On a road trip some children (and adults) keep a journal. Luke seems to have kept one as he accompanied the Apostle Paul as he neared the end of his third missionary journey, recorded in Acts 20:1–16. But Luke is not just recording random travel items. His focus is on the risen Savior working through his powerful Spirit.
Walk the path your Savior walked. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. Following the uproar in Ephesus, he traveled to Macedonia, Greece, and surrounding areas. This may have included other extensive missionary work, Romans 15:19. During this time he also wrote 1 Corinthians while Ephesus, 2 Corinthians from Macedonia, and Romans from Corinth or Cenchrea. Luke is present as this is a “we” passage. Luke had recorded a journey in his first volume (Luke 9:51; 13:22; 19:28), with which he may be drawing a parallel. The journeys share a conviction of coming suffering, Luke 18:31; Acts 20:22. Paul’s suffering is not redemptive, nor is yours, but if you are a joint heir of Christ, expect to suffer with him. You may not be on a road trip, but you are journeying through life. You have a destination in view.
Continue reading “On to Jerusalem for Pentecost”
The Astorian had an article several years ago about an artisan in Astoria who had started making images of Thor, Woden, and other gods to assist people in worshiping the old Norse gods. Given the neo-paganism of our modern culture and the ethnic background of many residents of the north coast, this person hoped to make a living in that way. Even modern mankind looks for power, for an ability to control life, and tends to look in the wrong places. Some Oregonians, like the Ephesians, see nothing wrong with idolatry—especially if there’s a profit to be made from it. In Acts 19:17–20, you are pointed to the power of the word of God.
Do not turn away from God. Mankind seeks power from other gods. For the Ephesians the proper worship of Artemis, the fertility goddess, ensured good crops and prosperity. Magical practices were common. “Ephesian scripts” was a term for (expensive) written incantations. The activity of Sceva and his sons was an indication of the influence of magic and spells. Today some openly identify their religion as Wician. Many more consider themselves spiritual, but not part of an organized religion. Others, perhaps in politics or business, are less concerned with “spirituality,” but more interested in raw power. Governments become more totalitarian, requiring compliance with whatever the current politically correct dogma is.
Continue reading “The Power of the Word”
How does God bring wandering people to himself? Luke provides an answer in Acts 18:24–26. He uses people who know and speak his Word. Sometimes he uses eloquent preachers like Apollos, other times ordinary members of his church like Priscilla and Aquila.
Recognize that Jesus Christ is the Way. Appreciate the unique position of those who stood between the old and the new. “The Way” is used with some frequency in Acts to describe believers. But, as with many New Testament terms, it has roots that reach deep into the Old Testament. Think of Israel being led on their way through the wilderness by the presence of God in the pillar of cloud and fire. The term is used in the prophets, especially in Isaiah, to describe the way back from exile—but with a sense that there is more going on than what we see recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. Isaiah 40 tells of a voice in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord, words that John the Baptist used to describe himself. Jesus himself is the Way. His followers are identified in Acts as those of the Way, a description used long before the label “Christian” was applied to them. Acts shows how the understanding of the Way grows, and first Samaritans, then Gentiles join Jews who believe in Jesus on the Way.
Continue reading “The Way of God”
“This name for the Christian movement, ‘the Way,’ thus designates that the Christians were the true end-time Israel beginning to fulfill the prophecies of Israel’s return from exile. They were on ‘the Way’ out of exile to returning to God. The name ‘the Way’ indicates that one could begin to participate in the restoration journey by believing in Christ and joining others who already believed and were walking on ‘the Way,’ progressing in their new-exodus journey. Consequently, ‘the Way’ described both those first joining it and those who had belonged to it for some time, so that the name included reference to a manner of ongoing Christian living as part of a restoration journey.”
G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, p. 858
Christians face deep suffering in many parts of the world. In our country immorality has not only become politically correct, it is rapidly becoming the law of the land. In our own lives we face challenges and trials. Are you becoming discouraged? You have company—the Apostle Paul. In Acts 18:9–10, Luke points you to the encouragement the Lord gave his servant—and gives you as well.
Jesus Christ is with you. He is with you even in difficult situations. Its location made it a commercial power, but also became a proverbial center of immorality. Those temptations continued to plague the church that was planted there, as Paul’s first letter to that body indicates. Paul had faced a pattern of strong, violent opposition. While we are not told explicitly that the apostle was discouraged, that is a fair conclusion given the content of the vision. You face opposition from outside and discouragement from within.
Continue reading “Christ and His People in this City”
How do you reach people who are ignorant of God’s Word with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you have to change the message? Luke, in Acts 17:16–34, describes how Paul brought the good news to a sophisticated, pagan city. Athens as Paul experienced it seems distant in time as well as geography from the splendor of Oregon’s Cascades and forested hills. Yet, in many ways, you live in a suburb of Athens.
Athens does not appear to have been a planned part of Paul’s itinerary on this second missionary journey. His stay was a respite from persecution in Thessalonica and Berea. Yet he could not simply be a tourist. His proclaiming the gospel summons you to call your neighbors to repent of idolatry. That means you need to recognize what idolatry is. Even in ruins the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens is magnificent. The temple to Athena Parthenos, already 400 years old when Paul saw it, crowned the city full of beautifully carved idols, images of the gods, numbering in the thousands. The golden age of the glory of Greece had passed, but Athens still basked in its remnants. It was renowned not only for its architecture, but also for its philosophy and learning. Athenians considered themselves true aboriginals. Everyone else had a story of where the had come from, but they (they thought) were the original people of that place. Paul preached in the synagogue, but on other days was in the public markets, engaging the people. As he saw the many idols he was “greatly distressed,” the word from which we get paroxysms. The word was used to translate the Lord’s indignation at idolatry, Deuteronomy 9:18; Isaiah 65:3; Hosea 8:5. He preached the good news of Jesus and the resurrection, and perhaps was misunderstood as suggesting that the Athenians add a god named Jesus and a goddess named resurrection (anastasia) to their collection of deities. Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to engage him, and he was invited to explain himself more fully at a meeting of the Areopagus.
Continue reading “Are Your Neighbors Athenian Suburbanites?”