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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 omit — 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 28:30-31

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense,[a] and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

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Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s discourse to the Jews of Rome.

Some translations of Acts 28 have a verse 29:

And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great disputing among themselves.

One can imagine that, verse 29 or not, they no doubt parsed Paul’s words and debated his message intensely.

Now we come to the end of St Luke’s Book of Acts, a tremendous Spirit-inspired account of the growth of the early Church after the first Pentecost. Those who have not followed the passages excluded from the three-year Lectionary can find the relevant entries and exegeses on my Essential Bible Verses page beginning with Acts 2:12-13, which is nearly three years old now. It’s amazing how time flies.

Returning to today’s verses, Luke tells us that Paul remained in Rome for two years, living at his own expense, even though he was a prisoner of Caesar’s, and welcomed all who came to him (verse 30).

It is possible that he did have his case heard before Nero, who, at that time, did not have a particular issue with Christians preaching. His prohibition on such preaching came later.

Our commentators have diverging views on what happened during these two years with regard to Paul’s case.

Matthew Henry offers the possibilities that the Roman justice system either forgot about him or that he was indeed tried more than once (emphases mine):

Two whole years of that good man’s life are here spent in confinement, and, for aught that appears, he was never enquired after, all that time, by those whose prisoner he was. He appealed to Cæsar, in hope of a speedy discharge from his imprisonment, the governors having signified to his imperial majesty concerning the prisoner that he had done nothing worthy of death or bonds, and yet he is detained a prisoner. So little reason have we to trust in men, especially despised prisoners in great men; witness the case of Joseph, whom the chief butler remembered not, but forgot, Genesis 40:23. Yet some think that though it be not mentioned here, yet it was in the former of these two years, and early too in that year, that he was first brought before Nero, and then his bonds in Christ were manifest in Cæsar’s court, as he says, Philippians 1:13. And at this first answer it was that no man stood by him, 2 Timothy 4:16. But it seems, instead of being set at liberty upon this appeal, as he expected, he hardly escaped out of the emperor’s hands with his life; he calls it a deliverance out of the mouth of the lion, 2 Timothy 4:17, and his speaking there of his first answer intimates that since that he had a second, in which he had come off better, and yet was not discharged.

John MacArthur thinks that the Roman justice system was merely slow:

So, I did a little research, and I found some interesting things. Historians note that long delays were very common in first-century trials in the Roman government, because of the tremendous backup of trials that they had. They had a court system something like ours, and people kept getting stacked up, and trials were put off; only they didn’t let them out, they kept them in jail. Also, isn’t it likely that the records of all of the information about him that must have been sent from the Roman governor in Judea had been lost in the shipwreck?

And sending back to get more records, and then sending the records back again, was a many-month problem. In addition to that, Roman law required that the accusers, or those that were prosecuting the case, be in Rome to accuse him. And I told you before that I have serious doubts whether any of those Jews would have come to Rome to persecute Paul, because of the fact that they knew they had no case. Now, it is most likely that there was eighteen-month or a twenty-four month statutory period in which the prosecution must state his case.

At the end of that time, if the case had not been stated, the prisoner would be released. It is my conviction, at the end of those two years Paul was released, and for a period of time, ministered yet. Then was made a prisoner again, for the final time, and that was the time in which he was beheaded. Roman law dealt very very, very harshly with unsuccessful prosecutions, and so, there just never was one. And so, for two years he was free to minister. Those were busy two years. You know what he did in these two years? Led a whole bunch of people to Christ.

Luke ends Acts by saying that Paul preached about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God boldly and without hindrance (verse 31).

Paul also wrote letters to the churches.

Henry tells us:

During these two years’ imprisonment he wrote his epistle to the Galatians, then his second epistle to Timothy, then those to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon, in which he mentions several things particularly concerning his imprisonment; and, lastly, his epistle to the Hebrews just after he was set at liberty, as Timothy also was, who, coming to visit him, was upon some account or other made his fellow-prisoner (with whom, writes Paul to the Hebrews, Hebrews 13:23, if he come shortly, I will see you), but how or by what means he obtained his liberty we are not told, only that two years he was a prisoner.

MacArthur does not think that Paul wrote Hebrews, which I will discuss more this week, as it is the next book I intend to write about.

However, MacArthur has a bit more, including the names of people who were with him at least some of that time:

He wrote the book of Colossians, he wrote the book of Philemon, he wrote the book of Ephesians, and he wrote the book of Philippians. Everybody came and went. In Colossians, he tells them that Aristarchus is with him, Luke is with him, Mark is with him, Jesus Justus is with him, Epaphras is with him, Demas is with him. He was having a terrific time. In Philippians, he tells about what was going on. Philippians 1, he tells about the salvation that’s going on, and he’s just having a great time.

He further talks about his blessing, and how the gospel is spreading. Chapter 2, verse 24, he says, “It’s not going to be long; then I’ll come and see you Philippians.” And he apparently is realizing that the imprisonment is kind of winding down. His bonds – verse 1 – chapter 1:13 – are being manifest in all the palace. Chapter 4, the saints of Caesar’s household greet you. So people were being saved, and great things were happening. He was then likely released, had a ministry of travel, came back as a prisoner.

In his final imprisonment, he wrote 1-2 Timothy and Titus. Probably about four years later, and outside, on the road to Ostia, he was finally beheaded.

Henry says that Paul might have realised his goal of evangelising in Spain, although we cannot be certain:

Tradition says that after his discharge he went from Italy to Spain, thence to Crete, and so with Timothy into Judea, and thence went to visit the churches in Asia, and at length came a second time to Rome, and there was beheaded in the last year of Nero. But Baronius himself owns that there is no certainty of any thing concerning him betwixt his release from this imprisonment and his martyrdom

As for Nero’s volte face, Henry tells us what two of the early Church fathers — Tertullian and Chrysostom — wrote. The latter gave an account of one of the emperor’s mistresses who became a Christian and renounced her wicked ways, which enraged Nero:

… it is said by some that Nero, having, when he began to play the tyrant, set himself against the Christians, and persecuted them (and he was the first of the emperors that made a law against them, as Tertullian says, Apol. cap. 5), the church at Rome was much weakened by that persecution, and this brought Paul the second time to Rome, to re-establish the church there, and to comfort the souls of the disciples that were left, and so he fell a second time into Nero’s hand. And Chrysostom relates that a young woman that was one of Nero’s misses (to speak modishly) being converted, by Paul’s preaching, to the Christian faith, and so brought off from the lewd course of life she had lived, Nero was incensed against Paul for it, and ordered him first to be imprisoned, and then put to death.

As for takeaways from Paul’s ministry in Rome — and elsewhere — MacArthur says:

Let me sum this up this way. What does this teach us about evangelism? Just note these things, will you, on your outline? Let me make a statement about. What do we learn about his effective evangelism? … Where did he preach? Anywhere.

And how did he preach? I’m going to give you three thoughts. Number one, he preached lovingly. Notice verses 17 to 20. Remember how conciliating he was to the Jews, how loving he was? How he said, “I have no accusation against my nation – in spite of all that’s been done to me?” He preached lovingly. Second, he preached biblically. He expounded and testified the kingdom of God, as it was recorded in the law of Moses and out of the prophets, verse 23. He preached biblically. It wasn’t his opinion; it was biblical truth applied and fulfilled in the Messiah.

He also preached doctrinally. That is, he taught the great doctrines of the kingdom – verse 31. The things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 23 indicates he taught concerning the kingdom of God. He preached lovingly, biblically and doctrinally. When did he preach? When? Number one – promptly. Give you four thoughts. He preached promptly; verse 17, after three days he began. Second thing, tirelessly; verse 23, he preached from morning till evening, tirelessly. Thirdly, he preached incessantly; for two whole years he preached, verse 30 and 31.

And I like it at the end of verse 31: “with all confidence” – he preached boldly. When did he preach? Promptly, tirelessly, incessantly, and with great boldness. That’s just kind of an addition. To whom did he preach? Verse 17, to the Jews; verse 28, to the Gentiles; to anybody. And what did he preach? What was Paul’s message? Verse 23, persuading them concerning Jesus. Verse 31, teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. He preached Jesus, that’s who he preached.

People, what does that say to us? Where are we to preach? Wherever we are. How are we to preach? Lovingly, biblically, doctrinally. When are we to preach? Promptly, tirelessly, incessantly, and with boldness. To whom are we to preach? Jew or Gentile; anybody. And what are we to preach? Jesus Christ. And what are the results? The results are exciting. Verse 24, some believed; some believed. Verse 29, some argued and went away. Some believe and some do not.

There is another important point. Rome then was not unlike some of the world’s great cities today. It was degenerate. It had a few rich people and a lot of poor people. The Romans also owned slaves. Yet, Paul never preached a social gospel.

MacArthur describes the city and Paul’s approach:

As Paul entered the city, he would have seen the temple of Jupiter, which stood out and dominated the city. There was no Coliseum in Rome at the time of Paul. He would have seen on the Palatine hill the three houses of Augustus Tiberius and Caligula, which now had been tied together to make one formidable and massive palace, the home of Nero. He would have seen the great temple of Mars.

And all of this would have spoken to him of the degeneracy, and the idolatry and paganism, of this great city. Rome had become the center of paganism, and the center of decadence, and it was on its way down. The population of Rome at the time when Paul arrived would be approximately two million people; two million people confined to a very small area. Historians tell us that one million of them were slaves, and the other million of them were known as citizens. That is, they were legitimate citizens.

The vast majority of them were absolutely penniless, paupers who slept in the street, and who slept upon the parapets, and whatever else they could find, outdoors in the city of Rome, because they had absolutely nothing. But they were citizens, and they had citizenship, and consequently, they lorded it over the slaves. But nearly all of the two million people were absolute paupers – both the slaves and the citizens – and all of the money resided in the hands of a very few. There were 700 senators – once there was a thousand, but that had begun to degenerate.

There were 10,000 knights, 15,000 soldiers, and then a handful or so of dignitaries, and that was pretty much it. And all of the finances, and all of the power, rested with those people, and the mass of the two-million people existed in abject poverty. This bred all kinds of decadence. The great mass of paupers, who were even proud of their citizenship, held the slaves in contempt beneath them, and of course, there were constant slave revolts. Thousands of these poor people had no homes, and their lives were totally amoral.

Into this melee of depraved and deprived humanity came the apostle Paul, the messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ. And his interest in Rome was not sociological, it was not economic, it was not cultural; it was purely evangelism. He desired to win them to Jesus Christ and to mature the Christians.

Paul’s example demonstrates why today’s focus on the social gospel is wrong.

Paul did not preach about revolt.

Paul did not advocate reparations.

Paul preached the Good News of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life to those who believe.

May we, therefore, learn from his ministry and do likewise ourselves.

Next time — Hebrews 1:13-14

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What follows are readings for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity — Eighth Sunday after Pentecost — August 4, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used for public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Last week’s reading was from Hosea 1. This one is near the end of the book, with the Lord explaining why He will not abandon Israel, despite the people’s unfaithfulness. Again, Judah remained faithful. It would have helped if the Lectionary compilers had included verse 12, which adds more context:

12 [a] Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,
    and the house of Israel with deceit,
but Judah still walks with God
    and is faithful to the Holy One.

Now on to Sunday’s reading:

Hosea 11:1-11

11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

11:2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

11:3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

11:4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.

11:5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

11:6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes.

11:7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.

11:8 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

11:9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

11:10 They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

11:11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

Psalm

The Psalm praises and thanks the Lord for delivering the faithful from trouble and distress.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

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.

107:4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town;

107:5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.

107:6 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress;

107:7 he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.

107:8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

107:9 For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

107:43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

First reading — alternative

Many readers will be familiar with this reading, which chides those who put faith in earthly riches rather than the life to come. Solomon refers to himself as ‘I, the Teacher’.

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23

1:2 Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

1:12 I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem,

1:13 applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with.

1:14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

2:18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me

2:19 –and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

2:20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun,

2:21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.

2:22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun?

2:23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

Psalm — alternative

This Psalm is an exhortation to stop focussing on the world and turn to God instead.

Psalm 49:1-12

49:1 Hear this, all you peoples; give ear, all inhabitants of the world,

49:2 both low and high, rich and poor together.

49:3 My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

49:4 I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.

49:5 Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,

49:6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?

49:7 Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it.

49:8 For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice

49:9 that one should live on forever and never see the grave.

49:10 When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others.

49:11 Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own.

49:12 Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.

Epistle

Paul exhorts the Colossians to put away all worldliness and turn to Christ, thereby turning to God.

Colossians 3:1-11

3:1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,

3:3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

3:4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).

3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.

3:7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

3:8 But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.

3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices

3:10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

3:11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Gospel

In this parable, Jesus warns against a life full of unshared possessions instead of preparing for the life to come.

Luke 12:13-21

12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

12:14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”

12:15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

12:16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly.

12:17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’

12:18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

12:19 And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’

12:20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

12:21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

These readings can easily be turned into Social Justice Warrior sermons, which, no doubt, they will be in many churches.

However, the more pertinent message is to ignore the trappings of this world, including vulgar appetites, and prepare for eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgThe 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 omit — 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 28:23-28

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”[a]

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Last week’s entry discussed the Roman Jews’ request for more information on Christianity, which they called a ‘sect’.

Before delving into today’s passage, John MacArthur makes an excellent observation not only about the content of Acts 28 but also about the entire Book of Acts (emphases mine):

the whole book of Acts is the story of God’s final striving with the Hebrew people. From the time that God called Abraham and founded the nation, He has been striving with Israel.

Historically, throughout all of the Old Testament, Israel failed to live up to the information and the revelation that they had. They grieved the heart of God, they wounded His heart, they broke His heart, and judgment after judgment after judgment after judgment came. There were several captivities that came. One tragic note in the history of Israel was when the entire northern kingdom just disintegrated. Israel was just continually failing to live up to the covenant with God. And yet God was gracious, and Christ finally came.

And first, John the Baptist announced it to Israel. Then, Christ came first to Israel. Then, at the day of Pentecost, when the church was born, the Spirit of God was sent to the midst of Israel. As the church scattered, the apostle Paul went into town, and he went first to Israel, into the synagogues. And finally, now we come to Rome; the last solemn abandonment of Israel. It was only 10 years later – or less – from the record of this passage, that the Roman eagles stormed into Jerusalem, and destroyed Judaism, for good.

What we have today that is called Judaism is only a faint shadow of what Judaism was. It was destroyed in 70 A.D. This is the last solemn, biblical warning to Israel. This is the last time God ever went to the Jew first, right here. Now, the words that Paul quotes in this passage are taken from Isaiah 6. Isaiah spoke them at a time when Israel was in sin. Our Lord Jesus spoke them in Matthew 13, showing the kingdom would be taken from Israel. John quotes the same words in John, chapter 12, and now Paul quotes them.

The prominent Jews in Rome went to Paul’s lodgings on an appointed day to hear what he had to say about Christianity (verse 23). In his love for them, which he had for all Jews — even those who wanted to kill him, as Luke documented throughout Acts — Paul spent hours trying to persuade them that Jesus is the Messiah. He cited the Pentateuch — the first five books from Moses — and he cited the prophets.

I cannot imagine how passionately yet rationally Paul, a converted Pharisee, laid this out. He would have felt duty bound from his heart. He wanted so much to persuade these Jews, his brothers, to believe.

He succeeded with some, but not with all (verse 24).

They left after Paul cited Isaiah 6:9-10 (verses 26, 27), which Paul prefaced by saying that the Holy Spirit was correct about those to whom Isaiah prophesied (verse 25).

In effect, Paul asked them to really consider that one last message. Paul was saying that what had happened to their forefathers will happen to them if they do not heed his discourse. God would make them spiritually blind with no way back.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

He perceived by what they muttered that there were many among them, and perhaps the greater part, that were obstinate, and would not yield to the conviction of what he said; and they were getting up to be gone, they had had enough of it: “Hold,” says Paul, “take one word with you before you go, and consider of it when you come home: what do you think will be the effect of your obstinate infidelity? What will you do in the end hereof? What will it come to?”

1. “You will by the righteous judgment of God be sealed up under unbelief. You harden your own hearts, and God will harden them as he did Pharaoh’s’; and this is what was prophesied of concerning you. Turn to that scripture (Isaiah 6:9,10), and read it seriously, and tremble lest the case there described should prove to be your case.” As there are in the Old Testament gospel promises, which will be accomplished in all that believe, so there are gospel threatenings of spiritual judgments, which will be fulfilled in those that believe not; and this is one. It is part of the commission given to Isaiah the prophet; he is sent to make those worse that would not be made better. Well spoke the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers. What was spoken by JEHOVAH is here said to be spoken by the Holy Ghost, which proves that the Holy Ghost is God; and what was spoken to Isaiah is here said to be spoken by him to their fathers, for he was ordered to tell the people what God said to him; and, though what is there said had in it much of terror to the people and of grief to the prophet, yet it is here said to be well spoken. Hezekiah said concerning a message of wrath, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken, Isaiah 39:8. And he that believes not shall be damned is gospel, as well as, He that believes shall be saved, Mark 16:16. Or this may be explained by that of our Saviour (Matthew 15:7), “Well did Esaias prophesy of you. The Holy Ghost said to your fathers, that which would be fulfilled in you, Hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand.” (1.) “That which was their great sin against God is yours; and that is this, you will not see. You shut your eyes against the most convincing evidence possible, and will not admit the conclusion, though you cannot deny the premises: Your eyes you have closed,” Acts 28:27. This intimates an obstinate infidelity, and a willing slavery to prejudice. “As your fathers would not see God’s hand lifted up against them in his judgments (Isaiah 26:11), so you will not see God’s hand stretched out to you in gospel grace.”

MacArthur has this analysis:

Isaiah, Jesus, John, and Paul all quote the very same words. What do they say? Look at verse 25: “And when they had agreed not among themselves, they departed.” Boy, that is so tragic. That is the last Biblical abandonment of Israel, after Paul had spoken one word. Here’s what drove them away: “Well spoke the Holy Spirit by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers.” There’s a note on inspiration, the Holy Spirit speaking through Isaiah.

This is what He said: “Go unto this people, and say, ‘Hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is become fat’” – or obtuse – “‘and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.’” You’ll notice verse 27 says: “They closed their ears, they closed their eyes, they sealed up their understanding.”

Verse 26 says: “Now they can’t hear, now they can’t understand.” What began as a willful act turned into the sovereignty of God. Israel rejected, willfully blinded themselves, willfully deafened themselves, willfully did not understand, and consequently were tied to that kind of destiny, as God sealed their ears, their eyes, and their minds. Turn for a minute with me to John 12, and I just want to show you the similar passage here, and point some things out to you.

… Now, what began as willful blindness turned into sovereign blindness; frightening. They did not in verse 37; they could not in verse 39. He who will not believe may find some day that he cannot believe.

Paul closed by saying that the Gentiles would hear the Gospel message and, therefore, salvation is theirs (verse 28).

MacArthur explains, still citing John 12:

Verse 30: “The Gentiles who followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness.” Verse 31: ”But Israel has failed.” Now, all of that to show that God turns to the Gentiles, but notice carefully, chapter 11, verse 17: “And if some of the branches be broken off” – now, the branches here are Israel, and the root or the trunk is the blessing of God. “If some of the branches are broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them.”

In other words, the Gentile is the wild olive tree grafted into the trunk of God’s blessing; the Jews are the ones cut off. Verse 18: “Boast not against the branches.” In other words, just because the Gentiles have been grafted in is no cause for us to boast against the Jews. Verse 19: “Thou wilt say then, ‘The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.’” You think you’re better than the Jews? Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. “Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not you.”

You see? Now, be careful that you don’t become overmuch proud, or God may just cut you off. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them who fell, severity; and toward thee, goodness, if you continue in His goodness: otherwise thou shalt also be cut off.” And here he’s talking about the total of the Gentiles. “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in.” Now, notice that? Israel will be re-grafted in if they believe. “For God is able to graft them in again.

“For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree” – you’re not even a normal olive tree, you’re a wild one – “how much more shall these, who are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” Listen, the end of verse 25: “blindness in part has happened to Israel, only until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” – until the completion of the church. “And so all Israel shall be saved.” Listen, God will graft in Israel again.

And so, we see that He’s not ultimately through with them, because that would be to break His eternal covenants. But for the time being, God has set Israel aside, the kingdom is postponed, and the Gentiles are drawn to Him. Verse 28: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it.” Now, this has happened over and over again in the book of Acts: chapter 11, verse 18; chapter 13, verse 46 and 47; chapter 14:27; 15, verses 14 to 18; and chapter 18, verse 6; we see this move to the Gentiles.

Does this ruin God’s plan? No. It didn’t ruin His plan. God will restore Israel. So, we see the inversion, the reversal; and we are the recipients of the blessing of that reversal: Gentiles who believe.

Pray that all unbelievers — not only the Jews — come to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. I often wonder if some atheists have had a sovereign judgement placed on them. I hope not, but the thought of such a judgement is, as MacArthur says, ‘frightening’.

Next week’s post ends this study of Acts and discusses the rest of Paul’s time in Rome.

Next time — Acts 28:30-31

What follows are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity — Seventh Sunday after Pentecost — July 28, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

For this Sunday and next, readings are from the first chapter of Hosea, a minor prophet in terms of writings left behind rather than preaching, according to Matthew Henry. Hosea preached for 70 years and lived at the same time as Isaiah. He was the first to prophesy of the destruction of the ten tribes, an event he lived to see. Here the Lord gives Hosea instructions on his family. Matthew Henry’s commentary is excellent. This is a judgement not on Hosea personally but on his tribe, who turned adulterous in preferring idolatry to worshipping the Lord God. Gomer, the name of Hosea’s wife, means ‘corruption’. Her surname, Diblaim, means ‘two cakes’ or ‘two figs’ which are so rotten that they cannot be eaten.

Hosea 1:2-10

1:2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”

1:3 So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

1:4 And the LORD said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.

1:5 On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”

1:6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the LORD said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them.

1:7 But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”

1:8 When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son.

1:9 Then the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”

1:10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

Psalm

This Psalm was written after the Jews were delivered out of Babylon. The petitions are for release of God’s remaining judgement upon them.

Psalm 85

85:1 LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

85:2 You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. Selah

85:3 You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.

85:4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us.

85:5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

85:6 Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?

85:7 Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.

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.

First reading — alternative

Abraham asks if the Lord will spare Sodom and Gomorrah provided a faithful remnant is present.

Genesis 18:20-32

18:20 Then the LORD said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!

18:21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”

18:22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the LORD.

18:23 Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

18:24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?

18:25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

18:26 And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”

18:27 Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.

18:28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

18:29 Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”

18:30 Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.”

18:31 He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.”

18:32 Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”

Psalm — alternative

It is unclear at what point in his life David wrote this Psalm, one of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord.

Psalm 138

138:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;

138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

138:3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

138:4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.

138:5 They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.

138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.

138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Epistle

Paul tells the Colossians to stand firm in the faith and to support each other, because Christ’s death on the Cross for our sins and His Resurrection surpass everything known to mankind.

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him,

2:7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

2:10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.

2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ;

2:12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

2:13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses,

2:14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

2:16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths.

2:17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

2:18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking,

2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Gospel

Jesus directs His disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Luke 11:1-13

11:1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

11:2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.

11:3 Give us each day our daily bread.

11:4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

11:5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;

11:6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’

11:7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’

11:8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

11:9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

11:11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?

11:12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?

11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I pray that everyone has a blessed Sunday.

bible-wornThe 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 omit — 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 28:17-22

Paul in Rome

17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

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

In last week’s entry, Paul had arrived in Rome at long last, greeted by Christians who met him along the way and journeyed with him into that great city.

Three days after his arrival, Paul sought to speak to the Jews to discuss his case (verse 17).

Wherever he went during his ministry, he sought his fellow Jews first. Not only were the Jews God’s chosen people, but Paul also wanted to set out to explain why Jesus is the Messiah.

Before delving into these verses further, it is worth looking into the history of Jews in Rome around this time in history. Nero was emperor when Paul was in Judea and in Rome. Before Nero, Claudius ruled.

Claudius had banned all Jews from Rome, but now that Nero had succeeded him, they returned.

Matthew Henry says they probably were not allowed synagogues yet, even though there were religious congregations of sorts with rabbis (emphases mine):

It was not long since, by an edict of Claudius, all the Jews were banished from Rome, and kept out till his death; but, in the five years since then, many Jews had come thither, for the advantage of trade, though it does not appear that they were allowed any synagogue there or place of public worship; but these chief of the Jews were those of best figure among them, the most distinguished men of that religion, who had the best estates and interests. Paul called them together, being desirous to stand right in their opinion, and that there might be a good understanding between him and them.

John MacArthur, on the other hand, thinks that there were synagogues at the time of Paul’s stay:

He introduces himself, first of all, to the Jews. “And it came to pass, that after three days” – you’ll notice he doesn’t ever let any grass grow under his feet – “Paul called the chief of the Jews together.” Now, that is not one person; that is many of them. All of the important leaders of the synagogues, and historians have told us there’s anywhere from 12 down to 7 synagogues operating in Rome at this time in history. Each of those synagogues would have some chief men.

MacArthur also says that there were laymen who were wealthy and influential among the Jewish communities. Paul addressed them as ‘brethren’, and in older translations, ‘men and brethren’:

There were also wealthy trade merchants and other people who were of an official character in the city of Rome who were Jewish, who would have been in on this. So, “Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.’” And here is Paul’s pattern, as always; we see that whenever he has gone to a city previously, to whom did he go first? To the Jews.

Paul began by stating that he had never done anything against the Jews. Yet, the Jews in Jerusalem had him taken prisoner by the Romans.

Paul went on to say that the Romans found him guilty of no crime, therefore, no punishment — including the death penalty (verse 18). Now Paul was a Roman citizen, but when the Romans took him prisoner, the Jews had accused Paul of being an infiltrator from Egypt, one who had stirred up riots in Jerusalem. This, of course, was false, but took time for the Romans to establish and for Paul to set straight himself directly to the Jews afterwards.

Paul then said that the Jews objected to the Romans’ intention of setting Paul free and, because of that, he wanted to appeal to Caesar (verse 19). Once again, he said he had no complaint against the Jewish people, or ‘nation’.

Henry says:

It is true Paul did not impose the customs of the fathers upon the Gentiles: they were never intended for them. But it is as true that he never opposed them in the Jews, but did himself, when he was among them, conform to them. He never quarrelled with them for practising according to the usages of their own religion, but only for their enmity to the Gentiles, Galatians 2:12. Paul had the testimony of his conscience for him that he had done his duty to the Jews.

MacArthur rightly points out that if the Romans had freed Paul in Judea, the Jews would have retaliated violently. A Roman governor did not want disorder in the territory he governed, because he could be recalled.

MacArthur provides this analysis:

… even though he was innocent all the way down the line, here he is a prisoner in Rome. It is not because he is guilty that he is a prisoner; it is because the Romans were being blackmailed by the Jews. In other words, if the Romans did not keep him in prison, if they did not prosecute him, the Jews would lead an insurrection against Rome in Judea, and that would be very bad. So, the Roman governor succumbed to the pressure of the Jewish leaders, and kept Paul a prisoner.

Now, verse 18 takes us a little further into his introduction, as he talks to the elders of the Jews, the chief ones. Talking about the Romans, “Who, when they had examined me” – the Romans examined him; repeatedly they examined him, Felix, Festus and Agrippa – “Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.” He establishes right at the very beginning that in the eyes of Roman government, he is innocent. What he is saying is, “This is a Jewish problem. The Jewish people have sent me here, but in the eyes of the Roman law, as I faced it there, I am innocent.”

Through all that series of examinations – in chapter 24 with Felix, in chapter 25 with Festus, and in chapter 26 with Agrippa – he was innocent. Why was he not freed? Verse 19: “But when the Jews spoke against it” – or against me – “I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar.” In other words, he says, “Even though I was innocent, the Jews kept the pressure on me. So much so that my only escape was to appeal to Caesar and have this thing transferred to Rome, with the hope that I might get a fair trial.”

They recognized, you’ll remember, that he wasn’t going to get any justice in Judea because of the Jewish pressure, and so he did what every Roman citizen had the right to do: he appealed his case to Rome. And he was then transported to Rome, where his case was to be heard; and he felt, perhaps, that justice could be attained there. Now, having said all of this might be kind of a bad thing, because he really lays the onus on the Jews, and he may be just sort of X-ing himself out of any ministry.

So, in order to kind of neutralize what he’s just said, he adds the bottom half of verse 19. “Not that I had anything to accuse my nation of.” Now, notice, this is really a very important thing. He hastens to show that his defense is only that. It is only a defense. It is not offensive against the Jews. He’s saying, “I’m not condemning the Jews. I’m not attacking the Jews. I’m only defending myself. I have nothing against them. I’m not attacking back,” is what he’s saying.

He was no traitor to the natural cause of Judaism; he was a Jew in nationality, and he was a Jew in interest, certainly he was a Jew in his special love for them. You’ll notice that he says, “I have nothing to accuse my nation of.” What he’s saying is, “I am the accused, not the accuser. I have no bitterness toward Israel. I draw no accusation against them. I only defend myself.” And you remember back on all five of the defenses that we have heard of Paul, Paul has leveled no accusations against them. He has merely defended himself.

In verse 20, Luke, the author of Acts, cites Paul, giving us a mention of chains. The ‘hope of Israel’ to which Paul refers as the cause of said chains is Christ Jesus — the Messiah — and the resurrection of the dead, with the life of the world to come.

So why did the Jews not want to believe that Jesus was the Messiah? Henry answers the question perfectly, which is why we must not get caught up in today’s social justice warrior (SJW) Christianity — a huge theological error:

Because he preached that the resurrection of the dead would come. This also was the hope of Israel; so he had called it, Acts 23:6,24:15,26:6,7. “They would have you still expect a Messiah that would free you from the Roman yoke, and make you great and prosperous upon earth, and it is this that occupies their thoughts; and they are angry at me for directing their expectations to the great things of another world, and persuading them to embrace a Messiah who will secure those to them, and not external power and grandeur. I am for bringing you to the spiritual and eternal blessedness upon which our fathers by faith had their eye, and this is what they hate me for,–because I would take you off from that which is the cheat of Israel, and will be its shame and ruin, the notion of a temporal Messiah, and lead you to that which is the true and real hope of Israel, and the genuine sense of all the promises made to the fathers, a spiritual kingdom of holiness and love set up in the hearts of men, to be the pledge of, and preparative for, the joyful resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

They responded that they had no written or oral remarks from Judean Jews about Paul (verse 21).

That sounds amazing, but MacArthur gives us two possible reasons why.

Here is the first:

You say, “How could this possibly be?” Remember this: Paul’s ship was probably the last ship, right? to come from Judea to Rome. Why? Because it left really later than it should have left. And by the time it got through all of the terrible storms, and was smashed on Malta, and everything, there wouldn’t have been any other ships but that one, very likely. Why?

Because when Paul was finally going to be sent to Rome, it was only a matter of days before he grabbed the first ship and was on his way. So, Paul would have been on the first ship to Rome from that area. There couldn’t have been anybody getting there any sooner. And of course, then when they had to spend the winter, he probably picked up the closest ship, and would have been there, again, before any messenger could have come; that’s very possible. 

Now the second:

But in addition to that, I think it’s important to remember, too, that the Jews were probably not real anxious to pursue the case to Rome, because they didn’t have a case, right?

And they were probably somewhat satisfied just to have him out of Judea, and so, they didn’t bother to send anybody with any word about it. And the attitude of these Jews is very diplomatic. They deny any knowledge of his case. No one had come and told them these things, and they were saying, “We’re open to hear what it is that you have to say.” The leaders of the Sanhedrin, as I say, probably didn’t bother to come. They had been such miserable failures in front of the provincial rulers, they weren’t about to come across as a total flop in front of Caesar.

And, incidentally, I think that an interesting thing to note is that the Roman government looked very, very harshly on somebody who prosecuted a case without strong evidence. And it would have been a very difficult thing to prosecute Paul, who was a Roman citizen, in the city of Rome, especially when they didn’t even have a case. And then, to add to that, a favorable information from Festus and Felix; there was no way they were going to come to Rome. There was no way they were going to make a stand against this man.

But, then, they wanted to know more about Christianity — ‘this sect’ — because it came in for so much criticism (verse 22).

Both Henry and MacArthur see the Roman Jews’ views as being suspect.

Henry tells us that they were both right and wrong:

“We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest–ha phroneis what thy opinions or sentiments are, what are those things which thou art so wise about, and hast such a relish of and such a zeal for; for, though we know little else of Christianity, we know it is a sect every where spoken against.” Those who said this scornful spiteful word of the Christian religion were Jews, the chief of the Jews at Rome, who boasted of their knowledge (Romans 2:17), and yet this was all they knew concerning the Christian religion, that it was a sect every where spoken against. They put it into an ill name, and then ran it down. (1.) They looked upon it to be a sect, and this was false. True Christianity establishes that which is of common concern to all mankind, and is not built upon such narrow opinions and private interests as sects commonly owe their original to. It aims at no worldly benefit or advantage as sects do; but all its gains are spiritual and eternal. And, besides, it has a direct tendency to the uniting of the children of men, and not the dividing of them, and setting them at variance, as sects have. (2.) They said it was every where spoken against, and this was too true. All that they conversed with spoke against it, and therefore they concluded every body did: most indeed did. It is, and always has been, the lot of Christ’s holy religion to be every where spoken against.

MacArthur sets us up for next week’s passage:

So, they say – “We haven’t heard anything of you, and we’re interested in what you have to say about this sect, that we hear everywhere spoken against. It has a bad reputation among us Jews.” And I think they moderated that; I think they could have said, “which we despise and hate,” because they knew all about Christianity, believe that, folks. The church had already been established in Rome. They were playing a little diplomacy here.

All right, that leads us to the third section in our paragraph, or really two paragraphs, and that is the invitation. Having seen their openness and interest, Paul then proceeds to give them a message and an invitation. He establishes a time for a great meeting, a day to make his presentation. All the Jewish leaders gather to hear him speak. And I think it’s kind of the fulfillment of Romans 1, where he said in verse 14, “I am debtor to the Greeks, and the Barbarians; to the wise, and to the unwise.

This is a more complex set of verses than it first appears. The story unfolds further next week.

Next time — Acts 28:23-27

What follows are readings for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity — Sixth Sunday after Pentecost — July 21, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading — first option

The Lord tells Amos that he will deprive the people of Israel of a prophet for their idolatry and mistreatment of the poor. ‘Summer fruit’ sounds like the word for ‘end’, incidentally.

Matthew Henry explains that, while some people did not mind being without a prophet or a preacher for a long spell of time, many others rightly relied on spiritual nourishment. Therefore, this was a severe judgement given by the Lord.

In Amos 9, the Lord promises the Messiah.

It would have been helpful for context’s sake if the final two verses of Amos 8 had been included, as they point to spiritual deprivation:

13 In that day the lovely virgins and the young men
    shall faint for thirst.
14 Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria,
    and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’
and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’
    they shall fall, and never rise again.”

Now on to the reading:

Amos 8:1-12

8:1 This is what the Lord GOD showed me–a basket of summer fruit.

8:2 He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.

8:3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord GOD; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!”

8:4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

8:5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,

8:6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

8:7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

8:8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?

8:9 On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.

8:10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.

8:11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.

8:12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.

Psalm — first option

In this Psalm, David contemplates his adversary, Doeg. In a broader context, God will punish evildoers and preserve the faithful.

Psalm 52

52:1 Why do you boast, O mighty one, of mischief done against the godly? All day long

52:2 you are plotting destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery.

52:3 You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. Selah

52:4 You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.

52:5 But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah

52:6 The righteous will see, and fear, and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,

52:7 “See the one who would not take refuge in God, but trusted in abundant riches, and sought refuge in wealth!”

52:8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.

52:9 I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

First reading — second option

This conversation took place after Abraham obeyed God’s command to be circumcised. He promises Abraham a son (Isaac).

Genesis 18:1-10a

18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.

18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

18:3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.

18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”

18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.

18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

18:9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”

18:10a Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.”

Psalm — second option

This beautiful Psalm ties in well with Abraham’s faith in and obedience to God.

Psalm 15

15:1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

15:2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;

15:3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;

15:4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;

15:5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Epistle

Last week’s Epistle featured the first 14 verses of Colossians 1. This week’s continues with the second half of the chapter, in which Paul provides a moving description of Christ and his own commission for ministry.

Colossians 1:15-28

1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

1:16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him.

1:17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

1:18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.

1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

1:20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

1:21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

1:22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him

1:23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

1:24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

1:25 I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,

1:26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.

1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1:28 It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Gospel

This is the iconic meeting of Jesus with Mary and Martha. Pre-Lectionary, when I was growing up, this was the annual reading for this particular Sunday.

Luke 10:38-42

10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.

10:39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

10:40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

10:41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;

10:42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Lazarus was their brother. Our Lord raised him from the dead. Mary anointed His feet with expensive nard, to which Judas objected.

In closing, I hope that everyone has a blessed Sunday.

Bible kevinroosecomThe 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 omit — 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 28:11-16

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods[a] as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers[b] and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.

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Last week’s post discussed the healing miracles that Paul performed for the people on Malta through the divine power that God had granted him.

With winter over (verse 11), it was time to resume the journey to Rome.

Luke gives us a bit of information about the ship (verse 11). It was from Alexandria, the breadbasket of Egypt at the time, an important source of grain for Rome. The ship also had a figurehead of Castor and Pollux, gods which were widely worshipped in Greece and Rome. These are the twins for the astrological sign Gemini, but in the ancient world, they represented much more.

Wikipedia explains (emphases in the original):

Castor[a] and Pollux[b] (or in Greek, Polydeuces[c]) were twin half-brothers in Greek and Roman mythology, known together as the Dioscuri.[d]

Their mother was Leda, but they had different fathers; Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan. Though accounts of their birth are varied, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.

In Latin the twins are also known as the Gemini[e] (literally “twins”) or Castores,[f] as well as the Tyndaridae[g] or Tyndarids.[h] When Castor was killed, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together, and they were transformed into the constellation Gemini. The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo’s fire. They were also associated with horsemanship, in keeping with their origin as the Indo-European horse twins.

The Ancient History Encyclopedia tells us (emphases mine):

The twins were considered the protectors of the home and hospitality, oaths, friendship, and sporting activities. Castor was held to be a skilled horse-tamer while Pollux possessed great boxing skills. Both were thought to protect warriors in battle and sailors at sea, especially those in life-threatening situations, and they would often appear in person at such times. At sea they were thought to appear in the form of St. Elmo’s fire.

In Italy the cult of the twins went back to the mid-6th century BCE. For the Romans the twins were the offspring of Jupiter and Leda; both were particularly associated with cavalry and Castor was adopted by the Roman knights (equites) for their patron. In addition, the twin brothers were represented in the constellation Gemini. Other associations were the dokana symbol (two vertical wooden posts connected by two horizontal beams), pairs of amphorae, snakes, and bossed shields.

Matthew Henry says that a Bible scholar, Dr Lightfoot, reckoned that Luke included the detail to indicate that the centurion Julius and his crew might have believed they would have better sailing conditions with these deities notionally watching over them:

Dr. Lightfoot thinks that Luke mentions this circumstance to intimate the men’s superstition, that they hoped they should have better sailing under this badge than they had had before.

They first landed on Sicily, which is fairly close to Malta geographically. They anchored at Syracuse, where they stayed for three days (verse 12). Syracuse had long been the most important port in Sicily, although, after the 7th century, Palermo overtook it in importance.

John MacArthur is quite sure that Paul wasted no time in Syracuse and began preaching the Good News:

Tradition says that Paul founded a church there too. Now I don’t know whether that’s true but it sounds like him. I mean I’ve got 3 days here I might as well start a church. Amazing, I’m telling you. There’s no way to calculate the man’s spirit. And, incidentally, Sicily is an island about 80 or 90 miles away from Malta and a 3-day layover there.

From there, the wind caused them problems, so they tacked then docked at Rhegium (verse 13), which is known as Reggio di Calabria today. It is at the toe of Italy’s ‘boot’ — the region of Calabria — not far from Sicily.

A more favourable southerly wind blew in and they were able to dock at Puteoli (verse 13), which is now called Pozzuoli. It, too, was an important port and more protected than the coastline near Rome. Its name comes from the volcanic sulphur which comprises its terrain.

Bible Map explains:

The region in which the town was situated is of volcanic formation, the name Puteoli being due to the odor of the sulphureous springs or to the wells of a volcanic nature which abound in the vicinity. The volcanic dust, called pozzolana today, was mixed with lime to form a cement of the greatest durability, which was weatherproofing against the influence of seawater.

Its sheltered location made it a resort for Roman nobility:

The region about Puteoli together with Baiae became the favorite resort of the Roman nobility, and the foundations of many ancient villas are still visible, although partly covered by the sea.

Luke states that he, Paul and their friends found Christians there with whom they stayed before journeying on to Rome (verse 14). Recall that the centurion Julius was favourably disposed towards Paul and no doubt allowed him this liberty. It could be that Julius himself had business to do and/or friends to visit in this city.

MacArthur describes the small Christian community in Puteoli:

There was a large Jewish community in Puteoli. It was a trade center like Corinth or Ephesus or Antioch and it would be occupied by Jews who were there for the trade business. And they found some Christians there and they had a terrific time for 7 days with a Christian. Some think the church at Puteoli and at Rome could have been founded as early as 50 to 60 A.D. so that’s very possible. It wasn’t a church that Paul founded. They were already there, and it must have been a blessed fellowship – an exciting time as they shared together. And Paul, finally, he was just 145 miles from Rome and here was a group of Christians. It must have thrilled his heart.

They made the journey to Rome on foot at that point. MacArthur says they would have travelled via the famous Appian Way:

The end of verse 14, “And so we came to Rome.” “So we came to Rome.” At last! Now they would have had to go from Puteoli on the very famous Appian Highway. The Appian Way. Name[d] for Claudius Appia who was the commissioning builder in 312. It led to Rome and so off they go on the Appian Way.

At this point, Paul had already written his letter to the Romans. He had never seen them before, but he would now. I cannot imagine what that must have been like for him. His lengthy letter helped those Christians better organise their growing community, structurally and doctrinally.

So, grateful members of the church in this great city travelled to nearby cities along the Appian Way to greet Paul. It is possible that the believers of Puteoli sent word that the Apostle was there. That he was a prisoner of Rome was no matter to them. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and ‘took courage’ (verse 15).

Henry explains:

They had heard much of his fame, what use God had made of him, and what eminent service he had done to the kingdom of Christ in the world, and to what multitudes of souls he had been a spiritual father. They had heard of his sufferings, and how God had owned him in them, and therefore they not only longed to see him, but thought themselves obliged to show him all possible respect, as a glorious advocate for the cause of Christ. He had some time ago written a long epistle to them, and a most excellent one, the epistle to the Romans, in which he had not only expressed his great kindness for them, but had given them a great many useful instructions, in return for which they show him this respect. They went to meet him, that they might bring him in state, as ambassadors and judges make their public entry, though he was a prisoner. Some of them went as far as Appii-forum, which was fifty-one miles from Rome; others to a place called the Three Taverns, which was twenty-eight miles (some reckon it thirty-three miles) from Rome. They are to be commended for it, that they were so far from being ashamed of him, or afraid of owning him, because he was a prisoner, that for that very reason they counted him worthy of double honour, and were the more careful to show him respect.

MacArthur gives us this insight:

Paul saw thanked god and what? Took courage. Was encouraged. Oh, he was thrilled at this reception. It had been three years since he wrote the Roman letter. Three years since he said I want to come to you on minister to you and impart a spiritual gift and mutually be comforted by you. Three years had gone by and they remembered him and they were eager for him.

Mercifully, Julius must have given Paul permission to stay by himself in Rome with only one soldier to guard him (verse 16).

MacArthur says that it was horrible for Paul to have been chained to his guard the entire time:

He was chained all the time to a Roman soldier. Verse 20 tells us about that, and verse 30. He had his own house and his own private guard was chained to him. But whenever I think about him being chained to the guard I always think about the guard being chained to him and I think that’s probably worse – never being able to get away from that guy would really be tough.

However, Henry posits a more optimistic view, and based on Julius’s lenient treatment of Paul from the beginning, I rather side with Henry’s perspective:

He is a prisoner, but not a close prisoner, not in the common jail: Paul was suffered to dwell by himself, in some convenient private lodgings which his friends there provided for him, and a soldier was appointed to be his guard, who, we hope, was civil to him, and let him take all the liberty that could be allowed to a prisoner, for he must be very ill-natured indeed that could be so to such a courteous obliging man as Paul. Paul, being suffered to dwell by himself, could the better enjoy himself, and his friends, and his God, than if he had been lodged with the other prisoners. Note, This may encourage God’s prisoners, that he can give them favour in the eyes of those that carry them captive (Psalms 106:46), as Joseph in the eyes of his keeper (Genesis 39:21), and Jehoiachin in the eyes of the king of Babylon, 2 Kings 25:27,28. When God does not deliver his people presently out of bondage, yet, if he either make it easy to them or them easy under it, they have reason to be thankful.

Indeed, the remainder of Acts 28 gives witness to the fact that Paul was able to preach and teach ‘with all boldness and without hindrance’ (verse 31).

Next time — Acts 28:17-22

What follows are readings for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity — Fifth Sunday after Pentecost — July 14, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading — option one

Amos warns Israel’s priest Amaziah of God’s wrath to come for ignoring his prophecy and dismissing him.

Amos 7:7-17

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.’

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.”

7:17 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 — option one

This Psalm is a warning to those in responsibility to act in a godly way by showing mercy to those in need.

Psalm 82

82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

82:2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

82:3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.

82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

82:5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

82:6 I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;

82:7 nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”

82:8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

First reading — option two

God promises His blessings to those who repent of their sins and return to His guidance.

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

30:9 and the LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors,

30:10 when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

30:11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.

30:12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”

30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”

30:14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Psalm — option two

This Psalm has all the necessary elements of a good prayer, including giving all glory to God.

Psalm 25:1-10

25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Epistle

This is the first part of Paul’s letter to the people of Colosse, which Epaphras founded and Paul nurtured as if it were his own. Paul begins with his general benediction, characteristic of all his letters. Note how he includes young Timothy and speaks highly of Epaphras. This is a prayer for the Colossians. The whole of the book is a warning against Judaizers, who wanted to distort Christianity.

Colossians 1:1-14

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

1:2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

1:3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

1:4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel

1:6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.

1:7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,

1:8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

1:10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully

1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,

1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Gospel

This is the enduring parable of the Good Samaritan, with the lesson that we should be merciful to all in need. The severely injured robbery victim was a Jew, yet the priest and the Levite ignored him. By contrast, the Samaritan — a Gentile — showed mercy on the man.

Luke 10:25-37

10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

10:27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

10:28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.

10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.

10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

10:35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

10:36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Oh, the irony of pious, hypocritical clerics ignoring someone in dire need, leaving that to a layman — and someone who was not of their own belief system, either.

Bible readingThe 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 omit — 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 28:7-10

Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly,[a] and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

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Last week’s entry discussed the welcome by the Maltese of Paul and the 275 other passengers who providentially survived the shipwreck.

They called Paul a ‘god’ when he shook off a poisonous viper off his hand and was unharmed.

John MacArthur says this, which relates to today’s Lectionary Gospel passage from Luke 10 (emphases mine):

Go back in your Bible to Luke 10. I’ll show you 2 passages. When the Lord first sent out the 70 to talk about the kingdom, they must have had a lot of snakes in those days. But when they sent them out he told them this promise, verse 19. Well, he gave them a lot of things. I like this. We’ll go back to verse 17. “And the 70 returned with joy saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us through your name.’” Horrific. “And he said unto them, ‘I beheld Satan as lightening fall from Heaven.’” Sure, he’s subject to my name, I remember when he fell.

Listen, “Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall, by any means, hurt you.” Now he says don’t rejoice in the spiritual subject to you, rejoice that your names are written in Heaven. That’s a positive there. So he says I give you the power to tread on serpents. He sent them out with the ability to do that.

Now I want you to look at Mark 16:18. Now here he says to his disciples, now you’re going to in the world and many signs are going to accompany your ministry. You’re going to cast out demons. You’re going to speak with new languages. Verse 18, Mark 16. “They shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them.” Now you see it’s fulfilled, isn’t it?

Now remember this, folks, that is not for today. You drink a bottle of poison you have no guarantees except that you’ll be dead. And if you play with poisonous snakes you cannot claim Mark 16:18. It’s interesting that the same people who want to claim that the speaking with new language was just for the apostles aren’t anxious to claim the drinking of poison or the playing with poisonous snakes.

This was purely for the apostolic era and an important thing but here’s the fulfillment of it. He just flicks off a poisonous snake. You say, well why this? I mean what a silly thing to happen. You know why God let that happen? Can you imagine the reaction of the people? God used miracles to confirm his apostles and to confirm their divine source and to confirm their word.

Incidentally, I can’t help when he flicked that snake off but think about the fact that ultimately, the ultimate snake is going to be flicked off – Satan himself. Romans 16:20, “I’ll shortly put Satan under your feet.” I like to think about that.

Luke, the author of Acts, does not tell us that Paul disabused them of the notion that he was a god, but we can be pretty sure that he did, because he shared the Good News wherever he went. Also recall that, at other times in Acts, Paul was quick to point out that he was a human being, not a deity:

Remember back in the 14th chapter he was there in the area of Galatia and there was this guy crippled from his birth, in verse 8, and Paul was preaching and he looked out and there was this guy and he says stand on your feet, fellow! The guy leaps up and jumps around. The people saw what he did. They lifted up their voices saying in the speech of Laconia, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas Jupiter and Paul Mercury.”

And they brought out a bunch of animals to sacrifice to Jupiter and Mercury, and Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and ran crying, “Sirs, why are you doing these things? We are men of like passions with you. We preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities unto the living God.” See, he didn’t want to be a part of that proliferation of deities, that polytheism that they were involved in. They wanted to the representatives of the true God, not a god.

The chief of the island, Publius, put all 276 survivors up for three days, showing them much hospitality (verse 7).

Matthew Henry says that the three days allowed Publius to make arrangements for their long term stay, which was three months:

he had a considerable estate in the island, and some think was governor, and he received them and lodged them three days very courteously, that they might have time to furnish themselves in other places at the best hand. It is happy when God gives a large heart to those to whom he has given a large estate. It became him, who was the chief man of the island, to be most hospitable and generous,–who was the richest man, to be rich in good works.

Even though he was materially well off, Publius could not prevent illness in his family. His father had been suffering from dysentery, so Paul visited the man, prayed and laid hands on him. He was duly healed (verse 8).

The King James Version uses the term ‘bloody flux’ for ‘dysentery’, because that is what it was called at the time.

MacArthur explains:

Now 1611 medicine leaves a lot to be desired and the King James was written in 1611 and bloody flux just doesn’t seem to make it. Fever I understand. The word for fever in the Greek is the word puretos and it means a gastric fever. The fact that it is in the plural, fevers, indicates that it was a recurring gastric fever.

Now the bloody flux is the Greek word dusentaria from which we get the word dysentery which is an intestinal disease. Now what he really had here was some sort of recurrent dysentery and a gastric fever accompanying it. Some historians record that this was a common problem in Malta because they have a certain kind of microbe in their goat’s milk. And so here Publius’ father who has this gastric problem, dysentery, to whom Paul entered in, prayed, laid his hands on him and healed him.

After this miraculous healing, others with diseases went to Paul to be healed (verse 9).

MacArthur is certain that Paul preached as he healed:

What Paul was doing by praying and laying hands on was identifying God’s power and the fact that he was God’s agent.

Now there is something that isn’t said here but it needs to be added to the text in this sense. I am totally convinced that what Paul also did here is to preach. And I think the reason it doesn’t say that is because it’s so obvious. The Lord Jesus Christ did not perform miracles without speaking to point out the fact that these miracles were to corroborate the testimony of the gospel. Peter, when he performed miracles, earlier in Acts, preached Christ. Paul, when he did miracles, preached Christ, having established the conformation of divine agency he then proclaimed the divine message.

So if Paul healed, believe it, Paul preached. And tradition tells us that he founded in these days the church at Malta.

I am glad that MacArthur mentioned the tradition about Publius. Of course, we read no more of him in the Bible, but it is believed that he was the first Bishop of Malta:

And tradition also tells us that the first pastor of the Maltese Christians was Publius. And very likely, if he had a house that could handle 276 guests, that’s probably where the church began too. And so we can be, even though it doesn’t say, confidently, the church was founded then and agreeing with tradition that Publius may well have been the first pastor and the church could have possibly even have met in his house. Someday, just to be sure, we’ll check out the Lamb’s Book of Life when we get there and we’ll well see a list of Maltese names and at the top will be Publius, and maybe following it will be names like Julius, a Roman Centurion and a few other people from a certain ship that had a wreck on the Coast of Malta.

Saint Publius is venerated in the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Like the Apostle Paul, Publius also died as a martyr, but later, around 125 AD. Hadrian was emperor at the time.

The Maltese are friendly, open people, so it is not surprising to read Luke’s comment that they honoured all the shipwreck survivors greatly and, when it came time to leave, loaded their ship with everything necessary (verse 10).

I’ll have more about Paul’s journey to Rome next week.

Next time — Acts 28:11-16

What follows are the readings for the Third Sunday after Trinity — the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost — July 7, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the heading for the second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading — option one

This is the story of the Syrian commander Naaman, who was afflicted with leprosy. The prophet Elisha advises his enemy Naaman to bathe in the Jordan, where he will be made clean. This is a rather complex Old Testament episode, aspects of which Matthew Henry explains well, including the wisdom of faithful servants, the taboo of leprosy, the salvation of the Gentiles and the spiritual importance of the River Jordan.

2 Kings 5:1-14

5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.

5:2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.

5:3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

5:4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.

5:5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.

5:6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

5:7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

5:8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”

5:9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.

5:10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”

5:11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!

5:12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.

5:13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

5:14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm — option one

David wrote this Psalm after a time of deliverance. It was after he moved into his house of cedar, and some scholars say that he was also cured of an illness at that time. It makes a good complement to the above reading.

Psalm 30

30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.

30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.

30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”

30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed.

30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication:

30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?

30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!”

30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

First reading — option two

This reading comes from the last chapter in Isaiah, foretelling the rise of the Church — the new Jerusalem — and the inclusion of Gentiles among the saved.

Isaiah 66:10-14

66:10 Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her–

66:11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.

66:12 For thus says the LORD: I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees.

66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

66:14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.

Psalm — option two

This Psalm encourages us to praise God and to thank Him for His continuing blessings.

Psalm 66:1-9

66:1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

66:2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.

66:3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.

66:4 All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah

66:5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

66:6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,

66:7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah

66:8 Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,

66:9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

Epistle

In the last part of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul encourages us to be one mutually supportive body in Christ through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is partly a warning against following Judaisers, who were prevalent at the time. Verse 11 alludes to the vision problems Paul might have endured. Also note the timeless words of verse 7.

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

6:1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.

6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

6:3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.

6:4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride.

6:5 For all must carry their own loads.

6:6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

6:7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.

6:8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

6:9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.

6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

6:11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!

6:12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised–only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

6:13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.

6:14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

6:15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!

6:16 As for those who will follow this rule–peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Gospel

Early on in His ministry, Jesus gave His seventy disciples the power to preach and heal. (He first gave the twelve Apostles those divine gifts.) Matthew Henry’s commentary posits that He might have had the seventy elders of Israel in mind.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.

10:2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

10:3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.

10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.

10:5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’

10:6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.

10:7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.

10:8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;

10:9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say,

10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

10:16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

10:17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

10:18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

10:19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.

10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:2 explains why we pray for more to be called to ordination and, where applicable, to religious orders. Our Lord also asks that they live humbly, which is why the faithful ones work on small salaries and live modestly.

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