Passion for God’s Word

Acts 13-14

Today, we pick back up with Paul, and we have yet to mention his main companion that shows up in chapters 13 and 14 – Barnabas.  Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement”, as he was an encourager to those around him.  Barnabas travelled with Paul frequently when Paul would go to a different region to share the gospel message.  They mostly got along great and accomplished a lot, but they did reach a disagreement down the road.  Barnabas wanted to take his cousin, Mark, with them during one of their missionary journeys, but Paul did not since Mark abandoned them on a previous trip.  We are getting ahead of ourselves a bit here though, so let’s rewind to chapter 13.

            In chapter 13 of Acts, Paul and Barnabas set sail and visited a couple of places, most notably Cyprus and Antioch.  It was at these different locations that they took advantage of their opportunity to share God’s message with others.  It’s important to note that some places that they traveled to the gospel message already was presented and spread a bit, as they weren’t the only ones around spreading this gospel message.  However, they were certainly instrumental in furthering the spread.

            In verses 16-41 of chapter 13, Paul delivers a message to the people on the Sabbath.  At the conclusion of this message that he presented, “the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath,” (Acts 13:42).  From a preacher’s perspective, this would be a dream come true!  The people were so eager to hear the gospel message that they BEGGED!  They didn’t just ask or hope or want, but they BEGGED to hear the gospel message.  When was the last time that you were so eager to hear God’s message being shared?  For most of us, it probably has been a while.  Somehow, someway we need to find that passion again for God’s Word.  Pray to God today, that he would fill your heart with a passion and desire to dig deeper into His Word.  That would be a great place to start.

            We fast forward a week from Paul’s message in verses 16-41, and we arrive at the next Sabbath in verse 44.  Verse 44 reads, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord,” (Acts 13:44).  How awesome would that be?!  The week prior, the people begged to hear more of God’s word being spoken, as they had so much excitement.  It is evident that they didn’t contain their excitement to themselves.  Apparently, their passion for God’s Word drove them to share with their friends and family about the word of God that they just listened to.

            It’s a general notion that word of mouth is the best mode of advertisement.  The group who listened to Paul’s first message did a great job of advertising to others by word of mouth.  This proved to be extremely effective, as almost the whole city showed up the following week.  This serves as a good reminder for us to advertise God’s Word by word of mouth with our friends and family.  When was the last time that you shared a bit of God’s Word with someone who is not an active believer?

            Paul continued to gain a following in the different locations that he traveled to.  On the other hand, though, his adversaries were continuing to grow.  In chapter 14, Paul was stoned nearly to death for his faith and his part in spreading the gospel message.  My mind cannot stop thinking about the differences in how the early Christians were persecuted versus how we are persecuted (or the lack thereof) today in America.  I’m grateful that we don’t have to experience some of the trials and tribulations that the likes of Paul went through.  However, I can only imagine how much more serious we would take our faith if we had to physically risk our lives in order to share the gospel message with others.  Something for you to ponder.

            We continue to see the great works of some of the heroes of our faith in Acts.  I hope that these great heroes, such as Paul and Barnabas, serve as an encouragement and lesson for all of us.  God bless.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 13-14.

Tomorrow we will read James 1-5.

One Mind

acts 15 25

Acts 15  –  Conflict is Inevitable

Life would be SO much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.

BUT – I am not always right.

AND – conflict is inevitable.

 

Acts 15 is about a whole lot of conflict.

First, the Jewish Christians thought the new Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians needed to follow the whole law of Moses – and prove it with circumcision. However, the Gentile Christians felt their faith in Christ – proven by baptism, not circumcision – provided salvation rather than the old law.  And, the church in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were teaching and preaching was being torn apart by the division.  Sometimes conflict does that.

 

But, here we get to see some great steps for conflict resolution.

 

  • Go to find wise counsel. Look for spiritually mature and trustworthy individuals.  In this case Paul and Barnabas were sent with a delegation to the Jerusalem church elders 300 miles away (a trip that may have taken them approximately 15 days if they were able to cover 20 miles per day – sometimes conflict resolution takes some time – but it is worth it).
  • Everybody gets to share their side of the argument. And even through “much debate” (vs. 7), we see order and respect – standing to speak and not speaking out of turn.   And, during the debate – lots of listening (rather than merely preparing your rebuttal).
  • After everyone has had their say – listen to the leadership (in this case, James the brother of Jesus – vs 13) and be prepared to peacefully abide by their decisions.
  • And don’t forget to go to God’s Word! James shares words of the Prophet which clearly say that it is God’s desire that all mankind will seek Him and that there will be Gentiles called by His name.  Using this and the evidence that had been shared of how God had been working amongst the uncircumcised but believing Gentiles, James gives his judgment – no circumcision is needed, but Gentiles must follow some basic rules to be set apart to God and holy.
  • Share the findings with those impacted by the decision – aiming for peacefully being of one mind. A letter is written and members of the Jewish church are sent back with the Antioch delegation to share the letter with the body of believers caught in this conflict.

 

The Antioch church received the letter and delegation and “rejoiced” and were “strengthened” and were at peace.  Conflict resolution at its best!  Unfortunately, we know this issue will come up again throughout the New Testament as other churches grapple with the change.  Old traditions die hard for the Jewish believers.  So too, we must be careful to be tuned into God’s will rather than traditions or merely what “I want” or “I think” or has always been done this way.  Search out what God thinks on the subject.  Aim for becoming of one mind – centered on God’s mind – not yours.

 

Just as peace is reigning once again in Antioch, a new conflict transpires!  But, this time it’s a very personal one – and between our two heroes – Paul and Barnabas!  Even great heroes of the faith don’t always see eye to eye.  Barnabas – always the encourager – wants to take Mark on the next missionary journey.  Paul – perhaps more “task oriented” – remembers that Mark left them in the middle of the last journey and doesn’t want to give him a second chance.  “And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another” (Acts 15:39).  It could have easily become an opportunity to grow sour and bitter toward one another, or even God’s work – allowing bad feelings to fester.  However, sometimes a decision to peacefully disagree and get on with God’s work – even if it results in parting ways at least temporarily – can actually deepen relationships and be a useful thing.  In this case, the missionary efforts were doubled since Barnabas went in one direction with Mark to teach and preach and Paul chose Silas and went in another direction to preach and teach.  Differences remained – but both were still actively spreading God’s Word.  And, what fun to later read (Colossians 4:10) that Paul would find Mark to also be very useful in ministry.

 

Life would be so much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.

BUT – I am not always right,

AND – easy isn’t always better.

When we use Biblical models and Godly wisdom to face the conflict, we can grow through the conflict and come out stronger, wiser, and more in line with what God has designed us to be – either as a church, a marriage, a friendship or an individual.  Face your conflict – with much prayer, Bible searching and wisdom and Godly counsel.

 

-Marcia Railton