John, which was a baptism of repentence – meaning that Apollos presumably had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Even so, Apollos teaches accurately and very persuasively. Aquila and Priscilla invite Apollos to their home, where they “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (verse 26). With the blessing of the believers in Ephesus, Apollos departs for Achaia where we are told he “vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah” (verse 28).

There are numerous places in Scripture where we see God using people of ordinary means and background for His sovereign purpose. Here God uses an ordinary married working-class couple (Aquila and Priscilla) to advance His kingdom. How fascinating it would be to peek in at Paul’s interactions with them prior to his departure: what was their background; what did he teach them; what questions did they ask? They play a very important role here as they prepare Apollos to assume his ministry.

We laymen and laywomen must be available for ministry, just as Aquila and Priscilla were available. God can and will use us – what an honor it is to serve our Lord! We must be vigilant so as to not miss the opportunities to serve God that He may send our way.

Ponder this: What is my ministry? How might God use me in furthering His kingdom?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I want to serve You, first and foremost. Tune me in to Your will for my ministry. Reveal it, open my eyes to it, and guide my footsteps that I would serve You according to Your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Encouraged to Witness ~ Acts 18:1-17

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” ~ Acts 18:9-10

Paul departs Athens and makes his way to Corinth. Following his familiar pattern, he preaches Jesus the Messiah in the synagogue. The Jews became abusive, frustrating Paul to the point of saying he would no longer preach to the Jews; from now on he was going to the Gentiles. That clearly was not aligned with God’s plan, for God spoke to Paul in a dream, encouraging Paul to continue speaking and reassuring Paul that no harm would come to him. With God’s reassurance Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, preaching the word of God.

Pilate Pontius and Christ before the Jews

Pilate Pontius and Christ before the Jews (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a parallel to Jesus’ appearance before Pontius Pilate, some angry Jews brought Paul before Gallio the proconsul, accusing Paul of “persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law” (verse 13). Pilate tried to remove himself from Jesus’ situation without success; Gallio told the Jews that this was not a matter of law but of religion and that they should deal with Paul themselves. In response the crowd turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue leader and beat him.

This is an historically important exchange. By refusing to hear the Jews’ charges against Paul, Gallio in essence elevated Christianity to a “recognized religion” status – a status enjoyed by the Jews. With this status the Roman government would take no action on charges emanating from a religious dispute. But also, we once again see God true to His Word: although the Jews rose up against Paul, God protected him and preserved his ministry.

So why did the Jews beat Sosthenes? At every stop on the apostles’ missionary journeys, Scripture records the frustration and anger felt by many Jews concerning their message. Instead of seeing God’s promise fulfilled, they clearly perceived a threatened way of life. Paul’s witness to the Gospel was fed by the Holy Spirit, and with that nourishment, his witness was very effective. Sosthenes, the synagogue leader, responded to the Gospel by coming to faith in Christ. Since the angry Jews couldn’t touch Paul, they beat their leader. Faith in Christ sometimes comes with an earthly price; but that price is negligible in comparison to the eternal glory we will know when our Lord calls us home.

Persecution is evidence of a resonating message. In many parts of the world, Christians are beaten and killed because of their witness to Christ. When we stand firmly on God’s Word and speak His Truth in these United States we may be laughed at, scorned, ridiculed, or shunned. We may have falsehoods told about us, or we might even be dismissed from a Christian church. Such persecution will often come from other Christians, just as Paul experienced with fellow Jews. When we are persecuted for our faith and for our witness, let us be encouraged, knowing that God is working through us.

Ponder this: When have I been persecuted for standing on God’s Word? How did I respond?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for using me to further Your kingdom. Help me to always stand grounded in Your Word, and help me to always speak Your Truth, even in the face of persecution. Let me serve You according to Your good and perfect will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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

Calling Out False Gods ~ Acts 14:8-20

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. ~ Acts 14:11-12

Paul and Barnabas continued to Lystra and preached there. As in previous stops, their words and miraculous acts were well received and many came to faith. Here, however, some of the people believed that Paul and Barnabas were human manifestations of the gods Zeus and Hermes and sought to offer sacrifices to them to which they replied “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” (14:15, italics added for emphasis)

We need more witnesses today like Paul and Barnabas: witnesses who speak honestly about the worldly things in which we humans are quick to place our faith and trust; witnesses who preach the Gospel boldly and truthfully while giving praise and glory to the One True God. There are many false gods around today. They come in many forms with many names, and many people stand on those falsehoods as if their very lives depend upon them. You know what? Their lives are at stake. If we believers are not honest with them concerning matters of eternity, who will be?

The chorus of a popular hymn comes to mind:

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Ponder this: I have Good News to share! With whom would God have me share it?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, this world is filled with things that can so easily distract us from the Gospel. In many cases, these things take Your rightful place in our lives. I want to live for You. Guard and protect me from such temptation, Lord, and help me to speak the Truth in honesty out of love for those who so desperately need to hear it. 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.

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