The Whole Counsel of God

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

Paul was walking in the footsteps of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 3:16-21, God explained to the prophet that if he didn’t warn folks when God gave warning, God would punish the people, but He would require the people’s blood at Ezekiel’s hand. Paul said he was innocent of the blood of all people, because he withheld nothing. He taught the whole counsel of God. He taught it publicly and privately; he was the same on the stage as he was at home. He taught it to Jews and to Gentiles. He taught everything that was profitable, holding nothing back. He taught God and the word of His grace. He taught faith and repentance. He did not cease to admonish. Even through tears, he proclaimed the gospel. May we walk in his footsteps, holding nothing back. Letting everyone know about the judgment to come and the salvation in Jesus Christ. May we be innocent of the blood of all people as well.

Next week’s reading is Acts 21.

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What Do I Value?

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

Jesus had said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Paul’s heart was clearly in heaven. That is why he was able to walk resolutely into Jerusalem, following the footsteps of his Savior, firmly believing he would die there. His treasure wasn’t in this life. He didn’t value the things of this world. That is why he could say he didn’t covet anyone’s silver or gold. That isn’t what he was about. He didn’t value his freedom or his life. He valued the kingdom. He valued the ministry. He valued the gospel. He valued Jesus. I imagine for him, the most shocking thing was not that he got arrested in Jerusalem, but that instead of dying there like Jesus, he ended up leaving, going to Rome, and eventually being delivered from that particular imprisonment (at least if Philippians and Philemon are any indication). All of this leads to the question I have to ask. What do I value? Where is my treasure? Where is my heart? What about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 20.

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In Public and From House to House

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

When Paul was in Ephesus, he taught publicly and from house to house. Back in Acts 19:8-10, we see Paul preaching and teaching in the synagogues and then in the hall of Tyrranus. We know in other towns, and probably can assume in Ephesus he did the same thing, that he would go to the marketplace and reason among the other teachers and philosophers. This would account for the public teaching. But I really want to home in on teaching from house to house. Have you ever thought about what made that possible? Paul didn’t break into people’s homes and start teaching. He was able to teach from house to house because people invited him into their homes. I think about Peter’s opportunity with Cornelius back in Acts 10. When he got to Cornelius’s house, Cornelius had invited family and friends over to hear the message. Have you ever wondered why God has let you purchase or rent a home? It isn’t so you can save up a retirement nest egg in equity. It’s so you can use it to His glory and in service of others. If we are going to walk in Paul’s footsteps today, letting the gospel be preached in public and from house to house, some of us need to open up our houses and invite people in to hear the message.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 20.

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On the First Day of the Week

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

A couple of important things for Christians happened on the first day of the week. Jesus rose from the dead. Christ’s kingdom was established. It should not be at all surprising then to discover that Christ’s congregations meet on the first day of the week. We see it here in Acts 20. The first day of the week is not the New Testament Sabbath. No, the Sabbath is always the seventh day of the week; though, under the New Covenant, Sabbath observance is not bound. However, the first day of the week is the day Christians gather within their congregations to remember Jesus, His death, and resurrection by breaking bread together. And, of course, the bread that we break is a participation in the body of Christ and the cup that we bless is a participation in the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). We aren’t here talking about getting together for a potluck, but participating in the Lord’s Supper, in communion. When it is the first day of the week, congregations need to gather to break bread in the Lord’s Supper; if congregations are gathered to break bread in the Lord’s Supper it needs to be the first day of the week. That is what we see from churches in the New Testament, that is what we need to see from churches today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 20.

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We Need More than Pauls

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus. That is a troupe of workers going along with Paul. In fact, it is a list of people we don’t know all that well with names we may find hard to pronounce. How many times have you come to a list like this and just skipped them. I mean, okay some guys went with Paul and did some things, but let’s get back to the action. Let’s get back to Paul. He’s the main guy, right? Wrong. The main guy is Jesus. Paul is just a servant who is working as Jesus gives him opportunity. Sure, he takes a leadership role in the last half of Acts, but he isn’t the only person Jesus is using. These fellows are important. Without them, Paul couldn’t do what he is doing. Without them, Paul’s work couldn’t continue on after he left a region or especially after he died. Sure, we need Christians like Paul. We need leaders, drivers, movers, and shakers. But we need more than that. We also need the Sopaters, Aristarchuses, Secunduses and on down the line. Maybe you’re a Paul. That’s awesome. Maybe you aren’t. That is just as awesome. We need more than just Pauls. We need you active in the kingdom. Go do what you can do in the kingdom today. We need it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 20.

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Balanced Preaching

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

Somehow Demetrius was able to say that Paul preached “Gods made with hands are not gods,” and yet the town clerk was able to say, “These men are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.” That is amazing. After all, Paul had actually taught that Artemis wasn’t really a goddess. What do we see from that? It is not that Paul was wishy-washy. It is not that Paul was a chameleon, only saying what would keep him out of hot water. We’ve seen too much hot water in Paul’s life to think that. It is that even when Paul preached the truth on idolatry, the honest person recognized that Paul wasn’t a mean, in your face, jerk. He taught truth, but even when he disagreed, he was respectful. He didn’t belittle, mock, ridicule, demean. He was balanced. Certainly, some people still got mad–like Demetrius. However, the town clerk, when considering how the Christians acted and taught, recognized that the crowds really needed to be ashamed for their accusations that Paul was an evildoer. May we all accomplish such a balanced approach in our teaching and proclamation of the gospel.

Next week’s reading is Acts 20.

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On Smokescreens, Red Herrings, and Persecutions

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

Did you notice Demetrius was upset because his wallet was being affected, but he started the riot about the magnificence and honor of Artemis? He got the people chanting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” He didn’t get them chanting, “Wealthy is Demetrius the silversmith!” But that is actually what he was concerned about. This gets to the heart of most persecution. The fact is throughout history people have disagreed on plenty of things even in the spiritual sphere. You can declare all day long that you think Artemis of the Ephesians is great. I disagree with you. I will even discuss it with you. But I don’t throw rocks at you, try to get you thrown in prison, or try to get you executed. Why? Because your being wrong about that is really no skin off my nose. It really doesn’t impact me at all. People don’t persecute folks because they believe the people are wrong. Persecution starts when people feel some kind of impact by it. But, we can’t get people behind us in the persecution when we share the real reasons we are upset. So, we develop smokescreens and red herrings. We get people worked up about the magnificence of Artemis because they’ll never persecute the group I’m upset at just because my income is decreasing. The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus killed not because they really cared about how wrong they thought He was, but because they feared He would prompt Rome to come and take away their position. The Jews typically persecuted Paul when he had more influence over the Gentiles than they did. And here, the proclamations are a smokescreen, a red herring to distract from the real issue that upset Demetrius. His wallet was affected. We Christians often think if we can just get people to agree with us, it will stop the persecution. The problem is not that they disagree; it’s that they have a vested interest in some aspect that Christianity opposes which keeps them from agreeing. So, don’t be surprised that even when we are being the most reasonable, respectful, kind, and courteous people we can be, folks still get angry and persecute.

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

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J-E-S-U-S is not the Name of Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

Paul baptized in the name of Jesus. He preached in the name of Jesus. He cast out demons in the name of Jesus. So Sceva’s seven sons decided to ride on his coattails. They confronted a man possessed by an evil spirit saying things like, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” But the evil spirit didn’t listen. Instead, he attacked them, whipped them, and sent them packing. “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And we learn a significantly important point. The name of Jesus isn’t merely the word “Jesus.” Just pronouncing the collection of letters J-E-S-U-S does not mean we are acting in the name of Jesus. Acting in Jesus’s name means actually acting based upon the authority and power that He offers. You can’t just tack His name onto something and suddenly spiritualize or Christianize it, or even make it right. Cycling for Jesus. Karate for Jesus. Cooking for Jesus. Just adding the word doesn’t actually make it for Jesus. It really has to be what Jesus has asked for or authorized. Only then are we really doing something for Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 19.

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Error Has Consequences

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

I know we are in a completely new chapter this week. But have you ever wondered why there were 12 “disciples” who weren’t actually disciples in Ephesus in Acts 19? Why were there men so devout that Luke gives them this label, but then describes them in terms to demonstrate they can’t really be what he has called them? Again, remember according to Matthew 28:19-20, disciples are made through water baptism in Jesus’s name and correct teaching. The chapter break may throw us off, but surely we are told about these men right after we were introduced to Apollos and his baptism error because the latter is based on the former. Error has consequences. Apollos’s error had consequences. I know there has for a long time been a huge debate about what actually constitutes a “false teacher.” Is a false teacher someone who gets teaching incorrect or does a person have to have some false motives and insincerity to be a false teacher. If the latter, we’d never classify Apollos as a false teacher. If the former, maybe. But doesn’t this whole story demonstrate the debate about the definition of false teacher is a red herring? Whether you label Apollos a false teacher or not, his error had consequences. These men were sure they were serving the Lord, they were sure they were disciples. However, they weren’t. Their confidence was false whether their teacher was or not. They needed truth. After all, truth is what sets us free. Let’s hunt for truth always.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 19.

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There is More to Baptism Than Water

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

Paul came to Ephesus and found 12 disciples. However, Luke’s use of the word “disciple” is ironic. Paul quickly figured out these men may have been students, but not of Jesus. After all, Matthew 28:19-20 explains Jesus’s disciples are made by baptism in Jesus’s name. These 12 had been baptized. That is, they had been immersed in water. They had been immersed in water for a legitimate reason. At least, it had been legitimate at one time. They had been immersed in water as a baptism of repentance in the name of John, the cousin of Jesus. Please, notice how close to the truth about baptism what these men experienced was. It was a water baptism. It was an immersion in water. It signified repentance. It was for the remission of sins. The only shortcoming was that it was in the name of John, not the name of Jesus. Baptism is more than an action. It is a particular action (being immersed in water) for a particular purpose (to receive the remission of sins) based on a particular authority (Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection). Just because a person has done something similar to the true biblical baptism doesn’t mean the person has been truly baptized. Many today are “baptized” with a different action (sprinkling, pouring–or some with no action at all, claiming it is a Spirit baptism). Some are baptized with a different purpose (an outward sign of inward grace, a testimony of having already received forgiveness, in order to be a member of a denomination). Though similar to New Testament baptism, those who participate in these rituals are in the same boat as our 12 would-be disciples. They need to recognize what John taught. Jesus was coming and we need to be baptized in His name. That is, we need to be immersed in water for the remission of our sins based upon the authority of Jesus Christ. Only then can we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (and not otherwise). Have you? If you, like these 12, realize your teaching, and therefore your surrender, was incomplete, let us know. We’d love to help you.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 19.

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