In this section of scripture we see Paul and his associates travelling through parts of the old world preaching to the people in different cities and regions.
Preaching the Word
There are a few insights we can gather from what they did and how they approached the people. It is worth looking at these to see how they were being led by The Lord to take the gospel of the kingdom of God to the world as they went about preaching the word.
Here is a conundrum. In the last few few posts I have been looking at how Paul and Barnabas argued with some members of the early church who were pushing for the new Gentile churches to be taught that they must be circumcised.
Becoming like a Jew to win Jews
Paul and Barnabas hotly opposed these men and to get a resolution they took the issue up to the elders and apostles in Jerusalem for a decision. There was a lengthy debate and discussion as both sides of the issue were presented and reviewed eventually leading to a decision that the Gentiles churches did NOT have to be circumcised nor keep the old law.
Now we see Paul come to Derbe and Lystra where he met up with Timothy. Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer but his father was a Greek, that is, a Gentile. Timothy was also a disciple and we are told he was well thought of by the people of Lystra.
Now here is the conundrum. Upon meeting Timothy, Paul took him aside and circumcised him! After all of the disputes with others and the decision that circumcision was not necessary, he goes and circumcised Timothy.
This seems to directly contravene all that had happened before and so the question arises, did Paul lie? Did he make a mistake previously in opposing circumcision?
The answer is a rsounding NO. So we need to understand what was going on here and why Paul took this path.
Usually I post every third day or so, but it has been more than that since my last post here. The reason why is because I am baffled as to what to write since this section of scripture concerns the split in the partnership of the apostles Paul and Barnabas.
One of the great partnerships in the bible was the partnership of Paul and Barnabas. They had been brought together through a prophecy to do a work for The Lord.
Why did this happen?
And now we see in this section that a sharp contention arose between them and the partnership ended.
Why? What went wrong? Why did they split up? What was the argument all about that would cause these two great men of God to separate and go their separate ways?
Well I have to say…I don't really know! Yes that's right, I don't know, so everything I will have to say in this post is pure speculation. Let's have a look at what went on and see whether we can work this one out. Please if you have any insights into this one…email me. Better yet, put up a comment so we can all discuss it and learn something from each other.
The council of the apostles and elders, having considered the matters brought to them by Paul, Barnabas and the circumcision party of the believers, came to a decision as to the way forward. The next step of the process for them was to communicate this decision back to the Gentile churches.
A letter to the church
To do this they collectively wrote an open letter to the churches to be hand delivered by devout men chosen from among the believers so that all would learn, understand the purpose and decision of the council and be encouraged to follow that decision for the benefit of the churches and the individuals.
The content of that letter is still resonating today and there is much to learn and understand in the words of this letter. It is as important to hear what the letter says and also to understand what it does not say for there are things we will recognise in this decision of the early leaders of the church that the modern leaders could learn a thing or two about. Indeed there are some today who seem to have forgotten this letter and the significance of what it says for they have turned away from the decision and gone back to old ways.
The leaders in the early church were established to be either apostles and elders and there are some distinctions between the two groups. They are both important roles in the church and in this section of scripture we see how important and what one of their key roles was.
Apostles and Elders. Leaders in the church.
It is unfortunate that in the church today many of the leaders in the church are not appointed according to the processes established in the bible. Instead they are appointed on the basis of having studied at a bible college, school or university to receive a degree or diploma which then is accepted as a qualification to lead a church.
This is not how the original apostles and elders were appointed and it is not the way of God according to what the scripture defines. It is especially an issue in the case of those who call themselves apostles and in some churches we see the leadership falls to one pastor, priest or minister, which also is not the correct form as defined in the bible.
Here we see one of the stark contrasts between the teachings of the old covenant and the new covenant and as it says in verse 2 of this chapter, it caused a great argument and “No small dissension” between the two opposed groups.
Keeping the Law of Moses
There were some men, and I must point out here for it is important, these men were believers, who came down from Judaea to the places where Paul and Barnabas were teaching and preaching the word. These men who came were now saying to the people, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Vs 1)
Then again when they along with Paul and Barnabas took this matter to the council of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, we see they again said the same in verse 5. “But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
Before going into the deliberations of the council and how a decision was made, let us consider why this caused a great dissension and argument. Why was it that Paul, who had been a Pharisee and administrator of the law of Moses, was so strongly opposed to this view that he decided to go to the council in the first place.
There is a verse in this section of scripture that tells us what to expect in our walk with Christ. It is in stark contrast to much of what people believe about the life of a Christian and it gives us pause when we realise both the importance and significance of the path we are taking.
Tribulations WILL come. Be prepared
It is also about the testing times we must go through as we walk the walk with Jesus Christ and it tells us what we can expect.
But the other side of this is that we are called to be resilient and to learn how to stand in the face of opposition and the trials of this life. If this walk is important to us we need to know what we are facing, what we can expect and be prepared for it.
The issue that Paul counsels the early Christians about here and which we too must recognise is the issue of…tribulations.
This section of scripture has two very interesting insights. Paul and Barnabas had come to lustration and one of the first things they did as they were preaching the word was to heal a man who was a crippled from birth.
Paul and Barnabas mistaken for gods
It was this action that caused the people of Lystra to mistake these two men of God for being Gods. And it was what occurred after this happened that is interesting and provides us with two significant insights.
Sometimes when we speak the word of The Lord to people there are those that just don’t “get it.” No matter what you do or say they just seem to miss the point.
Not all will believe the seed that is sown
Too often I have seen those doing the preaching wring their hands (metaphorically speaking) because someone they have been preaching to and ministering to just walk away. They try to get them to come back and see what they are missing out on, but the people are simply not interested.
Well, sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. They are just not going to come to The Lord regardlesss of what you say or do, at least not unless or until The Lord is ready to bring them to Himself. The best you can do is to hold a mindset that at least the seed has been sown. Whether it will take root and grow or not is not up to you. In the end it is the work of The Lord, and just as you and I were given a free will to choose Jesus or not, so too these people also have a free will.
The best discussion of this comes in the parable of the sower, and it is in this light that we look at what happened to Paul and Barnabas when they came to preach the word at Iconium.
Jealousy! How many people have lost opportunities, friends, relationships and more because they were jealous? And how many have caused untold destruction, damage and misery because of their jealousy?
Jealousy…the green eyed monster!
Jealousy is often called the green eyed monster, and a monster it is! A destructive, powerful force within people that causes them to do all kinds of hurtful and irrational things because they feel they have been overlooked, overshadowed, outdone, outshone or outperformed by someone else.
And worse. Often it is hidden and the outpouring of the jealousy of such people just simmers and burns in the background until it is unleashed as spite against the one who made them jealous. Not always though, as we see in these few scriptures. Here the jealousy of the Jewish leaders in the synagogue was fully out in the open, bold and vicious against Paul and Barnabas and the message they had to preach. But it is interesting also how those two men of God chose to deal with it. Continue reading