June 17, 2018
WOULD SAUL HAVE BECOME PAUL WITHOUT BARNABAS?
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about the great number of Gentiles coming to the Lord at Antioch, they sent their trusted representative, Barnabas, to the city. His real name was Joseph, but he had been nicknamed “Barnabas” by the apostles, which according to Acts 4:36 meant “Son of Encouragement.” He was from the tribe of Levi and grew up on the Island of Cyprus. He once sold a field and gave all the money to the apostles (Acts 4:37).
When Barnabas went to Antioch and saw how the Lord was moving there, he was overjoyed. He immediately decided to take the 4-day journey to Tarsus to look for Saul.
Why? The Bible doesn’t answer this question. But perhaps it was because he had heard Saul (whose name was changed to “Paul”) describe the word that Ananias had first spoken over him. For the Lord had told Ananias, “Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Certainly, the first great gospel movement among the Gentiles was at Antioch.
Regardless, Barnabas went to get Saul when he saw the great need for disciple-makers in Antioch. The two of them worked together there for a full year.
It was Barnabas who introduced Saul to the apostles when they had at first refused to see him. And it was Barnabas that went to find him when his help was needed at Antioch. Would “Saul” have ever become “Paul” without Barnabas?
Do you have a “Barnabas” in your life, who encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and pursue God’s calling?
June 16, 2018
ONE FLOCK WITH ONE SHEPHERD
When Peter preached to Cornelius, he and his whole Gentile household believed and were filled with the Holy Spirit. This amazed the Jewish believers because they had thought the Messiah to be exclusive to their people. Yet, if they had understood the preaching of Jesus, they would have known otherwise. For out of the Gentiles, Jesus would call sheep that belonged to Him too. As Jesus said, “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).
June 15, 2018
DISTINCTION BETWEEN MEN AND MEATS REMOVED
While praying on the rooftop of Simon the Tanner, Peter saw a vision of ceremonially “unclean” foods lowered down from heaven on a sheet. The Lord told him to “kill and eat.” Peter refused, saying it was against Jewish law. But the Lord told Peter not to call it unclean now that God had called it clean. This vision was to prepare Peter to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, for the Roman captain, Cornelius, had already sent men to bring him.
The distinction between Jew and Gentile, along with the ceremonial laws that separated the Jews from other peoples, was now removed. The gospel would remove the distinction, making all men and women equal before the cross of Christ. As the apostle Paul would write, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3:28).
June 14, 2018
PETER’S MINISTRY TO THE JEWS
After Paul’s conversion there was a season of peace for the church. During this time, the apostle Peter traveled throughout Judea, Samaria and Galilee visiting the new believers and strengthening them in the faith. In the town of Lydda, which goes by the name “Lod” today, Peter healed a paralytic named Aeneas. This caused a great number of people to turn to the Lord after hearing Peter’s preaching. From there, Peter continued on the Jaffa (Pronounced “Yaffa”) highway to the sea coast town of Jaffa. Peter healed a woman named Dorcas in Jaffa and a great number of people believed in Jesus there. Peter made Jaffa his base of ministry for a long time, staying at the home of Simon the Tanner.
Can you imagine having the apostle Peter come to your town? He and the other apostles had great freedom during this season. Peter became known for his ministry among the JBBs (Jewish Background Believers).
June 13, 2018
TO PERSECUTE THE CHURCH IS TO PERSECUTE CHRIST
Saul encountered the glorious Christ on the road to Damascus. Saul was going there to arrest any followers of Jesus that he might find. Yet, he was instead found by the Lord Jesus Himself. The question Jesus asked was informative, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked who it was that was speaking, to which he was answered, “I am Jesus.”
The one who persecutes a follower of Jesus, persecutes Jesus Himself. For the Church is the body of Christ and He is its Head (Col.1:18, Eph.1:22-23).
June 12, 2018
CHRIST IS THE SUBJECT AND STANDARD OF SCRIPTURE
When the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip about the identity of the subject in Isaiah 53, he “told him the Good News about Jesus.” Isn’t this how every Scripture should be considered? Look for Christ. For the Scripture always points us ultimately to Christ. As Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:39, 46).
Philip knew this. So, with the eunuch, he began with Isaiah and preached Christ. Yet, he could have begun anywhere in Scripture. For Christ is both the subject to which all Scripture points and the standard by which all Scripture is understood.
June 11, 2018
STEPHEN’S TESTIMONY TO SAUL
I wonder how often Saul thought of Stephen. Certainly, Saul, who was called Paul after his conversion, often mentioned Stephen in his testimony (See Acts 22:20). Perhaps Stephen’s final words of forgiveness haunted Saul, but later inspired Paul. Stephen’s ministry may have been short-lived, but it no doubt motivated Paul and other believers to be bold about preaching the gospel no matter the consequence.
June 10, 2018
MAN-MADE RELIGION REJECTS THE TRUE GOD
Stephen reminded the Jewish rulers that even though God allowed Solomon to build Him a Temple, He had no need for a man-made dwelling. Sinful man always prefers his man-made religion with his man-made gods and man-made temples. Didn’t the Israelites reject Moses and ask his brother, Aaron, to make them “some gods” to lead them? So Aaron fashioned them a golden calf to worship. Stephen accused the Jewish leaders of rejecting Jesus just as their forefathers had rejected Moses.
The same is true today. People prefer their man-made religion. But God is looking for those who will repent of their sins and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. God doesn’t live in temples made by human hands, but He willingly lives in human hearts that have been changed by the love of Jesus.
June 9, 2018
THE MAKING OF MOSES
In Stephen’s defense before the Jewish high council, he spoke of God’s preparation of Moses as Israel’s deliverer. Moses lived 40 years as a prince of Egypt, adopted by the Pharoah’s sister and raised as her own son. He was given a royal education. Yet, after fleeing Egypt and living 40 years in the wilderness as a shepherd, he seems to have lost his confidence. When God called him to deliver Israel, he complained that he was “slow of speech” (Ex. 4:10). Moses may have been making an idle excuse, or he may have lost his self-confidence. But God reminded Moses that He had made man’s mouth and sent him back to Egypt anyway.
Moses’ 120 years of life can be divided into three 40 year segments. The first 40, he lived as a prince. The second 40, he lived as a fugitive hiding in the wilderness, working as a shepherd. And the final 40 years, he led Israel out of captivity. The first 40 gave Moses confidence, so much so that he tried to be Israel’s deliverer in his own strength. The second 40 humbled him, so that he was totally dependent on God.
It took 80 years to make a Moses that God could use. How long has God been working on you?
June 8, 2018
FIRST DEACON BECOMES PART OF FIRST FRUITS
Stephen was the first among seven deacons appointed by the Apostles. His name means “crowned one.” In addition to his ministry of service (“Deacon” means “servant”), he was a powerful witness for Jesus. It was his preaching that brought him to the attention of the Jewish high council, where lying witnesses falsely accused him.
Stephen, the first deacon, was also the first to experience the persecution in Jerusalem that scattered Christians throughout the Roman world. He was part of a kind of “first fruit offering” from the great harvest of believers in Jesus that gave their lives for their witness. As a result, Christ’s command in Acts 1:8, that they would be His witnesses in “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” was urged forward by the very persecution that sought to stop them.