February 25

Acts 15:22-17:34

We continue in The Church Stream today in the book of Acts. The leaders have decided that it is unnecessary for the non-Jewish believers to follow the entire law of Moses since they receive the Holy Spirit while yet uncircumcised. We are reading from the New Century Version.

15 – The dilemma of the ancient Jewish laws has become a large issue. For some it seemed to be a “fork in the road”.  Shall they make the new believers abide by the laws that have been in place since Abraham? Circumcision was about the first thing God asked of Abraham and Isaac. The Jews were virtually forbidden to even deal with the people who ignored this law. Now, these people are being welcomed into our fellowship? Old Laws? New Law? What else is and is not going to matter anymore? The discussions in Antioch and Jerusalem are a turning point for the new church that demonstrates that God gives the Holy Spirit to more than just Jewish people. Peter’s speech here in Jerusalem is the last time he is mentioned in the book of Acts.

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 Then some emissaries are sent back from Jerusalem to Antioch with a letter explaining that the old law is not to be enforced upon all new believers in the faith.  The letter written to be delivered more or less “has it in writing” and the church has taken a turn toward worldwide acceptance to whomever the Holy Spirit comes upon.

Paul and Barnabas are late in their relationship. The second journey is about to begin and Barnabas wants John Mark to resume with them. Paul disagrees since John Mark left them right after the encounter with the demonic in Pamphylia on the 1st Missionary Journey.  Apparently this was a bit too much for John Mark who them departed from them. But Barnabas wants JohnMark back with them now. Paul basically says “I don’t think so” regarding John Mark. Paul is so staunch about this that he lets into Barnabas in such a way that Paul leaves them both behind.  This wasn’t a permanent decision, but John Mark isn’t going on this trek. Silas is selected to join with Paul hereon.
16 – Paul selecting Timothy to join with them seems another landmark decision since he has a Greek father and Jewish mother.  This cultural “statement” cc. church and future matters is dealt with and the church quickly grows larger and stronger in that area.  The church now is obviously not an exclusive club but a growing movement that penetrates all barriers.
Paul’s vision of being called to Macedonia is an event that still echoes to today. The gospel is to enter the Greek world and to do so definitively.  Greek thinking spilled westward and affected society irreversibly and the gospel is to traverse along with this thinking.
Lydia’s entry into the scene is further statement that the church is going to be for all.  Lydia was a prominent business woman. At issue here is the fact that the new church movement will be for all / families included.  It isn’t going to be a “men’s club” of sorts with ‘no women allowed’. The statement is not by any means, “out with the men, in with the women”. It is simply that women are involved in the enterprise also. The church is NOT a “no women allowed” establishment.
Paul and Silas cast an evil spirit from a fortune teller.  This has Paul/Silas thrown in jail. God uses the incident of Paul and Silas in prison so that the Roman Guards have a dynamic encounter with the power of God also. The memo here is that the gospel and the power of God that accompanies it is destined to penetrate Rome also.
17 – Paul and Silas soon make their way across to Thessalonica and then on to Berea.  It turns out that everywhere the gospel is taken that things are soon astir. It is not calmly grafted into the local culture as if Jesus is simply something to add to the tapestry, so to speak. The gospel is a transforming force. The transparent and eager folks enjoy the new revelation whereas the power brokers who made a living off the old way of thinking; hucksters if you will, are greatly bothered by Paul/Silas’ new ideas. Again, the gospel arrives and forces a decision of the people, “what is it going to be?”
In Athens Paul demonstrates that the gospel can go head-to-head with the greatest minds and the greatest ideas that have come to earth thus far. It is a powerful encounter that still inspires evangelists now as the gospel is still the answer to the questions that arise in hearts and minds the world over.
The theme that comes to the surface day after day this week is that there are dilemmas that must be addressed so that the blessing can be taken to others – and to the whole world.
Jacob has a dream of heaven being opened. Is this just for him? No. It’s for the world to know one day. But he has some cagey decisions to make before he can take his family and possessions to a land he can call his own.   Jephthah had some serious anxiety to deal with since he was young, but he is called upon to lead his country – this is a huge dilemma for him. He makes decisions and pledges and vows, and he has victory … but we wish all of his decisions and vows were good ones, don’t we?   Job, an old man, decides to lay his soul completely bare before the world in frank confession. Elihu, a young man, seems to be and do quite the opposite.  Isaiah continues eloquently about difficult days that are coming and other days, also forthcoming, that are going to be good and blessed when they make God their God again and follow Him.  He warns against looking to Egypt for help. The dilemma here is “what are they going to do with what lies before them?”  Daniel has a monstrous dream that has implications that speak to all history and is speaking to us still. Daniel opts to keep these things to himself just yet. Notice Dan. 7:26 as Daniel is nearly reeling from all his has witnessed, “…the court will decide what is to happen.”   In Matthew the Pharisees and Saduccees try to make themselves look spiritually inquisitive while attempting to trick Jesus. It seems they forever opt to have a double agenda. Peter makes a good statement but quickly learns that it isn’t going to happen his way but Christ’s way. Jesus could take a short cut to changing the world but Calvary and suffering will seal the blessing for all time for his followers to be able to share His blessing with the world. And lastly in Acts, we see the church dealing with their latest dilemma and then opening the church to Gentiles and the world at large.
“God, we ask that you would guide us step by step. Help us to navigate the decisions we face daily and indeed moment by moment.  Thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit as our constant companion. Amen.”
Dealing with dilemmas that result in growth and good.


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