Now here comes Paul into Greek-speaking Corinth, and he teaches them about this word “Amen,” – just as if he were to come to us today with a new Hebrew word we didn’t know. What did he teach them? Well, we can see behind 1 Corinthians 14. Paul is concerned that the gift of tongues is being abused in public so that people are speaking what nobody can understand. He is not rejecting the gift of tongues. But he is putting something way above it in the Christian assembly. He is saying that edification comes not by amazement at miracles, but edification comes by the understanding of God. That’s why verse 19 says that five intelligible words that help you understand God are better than a thousand unintelligible words that make you tremble with amazement.
Paul is extremely zealous that public speaking (whether prayer or preaching) be an event of group understanding and group agreement – not one person doing his own thing and others boggled. Not even one person doing his own thing and others understanding and silent. What then? His answer is just beneath the surface in verses 15-16:
What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?
Paul assumes something here. He assumes that when a public prayer is made, other people besides the one praying say, “Amen.” Let’s not miss this. It seems to matter to Paul. He could have just said: don’t pray in tongues because nobody can understand you and so nobody is built up in their faith, because faith comes by an understood word of Christ. Or he could have said always have an interpretation. But he said more. He said (verse 16): If you pray so people can’t understand you, how will they say “Amen”?
“Amen” Affirms Others in the Body
What if someone says to Paul, “I don’t care if people say “Amen” to my prayers”? Or what if someone says, “That’s not my tradition or my personality to say anything out loud in a group”? What would Paul say? I think he would say, This is not about personal taste. It’s not about traditions of high church or low church. It’s not about culture, say, African-American culture versus Swedish-American culture. It’s about God’s will for corporate worship, rooted in age-old Biblical patterns of prayer and preaching, and captured in a word that crosses all cultures.
I think he would say, God is calling us not to be isolated, silent, encapsulated individuals in worship. Privately coming, privately hearing, privately going, with no one able to tell what we love and cherish and long for, because we haven’t expressed resonance – an echo, an empathy – with anything. I think he would say that God is calling us out of our cocoons of emotional isolation and invisible, inaudible, unshared responsiveness. I think he would say, it’s God’s will that we echo the excellence of God in preaching and prayer – that we express our affirmation of the truth of God in the Word, and that we resonate verbally with Godward longings and yearnings in prayer.
Let me mention two more reasons for making more of this than we do, and then close with some practical suggestions. Consider 2 Corinthians 1:20. This is the passage that gives “Amen” its clearest and deepest meaning. “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him [that is, in Christ] they are yes [which is a translation of "amen"]; therefore, also through Him is our ‘Amen’ to the glory of God through us.”
Now what Paul is doing here is precisely what I am trying to do this morning. He is taking the familiar word “Amen,” and trying to fill it back up with the theological freight that words so quickly lose, so that it has meaning and weight and power to it when we use it.
Archive for the ‘Acts’ Category
Piper: God is calling us out of our cocoons of emotional isolation and invisible, inaudible, unshared responsivenessPosted: April 21, 2013 by Pam Larson in Acts, April, Devotionals/Commentaries
Tags: Piper: God is calling us out of our cocoons of emotional isolation and invisible inaudible unshared responsiveness
Tags: Acts, Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Luke, Progress in proclaiming the Gospel, Scripture
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Acts 28:28-31 ESV
One final word about the supposedly “sudden and abrupt” ending of the Book of Acts. Many have noted the unusual ending of Acts. Some have explained this ending by suggesting that Luke intended to write yet another volume. I think that the ending of Acts is both beautiful, and enlightening. Consider with me the way that Luke ends this work as we conclude this message.
There are some very obvious facts that are not given to us in Acts before the book ends. We are not told of Paul’s fate, or of the outcome of his trial. We are not told of the fall of Jerusalem. We are left without any word on these matters, matters which we would very much like to know more about.
I am not inclined to believe that Luke omitted these things because they had not yet happened, though this may be the case. If they had not yet happened, they would take place very soon after the Book of Acts came to a close. Regardless of the reasons why more information is not included, it was not included, and this must be in accordance with the purposes of God, and especially His purposes for this book.
Luke does tell us that “two full years” passed, during which Paul was free to proclaim the gospel and to minister to all who came to him (28:30-31). The expression “two full years” suggests to me that Luke may have known the outcome of Paul’s trial, and also of the fate of Israel and Jerusalem. If so, he did not include them in his book. Why not?
I think I know the answer, an answer which should prove to be very enlightening to each and every Christian today. Luke’s purpose was not to provide us with a book that has a “happily ever after” ending. Much of our uneasiness with the ending of Acts is that we don’t have a fairy tale conclusion. What Luke does tell us, however, is that the gospel was proclaimed to the “remotest part of the earth” just as Jesus had said (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:6-8). It is the progress of the proclamation of the gospel which is foremost in Luke’s mind, and the Book of Acts makes this progress very clear.
Tags: Acts, apostles, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, February Bible Readings, Scripture
Acts 28:17-31 (ESV)
Paul in Rome
17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people, and say,
You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 
30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense,  and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Tags: Acts, Anchor from Paul's Shipwreck Found off Malta, Anchors provide confirmation of the accuracy and truth in Acts, Bible, Bible daily, Bible study, daily Bible, Scripture
In recent years, BASE Institute has been involved in painstaking research into Luke’s amazingly detailed account of Paul’s voyage and shipwreck off the coast of Malta, as recorded in Acts 27-28. This is exciting confirmation of the accuracy and truth in the Bible.
In approximately 60 A.D., a ship carrying 276 men and a cargo of grain shipwrecked off the coast of Malta. Two of the passengers on that ship were the biblical writers Paul and Luke, who were on their way to Rome–Paul as a prisoner, and Luke as his attending physician and friend. Through Luke’s meticulously-detailed account of the voyage and shipwreck, as recorded in Acts chapter 27, we can today undertake a journey back in time to find the remains of that shipwreck. And, even more precisely, we can attempt to find the four anchors described in the Bible that were abandoned in the sea.
“When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves” (Acts 27:39-41).
For the past 500 years, tradition has held that the shipwreck of Paul occurred at St. Paul’s Bay on the northeast shore of Malta, a view held by the people of Malta today. But the biblical narrative and geography of the Mediterranean and Malta tell us that the site of the shipwreck must be located somewhere other than the traditional site, where no physical evidence has been found to-date, in spite of extensive research and exploration.
In order to solve this biblical mystery, we need to review the biblical narrative written by Luke. Luke was a trusted historian and medical professional, whose careful attention to detail will prove invaluable in our quest. Eventhough Luke uses nautical terms which were understood at the time but have vague meaning today, extensive research involving weather, ocean topography, landmarks, and maritime lore, gives us a well-defined path of the ship that the Apostle Paul was sailing on in the Mediterranean Sea….
Here is the conclusion at the Base Institute website:
All of these factors, taken together, argue convincingly not only that today’s St. Thomas’ Bay is the correct site of Paul’s shipwreck, but also, that the four anchors recently retrieved from those waters were the very anchors mentioned in Acts 27. As such, that one anchor may well be the only artifact mentioned in the New Testament that has been recovered and preserved in our era–nearly two thousand years after the fact.
[Bob Cornuke can be contacted at the Biblical Archaeology Search & Exploration (BASE) Institute: (719) 540-9799 or www.baseinstitute.org.]
Tags: Acts, apostles, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, February Bible Readings, Scripture
Acts 28:1-16 (ESV)
Paul on Malta
28:1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people  showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice  has not allowed him to live.”5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.10 They also honored us greatly,  and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.
Paul Arrives at Rome
11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods  as a figurehead.12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers  and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him.
When God does the impossible, no man can lay claim to any part of the glory that belongs only to HimPosted: February 23, 2013 by Pam Larson in Acts, Devotionals/Commentaries, February
Tags: Acts, Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, God Loves Impossible Situations!, God's sovereignty, Scripture, When God does the impossible no man can lay claim to any part of the glory that belongs only to Him
Two full weeks had passed, and the storm showed no sign of weakening. No one had seen the sun, the moon, or the stars for many days (verse 20). Since ancient sailors navigated by the heavens, this meant they had no idea where they were. The ship was being driven about at the mercy of the wind. All hope of survival was gone. When all human hope is gone, the stage has been set for our omnipotent God to intervene.
Have you ever noticed how often God brings men to this point before He intervenes? God promised an elderly couple they would have a son, and then waited 25 years to make certain that this would be a miracle. But that child – Isaac – was born, just as God said (Genesis 12-21). God put Israel between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, so that there appeared to be no way out. Only then did God part the sea, so that the Israelites passed through on dry ground (Exodus 13:17—14:31). God instructed Gideon to reduce his warriors from 32,000 to 300 men, and then ordered him to wage war on the Midianites, who were as numerous as “the sand on the seashore” (Judges 7:12). Needless to say, God gave Gideon the victory. King Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem were surrounded by the Assyrian army. They were hopelessly outnumbered, but the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 in one night, and thus the army withdrew and went home (Isaiah 36-37). God loves impossible situations, because when He does the impossible, no man can lay claim to any part of the glory that belongs only to Him.
Tags: Acts, apostles, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, February Bible Readings, Scripture
Acts 27:27-44 (ESV)
27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms.  A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms.  29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow,31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.
33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276  persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.
39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef,  they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Tags: Acts, Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, Charles Spurgeon, daily Bible, Encouragement amidst the storms of life, Scripture
Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:18-26 (Our Bible reading passage for today)
C.H. Spurgeon writes in Morning and Evening:
TEMPEST and long darkness, coupled with imminent risk of shipwreck, had brought the crew of the vessel into a sad case; one man alone among them remained perfectly calm, and by his word the rest were reassured. Paul was the only man who had heart enough to say, “Sirs, be of good cheer.” There were veteran Roman legionaries on board, and brave old mariners, and yet their poor Jewish prisoner had more spirit than they all. He had a secret Friend who kept his courage up. The Lord Jesus despatched a heavenly messenger to whisper words of consolation in the ear of His faithful servant; therefore he wore a shining countenance, and spake like a man at ease.
If we fear the Lord, we may look for timely interpositions when our case is at its worst. Angels are not kept from us by storms, or hindered by darkness. Seraphs think it no humiliation to visit the poorest of the heavenly family. If angel’s visits are few and far between at ordinary times, they shall be frequent in our nights of tempest and tossing. Friends may drop from us when we are under pressure, but our intercourse with the inhabitants of the angelic world shall be more abundant; and in the strength of love-words, brought to us from the throne by the way of Jacob’s ladder, we shall be strong to do exploits. Dear reader, is this an hour of distress with you? then ask for peculiar help. Jesus is the angel of the covenant, and if His presence be now earnestly sought, it will not be denied. What that presence brings in heart-cheer those remember who, like Paul, have had the angel of God standing by them in a night of storm, when anchors would no longer hold, and rocks were nigh.
“O angel of my God, be near,
Amid the darkness hush my fear;
Loud roars the wild tempestuous sea;
Thy presence, Lord, shall comfort me.”
Tags: Acts, apostles, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, February Bible Readings, Paul, Scripture
Acts 27:1-26 (ESV)
Paul Sails for Rome
27:1 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. 2 And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 3 The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. 4 And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. 5 And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast  was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
The Storm at Sea
13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda,  we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear,  and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo.19 And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”
Tags: Acts, Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Scripture, Unlikely converts
The apostle Paul was actively opposing the church when Jesus stopped him dead in his tracks and turned him around. He was on a war against Christianity. He was not seeking after the truth. He was convinced that he knew the truth. But Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. Paul described his conversion in Acts 26 as a radical transformation.
Dr. Rosaria Butterfield is another unlikely convert.
“I tried to toss the Bible and all of its teachings in the trash — I really tried,” she says. “But I kept reading it, reading it not just for pleasure, but reading it because I was engaged in a research program trying to refute the religious right from a lesbian feminist perspective. . . . After my second or third, maybe fourth, pass through the entire Bible something started to happen. The Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. And it absolutely overflowed into my world. I really fought against it. And then one Sunday morning, no different from any other Sunday morning, I rose from the bed of my lesbian lover, and an hour later I sat in a pew at the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. I went there very conspicuous of the fact that I didn’t fit in. But I really had to confront this God.”
And she did.
In embracing the biblical Jesus, she found herself “a single ex-lesbian with a now defunct PhD,” the words she uses in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith (26).
Her conversion landed her into “a complicated and comprehensive chaos” (27). “This was my conversion in a nutshell: I lost everything but the dog” (63).
But in return she found life in Christ.