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My New Testament Notebook

by Joe Pursch on January 4th, 2014

Acts 14

Notice in this passage the extremes of the “adoration of man” for us in ministry. In verse 18 you see enraptured worship, and in verse 19 you see it run quickly to cold eyed murder. A total transition of emotion within two verses.

In verse 19, they left Paul on the ground, supposing he was dead. And these guys knew dead. Imagine what Paul must’ve looked like at that moment, how deeply he must’ve been injured. Was this the time of the heavenly vision that he received as described in Second Corinthians chapter 12, as some suppose?

In verse 20, the text says he rose up, and the next day he went on to Derby. This is the astounding power of God, seen in the miracle of strength and healing that Paul must’ve received in that moment. How this must’ve amazed his attackers and encouraged the new believers around him, especially when Paul returned some months later.

This “near-death experience” was one of Paul’s earliest experiences of physical suffering for the Gospel, and God chose for it to be of the deepest sort, perhaps to show Paul the Lord’s deepest sustaining and restoring power early in his ministry life. We will never know for sure, but it may have been a memory point for Paul for the remainder of his ministry.

Acts 15

This entire encounter shows us how at times, the world reaching outreach of the church can be temporarily side-railed by doctrinal and political problems within the church itself. But God was involved in at all, and He used it to clarify the Gospel to those believers, and to bring the church through a test of its own unity.

Another lesson of this chapter is that God takes care of his church through godly leaders who carefully consider the Scriptures and then come together in unity around that consideration, even if this means opposing and correcting sincere but immature people in the flock. The Church rejoices when it is led in this faithful way, as verse 31 reveals.

We also see here some sovereignty points regarding Paul’s future ministry partnerships. It’s interesting to note that Silas was sovereignly allowed to be a part of this deliberation process in this chapter, so that Paul could work alongside him and have someone to choose when he decided to depart from Barnabas over the controversy regarding John. God is always in control, even over our frailties and foibles.

And finally, this chapter covers Paul’s clear calling to the Gentiles. The chapter moves toward its end with the entire church recognizing the unique calling that Paul had to reach non-Jews for Christ. His evident leadership gifting is also clearly respected, and it prompted him to be endorsed by the entire church in Antioch, in spite of his split from Barnabas. Here we see God moving and the church accepting his work in the midst of our human frailty. What a story of sovereign evangelistic grace.

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