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.
Archive for the ‘January’ Category
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, 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!
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, Charles Spurgeon, daily Bible, God's sovereignty, Psalms, Scripture, Treasury of David, Yet you are holy
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
(Psalm 22:2-3 ESV)
However ill things may look, there is no ill in thee, O God! We are very apt to think and speak hardly of God when we are under his afflicting hand, but not so the obedient Son. He knows too well his Father’s goodness to let outward circumstances libel his character. There in no unrighteousness with the God of Jacob, he deserves no censure; let him do what he will, he is to be praised, and to reign enthroned amid the songs of his chosen people. If prayer be unanswered it is not because God is unfaithful, but for some other good and weighty reason. If we cannot perceive any ground for the delay, we must leave the riddle unsolved, but we must not fly in God’s face in order to invent an answer. While the holiness of God is in the highest degree acknowledged and adored, the afflicted speaker in this verse seems to marvel how the holy God could forsake him, and be silent to his cries. The argument is, thou art holy, Oh! why is it that thou dost disregard thy holy One in his hour of sharpest anguish? We may not question the holiness of God, but we may argue from it, and use it as a plea in our petitions.
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Genesis, Scripture, These names describe our story
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. Genesis 49:28
Each of the sons was blessed by Jacob (Israel) before he died. Genesis 49 is full of prophecies, all very interesting. Here is a list of the 12 tribes in the order listed in Revelation chapter 7, a bit different than the way they are listed in Genesis 49, along with the meaning of each name:
- 1. Judah = “I will praise the Lord”
- 2. Reuben = “He has looked on me”
- 3. Gad = “Granted good fortune”
- 4. Asher = “Happy am I”
- 5. Naphtali = “My wrestling”
- 6. Manasseh = “Making me to forget”
- 7. Simeon = “God hears me”
- 8. Levi = “Joined to me”
- 9. Issachar = “Purchased Me”
- 10. Zebulun = “Dwelling”
- 11. Joseph = “God will add to me”
- 12. Benjamin = “Son of His right hand”
Now, look what happens when the meaning of the names are combined, in the same order, into a paragraph:
“I will praise the Lord for He has looked on me and granted good fortune. Happy am I because my wrestling God is making me to forget. God hears me and is joined to me. He has purchased me a dwelling. God will add to me the Son of His right hand.” (A few connecting words are inserted to complete each thought.)
These names describe our story …. struggle, redemption, victory, and marriage to the Lamb.
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Matthew, Scripture, The Lamb's Wife.... the Bride of Jesus
Matthew 9:14-15 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
What an incredible thing we learn about Jesus in this passage! Jesus is our bridegroom and we are His bride, all of us who have put our faith and trust in Him. He loves us with a deep and everlasting love. We are “one with Christ.” He pays all of our debts to God. He supplies all of our daily needs. He sympathizes with all our troubles. He bears all our sins, and does not reject us in our weaknesses. Those that persecute us are persecuting Him. We will one day share in His glory, and where He is, that’s where we will be. Incredible privileges of the Bride of Jesus: us! We will be the Lamb’s wife. (Rev. 19:7.) What a blessing for those who believe!
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, Charles Spurgeon, daily Bible, Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight!, Psalms, Scripture, the cross of Christ, Treasury of David
From Spurgeon’s introduction to his commentary on Psalm 22 in The Treasury of David:
This is beyond all others THE PSALM OF THE CROSS. It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a casual reader may see that it might have been. It begins with, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and ends, according to some, in the original with “It is finished.” For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this psalm, “there is none like it.” It is the photograph of our Lord’s saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but, as the star is concealed by the light of the sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see nor care to see David. Before us we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow. Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this psalm.