Tag Archives: Jews

How Jesus Solves Our Real Problems

Acts chapter 15 is a chapter about the meaning of Christian faith. It is perhaps the most important chapter in the New Testament outside of the gospels. The books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews are based mostly on the decisions and statements made in Acts 15.

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The leaders of the early church were all Jewish converts, and by Acts 15 they were dealing with a crisis of faith as many Gentile converts were attempting to join the Christians. The leaders met in Jerusalem to discuss how to handle Gentiles who professed Jesus as Lord and Savior.

There were many in favor of making Gentiles get circumcised before they could call themselves Christians. Some wanted to go even farther and make them essentially become Jewish before they could become Christian. Others determined that Jesus had died for the sins of the world, and therefore his purpose was to save from sin, not to bring gentiles into Judaism.

The core of this question was a question of what the primary problem with humanity is.

To Jews, the big problem was that that so many people failed or outright refused to read the Old Testament and practice the teachings of the law. If everyone obeyed Genesis through Deuteronomy and paid attention to the prophets, then God’s kingdom would come to earth and there would be joy. This was the belief of the Pharisees and the vast majority of people in Israel. They expected God’s kingdom to come when they all got serious about obeying God’s commands.

To Gentile converts the biggest problem was that they had no access to God because they were sinful and he was perfect. They could not reach God because they were unworthy. Jesus solved this problem by taking their sin and imputing righteousness to them.

In Acts 15 the Jewish Christian leaders decided unanimously that Jesus had died for our sins, in order to save us, not so that we could be circumcised, but so that our sins would be washed away.

It may seem obvious now, but it was a meeting of extreme importance, and the outcome of the meeting ensured that true Christian faith and practice would be taught.

We owe a great deal to Peter, James, and the other leaders who agreed together in Acts 15.

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A Missions Trip With Paul and Barnabas

Acts chapter 13 is the first detailed description of a missions trip in the Bible. It begins this way:

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

This missions trip became the first of many for Paul, and it shows us several important principles about missionary work.

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You win some, you lose some

In Acts 13:4-12 Paul and Barnabas encountered a man named Bar-Jesus, who is a magician. He opposed them directly and constantly, and God blinded him, probably in a manner similar to the way Paul himself had been blinded by God.  When this happened it led directly to Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Paphos accepting Jesus as his lord and savior. Paul does this many times in his travels, willing to cast out demons or individuals who are opposing the gospel in order to bring Christ to others.

Mission’s trips do not always go as planned, even if you have extremely strong support.

Paul and Barnabas left Antioch, a thriving church, with the blessing from its great teachers and leaders. However, by verse 13, their helper John quit and went back to Jerusalem. This was not a friendly split either. We know from Acts 15 that Paul was deeply offended and distrustful of John for quitting. They were eventually brought back together as close friends, but on this first missionary journey it was a major source of conflict.

There is always a harvest, you just have to work to find it

Chapter 13 ends with the entire city of Pisidian Antioch coming to hear Paul and Barnabas teach about Jesus. Everything starts off well until a group of Jews gather around and directly argue and contradict them. When Paul hears it, he stops and tells them he will now preach among the gentiles because the Jews have rejected the message.

The Gentiles rejoice loudly about this, and praise God for his grace.

There is always a harvest, but you will encounter major opposition from outsiders as well as insiders. You must persevere and continue holding true to the message until you find an audience who will listen, whether it is one person or a whole city.

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Following Jesus and Having Your Mind Blown

This blog entry is the fourth in a seven day series counting down the days until York Springs Foursquare has its grand opening. You are invited, 10:30 AM Sept. 21!

In Acts chapter 10 Peter, the leader of the disciples and arguably the most important figure in the New Testament, (other than Jesus of course) finds himself being challenged by God in ways that he had not foreseen, and would struggle with for a long time.

I would call Acts 10 a turning point, but in reality, it was not. It was the plan all along. The only reason it is a major turning point in church history is because the disciples did not understand the full scope of their job on the first day, and had limited their own thinking. Because of their own limitations, they had avoided the Gentile world, which was actually the vast majority of the world. Continue reading Following Jesus and Having Your Mind Blown