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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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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Tenacity

Today’s reading is Acts 18.

Like a mountain climber grasping tenaciously to the rock wall no matter what comes his way, Paul is tenacious with the gospel. We just keep seeing it again and again and again. Obstacle after obstacle present themselves, threatening to knock his grip loose, but he simply will not let go. He takes one trip after another. He goes to one city after another. He preaches one sermon after another. He talks to one person after another. Enemies follow him everywhere he goes. He gets threatened and attacked every place he preaches. It must have seemed like a welcome respite to have a year and a half in Corinth without an attack. But even there, the attack eventually came. He got back to Antioch at the end of this second missionary journey, and what does he do? He goes back out on another one. Why? Because he tenaciously clung to the hope that the gospel saves souls and the only way for folks to enjoy in those blessings of salvation is to hear the gospel he proclaimed. May we have the same tenacity as Paul. May the enemy never knock our grip loose from the gospel and our proclamation of it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 18.

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No Greater Burden

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

James recommended and the congregation wrote in its letter to the Gentile congregations impacted by the men who had gone out from Jerusalem, that they would lay no greater burden on the Gentiles than to abstain from 1) what has been sacrificed to idols, 2) blood, 3) what has been strangled, 4) sexual immorality. Does James mean Gentile Christians can steal? Can we murder? Not at all. On a general level, the point is that just because the Gentiles are not amenable to the Law, doesn’t mean every legal stipulation of the Law has been abrogated by the gospel. In specific, James is addressing the major baggage the Gentile of his day had to face. No, they didn’t have to surrender to the Law, but they weren’t allowed to hang out in idolatry. They needed to flee it. They needed to get away from idolatry and abandon all its accoutrements. As we have seen on multiple occasions, converts often want to bring their baggage in with them. We need to drop our baggage at the door. Be devoted to Jesus. Get rid of everything else.

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

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Resurrection: The Message of Salvation

Today’s reading is Acts 13.

I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m reminded of it again in this sermon. In the modern day, we tend to believe the message of salvation is basically, “Jesus died for your sins.” Certainly, there is basis for that. We find it in 1 Corinthians 15:3. However, that is almost never mentioned in Luke/Acts. Rather, in Luke’s gospel account of Jesus and historical account of Jesus’s early kingdom, the saving message of Jesus is that He was raised from the dead. In Luke/Acts, the import of the death is that a person has to die to be raised from the dead, but the main import for the message of salvation is that God raised Jesus from the dead. Don’t misunderstand, it is not that Luke ignores the atoning and sacrificial nature of Jesus’s death. Rather, it is that Luke emphasizes that what indicates Jesus’s death is more than just another death among a long litany of people who have died is that on the third day, Jesus arose. It is through a man that was raised from the dead that forgiveness is proclaimed. After all, if He can be set free from death, He can set us free from sin and guilt. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 13.

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From Saul to David

Today’s reading is Acts 13.

Paul makes a subtle but profoundly powerful argument in his sermon at Antioch of Pisidia. The people, Paul explains, asked for a king. So God gave them Saul the son of Kish. As far as the worldly minded would be concerned, Saul was a pretty good king. The Benjamites still honored him. After all, why do you think Paul was originally named Saul? And don’t forget, Saul didn’t take the kingship to himself, God gave it to him. Yet, God removed Saul and gave the kingship to David. Why is Paul even reminding his audience of this change of kings? Because Paul is expressing to them another change. The change of moving from the Law to the Faith. The change of moving from Moses to Jesus. The change of kings from David to Jesus. You can imagine that objections the Jews would make. Why would God give the Law if He was just planning on removing it? Paul’s essential answer is to recognize this is how God has always works. He works in stages. Just because God gave a king didn’t mean God wouldn’t replace the king. Actually, it means God is the only who really can replace the king. In like manner, some might object to removing Moses and the Law from the place of authority it had for the Jews. But just because God gave the Law didn’t mean He couldn’t change it. In fact, because He gave it, He is the only one who can. God gave Saul, but removed Him and replaced him with David. God gave the Law, but removed it and replaced it with the Faith and the Gospel. Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Acts 13.

A Word for Our Kids

Hey kids, did you catch the parallel I shared with your parents? Paul provides another parallel along these lines. He brings up John, whom the Father sent to prepare the way for Jesus. However, distinct from many of the Jew’s response to Jesus, John was able to let Jesus take preeminence. He knew Jesus must increase while he decreased. He didn’t get upset about it. He didn’t fight against it. He recognized that while God did send him, God only sent him to play the role God had given him. That role was, like the Law, to prepare the way for the Christ, the Messiah, to prepare the way for Jesus. When he recognized the work had been fulfilled, he was willing to step away. May we always be like John. May we always be ready to let Jesus increase while we decrease.

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Second Verse, Similar to the First

Today’s reading is Acts 13.

Luke is doing everything he can to not only explicitly show the gospel going to the Gentiles, but implicitly demonstrate such a move was God’s plan. Rhetorically, Luke tells the story of Paul in a way that mirrors the story of Peter in the early chapters. It isn’t exactly the same (so I took some liberties with the old song line used in the title), but it is similar. Paul’s Acts 13 sermon is similar to Peter’s Acts 2 sermon. They even quote some of the same Old Testament passages to make some of the same points. Jesus is the true fulfillment of Psalm 16 because David did ultimately die and see corruption, but Jesus has been resurrected. Luke’s reason for these parallels is to show that Paul, who ends up working mainly among the Gentiles, is just as much of an apostle of the Lord as Peter. How do we know that? In this chapter, we know because Paul preaches the same message as Peter. We’ll see more of these parallels as our reading progresses. But for now, if you are a Gentile Christians like me, thank God for this clear teaching that we get to repent, we get to be part of the family, we get to participate in the kingdom. Paul wasn’t going rogue; he was following God’s plan. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 13.

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God Shows NO Partiality

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…” That is, Jesus didn’t die for Jews or Gentiles. He didn’t die for the rich or the poor. He didn’t die for the educated or the ignorant. He didn’t die for the American or the Russian. He didn’t die for the Republican or the Democrat. He didn’t die for the Capitalist or the Socialist. He died for everyone. He has no partiality. He doesn’t care who your parents are. He doesn’t care what town you grew up in. He doesn’t care what language you speak. He doesn’t care what is the color of your skin. He wants to save everyone. Of course, please note, Peter doesn’t say He will save everyone. Rather, in any nation, those who fear Him and do what is right will be acceptable to Him. Therefore, Cornelius can be saved by Jesus just as Peter can. You can be saved by Jesus just as I can. The conditions are the same for all and everyone can meet the conditions. The question is will you turn to Jesus? Will you fear the Lord and do what is right? Will you follow in Cornelius’s footsteps? If we can help you do so, please let us know in the comments section below.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

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Send for Peter

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

An angel of God appeared to Cornelius in a vision. It scared the daylights out of him. He asked what the angel wanted him to do and the angel gave him instructions. You realize, of course, the angel could have told Cornelius about Jesus. The angel could have told Cornelius the gospel. The angel could have told Cornelius about being baptized in Jesus’s name. If the angel could instruct him to send for Peter, the angel could have instructed him in the way of God. But, he didn’t. He told Cornelius to send for Peter. Why? Because God, for some reason known only to Him, has decided to work through people. He has decided to allow His gospel to be taught, proclaimed, and propagated from one person to another. He still works that way today. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying God can’t do whatever He wants, whenever He wants in order to save people. I am saying, He has always relied on and will always rely on people hearing the gospel from other people. He wanted that from the very beginning. He wants it today. He wants us to be those people. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

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Pick Christ Over Preconceptions

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

Peter had a preconception. It was actually a pretty good preconception. It was, after all, based on the Law. All kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles were unclean. He wasn’t supposed to “Rise, kill, and eat.” Not only that, Gentiles were unclean. He wasn’t supposed to go eat with them. However, in a threefold vision, Jesus explained the New Covenant had a different perspective on both of those things. The Law had been looking forward to a new kingdom, a new covenant, a new relationship with God based on the death of Jesus Christ, not based on the legal requirements of Moses’s Law. Jesus declared those foods clean. They were. Jesus declared Gentiles could be part of the covenant. They could. Now, Peter has a choice. He can either hang on to his preconceptions, arguing with Jesus (he had been known to do that before). Or he could accept Christ, follow what He said. Of course, Peter sets the right example for us. No matter how good and solidly based our preconceptions are, if they conflict with what Jesus reveals, then we need to choose Christ over our preconceptions. It’s just that simple. It may not be easy. Giving up our preconceptions rarely is. But it is just that simple.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

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