I knew I could not do it. I jumped back into the book of Acts once again, determined to read through it briskly. What a joke that is for me.
As I sat a dinner reading, and yes, marking up my bible, a couple walks in. He must have noticed the bible right off the bat, either that or he was just friendly, because he gave me a nod. About 15 minutes later he walked over to the table, and asked the usual question, “That is a bible, right? Are you a pastor?” Yes, this is a bible, and no, I am not a pastor.
I know what is on my mind when I approach somebody reading what appears to be a bible. I really want to hear them tell me how great their God is. Perhaps it would be best if I did not put my ideals on others. What I mean is, this dear man may have just wanted to make an acknowledging contact; that seems benign enough. But here you are talking to me, and with no purpose?
Seriously, – I am reading the book of Acts now, and though I have read it many times, it has come alive like never before. I feel as though I have looked through God’s lens as Peter came off that rooftop in Joppa, and as I have read Paul I see that he let no opportunity slip by. If you walked up to his table, you were going to get Jesus Christ preached to you.
I will warn you now. If you open the door in front of me, I will walk through it, and I did with this man. There was an awkward moment of silence, as the mind, unprepared, decides what to say next. He said, “I am a Christian too.” I said, “then you should be aware that the King is coming quickly, and it is imperative that we put out the clarion call for people to get ready.”
He just stood there looking at me. A couple of seconds passed when I said, “then let me point something out to you. Matthew 25 tells us of ten virgins with oil lamps, all intending to go to the wedding, but five run out of oil. The remaining five were called in and the door was closed behind them, leaving the other five effectively locked out. I do not know with certainty what that oil is, but I know I want it. I believe that it is vital, and necessary. What if that oil is nothing more than zeal, passion, desire, attentiveness, and drive to have all of Jesus Christ that a man can handle?”
(If you have an understanding of God’s word then your head should be screaming at you, at this point. We are told that our cup will overflow, and that out of our inner being will flow rivers of living water. So, I implore you to pursue all you can get.)
Again, he just looked at me. A couple of seconds passed and he said, “I go to the Baptist church over here in San Dimas.” Our conversation was over, and he went back to his table. Strangely, even though I invited back to sit with me anytime you see me, he never made eye contact again, but his wife did.
(As an addendum – I had my father read this just to see if I am making any sense. Trust me, he will tell me if I do not. The first thing he says is, “you were too harsh on that man.” Yes, Paul was way to harsh on the Jews as well, but then that is my opinion and not Gods. What did Jesus tell them? Look it up – Matthew 10:34-37.)
I made it to Acts chapter 13.
Something that is dominant in my thinking is that the Apostles, and the multitudes of disciples, did not have Bibles, they were the bible. The acts that they did, in faith, were becoming the bible. Really, they were our examples of what to do.
What advantage did they have?
For several years the Apostles had the idea that God only intended this message for the Jews; after all He was their messiah. The Jews understood the serious nature of their status, and mandated that Jewish children go to synagogue schooling, where they were required to memorize, and have a working knowledge of the law and prophets. Saul/Paul was an honor student, with high hopes. He may have had dreams of becoming the high priest someday, I do not know, but I know he was good.
You saw evidence of this education as Stephen gave the high council a precise history of Israel, and included some things that are not common knowledge to us, but caused these learned men no grief. Now we see Saul/Paul, entering into the synagogue in Antioch, on the Sabbath, along with Barnabas. Paul too is about to deliver a history lesson, but this time with a spin on it.
I have a moment’s hesitation as Paul, who moved quickly into the realm of the Gentiles, is now doing what I perceive as something that would exclude the gentiles from receiving the message.
Paul’s “habit” of entering the synagogue tells me that there something richly important that we are missing, by not understanding the Jewish traditions, and that preaching to the house of Israel is still vitally important to him.
As you read through the passage you will see Paul do something else that puzzles me, for he addresses the “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God,”. Gentiles were not allowed in the synagogue, but converted ones were. Who were these men? Our clue comes from the phrase “who worship God,”.
The gospel had been preached in Antioch by Paul and Barnabas for about a year,and I can assure you that they made a huge impact.
As I noted earlier, the early church was the bible that we now read, so they were preaching a good news of Jesus Christ, with signs and wonders following.
What is good news to a legalistic Jew? Freedom. They knew that sacrifices were only temporary relief from a bondage to sin. They understood this better than anyone. That is why they made more rules, bringing more bondage.
What is good news to a person who does not live under the laws? Health, love, freedom from mental anguish, knowledge that there is a hope, and the understanding that they can have a peace with God.
So what do we see happening in the early church? They followed Jesus example of going about and doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.
What we see is action!
Open your bibles and let’s dive in.
Bracketed and italicized wording is mine.
Acts 13:14-41 NIV From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch.
On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.
After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
[Perhaps they have a guest speaker policy in this synagogue. I noticed that Paul and Barnabas came in and quietly sat down to listen and I suppose, take part. When the leadership called upon Paul and company to speak they opened the door, and Paul walked through it.]
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! (17) The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; (18) for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; (19) and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. (20) All this took about 450 years. “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. (21) Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.
(22) After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
[After, is from the Greek word – kata: meaning “according to”. Jesus was precisely this. God himself honored his Son in saying that he was well pleased. Jesus told them that he only did the Father’s will. Acts 13:22 KJV ….. a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.]
(23) “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.
[Matthew 1:1-16 The lineage of Joseph. Luke 3:23-38 pulled from Mary’s family lineage.]
(24) Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. (25) As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
[John the Baptist spoke of his coming.]
(26) “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.
[The Jews were the ones chosen by God. As you read through the book of Acts you see some exclusivity on the part of the early church and it’s leadership. Peter’s vision of the unclean things, made it clear that all were included.]
(27) The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.
[The blindness is suffocating. How is it that you can read it, and not see it. They carried out what God had planned like a skilled actor.]
(28) Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.
[Matthew 27:16-23; Mark 15:7-14; John 18:40; Acts 3:14]
(29) When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb.
[God so prescribed their every action, even to laying him in a tomb.]
(30) But God raised him from the dead,
(31) and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
[This is one of the establishing aspects that anchors our hope and faith, that what He said is true. I will come back for you so that you may be with me.]
(32) “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors (33) he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’
[What God promised, he has fulfilled. He has kept his word, and he proved it by raising Jesus from the dead.]
(34) God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
(35) So it is also stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
[Having become one in Christ through faith in him, are we not now the holy ones? If so then we will not see decay either.]
(36) “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. (37) But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
(38) “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
(39) Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to get under the law of Moses.
(40) Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
(41) “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'”
We Christians should all understand that we have obtained forgiveness of sins through Jesus, but for some reason, we act like it is temporary. We worry about our state of readiness; we preach about sin in our churches, as though there are some that are not so proficient at it. LISTEN, we all know how to sin, we do it daily, our selfishness proves that out. We were born in sin, almost like that chicken you are making soup out of. BUT, the message of Jesus is good news.
Allow me to state it one more time, loudly. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.If we are to believe his word then we have to believe it all. If we are to preach good news then lets preach it all.
I must tell you a story that I have told before; perhaps this is new to you. As a young man, growing up in church, we were “forced” to go out to neighborhood doors, and try to win the lost, and get them into church by preaching this “good news” that we were taught.
I do not remember any door but one. I was so shy back then, and desperately wanted to fit in. I considered many of these kids to be cool, even when they were necking under the blankets on the church bus.
We approached a door, and a hippie popped his head out. (This was the late 60’s the age of Aquarius, get it.) He listened politely to the spill and said no thank you.
What were we offering him?
I do not even know, but the reaction of the others to his polite rejection was atrocious, as they now threw rants at him about his going to hell. They all left, and I just stood there. I think mostly from shock. I would not have appreciated any of that either. He turned to me and said, “what do you have to say?”, I said, “I am so sorry”, and I turned and walked away.
I will tell you this, that incident scarred me. I have never wanted to see that happen again, and I have never wanted to be a part of anything like that.
A little time has passed since I started this paper, and another incident occurs to me. I had gone to a Christian retreat in the mountains. I really love being there. I believe this might have been my second time, so it did not have that rookie feel to it. Chow line was always long, but there was always a mountain of food. You could get involved in some great conversations or listen in on others. This particular year there were some “bikerish” looking Christians there. This idea that we have to keep up our intimidation appearance puzzles me. These guys are preaching to the choir, in a sense, for they were pushing a technique for bringing people to the Lord, coercing them to admit their rotten sinful ways. I understand, more now than before, what they were doing. They were trying to light a fire, as I do, but after moving out in the Holy Spirit with an acquaintance of theirs, they pulled me into their circle under false pretense and started this garbage on me. Perhaps I was not as sanctified as I thought, but I told them that what they did in asking over to their table was deceptive and wrong. I rudely got up and walked away.
Coming to realize that Jesus Christ paid a sufficient price for the worlds sins, makes me think that our approach to the world is completely backward. Paul told those self-righteous Jews, and devoutly religious Gentiles, that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, the last sacrifice, is from that point forward completely freed from sin.
How is that possible?
It is so because either Jesus was enough, and we know he was, or this whole thing is a farce and there is nothing but the hell that this earth has to offer.
Do you not begin to see why God had the prophet make such a statement. ‘I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’ Many of you reading this have said in your hearts, that this is not so, but it is. I know this because I listen to the radio pastors constantly preaching about sin. Why don’t they try preaching about life, and hope, those are the things people struggle with; sinning is easy, living victoriously is hard.
The people milling about around you, have been forgiven, they merely need to know it, and accept the one who paid for it. This should change and turn your world upside.
Preach Jesus, the same Jesus who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil. This last half of this sentence is whole other can of worms, but if you are paying attention, anyone who needs a healing has the devil tormenting them in some form.
Preach Jesus – He came as stated; he did what he said he would do; he followed the Father’s will explicitly; he was murdered according to scripture; he rose from the dead, just as he said he would; he came back and was witnessed by over 500+ people (Paul knew some of these guys.); he sent the Holy Spirit, as he said he would, and he is coming back for us, to rescue us from the wrath that is to come, so that we can be with him in heaven, as he said.
He is coming back for those who wish to be his bride, and pursue him. Everyone else, though not judged for sins, will not have the opportunity to escape through the grace we now have, but will have to prove their allegiance, most likely, at the edge of a sword.
Preach Jesus, for there is life and freedom in him alone.