Tag Archives: inclusion

Today’s Scripture – July 10, 2019

Acts 15:30-35 (NIV)
The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.

The letter from the Jerusalem leadership was one of the key moments in the expansion of the Church. If the council had sided with the Judaizers, Christianity would have remained a sect of Judaism, and its outreach efforts would have been directed at Jews alone, stunting its growth, if not stopping it altogether.

But God guided the thoughts of the leadership, providing them with abundant examples and Scriptures to show clearly that the gospel was meant for a much wider group – literally the whole world. And those Spirit-filled, Spirit-led believers listened and followed.

Now the people in the Antioch Church, many of whom were gentiles, got to hear that the Church leadership accepted their salvation as real, and confirmed their status as brothers and sisters in Christ. Silas, one of the two preachers/prophets who encouraged the Church, will reenter the story soon as Paul’s companion on his second missionary journey to both Jews and gentiles in the Roman Empire.

For Paul and Barnabas, as well as for the other teachers and prophets in Antioch, this whole event became an impetus to redouble their efforts in expanding the reach of the gospel in and around Antioch, and in helping those in the faith to grow in their understanding of the kingdom of God.

Father, it is fascinating to see how You kept the plan moving forward, at each step clarifying the steps necessary to grow the kingdom and knocking the roadblocks down. And I am thankful to all those leaders, including Paul and Barnabas, who listened and heard, then followed and obeyed. Lord, help me to be of like mind with them, so that Your plan can continue to move forward where I am, and so that more and more people can be brought into Your kingdom. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – June 14, 2019

Acts 13:42-47 (NIV)
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Paul’s Spirit-guided, Spirit-empowered message burst through the hearts of the crowed that was listening, and many responded with faith in Jesus. The synagogue leaders asked Paul and Barnabas to return the following Sabbath, a decision they soon regretted.

The problem was that the new believers, both Jews and God-fearers, were so excited by their new-found faith that they couldn’t help sharing what they had learned and believed in with their families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even perfect strangers. So, when the next Sabbath came, the synagogue was packed out with Jews, God-fearers, and even pagan gentiles, all waiting to hear about Jesus. Nearly the whole town showed up!

But rather than being glad of the influx of people coming to worship God and to hear from His word, the leaders of the synagogue chose to respond with jealousy. They had been ministering for years with only a small group of Jewish faithful to show for it. But now these upstarts from Syria, teaching about this Jesus, had packed the place with a single sermon! So, as Paul spoke, they tried to aggressively rebut what he was teaching in an effort to blunt their success and to dissuade people from believing.

Paul and Barnabas responded strongly. They had come to the Jews with the good news first, because they were part of the people that God had chosen from the beginning. But if they rejected God’s messengers and the message they were bringing of salvation through faith in Jesus, that message would be taken next to the gentiles, who were already responding, and who would doubtless respond in even greater numbers, and with even greater enthusiasm. To back up the legitimacy of this strategy, Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6, a passage which clearly shows that the reach of the salvation that the Messiah would bring was designed to extend even to the gentiles and around the world.

Needless to say, the gentiles in the crowd were ecstatic. The Jewish Scriptures talked about them, and the Jewish Messiah was holding out the promise of salvation and a place in the kingdom of God to them! And many believed on the spot.

Many people in the Jewish community saw God’s salvation as exclusionary, reaching only as far as a specific group of people, the Jews, and to those who would go through the long (and painful!) process of conversion to Judaism. But the good news is actually inclusionary, with salvation being held out to all, both Jews and gentiles, to anyone who is willing to enter through repentance and faith in the finished work of Jesus.

Father, this is not only good news, it is earth-shattering in its uniqueness. The kingdom comes to people where we are and invites us in so that we can become who You have designed us to be. Even today some Christians seem to believe that a person must “clean themselves up,” start looking and acting like “good church people,” before they can really be saved. But the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus brought to life and that Paul preached is about transformation through faith, not faith enabled by self-improvement. What a profound difference! Thank You, Lord, for the instantaneous transformation that You brought into my life when I believed, and for the growth that You have facilitated in my life ever since that day. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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