cc13Journal-top-bar
CWJ_interior_header
Blinded by Religion


Acts 14:8-13
8Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.

The Story: Apparently the people of Lystra didn’t know their own religion very well. The only time gods came down among men in the religion of Greece and Rome was to take advantage or revenge. Ask Leda, Europa, or Achilles. But these people are so blinded by their religion that the only explanation they can offer for Paul’s eloquence and the healing of this man is that their own gods have come among them. Religion is a very personal thing – even secular religion – and people give theirs up only reluctantly. So the priest of Zeus moves to incorporate this amazing episode into the pagan religion of the Lystrans. This is as we might expect: The religious leader has to keep the people in line, after all. So he intends to wrap these events in the shroud of his faith. To the snow-blind, everything looks green. To the religion-blind, everything looks like their worldview. We should expect similar responses from people when we share the Gospel. They will want to fold our claims into their worldview because their worldview is “safe” to them and requires only that with which they’ve already become comfortable. If they can absorb the “idea” of God into, let’s say, the workings of “chance” and evolution, or the morality of pragmatism and tolerance, then they don’t have to submit to the moral demands of the Biblical God. They can simply take Him in stride, even if it means “stretching” their own faith a bit to accommodate some new information.

The Structure: I can’t help but wonder what Paul saw in the face of this man to convince him he could be healed. A look of longing? Anticipation? The command to “stand upright” is important in our story. The Gospel restores people to the uprightness in which men were created, but which our silly, sinful schemes rob us of throughout our lives (Eccl. 7:29). Jesus wields a scepter of uprightness, and it has power to make all things new (Ps. 45:6).

How would you expect a secular skeptic to respond to your claim that Jesus rose from the dead?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Stirred, Poisoned, Divided


Acts 14:1-7
1Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7and there they continued to preach the Gospel.

The Story: From Antioch of Pisidia Paul and Barnabas turn back to the east, arriving at Iconium. As was their custom, they went to the synagogue and waited for an opportunity to speak. When they did, they were very persuasive – because, as we’ve seen, very Biblical. The Gospel’s power to persuade is in the Word of God, not in human eloquence (v. 3; cf. Jn. 6:63; Heb. 4:12). A “great number” believed, both of Jews and of Greeks associated with the synagogue. But the power of the Gospel does not affect everyone alike. The Gospel will always have its detractors and opponents; this will be a consistent pattern throughout the book of Acts. We note the approach of the enemies of the Gospel: they “stirred” up the Gentiles and “poisoned their minds” against Paul and Barnabas. Their arguments doubtless included a good bit of, hyperbole, hysteria, worst case scenarios, implied insults, threats to tradition, and the like – all the usual suspects. In spite of the opposition, the brothers persisted, speaking boldly in the face of threats, and God blessed their witness with signs and wonders. We might have expected that to calm the opposition, but it only served to fuel their anger. Soon the city was divided. Those opposing the Gospel became convinced the only way to get rid of these preachers was to kill them. The apostles weren’t looking for trouble, and they wisely chose not to hang around for the martyr’s crown – not just yet, anyway. They left in haste and continued east to Lystra and Derbe and the villages in between, preaching the Gospel as they went. Luke will give us a bit more detail in the rest of the chapter. For now he simply wants us to know that threats to their safety only redirected the mission of Paul and Barnabas; they did not bring it to a close. He’s also deftly foreshadowing events to come, as he is wont to do, and as we shall see.

The Structure: Effective witness-bearing does not always result in people coming to faith in Christ. We should always expect some to believe, of course. But there will be many who just “aren’t ready” and will want to think or talk about it a little more. And there will be some who, for whatever reason, are downright hostile to the Good News and those who proclaim it. Their responses may not always be rational, but they will be effective, at least with some. We should expect each of these responses in our own witness for the Lord.

How would you suggest believers respond to each of these three different responses to their witness for Christ?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Increase: Word, Persecution, Joy


Acts 13:49-52
49And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

The Story: We note that Paul and Barnabas move on, following the leading of the Spirit, but the Spirit stays behind to fill the believers with joy. The work of the Kingdom is the Spirit’s work. He leads. He empowers for witness. He convicts and converts. He sanctifies the faithful. He builds the Church. And He does all this all at once and in every place! The Word is spreading rapidly because the people who “got it” really did. They were excited, freed from the burden of their sins, secure in the hope of eternal life, flourishing in the grace of the Lord. People who know such experiences can’t help but talk about them to others, and this is how the Word of the Lord spreads, as we’ve seen (Acts 8). But as the Word increases, so do opposition and persecution. Big deal! That didn’t stop Paul and Barnabas, and it shouldn’t stop us, either. The joy of salvation is a real and permanent joy, not one dictated by agreeable circumstances. We should expect opposition and persecution and know how to deal with these by resting in the strength and promises of the Lord, Who has overcome the world (Jn. 16:33), and by continuing the ongoing work of Christ. The Jews enlisted the devout women – Greeks – because they could see where this was tending. They weren’t content just to get Paul out of their congregation or town. They wanted to shut him down permanently. If only they’d known: Jealous religious leaders had tried that with Jesus, and it didn’t work then, either.

The Structure: In this chapter Luke establishes a kind of mini-template. The Spirit calls and empowers, the Gospel goes forward, people believe, persecution arises, the Word and joy of the Lord increase. Is this the pattern we observe in our churches today?

Talk with a pastor or church leader. Does this pattern reflect what you see in your church? In what ways? Does anything seem to be missing? What should your role be in helping your church to line up with this template?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
So Long!


Acts 13:44-48
44The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

The Story: Nothing can stop the spread of the Good News. Not, as we’ve seen, buffoonish kings nor intelligent magistrates. Not false prophets nor deceitful teachers. Not jealous religious leaders. Nothing. Try to stamp it out here, it spreads like a splashed oil fire to there and there and there. Self-interest is the enemy of the Gospel. Truth is its friend and faithful voice. Apparently many of those who had come to believe and were continuing in the grace of God had been talking with their neighbors, because next week the whole town showed up for preaching. Now the religious leaders had a problem. Previously they’d looked at Paul as a nice “shot in the arm” for their little congregation. Now he was stealing all the sheep and mixing them in with the goats. How vile! How unacceptable! How do we stop this? Oppose. Contradict. Defame. The opponents to God’s truth haven’t changed much, and we don’t have to sweat them today any more than Paul did in his day. The Spirit, Who is in charge of this ongoing work of Christ, will show us where to go next in seeking and advancing the Kingdom of God. And He will continue the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth – in the praises and lives of those who believe – as the waters cover the seas.

The Structure: Paul says “So long!” to the Jews who oppose the Gospel, but, of course, he’s not giving up on them. Not now, not ever (Rom. 9:1-5). But the focus of his ministry will change as he aims more consistently at reaching Gentiles with the Good News.

Is there a time for “wiping the dust off your feet” with someone you’ve been witnessing to for a while? What, following Paul’s example with the Jews, would that look like in your case?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Bingo!


Acts 13:42, 43
42As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them again the next Sabbath. 43And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God

The Story: Again, we see the power of the Gospel to astonish and convert. It was like POW! the light came on for many of these people as Paul worked his way through Scripture after Scripture, using them all to point to Jesus and the fulfilled promises of Abraham. Many Jews believed. Many “devout converts” as well. These would have been Gentiles like Cornelius who had come to agree with the Jewish religion. These “devout converts” may have become full-fledged Jews, even to undergoing circumcision. Certain Jewish believers would try to force this on Titus in a little while (cf. Gal. 2:3), but Paul would have nothing to do with that. The Spirit is reaping a harvest among Jews and Gentiles as Paul and his team proclaim the Good News of Jesus. How they must have been encouraged by these responses! They urged these new believers “to continue in the grace of God” and not to look to the Law for their salvation any longer (vv. 38, 39). Instead, they must have taught them how to read their Scriptures with “new glasses,’ looking for grace and Jesus in those old familiar texts, so that new light and understanding would continue to reach them from the Word. The Word they already had was sufficient to establish them in Jesus. They just needed to read that Word from the vantage point of Jesus and grace, rather than Moses and the Law.

The Structure: What God had “promised to the fathers” (v. 32) was to be Israel’s God and to take them for His people. The Good News is that, through and because of Jesus, we can know the Lord – know Him, love Him, share in Him, enjoy Him, serve Him gladly, proclaim Him boldly! If this is not the Good News as you have received it, then what have you believed?

The Good News is positive, but it also contains a warning to those who hesitate or decline (vv. 40, 41). How would you state that warning to someone?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
'Let it Be Known!'


Acts 13:13-41
38”Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes if freed from everything 39from which you could no be freed by the law of Moses.”

The Story: This is a lengthy section and, in the interests of pace, I intend to survey it rather quickly. Paul and Barnabas – we note that his name is now featured first (v. 13) – depart Cyprus and land on the mainland of what is today Turkey. John bails, for reasons unknown to us, but unacceptable to Paul (cf. Acts 15:37, 38). In Antioch of Pisidia we find our team again in the synagogue, politely waiting to be invited to speak (vv. 14, 15). Paul is ready. He begins by commending their fear of God (v. 16). Building on what they already believe (vv. 17-22), he works toward a brief explanation concerning Jesus (vv. 23-25). Then, more back-and-fill: Paul returns to their story line. He connects Jesus to Abraham and the prophets, saying that the Jews in Jerusalem had “missed the point” of the Old Testament (Hint: Don’t you miss it!). Next come the historical facts of the Gospel – John the Baptist, Jesus’ death and resurrection, His post-resurrection appearances. Then the Good News: What you’ve been waiting for and hoping for and longing for, Restoration with God, has arrived! And its’ available through Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, seated with God on high, and calling all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins (vv. 26-38). Then Paul issues a warning, straight out of the prophets: Listen up! Though you may not be able to believe what I’m saying, believe it anyway (vv. 40, 41). Luke has given us something like a synopsis of Paul’s message, but it’s enough. Begin where people are. Look for ways to commend and connect. Lay out the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Declare His rule from on high. Issue the call for repentance and faith as the way through Jesus to promise of forgiveness and everlasting life. Warn of the seriousness of failing to believe. This is teaching that has power to astonish and convert.

The Structure: Paul was expert at fitting the Good News of Jesus into the “worldview” of his audience. We’ll see this over and over in the book of Acts. This is not compromising the Gospel; it’s just good communications strategy.

How well do you understand the worldview of the people to whom God is sending you with the Good News of Jesus?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
The Teaching of the Lord


Acts 13:8-12
8But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him, 10and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12Then the proconsul believed, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

The Story: It was the teaching that won the proconsul. The blinding of the false prophet was impressive, but it was the teaching that won the lost man’s soul. Saul, who was also called Paul (his Roman name), understood how very serious the Gospel is. He was not pleased – to say the least – that this false prophet was trying to downplay Paul’s message or otherwise distract or divert the proconsul from believing. This is what the devil does, as Paul notes. He keeps people from hearing the Gospel. He convinces them that it’s not all that important and most likely not true, so why give it a second thought? Eternal destinies are at stake, and the devil delights, through deceit and villainy, in barring people from entering the Kingdom of God. Hence the ferocity with which Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, confronts and confounds Bar-Jesus. We don’t know about the lasting impression this might have left on that false prophet. But Sergius Paul was persuaded, and he believed the Good News. The progress of the Kingdom is always at the expense of the kingdom of darkness and the Lie. We can expect the principals of that realm to oppose the Gospel, but we must not cooperate with them or otherwise – by our silence, for example – aid and abet their purposes.

The Structure: Jesus promised that people would hate us and oppose us, but that should not keep us from spreading the Good News through every open door of opportunity. Let the “teaching” do its work. Share the Gospel – the whole Gospel – clearly and repeatedly, and the power of that Gospel will not return to God without accomplishing His intended purposes.

Why do you think so many Christians maintain a careful silence about the Gospel before the very people who need to hear it?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 261
You must be logged in to comment on Christian Worldview Journal articles.