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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 19:17-20

17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

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Last week’s entry discussed the seven sons of Sceva, who travelled in and around Ephesus earning money by performing exorcisms. Sceva was a Jewish high priest, so it is bemusing to read that his sons engaged in such activity, as these were not true exorcisms. Two of the sons had the wits scared out of them when attempting to perform an exorcism on a man with a demon. The evil spirit — which said it knew Jesus and recognised Paul but not them — worked through the man to overpower the two sons, driving them out of the house naked and bloody.

The moral of that episode shows Satan is no friend of humankind. He has no use for man other than to sin, and, as that reading shows, he can turn on mankind immediately.

The Ephesians — Jews and Gentiles alike — were shocked by what happened (verse 17). ‘All’ were afraid. Luke, the author of Acts, says that they extolled the name of the Lord Jesus.

Interestingly, a number of new Christians publicly confessed their magic practices (verse 18). They were not forced to do so, but they were so overcome by what had happened that they wanted to make a clean break of their sin of casting magic spells.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that these new Christians were not as discerning as other converts (emphases mine):

Many that had believed and were baptized, but had not then been so particular as they might have been in the confession of their sins, were so terrified with these instances of the magnifying of the name of Jesus Christ that they came to Paul, or some of the other ministers that were with him, and confessed what evil lives they had led, and what a great deal of secret wickedness their own consciences charged them with, which the world knew not of–secret frauds and secret filthiness; they showed their deeds, took shame to themselves and gave glory to God and warning to others. These confessions were not extorted from them, but were voluntary, for the ease of their consciences, upon which the late miracles had struck a terror.

This is important:

Note, Where there is true contrition for sin there will be an ingenuous confession of sin to God in every prayer, and to man whom we have offended when the case requires it.

John MacArthur raises an important point about magic spells and divulging magic practices. This isn’t about card tricks or rabbits in hats, but more along the lines of ‘magick’. He thinks that among the converted Christians were people who converted after the sons of Sceva incident:

It’s a perfect participle, the word “believed,” and it could mean those who had already believed and had already been Christians but had never given up their magic, or it could mean those who were then saved and then came and confessed. Either possibility. But anyway, these people who believed came, confessed, and showed their deeds. A most interesting phrase. “Showed their deeds” means they came and revealed their spells. According to magic theory, the only good spell is the one that’s secret, and once you divulge the secret, the spell’s no good. So everybody came and told all the secrets. They were giving up all their magic. Giving it up. The whole satanic game was over. They saw the truth of the power of Jesus; and they saw that magic didn’t work, and in comparison to His name it was absolutely impotentThe Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, and when the Name of the Lord Jesus is magnified, people will believe. You hear that? It’s right. His Name was magnified in verse 17, and people believed and confessed, and their lives were transformed.

Verse 19 relates their edifying method of repentance. They gathered together and burnt their magic books — scrolls. Although the books were worth 50,000 pieces of silver — tens of thousands of pounds/dollars/euros in today’s money — they didn’t sell the books and give the proceeds to the church or to the poor. No. They destroyed them so a) they would not be tempted to look at them again and b) to prevent others from delving inside.

Henry has a good analysis:

It is taken for granted that they were convinced of the evil of these curious arts, and resolved to deal in them no longer; but they did not think this enough unless they burnt their books. (1.) Thus they showed a holy indignation at the sins they had been guilty of; as the idolaters, when they were brought to repentance, said to their idols, Get you hence (Isaiah 30:22), and cast even those of silver and gold to the moles and to the bats, Isaiah 2:20. They thus took a pious revenge on those things that had been the instruments of sin to them, and proclaimed the force of their convictions of the evil of it, and that those very things were now detectable to them, as much as ever they had been delectable. (2.) Thus they showed their resolution never to return to the use of those arts, and the books which related to them, again. They were so fully convinced of the evil and danger of them that they would not throw the books by, within reach of a recall, upon supposition that it was possible they might change their mind; but, being stedfastly resolved never to make use of them, they burnt them. (3.) Thus they put away a temptation to return to them again. Had they kept the books by them, there was danger lest, when the heat of the present conviction was over, they should have the curiosity to look into them, and so be in danger of liking them and loving them again, and therefore they burnt them. Note, Those that truly repent of sin will keep themselves as far as possible from the occasions of it. (4.) Thus they prevented their doing mischief to others. If Judas had been by he would have said, “Sell them, and give the money to the poor;” or, “Buy Bibles and good books with it.” But then who could tell into whose hands these dangerous books might fall, and what mischief might be done by them? it was therefore the safest course to commit them all to the flames. Those that are recovered from sin themselves will do all they can to keep others from falling into it, and will be much more afraid of laying an occasion of sin in the way of others. (5.) Thus they showed a contempt of the wealth of this world; for the price of the books was cast up, probably by those that persuaded them not to burn them, and it was found to be fifty thousand pieces of silver, which some compute to be fifteen hundred pounds of our money. It is probable that the books were scarce, perhaps prohibited, and therefore dear. Probably they had cost them so much; yet, being the devil’s books, though they had been so foolish as to buy them, they did not think this would justify them in being so wicked as to sell them again. (6.) Thus they publicly testified their joy for their conversion from these wicked practices, as Matthew did by the great feast he made when Christ had called him from the receipt of custom. These converts joined together in making this bonfire, and made it before all men. They might have burnt the books privately, every one in his own house, but they chose to do it together, by consent, and to do it at the high cross (as we say), that Christ and his grace in them might be the more magnified, and all about them the more edified.

MacArthur says the bonfire lasted for a long time:

… the interesting thing, the word “burned” is imperfect. They kept on burning. I don’t know how long the bonfire lasted. But they kept burning.

The result was that the Gospel story not only circulated — but also prevailed — all the more, in fact, ‘mightily’ (verse 20).

There is a lesson here for today’s Christians — especially clergy. By erring in making the Gospel about social justice and identity politics whilst excusing every sin in the book, we are doing our fellow man a disservice in denying him the eternal truth of Jesus Christ.

Our two commentators were/are tied to the truth of the Gospel.

Do we see that today? Not often enough.

MacArthur is one of the rare exceptions. His church, Grace Church in southern California, is packed on Sundays. People hunger for the truth, not a sermon akin to a newspaper editorial! Of verse 20, he says:

In your life, where the Word of God dominates, there’s victory. You know that in this church, as long as the Word of God dominates, there’ll be victory. That’s the pattern. That’s the pattern. The church established with the Word, the individual established with the Word is clean and victorious over the enemy.

Henry tells us:

It is a blessed sight to see the word of God growing and prevailing mightily, as it did here. 1. To see it grow extensively, by the addition of many to the church. When still more and more are wrought upon by the gospel, and wrought up into a conformity to it, then it grows; when those that were least likely to yield to it, and that had been most stiff in their opposition to it, are captivated and brought into obedience to it, then it may be said to grow mightily. 2. To see it prevail extensively, by the advancement in knowledge and grace of those that are added to the church; when strong corruptions are mortified, vicious habits changed, evil customs of long standing broken off, and pleasant, gainful, fashionable sins are abandoned, then it prevails mightily; and Christ in it goes on conquering and to conquer.

I pray that our clergy turn from their theological error — likely learned at seminary — and preach the truth of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Redeemer. Only then will the Church prevail once more.

Next time — Acts 19:21-22

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What follows are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 15, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second selection blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

We continue with accounts of David’s kingship.

Today’s omitted verses demonstrate why many of us have a problem with the Lectionary. In the first few verses of 2 Samuel 6, David intended to take the Ark of the Covenant to his own city. The problem is that it never should have been transported on wheels, but rather by the high priests on their shoulders. I will explain further. For now, here are the first few verses:

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.

6:2 David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim.

6:3 They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart

6:4 with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark.

6:5 David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

This is what the Lectionary editors left out:

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark;[e] and he died there beside the ark of God. David was angry because the Lord had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah; so that place is called Perez-uzzah,[f] to this day. 9 David was afraid of the Lord that day; he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?” 10 So David was unwilling to take the ark of the Lord into his care in the city of David; instead David took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.

The Lectionary reading resumes as follows. David has the Ark transported correctly:

6:12b So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing;

6:13 and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.

6:14 David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.

6:15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

6:16 As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

6:17 They brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD.

6:18 When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts,

6:19 and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

Psalm

The Psalm is about the Lord’s glory and those who are righteous in His sight. ‘Selah’ in verses 6 and 10 is similar to ‘heed these words’:

Psalm 24

24:1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;

24:2 for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.

24:3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?

24:4 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.

24:5 They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation.

24:6 Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

24:8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle.

24:9 Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

24:10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah

First reading

This reading recounts the Lord telling Amos how He will punish His people for their disobedience. The first six verses tell us this is with a plague of locusts followed by fire over their land. Amaziah the high priest does not want to hear about repentance and tells King Jeroboam that Amos is conspiring against him. The final verses of Amos 7 follow after the Lectionary reading:

Amos 7:7-15

7:7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.

7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

7:9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

7:10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.

7:11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'”

7:12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there;

7:13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

7:14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees,

7:15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

These are the ominous closing verses of Amos 7:

16 Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.
You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
    and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’
17 Therefore thus says the Lord:
Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
    and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
    and your land shall be parceled out by line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
    and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

Psalm

The Psalm is about God’s mercy towards the penitent:

Psalm 85:8-13

85:8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

85:9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

85:10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

85:11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.

85:12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

85:13 Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

Epistle

The Epistle reading is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians rather than the Corinthians. Paul provides a beautiful description of God’s enduring love by blessing us and adopting us through His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 1:3-14

1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

1:4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

1:5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,

1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

1:8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight

1:9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ,

1:10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

1:11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

1:12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

1:13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

1:14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Gospel

The reading from Mark describes the circumstances behind John the Baptist’s beheading. The first few verses relate to the confusion about Jesus’s identity:

Mark 6:14-29

6:14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.”

6:15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”

6:16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

6:17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her.

6:18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

6:19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not,

6:20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

6:21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.

6:22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.”

6:23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”

6:24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.”

6:25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

6:26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.

6:27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,

6:28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.

6:29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

These readings about disobedience and sin are quite intense.

I wonder how many, hearing them read without actually reading them, will pay attention in church on Sunday. Hmm.

Well done, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), for using Scripture to refute cries for another immigration amnesty.

Lamar Smith wrote a column for Breitbart, posted on July 11, 2018. Any bleeding hearts saying that the Bible supports uncontrolled immigration would do well to read ‘Rep. Lamar Smith: Scripture Opposes Amnesty‘. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

First, St Paul told Christians that they should obey the law:

The Scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities with preserving order, protecting citizens, and punishing wrongdoers. A prime passage is Romans 13:1-7: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” Neither God nor the Bible ever rewards lawlessness (1 Timothy 1: 8-10).

Secondly, the Bible does not advocate amnesty:

Consider Leviticus 19:33-34, frequently cited by amnesty advocates: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The law God laid down for Israel allowed legal distinctions to be drawn between natives and non-natives.

Also, the Hebrew term for “sojourn,” as well as the dictionary definition, means “temporary stay.” A related term used in some scriptural translations is “stranger.” So this passage offers no scriptural sanction for allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain permanently in the United States. In the New Testament, the word “stranger” denotes one who is simply unknown (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible), not someone who is a foreigner.

Finally, the Bible mentions borders in a number of places. God mandated such borders. Smith cited the following references, which I’m quoting in full:

And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.  Exodus 19:12

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders[a] of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God.[b]  Deuteronomy 32:8

Do not move the ancient landmark
    that your fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28

In conclusion:

Americans need not apologize for wanting to uphold the rule of law. We have every right to be a sovereign nation. Our nation has a wonderful tradition of welcoming newcomers. Furthermore, we admit more than one million legal immigrants a year, far more than any other country.

There is a difference, though, between those who play by the rules and come in the right way and those who don’t. And the Bible’s commentary on strangers and foreigners makes that clear.

Europeans can — and should — refer to those verses as well, particularly given the immigration crisis that started in 2015 and, unfortunately, continues apace.

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 19:11-16

The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all[a] of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

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Those who are familiar with the Book of Acts, which St Luke wrote, know that sorcery was not unknown as an attack on the earliest churches:

Acts 8:14-25 – Philip, Simon Magus, sorcery, money, divine gifts, God, Holy Spirit, Peter, John

Acts 13:4-7 – Barnabas, Saul of Tarsus, John Mark, Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, Bar-Jesus, Elymas

Acts 13:8-12 — Paul, Elymas, magician, sorcerer, Paulus Sergius, conversion, blindness, miracle, doctrine, Cyprus

Acts 16:16-18 — Paul and the fortune-telling slave girl in Philippi; he drove an evil spirit out of her

In last week’s entry about Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, the Apostle had to withdraw from the synagogue because of all the evil Jewish resistors spoke against the truth about Christ Jesus.

This week’s passage, which immediately follows in Acts 19, reveals that the spiritual situation grew worse in Ephesus. This is not the whole story, which will conclude in next week’s post.

We see here that a great spiritual tension was building between good and evil.

On the good side, God worked through Paul to work ‘extraordinary miracles’ (verse 11).

Was this the first time or were these particular healing miracles? Matthew Henry’s commentary has this analysis (emphases mine below):

I wonder we have not read of any miracle wrought by Paul since the casting of the evil spirit out of the damsel at Philippi; why did he not work miracles at Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens? Or, if he did, why are they not recorded? Was the success of the gospel, without miracles in the kingdom of nature, itself such a miracle in the kingdom of grace, and the divine power which went along with it such a proof of its divine original, that there needed no other? It is certain that at Corinth he wrought many miracles, though Luke has recorded none, for he tells them (2 Corinthians 12:12) that the signs of his apostleship were among them, in wonders and mighty deeds. But here at Ephesus we have a general account of the proofs of this kind which he gave his divine mission. 1. They were special miracles–Dynameis ou tychousas. God exerted powers that were not according to the common course of nature: Virtutes non vulgares. Things were done which could by no means be ascribed either to chance or second causes. Or, they were not only (as all miracles are) out of the common road, but they were even uncommon miracles, such miracles as had not been wrought by the hands of any other of the apostles. The opposers of the gospel were so prejudiced that any miracles would not serve their turn; therefore God wrought virtutes non quaslibet (so they render it), something above the common road of miracles. 2. It was not Paul that wrought them (What is Paul, and what is Apollos?) but it was God that wrought them by the hand of Paul. He was but the instrument, God was the principal agent.

These miracles were so extraordinary that when people touched Paul’s skin with garments and took them home to their loved ones afflicted by illness or demons, those ailing were also cured (verse 12). That was truly extraordinary.

Thinking back to Christ’s ministry, the lady with the 12-year haemorrhage was cured when she touched His garment. If there were other instances, the Gospel writers did not record them.

Returning to Paul as a conduit for God’s healing power, John MacArthur says that the people pressing garments against him did not understand that God was working through the Apostle. They thought he had some sort of personal power, similar to that of a magician or sorcerer:

The people in Ephesus were very, very superstitious. And when they saw these miracles going on, coming out of Paul, they assumed the power was Paul’s.

MacArthur says that people picked up handkerchiefs which Paul used to wipe his brow while making tents:

the word “handkerchief” means “sweat cloth.” Those people who work, artisans or anybody in the crafts or anybody who did manual labor in those days, carried about these cloths with which they would wipe their brow and sometimes tie around their head. Well, they got Paul’s old, dirty, crummy sweat cloths! And they attached so much healing power to Paul, they figured if they get ahold of those sweat cloths, that that could work the same thing for them. And you know what? In spite of their superstition, God went ahead and did His miracles! Because God was in the business of confirming the Word, and He never let their superstitions violate what He was gonna do.

Seeing this, some Jewish exorcists who travelled from town to town to perform notional exorcisms for money, thought they could replicate divine healing miracles by invoking Jesus’s name (verse 13). These were not converts. They were just going to use what they thought was a magic incantation. Henry describes their appeal in that era. They were around in Jesus’s time, too:

They strolled about to tell people their fortunes, and pretended by spells and charms to cure diseases, and bring people to themselves that were melancholy or distracted. They called themselves exorcists, because in doing their tricks they used forms of adjuration, by such and such commanding names. The superstitious Jews, to put a reputation upon these magic arts, wickedly attributed the invention of them to Solomon. So Josephus (Antiq. 8. 45-46) says that Solomon composed charms by which diseases were cured, and devils driven out so as never to return; and that these operations continued common among the Jews to his time. And Christ seems to refer to this (Matthew 12:27), By whom do your children cast them out?

MacArthur gives us the origin for the historian Josephus’s claim:

in the Book of Tobit, the heart and liver of a miraculously caught fish are burned in the ashes of incense, and the resulting smell and smoke are supposed to drive away the demons. Josephus, who was a very intelligent person, a noted Jewish historian, told of a cure in which a demon was drawn through the nostrils of a demoniac by the use of magic root supposedly prescribed by Solomon. And there are other rabbinical writers who reflect the same fanciful magic superstitions.

Now, it may have been true that in the Old Testament time, demons were expelled through prayer, fasting, if Matthew 17:21 is true and if it is belonging in the manuscript. It may be true, and I’m sure God did answer prayer and demons were cast out in the Old Testament.

The men trying this incantation in Ephesus were the seven sons of a Jewish high priest, Sceva (verse 14). It did not work for them, because a) they had no belief in Jesus and b) were preying on the vulnerable in their trade. Henry explains:

They said, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches; not, “whom we believe in, or depend upon, or have any authority from,” but whom Paul preaches; as if they had said, “We will try what that name will do.”

However, the evil spirit answered them, saying that it knew Jesus and recognised Paul, but asked who they were (verse 15).

Worse came when the man with the evil spirit leapt up and overpowered the phony exorcists. The evil spirit worked through the afflicted man to the extent that the charlatans were injured and left his house naked (verse 16).

MacArthur says that not all seven sons of Sceva were in the house when the incident happened:

the old manuscript also includes the word “both” here, which indicates there were probably only two of the seven there. “And overcame them both and prevailed against them.” The demon was powerful, strong. And they fled out of the house naked and bleeding. Wounded.

MacArthur says that Satan played a violent trick on them, even though they were his servants. That incident further demonstrates that Satan is no friend of humankind.

Matthew Henry concludes with this:

This is written for a warning to all those who name the name of Christ, but do not depart from iniquity. The same enemy that overcomes them with his temptations will overcome them with his terrors; and their adjuring him in Christ’s name to let them alone will be no security to them.

Both commentators say that there is only one way to overcome Satan — lively faith and true repentance.

Henry has the short version:

If we resist the devil by a true and lively faith in Christ, he will flee from us; but if we think to resist him by the bare using of Christ’s name, or any part of his word, as a spell or charm, he will prevail against us.

MacArthur’s version is longer, based on personal experience:

We had this illustrated to us when we were working with this one girl who had all these devils that were speaking, and all this thing was going on, and the phenomenon was very unusual; and I tried to cast those demons out. “Get out!” You know? “Name of the Word!” They didn’t go. Some of the other guys on the staff tried, and they couldn’t do it either, which made me feel better. But none of us could get ’em out.

Let me give you a simple statement. All of the efforts to cast out demons are useless if that person doesn’t confess and repent of sin. Okay? Listen to this, then. If the person confesses and repents of sin, all of the efforts to cast out demons are unnecessary. So if you want to be real clear about it, it’s never a question of casting out the demons. It’s a question of repenting of the sins. If the person involved repents of the sin that allowed Satan to get a grip on them, then you don’t need somebody there doing all this other stuff. If they won’t repent of the sin, then it doesn’t matter what you do! You stand there ’til you’re blue in the face trying to cast out demons; but if that person’s harboring prolonged sin in their life, those demons have a place. Well, that’s all we’re trying to say.

Today, many Christians have become so preoccupied with Satan and so preoccupied with demons, and now Christians are having these new deliverance ministries that are growing up where you can go and get delivered. One guy had to pay $3,500.00 to get delivered. Found out he didn’t get delivered at all; he got bilked

And you say, “Well, you mean that we should never have Christians come around and pray?” Yeah, well, maybe that’s all right, but maybe they ought to be really talking about sin, not demons. Maybe we need to rebuking sin; maybe we need to be getting people to deal with sin.

I think so many times this whole thing of demons is a big copout. “Well, the demon made me do it, the demon made me do it.” Satan. You’re not dealing with your own sin. You’re not dealing with the issue of your nature. Your old sin nature. Confession, repentance, submission to the Word, submission to the Spirit removes the power of Satan.

Just another thought on this. Of all of the ministries of the body, of all of the responsibilities that we have toward one another, there is no statement or command to go around and cast demons out of each other! It says love one another, teach one another, edify one another, admonish one another, nurture one another, comfort one another, build up one another, reprove one another, rebuke one another, and so forth and so forth and so forth; but it doesn’t say cast demons out of one another.

That’s – beloved, I can comfort you and so forth and so on, but you don’t need me to take care of Satan in your life. I can’t do that, ’cause I can’t be holy for you. You got it? That’s your problem! Now, I can rebuke your sin, and I can give you wise counsel about your sin, and I can admonish you about your sin, but I can’t be holy for you. And if you’re gonna deal with Satan, that’s yours to do! And if I do all the exorcism in the world in the Name of Jesus Christ and there’s still harbored in your life, it’s unnecessary – I mean, it’s ineffective – and if there’s no sin in your life, then it’s unnecessary. If you have confessed and repented and submitted to the Truth of God, you’re clean.

Oh, you don’t have anything to fear. No. You have all victory over Satan

I don’t need to worry – I can’t do much about demons in you, but every man can about himself. That’s the issue. The apostolic day was confirming the Word; that was different. Today, every Christian has the resources to take care of his own problem. But I don’t think we can walk up to unbelievers and cast demons out. If an unbeliever comes to Jesus Christ, He alone can cleanse. By faith.

I hope this gives people a nugget of truth about overcoming serious sin and Satan.

What happened afterwards in Ephesus will be the subject of next week’s post.

Next time — Acts 19:17-20

What follows are the readings for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 8, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second selection blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

This reading tells of the beginning of David’s kingship.

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

5:1 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh.

5:2 For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.”

5:3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.

5:4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.

5:5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

5:9 David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward.

5:10 And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.

Psalm

The Psalm is about the Lord’s greatness and glory.

Psalm 48

48:1 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain,

48:2 beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.

48:3 Within its citadels God has shown himself a sure defense.

48:4 Then the kings assembled, they came on together.

48:5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic, they took to flight;

48:6 trembling took hold of them there, pains as of a woman in labor,

48:7 as when an east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish.

48:8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes forever. Selah

48:9 We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple.

48:10 Your name, O God, like your praise, reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with victory.

48:11 Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah rejoice because of your judgments.

48:12 Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers,

48:13 consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation

48:14 that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.

First reading

Ezekiel becomes divinely equipped to prophesy to Israel.

Ezekiel 2:1-5

2:1 He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.

2:2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.

2:3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.

2:4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”

2:5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

Psalm

The Psalm says that only God can come to our rescue against our enemies.

Psalm 123

123:1 To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

123:2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until he has mercy upon us.

123:3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

123:4 Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

Epistle

The Epistle continues with Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Here Paul speaks of a divine vision he had, whether during his three-day conversion or afterwards we do not know.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

12:2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows.

12:3 And I know that such a person–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows–

12:4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

12:5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.

12:6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me,

12:7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.

12:8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me,

12:9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

12:10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Gospel

Readings from Mark’s Gospel continue. The Jews from Nazareth take against Jesus, who continues to preach and heal. He also equips His Apostles so that they may do likewise.

Mark 6:1-13

6:1 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.

6:2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!

6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

6:4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”

6:5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.

6:6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.

6:7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

6:8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;

6:9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

6:10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.

6:11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

6:12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.

6:13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

It is interesting to study the types of leadership — and rejection — on display through these scriptural accounts. Despite dealing with hardheartedness, the Lord was with all of them, especially Jesus, as they accomplished His holy work.

Bible and crossThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 19:8-10

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.[a] 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s entry was about Paul’s return to Ephesus.

Today’s passage from Acts 19 describes his pattern of ministry there. As was his wont, Paul preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath and did so for three months (verse 8).

Luke, the author of Acts, wrote that Paul spoke ‘boldly, reasoning and persuading’ the congregation. ‘Boldly’ is a word that appears frequently in Acts. John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

You start out in the book of Acts and what do you find in chapter 4, verse 29. “They speak boldly.” They started getting persecuted and they had a prayer meeting. They said, “Lord they’re threatening us. Help us to have all boldness.” And you go to the book of Acts, everybody’s bold and bold and bolder. Something to be said for boldness, believe me.

Boldness creates flack and flack creates action. And that’s good. In Ephesians, just a terrific insight into Paul. And Paul’s always giving prayer request about himself. He didn’t hesitate to ask people to pray for him. He says “pray for me” verse 19. “That utterance may be as this is Ephesians 6. “That utterance may be given unto me that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the Gospel for which I am an ambassador in bonds that in this I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.

Paul says, boy there’s only one way to talk. That’s bold. That doesn’t mean stupid dogmatism when you have no rights to be dogmatic, and doesn’t mean riding your hobby horse to the point where everybody is driven crazy with it. It means that when you have a right to speak truth, you speak it with boldness. Fearlessness. Confidence is the idea. So for three months he fired away. And I think the Spirit tells us this because it’s hard to believe that he stayed three months and somebody might say, well he probably watered down a whole deal, see, or he would have never been able to hang around three months. No, no, he fired it out.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains Paul’s portrayal of the ‘kingdom of God’ in light of Christ Jesus:

What he preached to them: The things concerning the kingdom of God among men, the great things which concerned God’s dominion over all men and favour to them, and men’s subjection to God and happiness in God. He showed them their obligations to God and interest in him, as the Creator, by which the kingdom of God was set up,–the violation of those obligations, and the forfeiture of that interest, by sin, by which the kingdom of God was pulled down,–and the renewing of those obligations and the restoration of man to that interest again, by the Redeemer, whereby the kingdom of God was again set up. Or, more particularly, the things concerning the kingdom of the Messiah, which the Jews were in expectation of, and promised themselves great matters from; he opened the scriptures which spoke concerning this, gave them a right notion of this kingdom, and showeth them their mistakes about it.

Henry has this on Paul’s ‘reasoning and persuading’:

How he preached to them. (1.) He preached argumentatively: he disputed; gave reasons, scripture-reasons, for what he preached, and answered objections, for the convincing of men’s judgments and consciences, that they might not only believe, but might see cause to believe. He preached dialegomenos–dialogue-wise; he put questions to them and received their answers, gave them leave to put questions to him and answered them. (2.) He preached affectionately: he persuaded; he used not only logical arguments, to enforce what he said upon their understandings, but rhetorical motives, to impress what he said upon their affections, showing them that the things he preached concerning the kingdom of God were things concerning themselves, which they were nearly concerned in, and therefore ought to concern themselves about, 2 Corinthians 5:11, We persuade men. Paul was a moving preacher, and was a master of the art of persuasion. (3.) He preached undauntedly, and with a holy resolution: he spoke boldly, as one that had not the least doubt of the things he spoke of, nor the least distrust of him he spoke from, nor the least dread of those he spoke to.

Although many Jews in Ephesus gladly heard what he had to say, some resisted. Those resisters spoke ‘badly of the Way’, meaning Christ and Christianity. They did this before the synagogue congregations, so Paul began teaching and preaching in the hall of Tyrannus (verse 9). Henry says that the Jews were more welcoming when Paul made his initial, albeit brief, visit because he had not yet gone into detail about the Gospel. Upon his return, he was able to delve deeply into Scripture to persuade them of the truth of Christ as Messiah. That is when opinion became divided and hostile; consequently, Paul felt he could no longer preach there:

… he left the synagogue, because he could not safely, or rather because he could not comfortably and successfully, continue in communion with them. Though their worship was such as he could join in, and they had not silenced him, nor forbidden him to preach among them, yet they drove him from them by their railing at those things which he spoke concerning the kingdom of God: they hated to be reformed, hated to be instructed, and therefore he departed from them. Here we are sure there was a separation and no schism; for there was a just cause for it and a clear call to it.

MacArthur goes further:

And so they refused to believe. Well they just weren’t passive in their non-belief, they were active. They spoke evil. And that word in Matthew and Mark, same word is translated, they cursed. They cursed the Way. That should be in quotes. The Way was the name that was given Christianity. Because the Christians were always saying we’re the way to God, we’re the way to God.

Henry’s research gives us two possibilities as to what the hall of Tyrannus was:

Some think this school of Tyrannus was a divinity-school of the Jews, and such a one they commonly had in their great cities besides their synagogue; they called it Bethmidrash, the house of enquiry, or of repetition; and they went to that on the sabbath day, after they had been in the synagogue. They go from strength to strength, from the house of the sanctuary to the house of doctrine. If this was such a school, it shows that though Paul left the synagogue he left it gradually, and still kept as near it as he could, as he had done, Acts 18:7. But others think it was a philosophy-school of the Gentiles, belonging to one Tyrannus, or a retiring place (for so the word schole sometimes signifies) belonging to a principal man or governor of the city; some convenient place it was, which Paul and the disciples had the use of, either for love or money.

MacArthur thinks the hall of Tyrannus was a school of philosophy, and that Paul was allowed to preach there during the middle of the day, when classes were not held:

The church of Jesus Christ can meet anywhere in the purity of its identity and it’s doctrine. So they separated the disciples disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. You know if you were a guy who had a philosophy who started a school and had a bunch of people coming, if they wanted to, to learn your philosophy.

So here was Tyrannus and whatever he was teaching, he was teaching, people were coming. But it was available for some time during the day. Now let me add a note that’s very interesting. There’s an ancient Greek manuscript that adds the fact that Paul taught in this hall of Tyrannus from the 5th to the 10th hour. Now that would be from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Five hours. Notice it says he did it every day.

… Now the Ionian cities like Ephesus had an interesting schedule. Everybody worked until 11 and stopped and started again at four. Say why? The oppressive heat. And the time from 11 to four was go to sleep time. In fact one Asian writer says there’s more people awake in Ephesus at 1:00am then there are at 1:00pm. Why? Because they’d go from 11, they’d try to go to sleep and sleep through the heat until four, get up and finish the work the rest of the day.

So Tyrannus would teach in the morning in his school, probably resume a little in the evening and the time period that was available was when everybody else was asleep from 11 to four.

Using the hall of Tyrannus gave Paul the advantage of speaking to Gentiles — ‘Greeks’ — as well as Jews, so that he reached ‘all the residents of Asia’ during a two-year period (verse 10). It was a huge commitment, as MacArthur explains:

So, couldn’t keep that up too long. No, only two years, verse 10. Two years, five hours every day, seven days a week

Paul just moved in from 11 to four and gave 365 five hour sermons twice over. You say man, that says something. Yes it does. It says two things. It says something for the commitment of Paul. Well as a teacher, let me tell you, that’s work. Now I’ll tell you it says something for the tremendous commitment of the Christians. I mean can you imagine sacrificing sleep for five hour sermons? Praise the Lord.

MacArthur has a good description of Ephesus as a port city, which makes Paul’s ministry there even more meaningful:

Ephesus was a really interesting place. It was the real heart of the Roman [province] of Asia Minor. And Asia Minor was a fairly important area. It had many famous cities there, famous to the Christian world. The city of Ephesus probably ranked with Corinth as a two most important cities on the road east from Rome. In the eastern division of the Roman Empire, the three main cities would be Antioch, Alexandria and Ephesus. So it was a big time place. It was a commercial center.

Four main roads criss crossed right there in Ephesus. It was a port city. It was three miles inland, but the Caster River flowed into and it was navigable even though they had a dredging problem. They dredged it periodically and they navigated and so it was a place where ships traded and where caravans traded. It was a very important place. It was a rich place. It was an immensely populous place. Ferar said its “air was salubrious.” And we live in Southern California could use some salubrious air. That means healthy or wholesome.

Its population was diverse and immense. Its markets glittered with the products of the art of that world. In fact John was there. In fact John was exiled from there off the coast a little ways to Patmos. And when John wrote Revelation 18, and the Lord gave him all that picture of the sophisticated system of the world and the world wealth and the world’s commerce, John may well have had in his mind that which he had seen in Ephesus. This is what it says in Revelation 18:12. This could be a description of Ephesus.

The merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple silk, scarlet, fine wood, all kinds of vessels of ivory, all kinds of vessels of most precious wood, bronze, iron, marble, cinnamon, incense, ointments, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, chariots, slaves, and the souls of men.

That’s Ephesus all bunched into two verses. Now that is not the description of Ephesus, but that may have been what was suggested in John’s mind as he thought of it. Now of course the number one feature of Ephesus was the Temple of Diana. The worship of Diana or Artemis that grotesque ugly god that they worshipped. And of course it was a prostitute kind of worship, orgies which couldn’t even be spoken of. It was a sanctuary for criminals, so any criminal from around the world got king’s ex as soon as he jumped into the temple and that settled it and so it just became a harbor and a haven for these people.

It was the bank of the Mediterranean area, so it was just a very complex system. We’re going to get more into that feature in chapter 19 because a real riot breaks out. But here comes Paul to Ephesus. And it was a place where sorcery existed and witchcraft existed and all kinds of perversions and there were magical imposters and exorcists all over the place. No wonder Paul wrote back to the Ephesians. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers against the rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places or high places”.

What we will see in the rest of Acts 19 follows the same pattern as all of the other churches as they developed. It took a bit longer in Ephesus, however, today’s passage recounts the hardening of Jewish hearts so that their criticism of Christianity became vile. In the rest of the chapter, we will see that demons and sorcerers were also present — again, another characteristic as new churches developed. At the end of Acts 19, we read of a riot, a third characteristic that the early Christians had to endure.

Next time — Acts 19:11-16

What follows are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, July 1, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Readings from the Books of Samuel continue; we are now in 2 Samuel.

King David laments the death of Saul. David and Saul’s son Jonathan had a mutual covenant from boyhood:

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor bounteous fields!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,

the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
nor the sword of Saul return empty.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;

they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;

greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.

How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm

The Psalm talks about faith, hope and trust in the Lord and a call to the tribes of Israel to wait for Him:

Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

3 For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.

5 My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

6 O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;

7 With him there is plenteous redemption,
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Epistle

Readings continue from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.

Paul encourages them to press on with a holy life in Christ through love and charity:

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

As you excel in everything– in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you– so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something– now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has– not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Gospel

Gospel readings from Mark continue. Here we have the story of Jesus healing Jairus’s daughter and the woman with the 12-year hemorrhage.

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

For those wondering about the different layout, the Lectionary pages from the Vanderbilt Divinity Library — my usual source — were offline while I was putting these readings together.

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 19:1-7

Paul in Ephesus

19 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland[a] country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in[b] the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.

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Verse 1 mentions that Apollos was in Corinth. Luke wrote that because he related Apollos’s story at the end of Acts 18, which my previous entry discussed.

‘Inland country’ in that verse refers to Asia Minor, as Paul was revisiting churches he had founded.

Upon his return from his trip, he reached Ephesus, which he had previously left (see link in previous sentence) and said he would return to if it were God’s will. At that point, he met 12 disciples (verse 7) and asked if they had received the Holy Spirit when they were baptised. They replied that they had not heard of the Holy Spirit (verse 2).

Paul then asked into what they were baptised and they told him, ‘John’s baptism’ (verse 3).

They were talking about John the Baptist. There were many followers of John the Baptist at that time, e.g. Apollos.

Most probably these men had encountered a false teacher purporting to be one of John the Baptist’s followers. This is because John the Baptist had spoken of the Holy Spirit, therefore, the man who baptised these men would have known that if he had been a true follower. John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

the point here is that John the Baptist did teach about the Holy Spirit … I love what he says to them. Verse 3. He says, “Unto what then were you baptized?” And we know what he didn’t say. He didn’t say what kind of faulty instruction have you had?

Paul explained to them that John’s baptism was one of repentence to prepare them for Jesus (verse 4). After the first Pentecost, converts began being baptised ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. That could not have been done until a) after Christ ascended to Heaven and sent b) the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

according to the tradition of their nation, after the death of Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Ghost departed from Israel, and went up …

The men were duly baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus (verse 5). Henry does not think that Paul baptised them himself:

but by some of those who attended him.

Therefore, while there was a relationship between John’s baptism and that in the name of Jesus, these men needed the latter baptism in order to receive the Holy Spirit. They were baptised in the appointed form that continues to this day: ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. John the Baptist could not have recited those words because he and Jesus were of the same age, he was beheaded while Jesus was still in active ministry and the arrival of the Holy Spirit was still to come.

As soon as Paul laid hands on the baptised men, the Holy Spirit descended upon them (verse 6). They immediately spoke in tongues and began prophesying.

MacArthur makes important points about that verse and the Pentecostal churches. He says this was not necessarily a blueprint for all future baptisms:

He had his hands on them and at that point the spirit came and they spoke with languages and prophecy. You say there it is, there’s the norm, there’s the norm. That’s how it happens. Now wait a minute. That’s the last time it ever happens in the New Testament. Did you get that? That’s it. Now where are we, what book? Acts, transition. You say well why does it happen? Does it say command that this is the way it will always be is nothing about that there. verse 7 simply says, “and all the men were about 12.” It doesn’t say and this is how it’ll always be.

It just wraps it up there.

As for the glossolalia:

You say, well why did they speak in tongues? Two reasons. One, what did I tell you earlier that God wanted to do? He wanted to tie everybody into one church, didn’t he? Because let me give you an even stronger reason. These people had never heard that the Holy Spirit had come. And God knew that they needed a strong convincing that the Spirit had come. And so God and His wonderful wisdom just extended Pentecost to them. So that they too would know the Spirit came.

Henry says that these 12 men were destined for the ministry:

This was intended to introduce the gospel at Ephesus, and to awaken in the minds of men an expectation of some great things from it; and some think that it was further designed to qualify these twelve men for the work of the ministry, and that these twelve were the elders of Ephesus, to whom Paul committed the care and government of that church. They had the Spirit of prophesy, that they might understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God themselves, and the gift of tongues, that they might preach them to every nation and language. Oh, what a wonderful change was here made on a sudden in these men! those that but just now had not so much as heard that there was any Holy Ghost are now themselves filled with the Holy Ghost; for the Spirit, like the wind, blows where and when he listeth.

Priscilla and Aquila were already evangelising in Ephesus, but these men had received special divine gifts of the Spirit enabling them to lead the church there.

Next time — Acts 19:8-10

What follows are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, June 24, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are three sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second selection blue and the third purple subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

The first two selections continue with readings from 1 Samuel.

First reading

This is the story of David’s attack on Goliath, the giant Philistine:

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

17:1a Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.

17:4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.

17:5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.

17:6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders.

17:7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him.

17:8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.

17:9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”

17:10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.”

17:11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

17:19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.

17:20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry.

17:21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army.

17:22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers.

17:23 As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

17:32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

17:33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

17:34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock,

17:35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it.

17:36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.”

17:37 David said, “The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you!”

17:38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail.

17:39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.

17:40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

17:41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him.

17:42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.

17:43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

17:44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.”

17:45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

17:46 This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,

17:47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

17:48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.

17:49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm

The Psalm recounts God’s goodness to His people as they struggle against enemies:

Psalm 9:9-20

9:9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

9:11 Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion. Declare his deeds among the peoples.

9:12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

9:13 Be gracious to me, O LORD. See what I suffer from those who hate me; you are the one who lifts me up from the gates of death,

9:14 so that I may recount all your praises, and, in the gates of daughter Zion, rejoice in your deliverance.

9:15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid has their own foot been caught.

9:16 The LORD has made himself known, he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

9:17 The wicked shall depart to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.

9:18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.

9:19 Rise up, O LORD! Do not let mortals prevail; let the nations be judged before you.

9:20 Put them in fear, O LORD; let the nations know that they are only human. Selah

First reading

This passage from 1 Samuel continues the story after David struck down Goliath. Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons and faithful to the Lord. He became good friends with David. Meanwhile, Saul grew jealous and afraid of David:

1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16

17:57 On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand.

17:58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

18:1 When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

18:2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.

18:3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.

18:4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

18:5 David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

18:10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand;

18:11 and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

18:12 Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.

18:13 So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army.

18:14 David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him.

18:15 When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him.

18:16 But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Psalm

The theme of the Psalm is the joy found in unity:

Psalm 133

133:1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

133:2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.

133:3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

First reading

The Lord spoke to Job, emphasising His almighty power. It was a rebuke to Job for allowing his three friends to mislead him:

Job 38:1-11

38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

38:3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

38:5 Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

38:6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone

38:7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

38:8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?–

38:9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,

38:10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,

38:11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the theme of God’s almighty nature and His faithfulness to those who love Him:

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

107:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble

107:3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

107:23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;

107:24 they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.

107:25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.

107:26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;

107:27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end.

107:28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress;

107:29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

107:30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

107:31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

107:32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Epistle

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to hold fast to the Christian way of life, even though others did not accept it:

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.

6:2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

6:3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,

6:4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

6:5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,

6:7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

6:8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;

6:9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;

6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

6:11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.

6:12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.

6:13 In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also.

Gospel

The Gospel reading continues with more accounts from Mark. This one is about the tempest which terrified the Apostles, so Jesus calmed the water. Afterwards, He questioned their faith:

Mark 4:35-41

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

4:36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

4:37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.

4:38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

4:39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

4:40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

4:41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

These readings tell us much about maintaining faith in adversity and knowing that God truly loves His people.

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 18:24-28

Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[a] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

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Last week’s passage was about Paul’s return to Caesarea, probably Jerusalem — although St Luke, the author of Acts, did not say — and then on to the churches in Syria and Asia Minor that he had founded.

Meanwhile, Paul’s friends from Corinth — Priscilla and Aquila — were ministering in Ephesus (Efes in Turkey).

During that time, Apollos, a learned Jew from Alexandria (Egypt) arrived in the port city. He was very well spoken and knew his Scripture equally well (verse 24).

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur state that Alexandria had a large Jewish population. MacArthur says that there were four different Jewish districts in the city.

Henry’s commentary tells us that Alexandria’s Jews numbered greatly because they had been sent into exile:

there were abundance of Jews in that city, since the dispersion of the people, as it was foretold (Deuteronomy 28:68): The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again.

Henry also explains Apollos, the name (emphases mine):

His name was not Apollo, the name of one of the heathen gods, but Apollos, some think the same with Apelles, Romans 16:10.

As for Apollos the man, he tells us:

He was a man of excellent good parts, and well fitted for public service. He was an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures of the Old Testament, in the knowledge of which he was, as a Jew, brought up. (1.) He had a great command of language: he was an eloquent man; he was aner logios–a prudent man, so some; a learned man, so others; historiarum peritus–a good historian, which is an excellent qualification for the ministry: he was one that could speak well, so it properly signifies; he was an oracle of a man; he was famous for speaking pertinently and closely, fully and fluently, upon any subject. (2.) He had a great command of scripture-language, and this was the eloquence he was remarkable for. He came to Ephesus, being mighty in the scriptures, so the words are placed; having an excellent faculty of expounding scripture, he came to Ephesus, which was a public place, to trade with that talent, for the honour of God and the good of many. He was not only ready in the scriptures, able to quote texts off-hand, and repeat them, and tell you where to find themHe understood the sense and meaning of them, he knew how to make use of them and to apply them, how to reason out of the scriptures, and to reason strongly; a convincing, commanding, confirming power went along with all his expositions and applications of the scripture. It is probable he had given proof of his knowledge of the scriptures, and his abilities in them, in many synagogues of the Jews.

Apollos was a Messianic Jew, one who knew of the Messiah’s imminent coming as prophesied by John the Baptist (verse 25). There were many followers of John the Baptist who evangelised his prophecy throughout the ancient world. Whoever taught Apollos did so carefully and accurately. Many of John the Baptist’s followers who evangelised did not know that much about Jesus’s ministry or that He died on the Cross, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. (Had John the Baptist lived, they would have.) Apollos was one of these people.

Note that verse 25’s words, ‘fervent in spirit’, carry an explanatory footnote: ‘Or “in the Spirit”‘. On this point, our two commentators disagree somewhat.

Henry says:

Though he had not the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, as the apostles had, he made use of the gifts he had; for the dispensation of the Spirit, whatever the measure of it is, is given to every man to profit withal. And our Savior, by a parable, designed to teach his ministers that though they had but one talent they must not bury that … He was a lively affectionate preacher; as he had a good head, so he had a good heart; he was fervent in Spirit. He had in him a great deal of divine fire as well as divine light, was burning as well as shining. He was full of zeal for the glory of God, and the salvation of precious souls. This appeared both in his forwardness to preach when he was called to it by the rulers of the synagogue, and in his fervency in his preaching. He preached as one in earnest, and that had his heart in his work. What a happy composition was here! Many are fervent in spirit, but are weak in knowledge, in scripture-knowledge–have far to seek for proper words and are full of improper ones; and, on the other hand, many are eloquent enough, and mighty in the scriptures, and learned, and judicious, but they have no life or fervency. Here was a complete man of God, thoroughly furnished for his work; both eloquent and fervent, full both of divine knowledge and of divine affections.

MacArthur is less generous:

He was a powerful man in terms of teaching. And let me just say at this point that his power at this point was the natural. He was not a Christian at this point, so consequently, did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. So the power in his life was expressed really through his natural abilities, not yet having the Gifts of the Spirit as we know them. Later on, when he comes to Christ and he receives the Holy Spirit and gets the Gift of the Spirit in those areas, I mean, he becomes so devastating … But in this point, in the natural–and by that, I don’t mean that the Spirit didn’t touch his life, because nobody can know anything apart from the Holy Spirit, right, in any dispensation. So, I’m not disqualifying the Spirit. He had the Spirit’s work in his life in a very general sense, not in the specific sense of the Gift and the indwelling that the New Testament Saint knows. But he could, in his own natural ability, speak and communicate and was learned in the Old Testament. And believe me, it didn’t take him long to make an impression.

Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak in the synagogue and understood that he did not have the story of Jesus Christ as Paul had related it to them. So, they took him to one side and explained it to him, as they had been taught (verse 26). MacArthur thinks they might have shared a meal with him followed by a long discussion about the life of Jesus and how He fulfilled Scripture.

The well educated Apollos learned from two tent makers. Henry tells us:

[2.] See an instance of truly Christian charity in Aquila and Priscilla; they did good according to their ability. Aquila, though a man of great knowledge, yet did no undertake to speak in the synagogue, because he had not such gifts for public work as Apollos had; but he furnished Apollos with matter, and then left him to clothe it with acceptable words. Instructing young Christians and young ministers privately in conversation, who mean well, and perform well, as far as they go, is a piece of very good service, both to them and to the church. [3.] See an instance of great humility in Apollos. He was a very bright young man, of great parts and learning, newly come from the university, a popular preacher, and one mightily cried up and followed; and yet, finding that Aquila and Priscilla were judicious serious Christians, that could speak intelligently and experimentally of the things of God, though they were but mechanics, poor tent-makers, he was glad to receive instructions from them, to be shown by them his defects and mistakes, and to have his mistakes rectified by them, and his deficiencies made up. Young scholars may gain a great deal by converse with old Christians, as young students in the law may by old practitioners. Apollos, though he was instructed in the way of the Lord, did not rest in the knowledge he had attained, nor thought he understood Christianity as well as any man (which proud conceited young men are apt to do), but was willing to have it expounded to him more perfectly. Those that know much should covet to know more, and what they know to know it better, pressing forward towards perfection.

MacArthur says that learning from Priscilla and Aquila was the moment of conversion for Apollos:

They told him the fullness of the facts regarding Christ. Oh, man, there’s the conversion of Apollos right there in those verses. And the Spirit doesn’t say much about it. Why? Because it wasn’t much of a change. He was already a saint.

Henry had good words for Priscilla:

Here is an instance of a good woman, though not permitted to speak in the church or in the synagogue, yet doing good with the knowledge God had given her in private converse. Paul will have the aged women to be teachers of good things Titus 2:3,4.

It is thought that Priscilla had more spiritual depth than her husband Aquila, which is probably why Luke put her name before his so often.

Apollos decided to go to Achaia, so the men from the church in Ephesus sent a letter of introduction (verse 27). Achaia was the province where Corinth was located. Corinth was the centre of government for Achaia. Paul appeared before Achaia’s proconsul, Gallio.

Luke did not state why Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, however, a few possibilities spring to mind. First, the Jews in Ephesus were largely receptive to Paul’s teaching, and Priscilla and Aquila were building a solid congregation there. Secondly, Corinth might have resembled Alexandria with regard to intellectual life. Thirdly, and most importantly, Apollos might have wanted to finish the job that Paul had started. Corinth still had Jews who were hostile to the Gospel message.

When Apollos arrived in Achaia, his eloquence and precision reassured the converts (verse 27). Furthermore, he was also able to powerfully refute the errors of the Jews in scripturally demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah (verse 28).

Henry explains verse 28:

Unbelievers were greatly mortified. Their objections were fully answered, the folly and sophistry of their arguments were discovered, so that they had nothing to say in defence of the opposition they made to the gospel; their mouths were stopped, and their faces filled with shame (Acts 18:28): He mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, before the people; he did it, eutonos–earnestly, and with a great deal of vehemence; he took pains to do it; his heart was upon it, as one that was truly desirous both to serve the cause of Christ and to save the souls of men. He did it effectually and to universal satisfaction. He did it levi negotio–with facility. The case was so plain, and the arguments were so strong on Christ’s side, that it was an easy matter to baffle all that the Jews could say against it. Though they were so fierce, yet their cause was so weak that he made nothing of their opposition. Now that which he aimed to convince them of was that Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Messiah promised to the fathers, who should come, and they were to look for not other. If the Jews were but convinced of this–that Jesus is Christ, even their own law would teach them to hear him.

Apollos was a highly important church leader in Corinth, as Paul readily acknowledged in 1 Corinthians 3:6:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

MacArthur also says he was a better public speaker than Paul and had a better physical presence:

He was probably without equal as a speaker. You say, “Was he greater than Paul?” Well, very possibly. He was a greater preacher than Paul. Paul said to the Corinthians, in I Corinthians 2:1, “I, Brethren, when I came to you came not with excellency of speech.” Paul never did really value his preaching ability. Interesting. I don’t know if you ever read this verse. Interesting. II Corinthians 10:10, it says, “His letters say they are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible.” So he’s a lot better writer than he was a body, and he was an even better body than he was a speaker. Now, that’s a interesting little insight into the possibility that Paul perhaps was not as great an orator as was Apollos, and I’m only making the comparison because I want you to know the stature of this man. He was without peer, as far as we could see in the New Testament, as a preacher, as a speaker.

Shortly after Apollos arrived in Corinth, a church schism arose. Wikipedia has a simple explanation about the purpose of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Paul’s Epistle refers to a schism between four parties in the Corinthian church, of which two attached themselves to Paul and Apollos respectively, using their names[9] (the third and fourth were Peter, identified as Cephas, and Jesus Christ himself).[10] It is possible, though, that, as Msgr. Ronald Knox suggests, the parties were actually two, one claiming to follow Paul, the other claiming to follow Apollos. “It is surely probable that the adherents of St. Paul […] alleged in defence of his orthodoxy the fact that he was in full agreement with, and in some sense commissioned by, the Apostolic College. Hence ‘I am for Cephas’. […] What reply was the faction of Apollos to make? It devised an expedient which has been imitated by sectaries more than once in later times; appealed behind the Apostolic College itself to him from whom the Apostolic College derived its dignity; ‘I am for Christ.'”[11] Paul states that the schism arose because of the Corinthians’ immaturity in faith.[12]

MacArthur says that Apollos left Corinth for a time because the schism distressed him:

And such a holy man was he that later on when he saw the factions in Corinth, it so grieved his heart that in I Corinthians 16:12, Paul had asked him to go back and he wouldn’t go back to Corinth. The factions that came in Corinth weren’t Apollos’ fault any more than they were Peter’s fault, Paul’s fault or Christ’s fault. But they grieved him.

Wikipedia has more interesting information about St Apollos, venerated by the Orthodox churches, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

Apollos’ origin in Alexandria has led to speculations that he would have preached in the allegorical style of Philo. Theologian Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, for example, commented: “It is difficult to imagine that an Alexandrian Jew … could have escaped the influence of Philo, the great intellectual leader … particularly since the latter seems to have been especially concerned with education and preaching.”[14] Pope Benedict suggest there were those in Corinth “…fascinated by his way of speaking….[13]

Apollos is mentioned one more time in the New Testament. In the Epistle to Titus, the recipient is exhorted to “speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way”.[16]

Jerome states that Apollos was so dissatisfied with the division at Corinth that he retired to Crete with Zenas; and that once the schism had been healed by Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, Apollos returned to the city and became one of its elders.[17] Less probable traditions assign to him the bishop of Duras, or of Iconium in Phrygia, or of Caesarea.[9]

Martin Luther and some modern scholars have proposed Apollos as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, rather than Paul or Barnabas.[9] Both Apollos and Barnabas were Jewish Christians with sufficient intellectual authority.[18] The Pulpit Commentary treats Apollos’ authorship of Hebrews as “generally believed”.[19] Other than this, there are no known surviving texts attributed to Apollos.

Hebrews is one of my favourite books in the New Testament. If Apollos wrote it, you will see — if you don’t already know — how persuasive and clear he was.

Next time — Acts 19:1-7

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