In Acts 15, it is critically important to understand what the dispute was about that called into existence what has since been labeled “the Jerusalem Council.” Some (Jewish) men traveled from Judea to Antioch and began teaching the believers there that even though they believed in Jesus they could not be saved unless they were circumcised in compliance with the law of Moses (15:1). Later history has attached the name Judaizers to these people.
From the perspective of the Judaizers, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and one could not really follow this Jewish Messiah without becoming a Jew. Doubtless some Jews felt threatened by this influx of uncircumcised Gentiles into the church: the Jewish self-identity was in terrible danger of being diluted and even lost. If these Gentiles all became Jews, however, as signaled by circumcision, that danger would dissolve.
Yet the issue is deeper than the question of Jewish self-identity. It finally develops into the question of how your whole Bible is put together. The Judaizers elevated the law of Moses above Jesus. Jesus could be accepted as the Messiah, only if the result was a group of people even more devoutly committed to obeying the Mosaic Covenant—food laws, circumcision, temple cults and all. By contrast, the leaders point in another direction. The law was never well obeyed by the Jews (15:10); why impose it on the Gentiles? More importantly, the revelation reflected in the old covenant points to Jesus. He is its goal, not its servant. Peter reminds the assembled crowd that in the Cornelius episode God poured out his Spirit on the Gentiles without their being circumcised (15:7-8). At issue, finally, is the freedom of God’s grace (15:11).
The reports of Paul and Barnabas prove helpful. James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus—by this time apparently the chief elder of the Jerusalem church— offers both a telling exposition of an Old Testament text and his own pastoral judgment (15:13-21). The combination wins the day—though the argument flares up repeatedly during the next few decades. Understand these issues aright, and your Bible comes together.
Tags: Acts, At issue: the freedom of God’s grace, Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Scripture
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, Charles Spurgeon, daily Bible, Matthew, Psalms, Scripture, sheep in the midst of wolves
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. —Matthew 10:16-20
After reading Psalm 23 today, “the Lord is my SHEPHERD”, I find it interesting that our New Testament passage is this one from Matthew where Jesus(The Good Shepherd) is sending us (sheep) into the midst of wolves, to face all kinds of dangers. We are not to be afraid, for the Holy Spirit will speak through us. He is our Shepherd and will lead us, even if it means we go through the shadow of the valley of death.
C. H. Spurgeon preached a sermon in 1877 entitled “Sheep Among Wolves.” Here is the introduction (you may click this link to read the entire sermon.)
First, here is a tender and loving Shepherd sending His sheep into the most dangerous position—“I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” It is the part of a shepherd to protect his sheep from the wolves, not to send them into the very midst of those ravenous beasts! And yet, here is the Good Shepherd, “that Great Shepherd of the sheep,” actually undertaking and carrying out this extraordinary experiment of conducting His sheep into the very midst of wolves. How strange it seems to poor carnal sense. Be astonished, but be not unbelieving—stand still awhile and study the reason.
The next remarkable thing is, “sheep in the midst of wolves,” because according to the order of Nature, such a thing is never seen, but, on the other hand, it has been reckoned a great calamity that in some lands wolves are too often seen in the midst of sheep! The wolf leaps into the midst of a flock and rips and tears on every side—it matters not how many the sheep may be—for one wolf is more than a match for a thousand sheep. But lo, here you see sheep sent forth among the wolves, as if they were the attacking party and were bent upon putting down their terrible enemies! It is a novel sight, such as Nature can never show, but Grace is fall of marvels!
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Dr. John Piper, God's commitment to God, Psalms, Scripture
Perhaps the most pervasive theme in all of Scripture is God’s passion for God. No, that’s not a misprint. Many would have preferred that I say, “God’s passion for you,” but if God isn’t first and foremost committed to himself and the pursuit and praise of his own glory, his love for you wouldn’t amount to much at all.
But let me return to this notion of God’s commitment to God. On what biblical grounds do I dare make what appears, at first glance, to be an outrageous and disheartening statement? Would it surprise you to discover that it is explicitly made known in over two hundred biblical texts? But my concern is with what we read in Psalm 23:3.
It may come as quite a shock to discover that in this psalm so beloved by Christians everywhere, a psalm typically understood as focusing on God’s commitment to us, that I would find God’s commitment to God! But there it is, in v. 23: “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Does it surprise you to learn that the driving force in God’s heart in restoring your soul and providing guidance for your life and enabling you to walk in righteousness is the fame of HIS name?
Before you too quickly dismiss me as heretical, consider these other explicit declarations, both in the Old and New Testaments, in which the fame of God’s name is his aim in all he does.
In Psalm 79:9, Asaph echoes this remarkable truth with this prayer: ”
“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake.”
One of the more vivid examples of this is found in 1 Samuel 12:22. There we read that,
“the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.”
Samuel says this on the heels of Israel’s demand that God give them a king. He repeatedly reminds them that to demand a king is evil and wicked and warns them of the disastrous consequences of not being satisfied with God as their Sovereign. Nevertheless, Samuel counsels them not to be afraid that God might abandon them or cast them aside. It would have made perfectly good sense had he done so, at least to our way of thinking. But he won’t, and here’s why: for his great name’s sake!
The underlying reason for God’s commitment to his people is his prior and more fundamental commitment to himself! God’s name is at stake in your destiny, says Samuel. What happens to you reflects on the glory of God’s reputation. That is why he will not cast you away.
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, D. A. Carson, daily Bible, Genesis, God intended this, God's sovereignty, Scripture
“Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” Genesis 50:19-20
D. A. Carson says in “For the Love of God, Volume 1, Feb 17 that we should reflect on what Joseph does not say.
He does not say that during a momentary lapse on God’s part, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but that God, being a superb chess player, turned the game around and in due course made Joseph prime minister of Egypt.
Still less does he say that God’s intention had been to send Joseph down to Egypt in a well-appointed chariot, but unfortunately Joseph’s brothers rather mucked up the divine plan, forcing God to respond with clever countermoves to bring about his own good purposes.
Rather, in the one event—the selling of Joseph into slavery—there were two parties, and two quite different intentions. On the one hand, Joseph’s brothers acted, and their intentions were evil; on the other, God acted, and his intentions were good. Both acted to bring about this event, but while the evil in it must be traced back to the brothers and no farther, the good in it must be traced to God.
This is a common stance in Scripture. It generates many complex, philosophical discussions. But the basic notion is simple. God is sovereign, and invariably good; we are morally responsible, and frequently evil.
Tags: Acts, apostles, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, January Bible Readings, Scripture
Acts 15:1-21 (ESV)
The Jerusalem Council
15:1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.  4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 “‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant  of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’
19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
Tags: Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, January Bible Readings, Matthew, Scripture
Matthew 10:1-20 (ESV)
The Twelve Apostles
10:1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;  4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,  cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics  nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Persecution Will Come
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Tags: Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, January Bible Readings, Psalms, Scripture, The 23rd Psalm
Psalm 23 (ESV)
The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. 
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness 
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely  goodness and mercy  shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell  in the house of the Lord
Tags: Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Genesis, January Bible Readings, Joseph, Scripture
Genesis 50 (ESV)
50:1 Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. 2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 Forty days were required for it, for that is how many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.
4 And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, 5 My father made me swear, saying, ‘I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.’ Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.” 6 And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” 7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8 as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. 9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. 10 When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days. 11 When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim;  it is beyond the Jordan. 12 Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, 13 for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place.14 After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.
God’s Good Purposes
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people  should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
The Death of Joseph
22 So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. 23 And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own.  24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Tags: Acts, Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Don't be surprised at suffering, Dr. John Piper, Scripture, theology of suffering
Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20). Or again he said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25).
Paul reminded the new believers on his missionary journeys, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And he told the believers in Rome that their sufferings were a necessary part of the path to eternal inheritance.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:16-18)
Peter too said that suffering is the normal pathway to God’s eternal blessing.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)
Suffering is the normal cost of godliness. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). I am aware that these words on suffering move back and forth between a more general suffering as part of the fall (Romans 8:18-25) and specific suffering owing to human hostilities. But I will argue later in chapter 3 that when it comes to God’s purposes in our suffering there is no substantial difference.
Prosperity preachers should include in their messages significant teaching about what Jesus and the apostles said about the necessity of suffering. It must come, Paul said (Acts 14:22), and we do young disciples a disservice not to tell them that early. Jesus even said it before conversion so that prospective believers would count the cost: “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, J.C.Ryle, Matthew, missions, our first duty is to pray!, Scripture, VVMI, vvmi.org
If we know anything of prayer, let us make it a point of conscience never to forget this solemn charge of our Lord’s. Let us settle it in our minds, that it is one of the surest ways of doing good, and stemming evil. Personal working for souls is good. Giving money is good. But praying is best of all. By prayer we reach Him without whom work and money are alike in vain. We obtain the aid of the Holy Spirit.
- Money can hire workers.
- Universities can give learning.
- Congregations may elect.
- Bishops may ordain.
But the Holy Spirit alone can make ministers of the Gospel, and raise up lay workmen in the spiritual harvest, who need not be ashamed.
Never, never may we forget that if we would do good to the world, our first duty is to pray!