Archives for posts with tag: Paul

“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:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;” (1 Timothy 1:12–13, NASB95)

Paul’s qualifications for Christian service:

  • Blasphemer
  • Persecutor
  • Violent aggressor

It’s not a very flattering resume is it, dear reader?

Ah…but that is not the end of the story.  God took Paul’s resume and made something incredible/magnificent/unbelievable/ of it.  And so Paul was put into service.

I’m wondering, how does your own resume compare with Paul’s?  Better?  Worse?  Do you think it matters to God what your resume is?  In light of Paul’s life before Christ and what God accomplished in and through him, I’m thinking it doesn’t matter.  You are a good person?  God can use you in spite of your legalism?  You are worse than Paul?  Here is some hope for you, it seems like God turns the worst sinners into his most faithful servants.  Cheers my brother or sister!  God is going to do something incredible/magnificent/unbelievable through and in you.

Throughout the OT and NT and church history, the greatest sinners have often become most notable saints (Moses, Rahab, David, Photini—the woman at the well, Matthew, Paul, St. Mary of Egypt). – Orthodox Study Bible

Praise Him, legalist.  Praise Him, worst of sinners.  God can put you both into service.

 

As is Your name, O God, So is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness.” (Psalm 48:10, NASB95)

The HCSB translation is a little more clear than the NASB:

Your name, God, like Your praise, reaches to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is filled with justice.” (Psalm 48:10, HCSB)

How does God’s name and praise [GNB: “fame”] reach to the end of the earth?  Paul helps us out in his letter to the Romans:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, ESV)

What God has made has been witnessed by all people in all places of the earth ever since the beginning of creation so that no man has an excuse for not believing in the God of creation.  Since we live in the great age of missions Ps. 48.10 is now literally true as followers of Christ exist in every nation on earth and churches are rapidly being founded in every tongue and tribe as God’s name and praise and fame spread to the literal ends of the earth.

This is amazing and miraculous.

Spurgeon: “Great fame is due to his great name…What if men are silent, yet the woods, and seas, and mountains, with all their countless tribes, and all the unseen spirits that walk them, are full of the divine praise.”

“But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers,” (Acts 13:30–32, NASB95)

Paul makes an interesting comment here as he is preaching in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch. He recounts Jesus’ death and the fact that God raised him from the dead and then this: “We preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers.”  Literally, this can read: “We proclaimed the good news of the good news proclamation of the promise made to the fathers.”  “Preach” and “good news” in the Greek are the exact same word.

The “good news” was “of the promise made to the fathers.”  The word “promise” is used in every case but one in the New Testament to refer to the promises of God.  In other words, Paul is saying that God had promised something in the past and that God had now fulfilled/delivered on his promise and that fulfillment was to be found in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

What we are looking for as Jews, says Paul, is to be found in Jesus and only in Jesus.  A startling message to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch and many came to faith because of it.

Funny thing.  This same message applies to we who are Gentiles.  What we are looking for (something/someone to fix our sins to make us right with God) is to be found in the person and work of Jesus.

In other words, dear reader, Paul is speaking to you here.

But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12, ESV)

I love this verse. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel or of his imprisonment and suffering because of his proclamation of the gospel, not because of a stoic nature or because of incredible strength and courage, but because he knows in whom he believes.  He knows that God will not only sustain him in suffering, but that God will bring him safely home at the end of his days.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out: “He was trusting his own destiny to the same One who had entrusted him with the stewardship of the gospel.”

It was a trust which was well founded and well placed.