We are in the Church Stream traveling with Paul on his missionary journeys. We are reading from the Tree of Life Version this week. The theme for this week is “coming home.”
Today we read of the final stops on Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey, and the start of his 3rd. The inconspicuous switch from 2nd to 3rd journey is the nondescript and virtually nonexistent “interlude” between the 2nd and 3rd phrases of Acts 18:22. With “…then he went down to Antioch.” the third missionary journey had commenced. Do pause a moment and realize that we are looking at this material after nearly 2000 years of analyzing Paul’s life, ministry, travels, and writings. Paul doesn’t say at this point, “ok, 2nd journey is finished. Let’s recline, stretch and reflect a bit and then start the 3rd.” Paul is simply doing the next assignment that God has thrust him upon. This final stretch of the 2nd journey is a bit a spirited season. We are introduced to Aquila and Priscilla who fair prominently in the New Testament. Luke includes them in his narrative four times (remember Luke is the one who wrote “Acts”). And Paul never forgot them and told others of them too mentioning them three other times in his writings. He tells the Romans and Timothy to greet them. And he sends P&A’s greeting to the Corinthians.
While finishing this second journey he experiences some drama in Corinth as the people are divided. Silas and Timothy had arrived and seemed an encouragement to Paul. The synagogue became testy as their leader had “come to faith” along with his house. The detractors were angry and made it plain to Paul who then declared that he would then ‘go to Gentiles’ from here on. The Jewish people rigged a quick trial before the local leaders to try to accuse Paul. The issue is quickly thrown out, another Jewish leader gets a beating . . . it’s not pretty – and Paul eventually leaves – with Priscilla and Aquila. btw, She is usually mentioned first because she comes from a prominent family of great influence. Some hint that because of this, she had access to more formal training than her husband did. They are able to assist Apollos in his teaching ministry. It is good that this is mentioned here as this is what we are all to be doing. Luke is specific to mention that very early in Paul’s 3rd journey he is “strengthening all the disciples. This IS the business of Christianity and Luke puts these stories adjacent to eachother in 18:23-27 to prove this point: we are alive to be helping eachother grow in the Lord.
19 – Apollos has been trained so he can “man the post” in Corinth while Paul proceeds to Ephesus. There he explains the Holy Spirit to those who did not yet know. They thought that water baptism was sufficient, but Paul “walks them” into baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then uses Paul and does tremendously powerful works for the benefit of healing and cleansing people of evil. This began after he left the Synagogue and set up his work in a public hall. These powerful blessings came upon Paul’s ministry times also while he was in Cyprus, Iconium, Lystra, Philippi, Malta, Corinth, and Thessalonica. But, for what it’s worth, miraculous ministry is not mentioned during Paul’s time in Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, either Antioch, Athens, or Rome. Make whatever of that you will, the miraculous ministry in Ephesus, the healings, people renouncing their dark practices, the people selling idols are quickly seeing their idol business dry up and they are very frustrated with what Paul is doing. The frustration turned to fury, then a riot ensued and Paul is providentially protected by friends who keep him from the fray. Again, there is chaos due to false religion and the one who is there to cure the false religion is perceived as the problem. Missionaries, even today, are no stranger to these spontaneous outbursts.
20 – thus ends his three years in Ephesus. It was a powerful time with what became Asia’s most mature church. Ephesians is among the most helpful books of all for Christians. Nonetheless, his success is causing outrageous jealousy among the Jews who wanted to cling to the old ways and were resisting this new movement that the Holy Spirit was taking Believers into. At this point it is referred to as “The Way”.
Today’s reading ends with the nearly tragic story of Eutychus falling out of a high window while Paul went long that evening. Not to make sport or comedy of this man, let’s just learn from it. It may be an illustrative stretch, but let’s just say that if you are going to church, come to church, get in, get involved, learn, grow, let it change you. Don’t sit on the edge, don’t have one foot in, one foot out. When you are there – BE THERE. Don’t sit there with your mind on your handheld device, your feet pointing toward the door, and your heart elsewhere. Get in and get all the way in; again – be there. Hanging out like Eutychus was had him fall out and it nearly killed him. Just a lesson.
Week 9 Thread
Common theme: Coming Home
Assessing the week there seems to be a recurring theme of “coming home”. It’s not all “apple pie and hugs” from Grandma type homecomings but nonetheless when we come home we bring ourselves with us. Jacob comes home after 20 years, there’s some mending fences that needs to take place. He does. The place is pagan, btw, and his daughter is raped (and proposed to). But in the mean time his sons go wild with their cutlery on the enemy. He is later blessed eternally, but soon Rachel and his father Isaac “go home” to the Lord. Samson’s tragic circumstances and how he deals with it sends 3,000 Philistines to the grave along with him. The Benjamite concubine, well let’s say his original sin “brought the chickens home to roost” in a horrible way as tens of thousands are killed. In Job, Elihu commences upon the final speech among those who are criticizing Job. We wish his critics would all hurry up and go home, don’t we? Isaiah’s reading includes the greatest homecoming in all of literature. And the final plea is made before the Assyrian army is decimated. Daniel has another spectacular vision of Kingdoms rising and rioting and then getting ransacked themselves … everything keeps “coming home” no matter what. Jesus talks in Mt. 18-19 of lost things found, sheep coming home, children coming home, forgiving and marriage that needs to start at home. One old preacher comments that homes and marriages would be better if women weren’t gone all day and men weren’t out all night.