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God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21 - Acts 13-14: Paul and Barnabas vs. God's (Previous) Chosen People and Greek-god Worshipers

Today’s Reading: Acts 13-14

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Paul and Barnabas had to go against people who did not understand religion.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The Holy Spirit told the disciples in Antioch to send Barnabas and Saul to teach the nations.
At Paphos, Saul, aka Paul, blinded Bar-Jesus for obstructing the Truth. The Roman governor believed.
John Mark returned home mid-trip.
Paul was invited to speak at a synagogue. Gentiles were grateful to receive God's Word; the Jewish leaders argued with Paul.
After healing a man, Paul and Barnabas persuaded the Lyconians to worship the Creator.
Jews following them forced them out of several towns.
They strengthened the new believers and appointed leaders. Then they returned to Antioch to report on God's Work.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Paul and Barnabas left with the Holy Spirit's and the Antiochian Christians' approval.

God wanted to have more relationships set right, so He sent Paul and Barnabas to the nations around Antioch. The Disciples joined in and commissioned them to go. Don't do mission work alone. Have the Holy Spirit's direction and a group of Christians commission your work. This does two things—it gives you a group to provide support and accountability and a group that you can return and tell your story to.

The story of Bar-Jesus may have explained Saul's name change to Paul.

It is possible (and a complete guess) that the governor of Paphos, Sergius Paulus, gave Saul his name to give cache and an air of protection around Saul. This may have helped give Paul comfort as he was being chased out of town after town.

The Jews in Antioch in Pisidia repeated the irony of Israel.

The Jews were very interested in Jesus—when He was for them only. The moment the entire city showed up to hear Paul teach about Jesus they could no longer listen. They had to keep God for themselves—forgetting the real purpose of religion. This set up the most ironic moment in the entire book: God's Chosen People, who invited one of their own to tell them about Jesus, argued vociferously with their guests in public, ran them out of town on a rail, then followed along causing trouble from town to town while non-Chosen People accepted the Truth about Jesus and became His Disciples. No doubt it reminded the first Christians about Jesus' interactions with the Roman Centurion and His interactions with the Pharisees. God's Chosen People can be the second-greatest enemy to God setting things right on the earth.
What can we get from this today? Before we consider ourselves the Gentiles accepting the Message, we need to remember this problem is a generational one, not a racial or ethnic one. Yesterday we read how God no longer used race or ethnicity to limit His Chosen People. A similar story was when Joshua circumcised the Jewish males before attacking Canaan. We are often the Jews arguing minute theological details with people trying to set things right. I have a friend who grew up gangbanging in the ghetto. After bouts with addiction and other issues, God and he set their relationship right. He now works for a charity helping homeless people overcome their problems. His congregation is currently embroiled in a controversy over musical instruments to worship. He told me, "I don’t care if they worship with instruments or not. All I want to do is praise God for saving my life from the streets." To argue with him is to do the very thing the Jews were doing in Antioch of Pisidia. Reflecting on the philosophy of Gamaliel, we should allow people to speak to find out if the Spirit is guiding them or not.

The Gentiles "could hardly believe their good fortune" (13:48, The Message).

Not everything went wrong in Antioch of Pisidia. Many non-Chosen People realized that they could become God's Chosen People because He opened the door and entered their lives. They trusted in God because many in the world wanted to worship God if they only had the chance.

The Lyconians were so anxious to worship something that they almost did not listen to Paul and Barnabas explain that they were not gods.

It is a very strange thing when people become so excited to worship something that they have to be shocked into realizing the object or person they want to worship does not want their worship. Paul and Barnabas barely stopped them from offering sacrifices on their behalf. Paul and Barnabas were more diplomatic than Isaiah, though.

Paul and Barnabas appointed local leaders on their way back to Antioch.

These leaders were not multi-generational believers who had advanced training. They were people fully convinced that God was setting things right on the earth and were wholly for Him. Leaders should be fully-dedicated to setting things right, not advanced training, a long track record of coming to worship services, and the ability to lead meetings.

Do you praise with your missionaries when they return to tell all the great things happening to set things right?


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