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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 28 - Acts 18:19-19:41: Correcting Believers and Surviving Mobs

Today’s Reading: Acts 18:19-19:41

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The Jews were not the only group to forcefully oppose Paul and the Way.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Paul returned to Antioch while Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus.
Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos, a disciple of John. They taught him about Jesus. He became a great help to the Christians in Ephesus.
Paul baptized disciples of John in Jesus' Name and the Holy Spirit entered them. Many people in Asia heard the Word.
Jewish exorcists tried to mimic Paul and excise a demon. They were unsuccessful.
As Paul planned another trip, an idol-maker organized a riot in order to squelch the Way. After hours of screaming "Great Artemis of the Ephesians!" the town clerk sent them home.

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

Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul provide a good approach for helping people who are not part of your group.

Growing up in the churches of Christ I was taught that the Restoration Movement had revived the New Testament church and I heard lesson after lesson about how denominationalism was wrong and we should not fellowship with them. In debate class I chose the topic of fellowshipping other churches. During my study I realized the Bible wasn't as simple on that topic as I had been led to believe.
When I moved to China I thought I would spend all of my time teaching people who were not Christians. The first few months we heard apocryphal stories of a Christian group on campus. "They're probably not following the Scripture," I thought, and ignored them. In the second year, I learned that the group was quite large (compared to our group) and they knew we were there. I wanted to keep my distance, though. It wasn't until my fourth semester there that they broke the separation. A few of their leaders wanted me to help them understand the Bible. At that point I realized how my pride prevented them from growing. My advantage—my gift you might say—was a background in reading the Bible. I used my experience and training to show them a way to read the Bible with their groups. I helped them find a way to get out of their old way of thinking and helped set them on a course to understand the Bible on their own.
Priscilla and Aquila would have alienated Apollos if they stood in their fellowship and complained that Apollos missed Jesus. Instead, they assumed he wanted to obey God and helped him see Jesus. That is our goal today! Our goal should not be to convince people to leave their religion/denomination/social group and follow Jesus. We want to help them see the Bible as it is—God's Message that He is setting all things right—and through that recognition have their relationship with God set right. (Remember, "Who is saved?" is the wrong question.) I believe many in the churches of Christ have an advantage over other Christians because we have read the Bible as God's Word for generations. If we humbly take people aside and tell them the rest of the story, we may find more like Apollos. And the Gospel can spread throughout the world as it did in Asia.

Not everyone that calls out in Jesus' Name will have their requests answered.

The Jewish exorcists' story is one of those stories you hate yourself for laughing, but can't help it. It is the opposite story of the one where the Apostles wanted to stop non-Chosen Disciples from casting out demons. The difference is in the attitude, not the name. The people in Mark 9 wanted to follow Jesus but were not part of His Circle. The Jews in Acts 19 wanted to look like Paul. They did not succeed because they wanted to make themselves look good. When we ask in Jesus' Name to make ourselves look good we fail.

Those who benefit from idol worship (of any kind) will not like Christians.

The riot in Ephesus was not started by Jews. In fact, Jews wanted to stop it. It was begun by people who knew their livelihoods would vanish if people believed this Paul who taught that an idol is nothing.
When we think of the idols people worship today they are mostly abstract ideas and not physical shrines. People who love "freedom" over God will not like the idea of obedience. People who love "order" over God will not like the idea of freedom in Christ. Entire industries are built around these abstract idols. When people realize these idols do not help them set things right the industry's business dries up. Notice, though, that Paul did not get up and denounce them all. The Christians stayed in the shadows and let the city leaders quiet the crowd. In the same way we shouldn't stand in front of people and tell them to shape up or face God's wrath. They will show their true selves and God's Way will be vindicated. When persecution comes because of rioting based on fear of losing their way of life, let God and those outside God's Chosen People quiet the crowds. We may get physically hurt, but they cannot keep us from God's Love.

How did people help you change by showing you the whole story?

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