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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 23 - Acts 15-16: On Circumcision for Gentiles, Disagreements, and Joy in Jail

Today’s Reading: Acts 15-16

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Obeying the strict ordinances of the Law was no longer the only way to set your relationship right with God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

A hotly-contested debate broke out over circumcision for Gentiles. Peter reminded them that God had not required Law-obedience from the Gentiles in his past experiences.
James wrote to encourage the Gentile Believers.
Paul and Barnabas split over a disagreement about taking John Mark on their second journey.
Timothy joined Paul's travelling party in Lystra.
The congregations grew.
Lydia became a Disciple. Paul and Silas sang in prison while on trumped-up charges. The jailor asked how to be saved. He and his family became Disciples.
The next morning Paul forced the city leaders to escort him out of prison.

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

The Gentiles were never expected to obey the Law of Moses.

The Law of Moses was intended for the Jews to set all things right. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect on Israel. This is the reason God chose the Gentiles to join the Jews in being His Chosen People. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, saw the Law as inseparable from being God's Chosen People and tried to push their Law on the Gentiles. Fortunately, Peter stepped in. His admonition is wonderful—God never required circumcision to the people He poured out his Spirit to, so why should the Gentiles be circumcised to obey the Law of Moses? God gave His Approval, why should God's Servants change His Plan? The purpose of circumcision was to help each person realize that God called them to be lighthouses to the nations. The Law of Moses was never intended for the Gentiles. It had too many laws and regulations. When baptism took circumcision's place, the Jews were not willing to give it up and provoked a large controversy.
We have a very similar situation today. There are many who reject the "institution-centered" view of much of American Christianity. American Christians, on the other hand, want outsiders to become insiders before officially joining their congregation. We want them to get out of harmful relationships, go through training classes, and know exactly the right theology before they are baptized. We must remember that the church was built for people, not the other way around. Remember: churches are meant for God's Chosen People to have a group to join them in setting all things right. This is why James' letter is so important—it helped set a standard with which to measure what we want to bind on others. We should not bind "church-y" things on them. What those are depends on where you live and your culture.

Paul was very hard-set.

Remember John Mark. We will read about him again in a few weeks.

Paul and Silas continued to praise God even though they were in prison.

Paul and Silas were beaten and jailed because they messed with the wrong people. They were so upbeat about being worthy of persecution that they sang in their chains. The jailor wanted to become a disciple of Jesus because of their integrity. Praise God no matter what circumstance you are in!

What extra laws do you weigh non-Chosen People with?

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