Archives for posts with tag: Paul

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18 NAS95)

Paul writes these words at the end of his life when he knows that the time of his departure from this life is drawing near.  He writes two “wills” here, things that he is sure will happen, that he is beyond doubt about:

  1. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed. To get the full picture of what Paul is saying here we need to understand that the word translated “will rescue” means: “to draw, drag along the ground. To draw or snatch from danger, rescue, deliver. This is more with the meaning of drawing to oneself than merely rescuing from someone or something.” [Complete Word Study Bible]. Paul had not been kept from every evil deed perpetrated against him in his life, indeed, it seems just the opposite, he had been beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, attacked, and stoned.  He will soon-—if we are to believe church tradition—be beheaded by Nero. I think what Paul means here is through all of what had passed and through what was surely coming, God was snatching him out of all of it, delivering him to safety. 
  2. The Lord will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.  As a partner to being snatched out of danger, Paul knows that God will bring him safely through death to eternal fellowship with God in his kingdom.  I like how Paul speaks about the life to come as if it is real life, as if it is sure and certain and definitely going to happen, as if death were just a going to sleep to wake up in God’s kingdom.  “For me to live is Christ,” Paul once wrote to the Philippians, “but to die?” that “is gain.”  Paul truly believed this.  He truly lived it out.

 

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“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:16–17 NAS95)

When I was in college I once took a course on the New Testament, thinking I’d come to know the Bible better because I took the course. Boy, was I wrong. My professor was a Methodist pastor whose goal, as near as I could tell, was to take whatever trust in Scripture the students had and tear it to shreds day after day.  One day he had the gall to stand up before the class and claim that Paul did not think the resurrection was central to the faith.  Now, I was not as educated as my professor, but I knew that claim was a bunch of malarkey.  I understood in that instant that what my professor was really saying was, “I don’t believe the resurrection is central to our faith.”  The apostle Paul would beg to differ.

I love 1 Corinthians 15 in which Paul clearly lays out the centrality of the resurrection.  “If Christ has not been raised,” he writes, “your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

Just so.

When it comes to faith, we who follow Christ are all in.  Either he is who he claimed to be and our sins have been paid for at the cross, or he isn’t who he claimed to be and in that case we are all still in our sins and have no hope.  Because of the resurrection, along with our brother, Paul, we have eternal hope.

 

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”” (Acts 18:9–10, ESV)

I love the words:  I have many in this city who are my people!  To understand why, you have to understand the background of Corinth.  The city sat on a major land and sea transportation route.  It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire at the time containing an estimated 150,000 freemen and another 450,000 slaves.

Corinth was kind of a cross between New York City and Las Vegas.  It was both a major trade center and a town where licentiousness and immorality was so strong that the word “to corinthianize” came into the Greek language as a verb that meant “to live wantonly.”

It was in this city with its mix of rich and poor, free and slave; with it’s penchant for sexual immorality and partying, that the Lord told Paul he had many in this city who are my people. Amidst the paganism and wanton living, God was going to reach down and save many people and bring them to faith and Paul and his companions were the chief instruments that God was going to use to accomplish this great and beautiful task.

We tend to think that God is least likely to work where the people are the most immoral, but God isn’t boxed in by our assumptions about how he works.  He is pleased to draw people to faith from every background, from every class of society, and from both the immoral and those who fancy themselves good and moral (though they are neither).  Indeed, it often seems that the least likely to come to faith are the ones who do come to faith most often.

We are in Day 58 of our march through the NLT Chronological Bible and finishing up the second half of the book of Acts.  We have been reading some of Paul’s letters because chronologically they were written during his missionary journeys (at least that is our best guess because Paul didn’t feel the need to date his letters).

We pick up the story as Paul is on his third missionary journey and headed for Jerusalem.  He has a last, poignant meeting with the Ephesian church.  He was very close to the church in Ephesus because he had spent major time there and knew the church very well. Luke’s description of the final meeting is quite touching:

When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship. (Acts 20:36–38, NLT)

Paul makes a beeline for Jerusalem where he is promptly arrested for causing a public disturbance (not his fault) and thrown into prison.  The Jewish leaders who oppose him concoct a plan to murder him and when the Roman authorities get wind of it (thanks to Paul’s nephew…we wish we knew more about his family), they whisk him off literally in the middle of the night to safety (in prison) in Caesarea.

While in Caesarea, Paul defends himself before King Agrippa (king of the Jews from 53-100 AD).  I love the description that Festus, governor of Judea, gives to Agrippa about Paul:

But the accusations made against him weren’t any of the crimes I expected. Instead, it was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who Paul insists is alive. (Acts 25:18–19, NLT)

Did you catch that?  Governor Festus got the essence of Paul’s message.  It was all about a dead guy, Jesus, whom Paul insisted was alive! You might recall in our discussion of the first letter to Corinth, that Paul wrote exactly that truth: Christ’s resurrection means everything to his followers.

Paul ends up appealing to Caesar (which was every citizen’s right) about his case and is packed off to Rome, where he arrives, after a nasty shipwreck in which, as Paul himself had prophesied, precisely zero people drowned.  Luke ends his story as Paul is still a prisoner in Rome.

Paul’s story is an amazing one, from persecutor of the church and by his own admission a blasphemer of Christ (1 Tim 1.13), to follower of Christ, to missionary on behalf of Christ, to eventually martyred for Christ. His story is one of grace and the amazing thing is that God is still in the business of reaching down and saving people by his grace today. People like Jessica Youngblood.

Oh, and me also.

 

“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm continued to rage, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (Acts 27:20)

Luke writes concerning the vicious storm in which he and Paul, a centurion and Roman soldiers assigned to bring Paul to Rome, and many other people were trapped.  On board were experienced sailors [of which Luke appears to have been one himself] so when he writes that all hope of being saved was abandoned, we can be sure that the ship and all 276 people who were on it, were in existential danger.

They had not, however, reckoned with Paul’s God.  God had a plan to get Paul to Rome and of course that plan was going to be accomplished and as a sign that it was going to be accomplished, an angel appeared to Paul to tell him.

“For there stood by me this night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you as a gift all those who sail with you.” (Acts 27:23–24)

Thus the angel prophesied, and so it was done.  Eventually all souls on board the ship made it safely to shore.  God did what he said he would do.

The God that we serve today is the same God whom Paul served.  We do not often see visions in our day [though it appears that the Islamic world is somewhat different], but God is still God and will accomplish his purpose for us and stormy winds and raging seas are no barrier to Him doing so.

[Side note:  My son, a pastor, just returned from a trip to a Middle Eastern country and while there he heard the testimony of a guy who had received a vision of a man telling him to walk 45 minutes in a certain direction, because he needed to meet someone.  The man walked 45 minutes, stopped in front of the building that was next to him and went inside.  There was a man waiting who said, “I’ve been waiting for you to appear.”  The man led him to faith in Christ.]

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace; being built up, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in number.” (Acts 9:31)

There is an interesting juxtaposition in Acts 8 an 9.  At the beginning the fledgling church is under threat by Saul of Tarsus:

“But Saul was making havoc of the church; entering every house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.Now those who were scattered went from place to place preaching the word” (Acts 8:3–4)

While Saul was rabidly persecuting the church, the church was under pressure and so Christians fled away from Jerusalem to various parts of Israel and even beyond.  Then Saul got radically saved while on the way to Damascus to continue his oppression of Christians there.  He suddenly began preaching for faith in Christ!

The result is listed in our verse.  Paul was no longer in pursuit of Christians and so the broader church was at peace and then: It increased in number.

When the church was under pressure it was increasing in number due to Christians being spread out and preaching the word.  When it was at peace it was also increasing in number.  This is something that only the Lord could bring about in his sovereignty.  It should also make us think twice about our assumptions of how and where the Word of God will bear fruit.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of joy with your presence.’” (Acts 2:28)

In this passage Peter is quoting David in Psalm 16.11, and applying the quote to Jesus.  Peter teaches his listeners during his great sermon at Pentecost that when Jesus was crucified, he did not stay in the grave, but was raised up to be seated with God in the heavenly places.  Jesus rose again to life with God the Father, where he is “full of joy with your (God’s) presence.”

Here is true and abiding hope.  When we die, God will not leave us in the grave any more than he left Jesus in the grave.  As he was raised up to new life, we also will be raised to new life.  As he entered into the presence of God, we also will enter into God’s presence.  As Jesus was full of joy in God’s presence, so also we will be. The apostle Paul is very clear on this teaching:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–23, ESV)

The doctrine of the resurrection is hope for the hurting; it is rest for the weary; it is renewed joy for the elderly, and comfort for every follower of Jesus.  No matter what our situation in this short and [sometimes] difficult life, we have the promise of Scripture that we will be raised to new life in the presence of God.  In his presence is true joy.  In his presence is eternal comfort.  In his presence [and only in his presence] will our souls rest, satisfied.

Oh, Josh Lavender puts this to music: