In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs, “Love your enemies.” It’s a hard teaching, so the Bible shows us how it’s done. The story of Ananias and Saul after the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9) beautifully illustrates it.
It cannot have been a comfortable experience for either one of them. In their own ways, both men had to face and conquer fear. In both cases, it meant acting contrary to closely held beliefs.
We normally think of prophets as being Old Testament characters. The New Testament acknowledges prophets and even names a few. Agabus gives us a rare chance to see one in action.
The Bible mentions Agabus only twice. In Acts 11:27-30, he shows up at the church in Antioch to predict a severe worldwide famine. In Acts 21:8-14 he accosts Paul on his way to Jerusalem to say he would be bound there and handed to Gentiles. Luke apparently didn’t expect his readers to remember Agabus by that time, so he introduced him all over again.
Among their many treasures, Paul’s epistles contain a lot of prayers, which we can use as models and lessons on prayer. His shortest epistle, the one to Philemon, has a gem.
While in a Roman prison, Paul met a man named Onesimus, grew quite fond of him, and came to rely on him. Onesimus had come to Rome from Paul’s old missionary territory back in modern Turkey.
When Paul wrote letters, he couldn’t just put a stamp on them and expect the post office to deliver them. He had to enlist the help of trusted couriers. Who better than Onesimus to carry Ephesians and Colossians back to his home?… Read the rest
We don’t pay as much attention to hope as to faith and love. I even heard a faith preacher disparage hope. He said it’s wrong to hope instead of believe. But Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. How can we believe without hoping? How can we have real faith without real hope?
Part of the problem is that the technical vocabulary of Christianity seems so simple. If you see “polyphosphazenes” and you’re not a chemist, you know only know it’s technical jargon. You won’t misuse that word, if you ever try to use it at all.… Read the rest
God keeps his promises. Often not as soon as we’d like. And often not in ways we anticipated. The beginning of Paul’s ministry in Philippi serves as a perfect example of an answer that may have looked at first like a disappointment.
Acts 16:1-15 describes the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. He had begun it by visiting the churches he had founded on the first journey.
The chapter begins with Paul in Lystra and Derbe in the province of Galatia (part of Asia Minor, or modern Turkey).
From there he and his team planned to start new churches in the neighboring province of Asia.… Read the rest
For some of us, the best exercise we get is jumping to conclusions. That is, we make snap judgments without having all the necessary facts.
A very minor Bible character, Claudius Lysias, jumped to a lot of conclusions. As each proved false, he jumped to another one. He never did find out whom he had in custody.
We don’t learn his name until the very end of his story, but he was the Roman tribune in Jerusalem about 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He saved Paul from lynching and never quite knew what to do next.
Does the Bible contain contradictions? It can appear so.
Paul wrote, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28), and a few lines later, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God” (Romans 4:2).
James, on the other hand, wrote, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? . . . You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:21, 24).
Upon close examination of these verses in context, however, the apparent contradiction disappears.… Read the rest
There is a common teaching that God intended that there would be only 12 apostles. When Judas killed himself, Peter and the church chose Matthias to take his place, but later God overruled them and chose Paul. Then how come the New Testament names other men—and a woman—as apostles?
In order to believe the teaching that the appointment of Matthias was a mistake, it is necessary to believe that
Peter acted impulsively, having been misled in his prayer and meditation on the Word as described in Acts 1.
After Peter and the entire assembly prayed, the Holy Spirit allowed them to make a fundamental error and start the whole church on the wrong foot.