Week 48 Devotion
This week we will once again be reading in the book of Acts, and this week we are going to see be able to zoom in on one of the cities that Paul and Silas come to as missionaries. As we begin Acts 17 we see Paul and Silas bring the gospel to the city of Thessalonica and while many people believe in Christ there are quite a few others who begin to attack the new believers in that city. The situation gets heated and Paul has to leave the city in the middle of the night.
Now that’s all we see in the book of Acts, but we will also be reading the 2 letters that Paul wrote to the church in that city and this helps us to get a complete picture of how the gospel not only changed the lives of these people but also gave them hope despite the persecution they were experiencing.
Next, we will be reading Paul’s letter to the church in the city of Corinth. In Acts 18 Paul arrived in this city and the same thing happens in this city. Some believed the gospel and some despised the gospel. Persecution broke out, Paul left the city to continue his missionary work and then he wrote several letters back to the church to help them grow in their understanding and application of the gospel.
We will finish our reading in Acts 19 where we see Paul spends some time in the city of Ephesus and you might have guessed that there are two responses to his ministry. Some believed the gospel and others despised the gospel and its messengers. In this case, a riot breaks out and once again Paul is forced to leave the city. But in his letter to the church, we learn more about them and more about the gospel as well.
Something to meditate on…
The city of Corinth was a major port city in the ancient world, which made it a center of both economic and religious influence. Paul came to Corinth in Acts 18 and when he arrived in the city he met Priscilla and Aquila, who not only believed in Jesus but also joined Paul on his later missionary journeys. Paul spent a year and a half in the city of Corinth and during that time He tried to share the gospel with the Jews, but in the end, he spent most of his time evangelizing the Gentiles.
It was great that these Gentiles were coming to trust in Christ but their pagan background proved to be a real problem for them. So after Paul left the city of Corinth he wrote several letters helping them to understand how the gospel of Jesus Christ impacted every part of life from how we view our leaders, to the questions about sex and sexuality, to food and church, and finally how we view the resurrection of Jesus and what life will be like in eternity.
In this letter, Paul follows a very simple pattern of defining the problem that the church has and then responding to how the gospel informs the issue. The main problem the church has is understanding how the gospel shapes every single part of our lives and what Paul does throughout the book is to show how these new Christians need to grow and mature in their faith. Over and over again, Paul uses the metaphor of physical maturity as a way to show the need for Christians to move away from spiritual childhood and into maturity as a follower of Christ.
Here are a few passages that show Paul’s use of this in the book:
1 Corinthians 3:1-2 So, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready,
1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.
1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking. Instead, be infants in evil, but in your thinking, be mature.
1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
So what’s the point? Well, I think one point that we can take away from 1 Corinthians is that each believer has the responsibility to grow in our faith. We aren’t called by God to remain like little children. We should have a childlike faith but not a childish faith. We need to grow in our understanding of who Christ is, of what He has done and how we should live in light of His gospel.
The gospel of Jesus is an announcement about Jesus and the new reality that He has opened up to us and we are personally called to trust in Him and to walk in obedience to Him. This means that you must take this responsibility upon yourself and move away from spiritual childhood and into spiritual maturity.
So, ask yourself these questions: What would you identify as areas of your life where you need to grow in your understanding and obedience to Christ? What specific doctrines or issues do you need to study so that you can have a better understanding? Where are you still struggling with sin and how can you equip yourself to address that sin with Scripture and maturity?
Now there are several ways that we can grow and they include things like prayer, Bible study, learning from other more mature Christians, and faithful participation in the local church. Maybe you need or desire more specific discipleship or mentoring. Maybe you should pick up a book on the subject (s) you have identified. Seek help in this task but understand that if you are a child of God, your Lord has called you to pursue growth in your life of faith.
Something to discuss…
There is so much that can be talked about as we read through the book of Acts, but this week I want us to discuss more of what we see taking place from the thousand-foot view. On the ground, we see the gospel spreading into people’s lives. We see Jews and Gentiles coming to faith, we see the church growing and spreading, we see persecution increasing in every city; but if we get up above the day to day movement of the gospel we see something amazing taking place.
We see the message of Jesus spreading throughout the earth. We see the Kingdom of God coming down on earth as it is in heaven. We see Jesus and the spirit and the church grew from a mustard seed into a tree where birds from all over the earth are finding a branch to make a nest. In just a few short years the disciples of Jesus have grown from being a small group of mostly-Jewish followers of Christ in the city of Jerusalem to be a multi-ethnic and international movement…and it is still spreading.
When the disciples were kicked out of Jerusalem they established Antioch as a base of operations and from there Paul and Silas went out on at least 3 missionary journeys. They took the gospel to Asia and Greece and before you know it the gospel will spread all the way to Rome. Christ said this would happen and it has.
The church remains to this day a spreading movement of Christ followers who share the good news in word and deed, who gather into multi-ethnic communities where all people are equal. Men and women, black and white, rich and poor, young and old are all precious in the sight of God and are called brothers and sisters in the family of God. This gospel is incredible and it continues in our own day.
So take some time as you read the details of the book of Acts, to back up and realize that God is changing the world through His gospel. He is creating a diverse community that the world has never seen and still can’t understand. Remember that you are part of this story and God has a chapter to write with your life.
Something to pray about…
One of the interesting things about Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica is that each chapter concludes with the theme of the second coming of Christ (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:17; 5:23). The theme of the Jesus’ return runs throughout this hope-filled letter, and this is an important theme for us as well. Sometimes Christian overemphasize the second coming but we can be just as guilty of under-emphasizing it as well. This letter helps us to remember and stay focused on the fact that Jesus is going to return to this earth one day and this not only gives us hope but also it means that we should live each day like it is our last.
Another theme in this book is that of prayer. In fact, there are three prayers that tie this whole book together. In chapter 1:1-5 we see Paul’s opening prayer of thanks to God for the faith, love and hope that these Christian’s have. Next in chapter 3:11-13 Paul prays that the believers would increase or grow in that love for one another, in their holiness and in their hope in the second coming of Jesus. Finally, in chapter 5:23-28 Paul prays for God to keep the believers blameless in soul and body as they await the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, here’s what I want to encourage you to pray this week; pray through these passages and give thanks to God for how He has granted you faith in Christ, love for others and hope in Christ’s return. Pray that God would increase your love, your personal holiness and your hope in Christ’s return. Finally pray that God would keep you faithful, preserving your body and soul for the day of Christ’s return.