Friday, March 12, 2010


Acts 13-15

In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit said to the prophets and teachers at Antioch to "set apart for me Barnabas and Saul." So they fasted and prayed and laid hands on them and sent them off. They went to Seleucia and sailed for Cyprus, where "they proclaimed the word of God" in the synagogues. In Paphos, they met a Jewish sorceror (Bar-Jesus or Elymas) who attended the proconul (Sergius Paulus). The proconsul wanted to hear Saul and Barnabas had to say but Elymas opposed them. Saul "filled with the Holy Spirit" looked at him, accused him of being "a child of the devil and an aenemy of everything that is right" and told him he would be blind, and "immediately mist and darkness came over him." The proconsul saw what had happened and believed. Later, Paul (formerly Saul) and his companions whent to Psidian Antioch where they were invited to speak in the synagogue. Paul preached the God of Israel and the Gospel of Jesus and the people invited them to speak more about these things on the next sabbath. The next sabbath "almost the whole city gathered" but the Jews "were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying." The word of God spread through the regious, but the Jews stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and they "shook the dust from their feet in protest...and went to Iconium."

In chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas went and preached "as usual" at the synagogue. They were so effective that many believed, but the Jews who didn't "stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers." They remained and the Lord "confirmed the mssage of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders." They found out about a plot to stone them and fled to the cities of Lystra and Derbe "where they continued to preach the good news." In Lystra told a crippled man to rise, and he did, which aroused the people to think that they were the gods Zeus (Barnabas) and Hermes and to gather food to sacrifice to them. But Paul and Barnabas stopped them, insisting that "we too are only men, human like you." They stopped the sacrifices with difficulty, but then "some Jews came from Antioch and Ioconium and won the crowd over." Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead, but "after the disciples gather around him," he arose. Then he and Barnabas left for Derbe, where they preached the Gospel and "won a large number of disciples." They then returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, encouraging the churches they had planted.

Acts 15 describes the council at Jerusalem, at which there was discussion about how much of the Mosaic code must apply to Gentile believers, starting with concerns about circumcision. Some pharisaic believers said that the Gentiles should be required to be circumcised. Peter reminded them of his vision in which God "made no distinction between us and them" and suggested that they should not "try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear." Paul and Barnabas talked about the miracles and wonders they had witnessed among the Gentiles, and James suggested that they "should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God," that they should tell them "to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." This decision was put into a letter and sent to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Judas (Barsabbas). Silas and Judas later returned to Jerusalem, but Paul and Barnabas remained teaching in Antioch. Some time after that, Paul wanted to go back to the towns where they had preached, but they had a disagreement when Barnabas wanted to take John Mark but Paul didn't ("because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.") Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas and went through Syria and Cilicia, "strengthening the churches."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • In chapter 15, we make the conversion from Saul to Paul. There is no explanation, not that I can see anyway, but he's never Saul again.
  • Obviously, the council of Jerusalem was a tremendously significant historical account. The spread of Christianity could have been hampered greatly by a decision to impose the Mosaic code and Levitical laws against Gentile converts.
  • It's interesting that Paul can blind a man who doesn't believe, and heal one that does, but he and Barnabas can't work out whether to bring Mark along on their journey and actually separate as a result of the disagreement. But it is the kind of "warts and all" detail that authentic history tends to contain and hagiography tends to leave out.

Psalms 34

Praise. Constant and unadulterated. It's a proverb made into a song, a prayer of praise and thanksgiving sung to the Lord...

Psalm 34
Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.
1 [a] I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

2 My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;

16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;

20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

22 The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

No comments:

Post a Comment