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Bible read me 2The 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.

1 Corinthians 16:10-11

10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

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Last week’s entry was about Paul’s travel plans: staying in Ephesus until Pentecost, then going to Macedonia and, if the Lord willed it, a considerable stay in Corinth afterwards.

Paul was sending Timothy to Corinth to do the Lord’s work; Paul instructed the congregation to put Timothy at ease (verse 10).

Timothy was young and fresh faced. Paul wanted him to be his emissary, giving hard truths to the Corinthians, who were likely to be a tough audience as they were already divided by various teachers, some of whom were false.

Matthew Henry’s commentary lays out what Timothy faced (emphases mine):

Timothy was sent by the apostle to correct the abuses which had crept in among them; and not only to direct, but to blame, and censure, and reprove, those who were culpable. They were all in factions, and no doubt the mutual strife and hatred ran very high among them. There were some very rich, as it is probable; and many very proud, upon account both of their outward wealth and spiritual gifts. Proud spirits cannot easily bear reproof. It was reasonable therefore to think young Timothy might be roughly used; hence the apostle warns them against using him ill. Not but that he was prepared for the worst; but, whatever his firmness and prudence might be, it was their duty to behave themselves well towards him, and not discourage and dishearten him in his Lord’s work. They should not fly out into resentment at his reproof. Note, Christians should bear faithful reproofs from their ministers, and not terrify and discourage them from doing their duty.

Paul entreats the Corinthians not to despise Timothy but to ‘help him on his way in peace’, because Paul is expecting his return as were others (verse 11).

Henry says that Paul wants to point out that, even though Timothy is junior in rank to him, he was invested with the same authority to do the same work of the Lord:

He did not come on Paul’s errand among them, nor to do his work, but the work of the Lord. Though he was not an apostle, he was assistant to one, and was sent upon this very business by a divine commission. And therefore to vex his spirit would be to grieve the Holy Spirit; to despise him would be to despise him that sent him, not Paul, but Paul’s Lord and theirs. Note, Those who work the work of the Lord should be neither terrified nor despised, but treated with all tenderness and respect. Such are all the faithful ministers of the word, though not all in the same rank and degree. Pastors and teachers, as well as apostles and evangelists, while they are doing their duty, are to be treated with honour and respect.

Henry says that Paul was expecting a full account of the Corinthians from Timothy upon his return:

Conduct him forth in peace, that he may come to me, for I look for him with the brethren (1 Corinthians 16:11; 1 Corinthians 16:11); or I with the brethren look for him (the original will bear either), ekdechomai gar auton meta ton adelphon“I am expecting his return, and his report concerning you; and shall judge by your conduct towards him what your regard and respect for me will be. Look to it that you send him back with no evil report.” Paul might expect from the Corinthians, that a messenger from him, upon such an errand, should be regarded, and well treated. His services and success among them, his authority with them as an apostle, would challenge this at their hands. They would hardly dare to send back Timothy with a report that would grieve or provoke the apostle. “I and the brethren expect his return, wait for the report he is to make; and therefore do not use him ill, but respect him, regard his message, and let him return in peace.”

John MacArthur’s sermon has another British missionary story from the 19th century. It is about a Scot, John Gibson Paton (1824-1907), a devout Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) who ministered to the cannibals of the New Hebrides:

Paton was a Bible student – a Bible college student in London. God called him to go to the New Hebrides Islands where there were man-eating cannibals. You know, that would be a hard thing for a young Bible college student to say yes to, wouldn’t it? I know what I’d have said. I would have said, “Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy. Are you sure my gifts are fit for that?” Or I would have said, “Look, I graduated Lord. I can make it in the ministry. No sense in me being somebody’s lunch. All this effort?” I would have said, “Look, Lord, I’ve got a great idea. I know a Bible college dropout who’ll never make it in the ministry. Send him there; they’ll eat him, and who will know.” The guy will be a hero. Right? Leave me alone will you? I can cut it.

But John Paton didn’t argue with God. The Lord said go, so he went. Took his little wife, a ship let them off, they paddled to shore in a little rowboat. They were there on an island inhabited by man-eating cannibals whose language they did not speak. And they had no way to contact them. They set up a little hut at the beach and the Lord marvelously preserved them. Later on when the chief of the tribe in that area was converted to Christ, he asked John who that army was that surrounded his hut every night. God’s holy angels protected him. After a matter of weeks there, his wife gave birth to a baby, and the baby and the wife both died. He was all alone and he says in his biography that he slept on the graves to keep the natives from digging up the bodies and eating them. And he decided he’d stay.

The challenge was great, the adversaries were many and that was where God wanted him, so he stayed. How do you do that by yourself? You do that by being totally depending on God. Accept the challenge, because it’s in the challenge where your resources run out and you depend on God and it’s where you depend on God that His power flows to victories that you never dreamed possible. It’s to the one who really labors for the Lord and does the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, has a vision for the future, a sense of flexibility, a thoroughness, not superficial, has a commitment to present service, and accepts opposition as an opportunity or a challenge.

Paton’s Wikipedia entry has more.

The inhabitants of Tanna, where the Patons had settled in 1858, were fierce. Yet, Paton survived many attacks on his life. There was one time when he was in a near-death situation, but, providentially, a ship arrived at the island just in time to rescue him and, from the other side of Tanna, two other missionaries, Mr and Mrs Mathieson. The ship took them to another island in the New Hebrides, Aneityum.

From Aneityum, Paton went to Australia then returned to Scotland to recruit new missionaries and to raise funds for evangelising in the New Hebrides. Some of the money went towards building a ship. Later on, he was able to have a steamship built for the missionaries.

In 1864, while he was in Scotland, he remarried. Margaret (Maggie) Whitecross accompanied her husband to the New Hebrides. They settled on Aniwa, the island closest to Tanna. Paton wrote that the inhabitants were just as cruel as those on Tanna.

Incredibly, Maggie bore ten children, four of whom died at very young ages. One of their sons became a missionary in the New Hebrides.

John Paton learned the language of Aniwa and put it into writing, enabling him to translate the New Testament for the islanders. It was printed in 1899. By then, he had enabled the establishment of missionaries on 25 of the 30 islands in the New Hebrides.

Maggie taught the women and girls to weave hats and sew. She also taught them the tenets of Christianity.

As Paton had some medical training, he and his wife were able to minister to the sick, dispensing medicines daily.

Paton held a service every Sunday. He also taught the men how to use modern tools.

By the end of his ministry on Aniwa, he and his wife had trained local teachers to preach the Gospel. By the time they left for Australia, the whole island professed the Christian faith.

The Patons retired in Victoria State, where Melbourne is located. Maggie died in Kew in 1905 at the age of 64. John died in Canterbury in 1907. He was 82, which is an amazing age, considering he had ministered to cannibals and had to contend with all sorts of tropical diseases.

The Patons’ ministry was a Pauline one involving a deep, guiding faith as well as perseverance against all adversity. It is an amazing story.

Returning to today’s reading, next week’s post details Paul’s final instructions to the Corinthians. As ever in his closing chapters, the Apostle names several people doing the Lord’s work and his satisfaction with them.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 16:12-18

Bible ancient-futurenetThe 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.

1 Corinthians 4:17-21

17 That is why I sent[a] you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ,[b] as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s stern yet heartfelt plea to the Corinthians to follow his Christian example.

His reprimand continues throughout the chapter. Today’s verses are the conclusion.

Paul had sent Timothy to the Corinthians to help them improve their ways (verse 17). Timothy had not yet arrived, but he was en route.

Paul considered all the converts and helpers his spiritual children. Timothy was among their number.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says (emphases mine):

To render their regard to Timothy the greater, he gives them his character. He was his beloved son, a spiritual child of his, as well as themselves. Note, Spiritual brotherhood should engage affection as well as what is common and natural. The children of one father should have one heart. But he adds, “He is faithful in the Lord–trustworthy, as one that feared the Lord. He will be faithful in the particular office he has now received of the Lord, the particular errand on which he comes; not only from me, but from Christ. He knows what I have taught, and what my conversation has been in all places, and, you may depend upon it, he will make a faithful report.” Note, It is a great commendation of any minister that he is faithful in the Lord, faithful to his soul, to his light, to his trust from God; this must go a great way in procuring regard to his message with those that fear God.

The Corinthians were so full of pride that they thought they could get away with their various divisions within their church. So Paul warns them of their arrogance, saying that he could make a return visit to Corinth (verse 18).

Furthermore, he planned — if God willed it — a return visit to confront the ‘arrogant people’, the false teachers, in that congregation (verse 19).

The ‘power’ which Paul associates with the kingdom of God (verse 20) is the divine power of the Holy Spirit rather than human discourse. The Corinthians loved their discourse and their philosophy.

Henry explains:

He would bring the great pretenders among them to a trial, would know what they were, not by their rhetoric or philosophy, but by the authority and efficacy of what they taught, whether they could confirm it by miraculous operations, and whether it was accompanied with divine influences and saving effects on the minds of men. For, adds he, the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. It is not set up, nor propagated, nor established, in the hearts of men, by plausible reasonings nor florid discourses, but by the external power of the Holy Spirit in miraculous operations at first, and the powerful influence of divine truth on the minds and manners of men. Note, It is a good way in the general to judge of a preacher’s doctrine, to see whether the effects of it upon men’s hearts to be truly divine. That is most likely to come from God which in its own nature is most fit, and in event is found to produce most likeness to God, to spread piety and virtue, to change men’s hearts and mend their manners.

Paul ends by laying down the law: he can visit them as an angry father would or in a spirit of kindness; it was up to them (verse 21).

MacArthur tells us:

And so he says, “Some of you are puffed up, you don’t think I’m coming, but I will come shortly” – then he throws this in – “if the Lord will.” He knew to throw that in because a lot of times when he planned to go somewhere, he never got there. “And I’ll find out then not the speech of them who are puffed up but the power.” “I’ll find out who’s talk and who’s real when I get there. You people talk a great game but I’m going to find out who’s real, not who’s just talking.”

Discipline is important. Paul says, “When I come there, I’m going to check some things out” …

So he says, “I’m going to come and find out which of you are all talk and which of you really manifest the power of God because the Kingdom of God is not word but power.” “This isn’t an issue of words. I’m going to come and find out who is genuine.” The man’s true character is determined not by his words but the divine power exhibited in his life because if he’s a member of the Kingdom of God, if God rules in his life, then there’s going to be power in his life, not just verbiage

Now watch – verse 21 – “What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do?” “Shall I come unto you with a rod” – if you don’t change, that’s what’s going to be – “or in love and the spirit of gentleness?” “How do you want me to come? I’m coming and I’m coming shortly and how do you want me to come?” Did you notice there’s no answer there in verse 21? Why isn’t there any answer? Who had to make the answer? Corinthians. Choice is yours. “I’ll come, and if it needs to be a rod, it’s going to be a rod, and some heads are going to roll. That’s right. “But I could come in love and gentleness, it’s up to you.”

Paul’s words sound harsh. There are few godly preachers who would use such words today, but he really did love the errant Corinthians. He wanted to make sure they were on the right Christian path.

MacArthur concludes his sermon with this:

And so the spiritual father unbares his heart. “I care about you,” he says. “I begot you. I love you. I seek to see a change in your evil behavior. I want the pattern of my life to be the example for you.” Paul cared about them, so much so that he was willing not only to teach them but to discipline them, to bring them into conformity to that pattern. That is as it should be. My prayer for us – for me, for you, for all of us – is that we would become in the fullest sense spiritual fathers.

MacArthur says we should be begetting disciples for Christ:

Wouldn’t that be exciting? Why aren’t we busy reproducing? There may be 10,000 instructors, all kinds of people that are teaching and giving input, not many fathers. A Christian who isn’t spiritually fathering somebody is a contradiction. My prayer for us is that we would all become spiritual fathers.

Sometimes, that is through preaching or teaching Scripture. Sometimes, it is through setting a godly example in all things. The Lord gives us various gifts, according to our ability. Let us put those gifts to good use through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 5:1-5

Bible read me 1The 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.

I have included verse 24 from some — not all versions (including the ESV) — below.

Romans 16:21-23(24)

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.[a]

24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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Last week’s reading concerned Paul’s warning to the obedient Romans about false teachers and their earthly (carnal) appetites.

Previous entries were about Paul’s commendations of his church family who were in Rome at that time. This was the final one; there were more prior to that.

In Paul’s closing, we discover who sends greetings to the church in Rome.

Paul begins by mentioning young Timothy, his ‘fellow worker’. He also mentions Lucius, Jason and Sosipater (verse 21).

In the King James Version, Timothy is called Timotheus:

21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the name Timothy was a diminutive in that era, yet Paul had an immense amount of respect for his protégé (emphases mine below):

Timotheus my work-fellow. Paul sometimes calls Timothy his son, as an inferior; but here he styles him his work-fellow, as one equal with him, such a respect does he put upon him

Paul says that Lucius, Jason and Sopater — Sosipater — were his relatives (verse 20).

We saw Paul mention others earlier in Romans 16, to whom he referred as his ‘kinsmen’.

Henry has more, surmising that if they were not relatives of Paul’s, they were close enough so to be:

Lucius, probably Lucius of Cyrene, a noted man in the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1), as Jason was at Thessalonica, where he suffered for entertaining Paul (Acts 17:5,6): and Sosipater, supposed to be the same with Sopater of Berea, mentioned Acts 20:4. These Paul calls his kinsmen; not only more largely, as they were Jews, but as they were in blood or affinity nearly allied to him.

The Luke of the eponymous Gospel was of Troas, in Asia Minor. Cyrene was in what is now modern day Libya. Therefore, that Lucius — Luke — was unlikely to have been the same as the one mentioned in Acts.

When Luke, the physician from Troas and the author of the Book of Acts, first appeared in Acts 16, and for a few chapters afterwards, he wrote in the first person. In Acts 16, he narrated the divine instruction to Paul to cross the sea from Asia Minor to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Note how the narrative changes from third person to first:

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[a] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

With Luke’s sporadic first person narration, Acts 20:6 says:

but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

John MacArthur surmises that if Lucius were from Cyrene, he would have been a Gentile. MacArthur then posits that Jason and Sosipater — Sopater — were fellow Jews:

if Lucius is a Gentile then these two would be Jews because he says “Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen, greet you.” Now we don’t know who these men are specifically, other than just brief reference. In Acts 17 verses 5 to 9 Jason was Paul’s host on his first visit to Thessalonica. He was a man who gave hospitality to him and he was saved at that time. So no doubt because he was a convert of Paul there was a love bond there, and here was Jason with Paul, companion in his travel and ministry. Sosipater, also called Sopater, just shortening his name a bit, was from the town of Berea and was probably one of those noble Old Testament students who studied the Scripture. He was in Paul’s group at this time as well and is mentioned in Acts chapter 20 verse 4.

These are the verses about Jason in Acts 17:5-9 in Thessalonica. He must have gone through a hard time, protecting Paul and his friends. Jason and the others had to post bail:

5 But the Jews[a] were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

As for Sopater, I wrote about Acts 20:1-6 in 2018. Note that we also see a mention of Timothy:

Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.

The Bereans studied Scripture diligently. Acts 17:10-15 tell us so. Those verses also mention Silas and Timothy:

10 The brothers[b] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

MacArthur sums these men up as follows:

Now the ministry of Timothy is clear He served Paul in a wonderful way The ministry of Jason was one of support, providing a home for him The ministry of Sosipater, we don’t know anything about But they were his friends and they were part of his life and they demonstrate again that loving relationship he had with people.

Then we come to Tertius — Latin for ‘third’ — in verse 22. Paul dictated the letter to the Romans to Tertius to transcribe. Tertius was Paul’s secretary, taking dictation. That role was traditionally known as ‘amanuensis’.

Henry posits that Tertius could have been — although we do not know for certain — Silas:

Paul made use of a scribe, not out of state nor idleness, but because he wrote a bad hand, which was not very legible, which he excuses, when he writes to the Galatians with his own hand (Galatians 6:11): pelikois grammasi–with what kind of letters. Perhaps this Tertius was the same with Silas; for Silas (as some think) signifies the third in Hebrew, as Tertius in Latin. Tertius either wrote as Paul dictated, or transcribed it fairly over out of Paul’s foul copy. The least piece of service done to the church, and the ministers of the church, shall not pass without a remembrance and a recompence. It was an honour to Tertius that he had a hand, though but as a scribe, in writing this epistle.

Although he says nothing about Tertius being Silas (Acts 16), MacArthur agrees that we do not know anything more about Tertius, only that he was Paul’s transcriber of this magnificent doctrinal letter to the Christians in Rome.

Finally, Paul mentions Gaius, Erastus and Quartus, the last meaning ‘the fourth’ (verse 23).

We know nothing about Quartus, but he must have had some meaningful role to play in Paul’s ministry if the Holy Spirit inspired those who compiled the scriptural canon to include his name. He will be forever remembered in the New Testament.

As for Gaius, Luke mentioned a man by that name in Acts 20:4, along with Timothy and Sopater:

Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.

However, Henry was unsure whether that Gaius was the same person, as there were others of the same name:

… Gaius my host. It is uncertain whether this was Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), or Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), or rather Gaius of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14), and whether any of these was he to whom John wrote his 3 John 1:1. However, Paul commends him for his great hospitality; not only my host, but of the whole church–one that entertained them all as there was occasion, opened his doors to their church-meetings, and eased the rest of the church by his readiness to treat all Christian stranger that came to them.

MacArthur has a different take on Gaius:

Verse 23 wraps up the greeting, “Gaius, my host.” In Acts 7…Acts 18:7 he is called Titus Justus, and was a noble free man, first seen in Corinth. It was said of him then that he worshiped God, he was a true seeker after the true God and, get this, he lived next door to the synagogue. And you remember, of course, that Paul reached him, he responded to Paul’s preaching as a Gentile, he was baptized by the apostle. In 1 Corinthians 1:14, he says I baptized Gaius, and so he was dear to him. He had led him to Christ. This man had provided again for Paul’s ministry and now is with Paul supporting him. He is not only Paul’s host — would you notice this — he’s the host of the whole church. What do you think that means? The church met where? Probably in his house, and he sends his love, too. This is a wonderful group, isn’t it?

Then we come to Erastus, a man who held a high position in Corinth.

MacArthur says:

“Erastus, the treasurer of the city,” now that’s a coup, to have the treasurer of the city. And here was a man of prominence, the treasurer of the city. His name was a common one so we don’t know what Erastus he was, probably not the same one mentioned in Acts 19:22 or 2 Timothy 4:20, but a city treasurer, a somewhat noble person who had come to Christ. There aren’t many noble and there aren’t many mighty, 1 Corinthians says, but here was one of some nobility. And we find some interesting things. By the way, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens discovered in 1929 on the site of Corinth a marble paving block, and this is what it said on the block, “Erastus, commissioner for public works, laid this pavement at his own expense.” Now the commissioner for public works is called Erastus and here the city treasurer or chamberlain is called Erastus. It may not be the same Erastus or it might be that he got a promotion or a demotion. I don’t know which was the higher job. But it is a possibility, though perhaps remote. We really don’t know who he is.

Henry has this:

Erastus, the chamberlain of the city is another; he means the city of Corinth, whence this epistle was dated. It seems he was a person of honour and account, one in public place, steward or treasurer. Not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but some are. His estate, and honour, and employment, did not take him off from attending on Paul and laying out himself for the good of the church, it should seem, in the work of the ministry; for he is joined with Timothy (Acts 19:22), and is mentioned 2 Timothy 4:20. It was no disparagement to the chamberlain of the city to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ.

Afterwards, we reach verse 24, wherein Paul — as he did in Romans 16:20 — wish that the grace of Jesus Christ be with everyone in the church at Rome (verse 24). Paul cannot send that prayerful wish enough, as MacArthur says:

His heart is so filled with love. People, I believe this is just coming out of his emotion. He said it just two verses…four verses back in verse 20, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” He just has a heart of compassion for these people. What a loving, loving man he was.

Recall that those were people he had never met. Yet he had the burning desire to travel to Rome and meet them.

The final verses of Romans 16 are in the Lectionary used in public worship:

Doxology

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

A doxology is a praise of God, often added to the end of a canticle, psalm or hymn. In traditional churches with a liturgy, a doxology follows the sermon. In Protestant churches, this may take the form of Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, which, in Catholic churches is sung at the end of Mass as appropriate.

In any event, this was Paul’s final message to the Romans, which Henry aptly describes as follows:

Here the apostle solemnly closes his epistle with a magnificent ascription of glory to the blessed God, as one that terminated all in the praise and glory of God, and studied to return all to him, seeing all is of him and from him. He does, as it were, breathe out his soul to these Romans in the praise of God, choosing to make that the end of his epistle which he made the end of his life.

Next week, I will start on 1 Corinthians. Stay tuned.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 2:13-16

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.

Hebrews 13:20-25

Benediction

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us[a] that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

22 I appeal to you, brothers,[b] bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.

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Last week’s post discussed the author’s exhortation to respect those in ministry and his prayer request for himself and Timothy.

These are the final verses of Hebrews. I will be writing separately about the first eight verses of Hebrews 13, as they provide an invaluable guide to the Christian life.

A benediction is a blessing. The author of Hebrews gives a particularly splendid one, mentioning ‘the God of Peace’, the Resurrection, Jesus as the ‘great shepherd’ and ‘the blood of the eternal covenant’ (verse 20).

Matthew Henry has a superb analysis of this verse, which is especially important as we are drawing near to Good Friday and Easter (emphases mine):

He offers up his prayers to God for them, being willing to do for them as he desired they should do for him: Now the God of peace, &c., Hebrews 13:20. In this excellent prayer observe, 1. The title given to God–the God of peace, who was found out a way for peace and reconciliation between himself and sinners, and who loves peace on earth and especially in his churches. 2. The great work ascribed to him: He hath brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, &c. Jesus raised himself by his own power; and yet the Father was concerned in it, attesting thereby that justice was satisfied and the law fulfilled. He rose again for our justification; and that divine power by which he was raised is able to do every thing for us that we stand in need of. 3. The titles given to Christ–our Lord Jesus, our sovereign, our Saviour, and the great shepherd of the sheep, promised in Isaiah 40:11, declared by himself to be so, John 10:14,15. Ministers are under-shepherds, Christ is the great shepherd. This denotes his interest in his people. They are the flock of his pasture, and his care and concern are for them. He feeds them, and leads them, and watches over them. 4. The way and method in which God is reconciled, and Christ raised from the dead: Through the blood of the everlasting covenant. The blood of Christ satisfied divine justice, and so procured Christ’s release from the prison of the grace, as having paid our debt, according to an eternal covenant or agreement between the Father and the Son; and this blood is the sanction and seal of an everlasting covenant between God and his people.

The author prays that, God, author of all these great blessings, equips the Hebrews through Jesus Christ to thereby accomplish His will in everything they do, recognising Christ’s inestimable glory (verse 21). Note that the author says that whatever good they — and we — do comes from God and His Son working through them and us.

Henry continues his analysis:

5. The mercy prayed for: Make you perfect in every good work, &c., Hebrews 13:21. Observe, (1.) The perfection of the saints in every good work is the great thing desired by them and for them, that they may here have a perfection of integrity, a clear mind, a clean heart, lively affections, regular and resolved wills, and suitable strength for every good work to which they are called now, and at length a perfection of degrees to fit them for the employment and felicity of heaven. (2.) The way in which God makes his people perfect; it is by working in them always what is pleasing in his sight, and that through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever. Observe, [1.] There is no good thing wrought in us but it is the work of God; he works in us, before we are fit for any good work. [2.] No good thing is wrought in us by God, but through Jesus Christ, for his sake and by his Spirit. And therefore, [3.] Eternal glory is due to him, who is the cause of all the good principles wrought in us and all the good works done by us. To this every one should say, Amen.

John MacArthur is equally impressed with the benediction, inspired by the Holy Spirit:

“Now the God of peace.” I love that title, don’t you? “The God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” – now watch – “make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. So let it be.”

You want to hear something exciting? He gives you the ethics, He gives you the example, and then He gives you the energy. You say, “What’s the energy?” It’s the power of God. Look what it says, “Now the God of peace” – now jump to verse 21 – “make you perfect, working in you, that which is well pleasing in His sight.” You want to know something? Your Christian growth has nothing to do with your own power, it’s God working in you, right? Boy, what an exciting thing

So he’s simply saying the powerful God, He’s the one who can make you perfect. You can’t function on your own energy. You can’t just whip out your flesh and decide that you’re going to be spiritual. Doesn’t work like that.

Therefore, we must give Jesus and God the Father all thanks for all good things He has wrought through us:

When He does it, who gets the glory? Jesus Christ. And that’s the way it ought to be. He deserves it, doesn’t He? You remember this verse? I’m sure you do. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to do” – of what? – “His good pleasure.” It’s God. There’s your energy, beloved.

The new covenant’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? But it’s not just free grace and do what you want, there’s some ethics. Beyond the ethics, there’s a living, vital example. Beyond the example, there’s energy, and it’s the power of God in your life.

Now we come to the farewell — ‘Final Greetings’ — in which the author of Hebrews encourages (exhorts) his audience to heed what he has written to them (verse 22).

John MacArthur surmises that the Hebrews would reread the letter. Indeed, new revelations pop out every time I have read it (six times now):

Then he closes with personal notes. “I beseech you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation” – he says I know it’s been hard and heavy, but hang in there – “for I have written a letter unto you in few words.” You say, “Few words? Does he know how long we’ve been in this?” You want to hear something startling? You can read the whole book in less than an hour. It’s been brief, powerful, heavy. He says bear with it. He figures they’re going to read it again.

The author explains more about Timothy, referred to obliquely in verse 18 (last week):

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.

Timothy has just been released from prison and the author hopes that the two of them can visit the Hebrews soon (verse 23).

Matthew Henry explains the joy everyone must have felt:

He gives the Hebrews an account of Timothy’s liberty and his hopes of seeing them with him in a little time, Hebrews 13:23. It seems, Timothy had been a prisoner, doubtless for the gospel, but now he was set at liberty. The imprisonment of faithful ministers is an honour to them, and their enlargement is matter of joy to the people. He was pleased with the hopes of not only seeing Timothy, but seeing the Hebrews with him.

The author closes by requesting the Hebrews greet their leaders and their fellow congregants — ‘saints’. He tells them that the Italians also send greetings (verse 24). He ends by praying that God’s grace be upon all of the Hebrews (verse 25).

MacArthur says of the author and the Italians:

He must have been hanging around a group of Italian Christians from Rome at this time.

That is serendipitous, because I will begin writing about Paul’s letters to the Romans next weekend.

Hebrews is a superb book of the Bible, because it answers so many questions about Christianity all in one place, proceeding from the Old Testament to the New Covenant we have in Christ.

This and my prior posts on Hebrews are available on my Essential Bible Verses page, located just above James 1:1-16.

Next time — Romans 1:8-15

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

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

Acts 20:1-6

Paul in Macedonia and Greece

20 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews[a] as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

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The ‘uproar’ referred to in verse 1 was the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:35-41).

Now it was time for Paul to go on another grand missionary tour, his third.

He sent for members of the church in Ephesus — ‘the disciples’ — and encouraged them in their faith. Some translations use ‘exhorting’, which means the same thing. Exhortation does not mean criticism, but rather encouragement — a building up.

With that, Paul bade them farewell and left for Macedonia.

From Ephesus, which was in Asia Minor (also note smaller map boxed in black), he travelled northwest to Macedonia, which is the northern part of modern-day Greece and is distinct from the Republic of Macedonia.

He visited the Christians in Macedonia — principally Philippi and Thessalonica — and gave them much encouragement.

St Luke, the author of Acts, documented Paul’s stay and conversion of the first European on European soil — Lydia — in Acts 16. Paul also landed in prison there.

Acts 17 has the story of Paul and Silas founding the churches further south in Thessalonica and Berea, which was relatively nearby.

Following his stay, Paul then travelled south to Greece (verse 2). Paul had already spent time in Athens (Acts 17, discussed here and here). From there, he founded the church in Corinth (Acts 18, discussed here, here and here).

Matthew Henry’s commentary describes these return visits (emphases mine):

1. He went first to Macedonia (Acts 20:1), according to his purpose before the uproar (Acts 19:21); there he visited the churches of Philippi and Thessalonica, and gave them much exhortation, Acts 20:2. Paul’s visits to his friends were preaching visits, and his preaching was large and copious: He gave them much exhortation; he had a great deal to say to them, and did not stint himself in time; he exhorted them to many duties, in many cases, and (as some read it) with many reasonings. He enforced his exhortation with a great variety of motives and arguments. 2. He staid three months in Greece (Acts 20:2,3), that is, in Achaia, as some think, for thither also he purposed to go, to Corinth, and thereabouts (Acts 19:21), and, no doubt, there also he gave the disciples much exhortation, to direct and confirm them, and engage them to cleave to the Lord.

Paul spent three months in Greece. He was originally going to set sail for Syria from there, but when it became clear that disgruntled Jewish leaders were plotting against him, he went returned north to Macedonia to sail from there (verse 3). He was going to Syria in order to visit the church in Antioch, which Barnabas founded and Paul strengthened (Acts 11). Earlier, whilst in Ephesus, he had intended to make a return visit to those congregations, along with the aforementioned churches in Macedonia and Archaia, home to Corinth (Acts 19). Then the riot in Ephesus took place.

Henry explains more about the plot against Paul in Greece, possibly assassination:

The altering of his measures; for we cannot always stand to our purposes. Accidents unforeseen put us upon new counsels, which oblige us to purpose with a proviso. 1. Paul was about to sail into Syria, to Antioch, whence he was first sent out into the service of the Gentiles, and which therefore in his journeys he generally contrived to take in his way; but he changed his mind, and resolved to return to Macedonia, the same way he came. 2. The reason was because the Jews, expecting he would steer that course as usual, had way-laid him, designing to be the death of him; since they could not get him out of the way by stirring up both mobs and magistrates against him, which they had often attempted, they contrived to assassinate him. Some think they laid wait for him, to rob him of the money that he was carrying to Jerusalem for the relief of the poor saints there; but, considering how very spiteful the Jews were against him, I suppose they thirsted for his blood more than for his money.

MacArthur also thinks the plot was murderous:

Well, he found out about the plot. So what do you think you’re going to do? Well he [looked?] after his life. And he knew that the whole world was after his life. At least the world he was going into.

Paul had companions with him from the churches in that part of the world (verse 4). Sopater, the son of Pyrrhus, was from Berea, home to discerning readers of Scripture. Henry tells us:

Sopater of Berea, it is likely, is the same with Sosipater, who is mentioned Romans 16:21.

There were two men from the church in Thessalonica: Aristarchus and Secundus. Neither commentator says anything about them, but we can be assured that if Paul chose them, they were worthy disciples.

In any event, those three were from Macedonia.

There was Gaius from the church in Derbe, and Timothy, who had been leading the church in Macedonia then went to Ephesus, replacing Paul. Some scholars say that Timothy’s hometown could have been Lystra, which was not far from Derbe and Iconium (Acts 16).

Of Timothy’s reassignment, as it were, Henry tells us:

Timothy is reckoned among them, for though Paul, when he departed from Ephesus (Acts 20:1), left Timothy there, and afterwards wrote his first epistle to him thither, to direct him as an evangelist how to settle the church there, and in what hands to leave it (see 1 Timothy 1:3,3:14,15), which epistle was intended for direction to Timothy what to do, not only at Ephesus where he now was, but also at other places where he should be in like manner left, or whither he should be sent to reside as an evangelist (and not to him only, but to the other evangelists that attended Paul, and were in like manner employed); yet he soon followed him, and accompanied him, with others here named.

Finally, there were two men from Asia, which, at that time, meant the eastern part of Asia Minor. They were Tychicus and Trophimus.

One might wonder why Paul took these good evangelists out of their present church assignments. Henry explains that Paul needed not only help but also personal enhancement, even though he was a powerful teacher and church planter:

1. That they might assist him in instructing such as by his preaching were awakened and startled; wherever Paul came, the waters were stirred, and then there was need of many hands to help the cripples in. It was time to strike when the iron was hot. 2. That they might be trained up by him, and fitted for future service, might fully know his doctrine and manner of life, 2 Timothy 3:10. Paul’s bodily presence was weak and despicable, and therefore these friends of his accompanied him, to put a reputation upon him, to keep him in countenance, and to intimate to strangers, who would be apt to judge by the sight of the eye, that he had a great deal in him truly valuable, which was not discovered upon the outward appearance.

One could think of them as a religious, yet personal, public relations team of sorts to smooth rough waters when necessary.

Note that Luke returned to the fold, having accompanied Paul in Macedonia. The two of them returned to Troas, thought to have been Luke’s hometown; at the very least, it was where they first met (Acts 16). The other evangelists named were already there to meet them (verse 5).

Luke says that he and Paul celebrated the Feast of the Unleavened Bread in Philippi (verse 6). MacArthur says:

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was, of course, the feast which lasted seven days immediately after Passover.

Whilst Henry says Paul had already put away his Jewish customs …

The days of unleavened bread are mentioned only to describe the time, not to intimate that Paul kept the passover after the manner of the Jews; for just about this time he had written in his first epistle to the church at Corinth, and taught, that Christ is our Passover, and a Christian life our feast of unleavened bread (1 Corinthians 5:7,8), and when the substance was come the shadow was done away.

… MacArthur says that Paul was still partially rooted in them:

He originally wanted to be in Jerusalem for Passover, but when the plot came up, he couldn’t make it. So now he had to put his plans off and hope to get there by Pentecost which was 50 days after Passover … And he’s missed the Passover [with the others in Troas], though he did celebrate it in Philippi and he [Luke] makes a note of that because it tells us again that Paul was still very Jewish in his heart and his attitude.

Either way, Paul loved Jesus Christ, he loved God and he loved people, especially his converts. Paul made his intense, arduous and dangerous journeys in service to all three.

Next time — Acts 20:7-12

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

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

Acts 19:21-22

A Riot at Ephesus

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

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Last week’s entry discussed the deep faith and further conversions that came about after two of the Sons of Sceva saw their fake exorcism foiled by the demon in the man they were hoping to notionally heal. The incident left the converts of Ephesus in awe. They extolled the name of the Lord Jesus, and those who were still practising the dark arts voluntarily came out in public to burn their rare and esoteric books, which were very expensive.

The principal verse in that reading is verse 20:

20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

I will come back to that at the end of the post.

For now, Luke — the author of Acts — took pains to tell us that Paul was planning another visit to places where he had established churches and then journey southward once more to the poor church in Jerusalem, after which he wanted to go to Rome (verse 21).

There are several points to make about verse 21.

First, Luke wrote: ‘Paul resolved in the Spirit’. Students of Acts will remember that the Holy Spirit did not allow him, Silas and Timothy to travel eastwards in Asia Minor (Luke 16:6-10). They went westward instead and ended up in Troas where they met Luke for the first time. Luke was with them for a short time, as they all went to establish the church in Philippi, where Lydia, the purple goods seller, was their initial point of contact and first convert on European soil (Luke 16:11-15).

Secondly, Achaia was the province where Corinth was located, so Paul would have wanted to visit the church he had established there. Corinth was where he met his friends and fellow tent makers, Priscilla and Aquila.

Thirdly, after visiting the Christians in Jerusalem, he wanted to go northwest to Rome. Recall that Priscilla and Aquila — along with other Jews and Jews who became Christian — had been exiled from the city by edict. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that, by the time Paul was thinking of visiting:

it was upon the death of the emperor Claudius, who died the second year of Paul’s being at Ephesus … because while he lived the Jews were forbidden Rome, Acts 18:2.

Therefore, it was finally safe for Paul to visit the heart of the Roman Empire.

Verse 22 tells us that, for the meantime, Paul remained in Ephesus while he sent the aforementioned Timothy and Erastus, about whom we know little other than it was a common name in that era, to go to Macedonia. Our commentators say that he wanted them to go to Macedonia in order to collect money for the church in Jerusalem, which can be cross-referenced in his letters to the Corinthians. While the men were in Macedonia, Paul stayed in Ephesus to preach and teach not only there but in the area surrounding the city.

Henry’s commentary tells us:

He sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia, to give them notice of the visit he intended them, and to get their collection ready for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Soon after he wrote the first epistle to the Corinthians, designing to follow it himself, as appears 1 Corinthians 4:17,19, I have sent to you Timotheus; but I will myself come to you shortly, if the Lord will. For the present, he staid in Asia, in the country about Ephesus, founding churches.

MacArthur says:

The church of Jerusalem was very poor. And Paul wanted to take a love offering from his churches as a gift to the church at Jerusalem. The reason he wanted to go to Macedonia and Achaia was to collect his offering. And I think that’s kind of an exciting reason, really if you want to know. In several places in Corinthians he alludes to this offering just to maybe I can point out one or two of them. Chapter 9, verse 1 “is touching the administering to the saints that is superfluous for me to write you for I know the readiness of your mind for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia and Achaia.”

The riot in Ephesus to which the title of today’s passage refers starts in my next entry. For now, MacArthur has a great explanation of Acts 19:20, which I cited above and how important the church in Ephesus was to Asia Minor.

At this point, we are reading about Paul’s ministry in the port city after he had been there for around two-and-a-half years. MacArthur says (emphases mine):

He has been there for nearly three years teaching. He knows they know enough. There are elders there of quality enough to lead the church. The Christians are grown up, they’re mature. The work has matured.

There are churches elsewhere in Asia Minor. Also of note is this:

… we think that at least all seven churches [in] the book of Revelation possibly could have been founded during this three year period while Paul was in Ephesus.

MacArthur tells us that Paul had a grand plan, in accordance with the Lord:

Now just keep this in mind. Paul was a strategist and he wanted to reach as far as he could reach with the gospel. And Paul’s plan was this. To plant the gospel in key cities on a line from Antioch to Rome.

By the way, there already was a church in Rome, possibly started by Jews — later converts — who had been in Jerusalem to witness the first Pentecost, but it was not very well organised at the time.

MacArthur continues:

And if you follow the ministry of Paul, he just stops all the way along at key points on the great road from Antioch to Rome. And he’s planting the churches in the key centers. And from there they spread to the province. If Paul could knock off the capital of the province, he felt he had a running start on the province. And so he wants to go one step further to reach Rome. And incidentally that wasn’t the end of it either as you’ll see in a minute. Now after he had planted the church in Ephesus, he realized that the line of witness would then begin to spread from Ephesus. And so he would go to Rome, plant the witness there, there was already a church there, but perhaps he could enhance the witness. And then it would begin to spread.

And then as all these centers began to spread, they would sort of cross-pollinate and the whole area would be saturated with the Gospel. And he believed in the process of reproduction of evangelism by reproduction. Where you would win some people to Christ, establish a church, that church would grow, send out others to establish other churches and by multiplication you would conquer an area. Not by the superficial sweep and so this was his plan. Now when he got to Rome, that was only a step on the way to somewhere else.

Paul’s intention was to keep travelling west to what is now Spain. That would have been one amazing journey. MacArthur says:

So he could go all the way from Jerusalem, Antioch and straight out as far as he could go to reach Spain with the Gospel. This was in his mind to do. He was a strategist planning his conquests. He writes to the Romans in chapter 1 verse 13 of Romans. “I would not have you ignorant brother in the off times I purpose to come unto you but was prevented thus far that I might have some fruit among you even as among other Gentiles. I am better to the Greeks, to the Barbarians, to the wise, to the unwise so much as in me as I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also.”

From this point on, even though Paul doesn’t attain his objective until the end of Acts — chapters 27 and 28 — his goal is Rome:

But he doesn’t get there in the way that he thought he would get there. But he gets there. From here on out, his sights are set on Rome. And he’s going to make it. And man is it an exciting trip getting there.

Next week the story of the riot in Ephesus begins. The Artemis-worshipping craftsmen felt deeply threatened by Christianity, as it was diminishing their trade.

Next time — Acts 19:23-27

Before my next Forbidden Bible Verses entry appears, it is useful to know what happened in the first half of Acts 17.

Yesterday’s post discussed Paul’s establishment of the church in Thessalonica, the recipient of his letters to the Thessalonians.

Today’s post will look at the next destination for him, Silas and Timothy — Berea:

Paul and Silas in Berea

10 The brothers[b] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Paul, Silas and Timothy had to leave Thessalonica immediately. The converts there sent them to Berea, which was about 60 miles away. Upon their arrival, they made their customary visit to the synagogue (verse 10). That was nearly always Paul’s starting point for preaching and teaching.

Luke, the author of Acts, thought it important to say that the Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians. That was not a reference to lineage but to the fact that they studied the Scriptures in a deep way for their edification (verse 11). Some translations use ‘search’ instead of ‘examine’. John MacArthur explains (emphases mine below):

The word for search is “to examine.” It was a word to speak of judicial investigation. They sifted the evidence carefully. You know what I believe? I believe that a man who honestly sifts the evidence of Scripture is gonna come to the right conclusion. I think Scripture can defend itself, don’t you?

Jesus had said in John 5:39, He says, “Search the Scriptures for in them you think have eternal life.” And watch, “They are they which testify of Me.” He says, “You go ahead. Study your Old Testament. You know what you’re gonna find? Me.” In verse 46, the same chapter, John 5, “For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me.” And says, “How shall you believe Me, if you don’t believe him.” Over at chapter 7, verse 17, he says, “If you really want to do God’s will, you’ll know the truth.”

So if someone encourages us to be Bereans, this is what is meant: study the Bible not only regularly but also carefully.

Because the Bereans understood Scripture, they eagerly received Paul’s message. See how that works?

Note the contrast Luke used in the number of new believers. There were ‘many’ in Berea compared with the ‘some’ in Thessalonica (verse 12).

Once again, Luke mentioned the prominent women who converted, just as he did in the account of Thessalonica.

However, the unfortunate persecutors of Paul, Silas and Timothy were on their way from Thessalonica to Berea to wreak the same violent havoc (verse 13).

So the new converts in Berea helped Paul leave. Silas and Timothy stayed behind to minister to the new church (verse 14).

The brethren in Berea took Paul all the way to Athens. Paul received a divine command to ask that Silas and Timothy to join him there (verse 15). Athens challenged Paul deeply, and that will be the subject of tomorrow’s Forbidden Bible Verses instalment.

Sadly, this is the only time Berea is mentioned in the Bible. It would have been interesting to learn more about the people there and how they developed such a love for Scripture.

However, Paul had a special love for the church in Thessalonica. MacArthur tells us:

You never hear another word about Berea in the Bible, but you hear a lot about Thessalonica. And Thessalonica became the most beloved church that Paul ever wrote to. He just loved those people. And of all the churches that are written to in the New Testament, they seem to be the most like Christ wanted the church to be.

Now, watch this. Isn’t it interesting that with Berea, oh, they were so noble, so wonderful, but when they got saved, you never hear another thing about ’em? Thessalonica, they had to be persuaded, they weren’t so noble, but when they got saved, man they went wild. They became what God wanted the church to be. You say, “What’s that supposed to prove?” It is to prove that salvation is the equalizer. It doesn’t matter what you were before you were saved – at the moment of salvation it becomes an issue of what you do with the resources that become yours, do you see? People say, “Well, so and so, before he was saved, was, uh, uh, uh, you know, he was into dope, and into, oh, Satan and into __ __ __. We can’t expect much.”

Oh, believe me, you can expect just as much as you can expect out of Citizen Number 1A. The finest guy that ever was, when he gets saved. Why? Because the resources are the same, you got it? And Thessalonica may not have been noble as Berea, but once salvation happened, the resources were the same and they tapped them in Thessalonica. Now, I don’t know that Berea didn’t; I’m just showing you that there’s no reason to assume that if you come in barely or with all kinds of problems, you don’t get there is. That’s a lot of baloney. Salvation isn’t gradual, it’s instantaneous – you believe that? It’s all yours. You’re complete in Him.

And that’s something that I think we have to remember because I think sometimes we don’t expect enough out of certain people. Because we say, “Oh well, they’ve had such and such a background.” Salvation is the equalizer, beloved – it’s the equalizer.

The strong faith of the Bereans thanks to their examination of Scripture is an important lesson for all Christians. MacArthur gives this analysis:

It’s all in the Old Testament. “They searched the Scriptures and, believe me, God reveals himself.” Paul said to Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine for correction, for instruction and righteousness that the man of God maybe be mature, thoroughly furnished” – all good words. “You study the Old Testament,” he said to Timothy, “and you’ll find the truth of righteousness there.” And so these noble folks didn’t need to be publicly persuaded. They sought it out themselves. They were such noble people.

I notice, beloved, I close with this. The Gospel we preach must have two things. It must have qualities that can be open to public questioning. That’s Thessalonica. And it must have quality that can be opened to private research. That’s Berea. Do you have that kind of content? Can you present a message to this world and stand on your feet if the case needs it and defend that message biblically. Secondly, can you present such a message that sends them to the Scripture and find its defense there? … it behooves us to know the Book, to know the Book.

People that make a difference in the world, people who turn it upside down, people who affect this world, are people who know the Word of God. I believe that with all my heart. And are people who can stand on their feet eyeball-to-eyeball with people and defend what they believe and there are people who can take people where they’re at and say, “Here’s what I believe. You take it to the Scripture and let stand the test of Scripture and you’ll find it confirmed.” If you give men answers that you can defend on your feet and answers that you can defend through the Word of God, then you’ve given them answers.

MacArthur goes on to tell us how we can accomplish that in four steps:

If you’re gonna have content, one, confess and repent of all sin. That’s where you start. You don’t start by Bible study. You start by confession. You say, “Why?” 1 Peter 2:1, “Laying aside all malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking, as newborn babes, the desire the sincere mild of the word.” Before you can ever get into the Word to grow by it, you have to lay aside sin. Purify, that’s point one.

Two, study. You’ll never know the Bible. There’s no shortcut. There is absolute – believe me, if there’s a shortcut, I’d found it a long time ago. There’s none. Paul said to Timothy, “Study to show thy self approved unto God.” What does that mean? Be such a good student that God is excited about the fact that you know the truth.

You know the thing that haunts you all the time when you’re a preacher, when you’re a teacher? The fact that this is supposed to be approved by God, not by you. We can get away with murder with people. You can’t get away with anything with God. So one, purify, confess sin. Two, study. There’s no shortcut, absolutely none. Study the Word. Three, personalize the Word. What does that mean? Translate what is academic into your own life, into your own life.

The things that you’re gonna be effectively teaching other people are the things that you have learned by your own living, right? For me to put something on a piece of paper and teach it to you is one thing. For me to teach you what God has been doing in my life is something completely different.

“What do you mean by that?” Paul says, “Be renewed in your mind.” In Galatians and in Romans 12:2 he says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In other words, you know the word and it changes your life and you speak out of experience. So you confess sin. You learn the word and then you personalize it.

I’ll give you the last one. Share it. You say, “I’m gonna learn it and when I get it all learned, then I’m gonna come out of my room and say it.” So somebody, “Oh, that’s ridiculous.” You[‘ll] be talking about it as you’re learning it. There’s no better way to learn than to teach, right? We who teach find out that what we teach we learn.

Let us resolve to be more Berean in our Christian journey. Let us also learn from the Thessalonians who became the strong believers God wanted them to be.

Before I post the next entry of Forbidden Bible Verses, it is important to know where Paul and Silas went after they left Philippi.

The first half of Acts 17 is in the three-year Lectionary but needs explaining. The next post will be about Berea, so this one will be about their first stop in Thessalonica:

Paul and Silas in Thessalonica

17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews[a] were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Philippi was to the north (see this map of Thrace). Paul and Silas — along with Timothy — travelled south (see map of Thrace, indicated by red dots) to Thessalonica, an important port city from ancient times to the present. Until the Second World War, Thessaloniki (present day name) always had a sizeable Jewish population.

John MacArthur describes Paul and Silas’s journey from Philippi (emphases mine):

When they had passed through Amphipolis, now that was 33 miles from Philippi, they went from Amphipolis to Apollonia that was 30 miles from Amphipolis. And then they went to Thessalonica, which was 37 miles from Apollonia, which was 30 miles from Amphipolis, which was 33 miles – and don’t you ever forget it – from Philippi.

What’s the significance of that? The significance of that is that they had minds set on Thessalonica. They probably stopped for the night in Apollonia and Amphipolis. If they went that way and did cover 30 miles a day and stayed overnight at those two places, which were perfect points – it is as some scholars tell us, evidence that Paul didn’t walk everywhere he went. He probably hired horses, which is an interesting thought. Nevertheless, they just stopped overnight at Amphipolis and Apllonia, likely, that isn’t in the text. That’s a likely conclusion. “And they came to Thessalonica.” Now, watch. “Where there was a synagogue of the Jews.”

As we have read so many times in Acts, every time Paul starts preaching in the local synagogue, he makes a lot of converts, then the Jews who disagree become angry and rile the Gentiles. The angry mob then persecutes Paul and, beginning in Acts 16, Silas.

MacArthur summarises the pertinent persecution points:

Every time he got near a synagogue, wham, he got it. And that’s right. He did.

Chapter 13, verse 6, they had gone to – they met a sorcerer. In verse 6 of chapter 13, the first place they went, the island of Cyprus, they met a sorcerer who was a Jew. Every time they got close to the Jews, they got persecuted and confrontation with Satan.

Go to verse 45. It says that when they came into the area of Galatia, the whole place came together to hear the word, verse 44, “When the Jews saw the multitudes filled with envy, spoke against these things as were spoken by Paul and contradicting and blaspheming.”

Look at verse 50. “The Jews stirred up the devout and honor of women. The chief thieves raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, expelled them out of their borders.

Chapter 14, verse 1. “They went to the synagogue of the Jews. There were some Jews who believed that just stirred up trouble.”

Verse 2. “The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles.” They tried to stone them in verse 5. They fled in verse 6.

Go down to verse 19. They threw him out of the city of Lystra. Stoned them there. It was always the Jews, the Jews, the Jews, who persecuted Paul in his ministry.

The same thing happened in Philippi.

However, Paul always began his holy work in synagogues. He would not go near a pagan temple.

Note that Luke, the author of Acts, thought it was worth mentioning that prominent women of the city also converted (verse 4). Recall that Lydia, the purple goods merchant, was the first convert in Philippi. Therefore, women had considerable autonomy at this time.

A man named Jason was among the converts (verse 5) and, perversely, the angry Thessalonians ambushed his house (verse 6). MacArthur describes what happened. Satan was working through these miserable individuals:

Boy, I mean they turned the city up. They got a riot going all through town, they were crying in this blowtorch kind of oratory. “These men are seditious and they are revolutionaries,” and they got everybody all stirred up. Well, they knew they were staying with Jason – who must have been a new Christian there – and so it says, “They all assaulted the house of Jason.” Here comes the whole town, down to Jason’s house. “And they sought to bring them out to the people.” But you know what? God is so far ahead. Paul and Silas and Timothy are gone – they’re gone. And old Jason is there. Well, they didn’t find them, in verse 6 “And when they found him not, they drew Jason and certain brethren under the rulers of the city.”

So, they took Jason and the other Christians instead. “And they hauled them off.” You know, it’s amazing what Satan can do with lazy people. It’s amazing too, what the Lord can do with lazy people who get busy for Him. I was thinking that lazy people must have been a problem in Thessalonica. I don’t know if they had a welfare program or what there, but there was a lot of laziness. These guys were lazy, but later in, 2 Thessalonians 2, in verse 11, he says, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you, disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” You know, some of the Christians were loafing around. I don’t know whether that was a common thing but Satan can always use laziness.

Poor Jason. He and the other Christians were accused of disloyalty to the Romans (verses 6, 7). That stirred up the authorities, in addition to the mob (verse 8). Everyone in the Roman world believed there was only one ruler: Caesar.

MacArthur reminds us of Pontius Pilate’s words to our Lord:

Remember Pilate questioned Him, “Are you a king?” And the Jews all cried out, “No, He’s not our king. We’ll have no king but Caesar.” Well, it was the whole issue of His Kingship, and here Paul had been preaching the Kingship of Jesus Christ, and so they grabbed on that, the same thing that the crowd used to execute Jesus, they were gonna use again, to execute Paul.

Jason had to pay a bond in order for him and the others to be left alone (verse 9):

Boy, that’s smart. You know, what they did, they made Jason come across with a bond, to guarantee that Paul and Silas and Timothy wouldn’t trouble them anymore. So, they had Jason on the spot.

Once again, Paul had to leave a newly established church. MacArthur explores Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians:

Paul reflected back on this, in 1 Thessalonians 2:17, he says, “We brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavor to more abundantly to see your face with great desire.” Paul says, I tried to come back and see you, but he says, “Satan hindered us.” This whole setup, with the security, the bond, guaranteed by Jason – and Jason did it for their sake – meant that there was never a way he could get back in there, as long as those magistrates were there.

So, the conflict came. Believe me, that’s a good thing. Conflict is a good thing. You know, that that wonderful little church in Thessalonica, became the best church, and probably one of the reasons was it existed in terrible persecution. Paul couldn’t even get back to see them. “We went to Berea” – and what happened there? – You say, certainly, those noble guys wouldn’t give him trouble. You’re right, they didn’t. But guess what? Verse 13, “The Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the Word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, and they came there also.” – and did the same thing. So, here comes a gang, 60 miles away, from Thessalonica, and they stirred up trouble.

Boy, Satan if he doesn’t have local people, he imports ’em. “And they dogged his steps.” Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, talks about how the “Jews have dogged his steps all his life. And they stirred up” – the word, stirred, at end of verse 13, is like a wind, shaking, just shook the whole city. Well, Paul had to leave again. You know, I really think, just as a little insight into Paul; I think was the low point in Paul’s life, up to point, as a Christian.

Let’s look at what happened to Paul’s entourage. In Philippi, he was with Luke, Silas and Timothy, but:

He had left Luke at Philippi.

That was so Luke could shepherd the church there.

The next post will be about Berea, where Paul left Silas and Timothy for a while to minister to the new church.

Yesterday’s post about Acts 16:1-5 introduced Timothy, whom Paul invited to minister with him.

The post also discussed Timothy’s mother Eunice and grandmother Lois.

History’s Women has a good article, ‘Lois and Eunice: Passing Down a Godly Heritage’. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

On Lois (image of Rembrandt’s Timothy and His Grandmother from 1648 courtesy of Wikipedia):

The name Lois means ‘agreeable’ or ‘desirable’. And she appears to have lived up to her name! The Apostle Paul praises her in his second letter to Timothy as one who passed on the mantle of faith to both her daughter and her grandson. While their are numerous grandmothers mentioned in the Bible, 2 Timothy is the only place where the term ‘grandmother’ is actually used.

Lois was a devout Jewess who had obviously instructed her daughter and grandson in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Scripture is silent about Lois’ husband, yet we do know that she gave her daughter a Greek name, which might indicate that he himself was Greek.

As for Eunice (image of Henry Le Jeune’s The Early Days of Timothy from the Victorian era courtesy of Wikipediafull image with Lois at Art.com):

She has a Greek name that is derived from the name Nike, which was the Greek goddess of victory. Her name actually means ‘conquering well’ and was a name expressive of a good or happy victory. Eunice, too, lived up to her name. She had victory over the immoral society in which she lived by raising a devout son.

Both of these women had a tremendous spiritual effect on Timothy:

The compelling feature of the Scriptural record of Eunice and Lois is their religious influence on Timothy. Since his father is not mentioned in connection with Timothy’s faith, it is apparent that these two godly women trained him up so that he both knew and loved God’s word. The name Timothy means ‘one who fears God’, a name obviously picked by his faithful mother. Grandmother and mother had no doubt been the teachers of his youth. His fitness to be the companion and co-worker of Paul’s finds its explanation largely in the home training and pious example given him by these two noble women. It was from them also that the young Timothy derived his first impressions of Christian truth; for Paul calls to remembrance the earnest faith which first dwelt in them.

It is important for parents to pass on solid Christian teachings to children today:

The record of Timothy demonstrates the value of positive Christian training in the home. Lois and Eunice took the responsibility to pass on their faith very seriously and as a result they raised up a young man to become a servant of Christ. For this, they have gone down in history as outstanding mothers and great women of faith.

The world needs more Eunices and Loises — not to mention Timothys — today.

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

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

Acts 16:1-5

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16 Paul[a] came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers[b] at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post discussed the point at which Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways after a heated quarrel over whether to take John Mark with them. Paul did not want to make the same mistake twice. The post mentions the verses from Paul’s letters wherein he wrote, some years later, good words about both John Mark and Barnabas. Outside of that, we read no more of Barnabas or John Mark, both of whom went to Cyprus to strengthen the churches there.

Acts 16 is rather exciting as we read of Timothy and Lydia for the first time. Paul and Silas ended up in prison, Paul drove an evil spirit out of a woman and a jailer converted.

Paul and Barnabas had established churches in Derbe and Lystra (Acts 14, also see here). Timothy was from that area (verse 1). He was the son of a Greek Gentile and a Jewish woman who converted. Her name was Eunice, and her mother’s name was Lois. Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Paul speaks of them both with great respect, as women of eminent virtue and piety, and commends them especially for their unfeigned faith (2 Timothy 1:5), their sincerely embracing and adhering to the doctrine of Christ.

If, like me, you are puzzled by a Jew and Gentile marrying so long ago, Henry explains (emphases mine):

The marriage of a Jewish woman to a Gentile husband (though some would make a difference) was prohibited as much as the marriage of a Jewish man to a Gentile wife, Deuteronomy 7:3. Thou shalt no more give thy daughter to his son than take his daughter to thy son; yet this seems to have been limited to the nations that lived among them in Canaan, whom they were most in danger of infection from.

The congregations at the churches in Lystra and Iconium — also in the area — spoke highly of Timothy. Timothy was another part of God’s plan to increase the Church. John MacArthur tells us:

What a perfect choice. Here’s a guy that’s from the Roman Empire. He’s got an in with the gentiles and he’s got the potentiality of having an in with the Jews. He’s the perfect man, the kind of the man of the world that can go both ways, and again God’s selection of personnel is just remarkable as he selects out this one young man.

Now people say, “How old was Timothy when this started?” The best guess would be between 16 and 25 years old. He was a young man and I think Paul enjoyed the opportunity to disciple young men. He hadn’t had great success with John Mark. I think he looked forward to success with Timothy. I think this is a great way to teach incidentally.

Henry has more:

he was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium; he had not only an unblemished reputation, and was free from scandal, but he had a bright reputation, and great encomiums were given of him, as an extraordinary young man, and one from whom great things were expected. Not only those in the place where he was born, but those in the neighbouring cities, admired him, and spoke honourably of him. He had a name for good things with good people.

Paul wanted Timothy to minister alongside him and had him circumcised because everyone knew him as a Greek Gentile (verse 3). That verse made me pause. Acts 15 was all about the Jerusalem Council, which determined that converted Gentiles did not need to be circumcised.

Both Henry and MacArthur emphasise that Timothy was half Jewish and half Gentile. In order for Timothy to minister effectively to Jews as well as Gentiles, he would have to have a sign that he was indeed Jewish, even if he was seen to be a Gentile because of his patrilineal side.

MacArthur breaks this down for us:

You know what? Some people have read this and Ramsey in his book just goes bananas at this point and accuses Paul of all kinds of things. He says, “Paul was a Judaizer here. Paul has fallen into the circumcision air. He was down there in Jerusalem and the circumcision came and said, ‘Well you’ve got to be circumcised’ and what does he do? He goes and circumcises some guy. That isn’t necessary for salvation” but beloved, that isn’t the point. It doesn’t say he circumcised Timothy so he could get saved. It says he circumcised him because of what? The Jews in those quarters.

Now watch this. Timothy was a half-Jew and half-gentile. IF he was not circumcised the Jews would assume then that he had accepted his gentile identity. True? Because circumcision was the very mark of Judaism. So the Jew would’ve assumed that he accepted gentile characteristics, and so Paul recognizing that the key to reaching the Jewish people and that was the first place he went in every new town wasn’t it, the Synagogue? The key was that Timothy had all this Jewish character. He had been brought up in a synagogue situation. All he needed to do was just get circumcised and he would have full entrance and full acceptance among the Jews and it wouldn’t hinder his work among the gentiles. And so it was for expediency’s sake; it was not for salvation’s sake. It was just to allow the ministry to function more smoothly.

Paul explains this manner of thinking in 1 Corinthians 9. MacArthur tells us Paul wanted to reach Jews and Gentiles on equal terms, which is why he wrote:

To the Jews I became as a Jew. To those that are under the law as under the law though I myself am not under the law.” He says, “I become all things to all men that” what? “That by any means I might win some.” Now that’s 1 Corinthians 9:19-20 and following. Paul is looking at expediency.

However:

Titus came along and Paul forb[ade] Titus to be circumcised. Absolutely no, and some people are confused why he let Timothy get circumcised and not Titus simple answer. Titus was a gentile. To circumcise a gentile would then have been to impose legalism but to circumcise a Jew already a Jew was simply to allow him the liberty to be more effective. He would’ve been wrong to circumcise Titus. He would’ve been wrong not to circumcise Timothy for the sake of effectiveness.

MacArthur explains that this principle of being all things to all men still applies today. Some mistakenly look at it as meaning wishy-washy unity at all costs. No, it means the ability to reach people on their own cultural and/or religious terms when giving them the Good News:

If you’re going to witness to Jews you’re going to need to know be able to know a little bit about Judaism. If you’re going to witness to somebody who’s in the Roman Catholic church you ought to be able to know a little bit about them so that you can approach them on a tactful basis and the same is true with other religions and other systems of religion and so forth. If you’re gonna talk to a man who happens to be a fanatic on this and this, maybe if you know a little about what he knows about you can gain an entrance into his heart.

Henry posits that Paul confirmed Timothy in the Holy Spirit after his circumcision:

It is probable that it was at this time that Paul laid his hands on Timothy, for the conferring of the gift of the Holy Ghost upon him, 2 Timothy 1:6.

Timothy joined Paul and Silas as they travelled to the churches in the various cities. Remember that Paul wanted to go back and visit the churches that he and Barnabas established (Acts 15:36):

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”

Also important during these visits was to show each church the decision about circumcision that the Jerusalem Council reached (verse 4). Recall that the Judaisers had followed Paul and Barnabas after they established churches and gave the Gentile converts false teachings about having to be circumcised. Now Paul returned to prove to them that that the Judaisers were wrong. MacArthur reminds us:

The decision of the Jerusalem Council, and what did they decide? Go back to verse 11, chapter 15. Here’s their message. “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” That was their message wasn’t it? Salvation by grace through faith, but there was something else to it. Oh yes. You remember they had said, “We want to add this, that you abstain from blood and things strangled and fornication and things offered to idols.” Why? So you don’t offend.

As a result of these visits, the churches were strengthened in the faith and their numbers grew (verse 5).

We shouldn’t confuse that increase with the modern day false teaching of ‘church growth’. These churches grew because they maintained purity in doctrine, worship and behaviour. They were Spirit-filled. They did not need to have coffee mornings or children’s playtime in the afternoon. These were people who, first and foremost, loved God through His Son Jesus Christ. They had the love, they had the doctrine and, because of these things, through the Holy Spirit, it grew from there.

Churches with pure doctrine do not need growth gimmicks or formulaic programmes! John MacArthur’s is a case in point.

It is apposite at this point to find out more about Timothy. MacArthur explains the use of ‘was’ regarding Timothy’s father in verse 1:

As an interesting footnote the particular imperfect tense that is used in relationship to Timothy’s father indicates that Timothy’s father was perhaps dead. It would be that he was a Greek with the emphasis on the “was” indicating that perhaps at the point it was written he was dead, so he may have been just the son of a widow, but Paul saw something good in him, something potential.

He also gives us an interesting insight into verse 3 — Paul’s desire to have Timothy join him — and what happened years later:

The last time Eunice and Lois saw Paul you know where he was? He was blood-soaked and he was lying on the city dump. He had just been stoned. And here he was saying, “I’d like to invite your son to come along on our missionary efforts. How about it, Mom?” That’s quite a sacrifice, right? They don’t know what’s gonna happen but they let him go, and you know they had a little official meeting? They sure did.

1 Timothy 4:14 this gives us a little indication of that meeting. Paul says to Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given to thee by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbyters or the elders.” In other words they had a little commissioning and they laid their hands on them. Here Paul was reminding Timothy not to forget that they had ordained them. Same things in 2 Timothy 1 verse 6 he says, “I want to put you in remembrance. Stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” so they had a little commissioning service ordaining him, laying hands on him, praying for him, standing behind him, and they sent him out as a representative of the church right there in Lystra and Derbe, and the Lord had filled up the ranks of his team – Paul, Silas, Timothy.

If Timothy’s father was dead, Paul stepped in as spiritual adviser and mentor. He loved Timothy as if he were family:

Paul called Timothy, “My true child in the faith” verse Timothy 1:2. He called him “My son” he called him “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” 1 Corinthians 4 and he called him “my beloved child” in 2 Timothy 1. Now many people for many years have read those and have said, “Now that means that Paul led Timothy to Christ” but you know something? You cannot find that in Scripture. Nowhere does it say that Paul led Timothy to Christ. You say, “But he calls him his spiritual son.” Ah, but watch this beautiful fact. I just love this.

2 Timothy 1:5 he says, “I’m running to you, Timothy. I call to remembrance the unframed faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother, Lois and your mother, Eunice and I am persuaded that it’s also in you” which indicates that he really did not necessarily know about Timothy, all the facts. You know who I believe Paul led to Christ? Lois and Eunice the first time through. You know who I believe led Timothy to Christ? Lois and Eunice.

Looking at all of those verses together, we see that another beautiful part of God’s plan came to fruition. What blessings for Paul, Timothy, Eunice and Lois.

More to come next week.

Next time — Acts 16:6-10

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