From Unfolding Grace:
“Paul’s conversion highlights the heart of Christ and the riches of his grace, Paul — also known by his Hebrew name, Saul — is a violent persecutor of Christians. Yet Jesus loves him, brings him to faith, forgives him, and transforms him. Paul’s life displays the power and grace of Christ — if there is grace for a rebel like him, then there is grace for anyone.
Jesus also commissions Paul to spread the gospel to the Gentiles. Yet Jesus also warns that Paul’s ministry will include suffering. As Paul preaches the gospel of a suffering Savior, his own life and ministry will begin to look like that Savior.”
Wednesday, September 22nd
Larger Portion of Scripture - Acts 13-15
Focused Passage for Reflection - Acts 13:13-52
Reflecting on the Text:
The book of Acts presents the story of the early church and its growth in Jerusalem, and beyond Jerusalem. In this book broadly and in these chapters specifically we see that the church grew by ordinary means (preaching the gospel) through extraordinary power (the Holy Spirit). Acts 13 and 14 document the first of Paul’s three missionary journeys, beginning with the Spirit of God setting him and Barnabas apart for this work.
In short, they took a mission trip along the northeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, preaching the Word of God and planting churches. It was a work that bore much fruit, so much fruit in fact that we might expect to read about some special new evangelistic techniques or presentations. On the contrary, Paul simply, yet powerfully, preached the Word. His message was rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures and the life of Jesus. He preached Christ crucified and resurrected.
And some believed. Verse 48 emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the effectiveness of the message by describing the impact in this way: “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” But that also means that many did not believe. In fact, many of those who did not believe went on to persecute Paul and Barnabas for their message.
This persecution was not something that escaped the Lord’s grasp or that He apologized for. He simply and sovereignly used it to redirect the mission…not the message but the audience. Paul then focused the message of a crucified and resurrected Christ on a predominately Gentile audience.
All of this begs of us two very important questions:
DO WE BELIEVE THE MESSAGE? - Do we believe that God in His sovereign wisdom and by His grace sent His only Son to die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins? Do we believe we have such a need for sacrifice? And do we believe Jesus took on that task for US? More personally…did He take it on for ME? And do we believe that God raised Him from the dead as the first fruit of the resurrection…a resurrection in which believers will one day gloriously share? That was the message Paul preached. It was the ordinary means by which God saved sinners, then and now.
DO WE TRUST THE MESSAGE? - Not all believed. And those who didn’t often responded violently to the messenger. Yet Paul did not change the message to make it more palatable. He didn’t change it to make it more relevant. He continued to preach Christ crucified and resurrected. It wasn’t the history of Israel that angered the crowds. Neither was it the history of Israel that saved the crowds. It was the gospel message. So rather than adjusting the presentation when people rejected it, Paul persisted. And he did so, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
That was how God established the church then. It is how He establishes the church now. Do we believe the same message, and will we trust in it for the salvation of sinners?
Questions for personal reflection:
Do you BELIEVE the message of Christ crucified and resurrected?
Do you TRUST the message of Christ crucified and resurrected?