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Matthew 10 – The Apostles’ First Mission Trip

Jesus Sending Forth Apostles by Duccio Buoninsegna

So Jesus sends out the Twelve Apostles to tell people that the Kingdom of God has come near and perform miracles of compassion to those in need.  I think that when we visualize this passage, we imagine the Apostles going out and preaching like we often read about the Apostles or Paul doing in the book of Acts.  However, this is taking place before the cross.  This is taking place before the Feast of Pentecost.  This is before they can offer salvation to anybody.

So if the Apostles aren’t preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified, and if they aren’t going into all these communities making disciples of all people baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins….what in the world are the doing?  What is this trip all about?

They aren’t supposed to take money.  They need to learn how to deal with those who accept them and those who reject them.  They must learn how to live on little and depend on the generosity of others.  They must learn to be bold and learn to show kindness.

When I read this passage, it always seems to me that Jesus’ focus is much more on the messengers than the message or the recipients.  Peter has caught a lot of fish, but not he gets to go preach.  Judas will eventually betray Jesus, but on this day he is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is near.  James and John will later ask to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when he comes into the Kingdom, but today they simply proclaim that Kingdom to strangers.  It’s kinda scary to think about how very little these twelve men understand God’s Kingdom, but they are all proclaiming it in a bunch of cities.

Jesus knows they aren’t ready to turn the world upside down and create thousands of followers.  In fact, if they had suddenly come back with a passionate horde, Jesus certainly would have found some way to care for and then dismiss the crowd.  This mission trip is a training exercise for the twelve men who must be ready to preach on Pentecost.  When Jesus is gone, the entire Kingdom of God will rest on the ability of these men to go into cities, boldly proclaim the Gospel, depend on others’ generosity, deal with rejection, and handle the power of God’s Holy Spirit working through them.

Can you imagine how relieved Jesus must have been when they came back enthusiastic and with reports of success?  If Jesus was going to succeed, it was going to happen through these men.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Matthew

 

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2 Timothy 4 – Ear-Tickling Good

Earlier this week I was reading an article from Outreach Magazine that discussed the oft quoted idea that sometimes your greatest form of evangelism is how you live your life.  The article, found here puts forth the idea that evangelism requires words.  Personally, I agree with this idea.  I think that how we live our lives as Christians is extremely important and can open doors (or more accurately, living badly can slam doors shut) for evangelism to take place.  But at the end of the day, evangelism requires a believer who is willing to tell somebody what it is they believe.

Use Your Words Well

In this chapter, Paul is giving Timothy valuable ministry instructions.  Always be willing, at any time of the year and in any situation to preach the word.  And don’t get the visual of a pulpit here.  Neither Paul nor Timothy ever stood behind a pulpit preaching from their notes to a large number of people in pews.  Those are all constructs of the modern church.  Preaching simply meant sharing your faith and what you knew to be true about the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that others could be saved.  And what are the three main things your teaching should accomplish: correcting, rebuking, and and encouraging.  This should come as no surprise if you have read Paul’s epistles which endlessly correct, rebuke and encourage the church.  Correction applies when somebody is teaching, preaching, or believing in something other than what the Apostles (Paul included) taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rebuke is when somebody begins intentionally living in sin or in opposition to God’s will.  And encouragement is what helps people doing well to keep doing well.

E. Torrini’s “Older Gentlemen Tickling the Ear of His Wife”

He cautions Timothy to avoid messages that will “tickle people’s ears.”  This is often watered down to simply mean “preachers shouldn’t just preach easy, happy sermons all the time.”  But that’s not necessarily the case.  After all, Paul dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel, that is the Good News of Jesus.  Preaching should be good and should be good news.  What he is saying is that Christians should not compromise the first two obligations mentioned above, namely correcting and rebuking, in order to not offend.  Ear-tickling-sermons are those that offer encouragement specifically to those who need correcting and rebuking.  And when ministers effectively do this, they protect the sound doctrine or healthy teachings of the church.

Other Concluding Stuff

Paul’s letter takes a dark and personal turn here.  Paul seems to realize that his time is drawing short in this section.  He makes sure that Timothy and the church know the names of several who have betrayed him and abandoned him.  If Alexander was causing problems for Timothy, this letter would have helped Timothy to reestablish some authority and position over Alexander in the church.

As always, Paul throws in a few greetings at the end.  Luke is still with him and was with him throughout much of his imprisonment.  I think that Paul likely contributed heavily to Luke’s writings, especially providing his own account of the events in Acts during this time.  Paul mentions Erastus, who stayed in Corinth.  I have seen the Erastus Stone in Corinth, which many believe to have indicated that this same Erastus possibly donated a street as a citizen funded civic project and as such had his name engraved on it.  It can still be seen today.  Pretty cool stuff.  

 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in 2 Timothy, Pauline Epistles

 

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1 Corinthians 9 – Paul is Accused of Being a Televangelist

Paul has been accused of being a televangelist…well…kinda. He’s been accused of taking advantage of the Gospel and using it to take land, possessions, etc. from Christians. Therefore, he speaks of his ministry, declaring openly that he is an apostle, an eyewitness of the glory of Christ, who has seen the Lord. He is without a doubt an apostle to those in Corinth though others may deny his apostleship. It is within God’s will that those who preach the gospel should live on it and by it. Paul had these rights but did not use them so that he would do nothing to hinder the Gospel. He says that he had the right to take for himself a wife, as Peter and others had, but did not do so.

Paul was so focused on his call from the Lord to preach the Gospel that he had no other focus. He did not want anything to hinder what God has celled him to do. Woe to him if he failed to do it!! Being free from any group of people he then could be a servant to all people and move about freely proclaiming the Gospel, so he might win as many as possible.

In every way possible, Paul made himself like those around him in order that he might discover the truth within them so that he could bring God’s Truth to them where they are. He didn’t have one approach to sharing the Gospel. He did everything he could to adapt it, without watering it down, in order that all might be saved.

Paul gives up his rights in order that the Gospel not be hindered. He will call them to this same mindset in other areas. We are to do nothing that hinders the Gospel even if we are in the right. The unhindered proclamation of the Gospel was of upmost importance. This means that we as believers have to understand the people we preach to and the culture we are in so that our actions will not get in the way of God’s saving work in the Gospel.

In the race, all runners run in a way to get the prize. Paul examines each step he takes and makes sure to not run aimlessly but as one who is focused on the end. Run in this way. Know where you are going. Know your purpose and make every effort to always move in that direction. Sometimes this will mean giving up your rights for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel.

 

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Acts 17 – Know Your Audience

I love Acts 17. It shows the diversity of work that Paul was doing. Luke provides a contrast between the Jews in Thessalonica and Berea. When it came to discussion/debate about Jesus being the Messiah, the Jews in Berea are of more noble character because they were actually searching Scripture for Truth! How often do we allow ourselves to enter into debate with others without actually opening Scripture. There is a more noble way…let’s follow the example of the Bereans!

I’ve stood on Mars Hill in Athens where Paul spoke to the Areopagus and have walked through the ancient market place where all of the sacrifices were made. Seeing all of that makes this section come to life even more for me.

Paul had a great ability to speak to where people were. When speaking to the Jews, as we have seen above, he reasoned from Scripture. When speaking to the Greeks, he used objects from their culture. He quoted their poets. He looked for where he could find truth in the things they were already doing and used those bits of truth to reveal Truth to them.

What is the alter to the “Unknown God”?

Sometime in the sixth century before Christ, the city of Athens was being devastated and decimated by a mysterious plague. The people began making sacrifices to the city’s many gods in order to appease whoever was offended in order for the plague to stop. When no relief came, the city’s leaders brought in an outside “consultant” from the Island of Cyprus, whose name was Epimenides, the poet whom Paul quotes in his sermon.

Epimenides concluded that it was none of the known gods of Athens which had been offended, but an unknown god. He proposed a course of action which, if it worked, would at least provide a possible remedy for the plague. He had a flock of choice sheep, of various colors, kept from food until they were hungry. On the given day, he had these sheep turned loose on Mars Hill, on what was a very succulent pasture. For any sheep not to have eaten his fill would have been unexplainable. He had the sheep turned loose and watched carefully, to see if any sheep would lie down and not eat, even though hungry and in prime grazing. Several sheep, to the amazement of those watching, did lie down. Altars were erected at each spot where a sheep lay down, dedicated to an “unknown god.” On those altars, the sheep which lay in that spot was sacrificed. Almost immediately, we are told, the plague began to subside.

Over a period of time, the altars were forgotten, and began to deteriorate. One altar, it seems, was restored and preserved, in commemoration of the removal of the plague by calling upon the “unknown god.” A few centuries later a foreigner named Paul came in and made reference to this alter as the starting point for his sermon on Mars Hill.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Acts, Bible Blog

 

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