The Day of the LORD — The Siege of Jerusalem

“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.”

[Zechariah 12:2-3]

If there is one word that best encapsulates the nature of the Day of the LORD, it is the word Convergence. The Day of the LORD will be that monumental point in time when everything in heaven and on earth converges in unimaginable climatic finality. It as if all the collective forces of the entire universe — visible and invisible — will be accelerating from every possible direction and will collide at the very same place and time.

Of course once the dust clears, there will be One standing above all — His name is Jesus. It will be His day and His day alone.

We may not know precisely when everything will converge in the end, but we at least will know when the end is near and when the return of Jesus is close at hand, even at the very gates [Mark 13:29]. Although it is not for us to know the exact time … we do know the place.

The Scriptures unequivocally are clear that the Day of the LORD will converge in one pre-determined place on earth — Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is the spiritual epicenter of the world and the unique geographical location on earth where God Almighty has chosen to place His name and laid special claim [see 1 Kings 11:36]. Therefore, it should be no surprise that on that Day all the collective forces of evil will gather and lay siege to the holy city Jerusalem.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the LORD: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.”

[Zechariah 8:2-3]

Jerusalem — A Cup of Staggering

The Middle East provides the original historical context of the Biblical narrative, which simply means that all of the events and accounts in the holy Scriptures occurred within the Middle East. Nestled in the heart of the Middle East in the Promised Land — Israel — and more specifically the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, all that originally began in Israel and the Middle East also will inevitably end there.

The prophet Zechariah provides some of the most interesting details about the Day of the LORD and the fate of Jerusalem in the last days. The LORD describes the scene in Zechariah 12, saying that on that Day the peoples immediately surrounding Jerusalem will converge in a drunken rage to lay siege to the city, not to mention “all the nations of the earth” [Zechariah 12:3].

This last day invasion of Israel and siege of Jerusalem is emphasized by the prophets, Apostles, and Jesus Himself, and their testimony overwhelmingly agrees. This may not be the first time in history that hostile armies have laid siege to Jerusalem, but it most certainly will be the last.

The horrific, historical accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem both in 586 B.C. and again in 70 A.D. were but typological shadows of the final invasion in the last days. As we will see, the testimony of the Biblical prophets all point us to the final siege of Jerusalem at the end of the age, culminating with the Day of the LORD.

The Beast and His Armies

“And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”

[Revelation 16:13-16]

Biblical eschatology is complex and enigmatic to say the least. When reading the prophetic passages describing the siege of Jerusalem and the final battle of Armageddon, however, one thing is clear. An evil tyrant king — aka the Antichrist — will emerge on the world stage in the last days and successfully will unite the kings of the earth and their armies to invade the Holy Land and lay siege to Jerusalem.

Now when it comes to the identity and end-time exploits of the Antichrist, or Beast, there is no shortage of differing interpretations and proposed scenarios. Elements of timing and geography are challenging, yet with careful study we can at least put the pieces of the prophetic puzzle together and begin to form a picture of the Beast and his kingdom.

The prophetic writings of Daniel and Ezekiel lay the groundwork for the beast imagery and provide a composite overlay of the collective territories that most likely will be aligned with the Beast in the last days.

For instance, I firmly am convinced that the Antichrist will rule a Middle Eastern kingdom — NOT a revived Roman Empire. For a deeper study on this, I encourage you to read Joel Richardson’s free online book, Mideast Beast, which is one of the most comprehensive Biblical explanations of why the Antichrist must emerge from and rule over a predominately Middle Eastern kingdom.

Again, apocalyptic literature uses mysterious symbols like “beasts” and “statues” and “horns” to describe the kingdoms and kings who will be aligned with the Antichrist in the last days. Although the scope of this post will not attempt to parse the intricacies of apocalyptic symbolism etc… I will at least provide some basic facts that help provide context for those surrounding nations involved in the final siege of Jerusalem.

  1. The Antichrist is foreshadowed by many ruthless historical figures, such as Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, Haman, etc…
  2. Other Old Testament titles for the Antichrist include the Assyrian, Gog, the cruel master, the king of the north, and the “little horn”
  3. The Antichrist will emerge from obscurity (little horn) and gradually will gain influence and power through intrigue, political diplomacy and deceptive schemes.
  4. As the Beast grows in popularity and political power in the Middle East, the Bible says that he will begin forming strategic alliances and launching military campaigns throughout the region. Some will resist at first (i.e. Egypt) but eventually the Beast will become an irresistible force.
  5. The Beast will form a military coalition of 10 kings, according to Revelation 17, which may or may not be in addition to his previous alliances.
  6. With the help of the false prophet and demonic deception, the Beast also will convince the kings from the east to join him for the final battle for Jerusalem.
  7. Armageddon — of the Valley of Megiddo — is the wide-open plain in northern Israel where the Antichrist and his hoards will gather for battle, but the intensity of the battle will actually take place in and around Jerusalem.

The 4 Beasts of Daniel — A Composite Kingdom

“As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings.”

[Daniel 7:23-24]

“And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

[Revelation 17:12-14]

Although I cannot be certain about the entire complexion of this end-time alliance of nations, the Bible does at least provide some clues and also some specific names that help fill in the blanks. The kingdom of Antichrist will consist of 10 kings/kingdoms, who eventually will relinquish all authority to the Beast.

Beginning with the 4 beasts in the book of Daniel (Daniel 2 & 7), I believe that the prophet received a composite picture of the end-times empire of the Antichrist. The beast kingdoms in Daniel’s visions were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Javan (Ancient Greece/Macedonia) and then a fourth terrifying beast unlike all the others — which I believe describes the revived Islamic Caliphate/Ottoman Empire.

These 4 “beasts” create a composite of the historical territories that were conquered and ruled by these successive kingdoms. In short, all of these ancient kingdoms are included in what is modern-day Middle East. Territories like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Northern Africa immediately come into view. Again, these are the same modern territories that encompass Israel.

It is worth noting that all of these nations today are overwhelmingly Muslim majority nations. The maps below provide a visual representation of what the Mid East Beast kingdom could be.

Gog, of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal

“Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”

[Ezekiel 38:14-16]

The next context clue we discover is in the book of Ezekiel, and it involves the last-days invasion of Israel at the direction of Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Again, the Antichrist is in full view here. Gog is a clear description of the end-times Beast, leading his hordes of evil armies against Israel.

Fortunately, Ezekiel provides historical geographic locations that can easily be linked to modern-day nations in the Middle East, further building the composite picture of the end-times kingdom of the Antichrist.

“Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you.”

[Ezekiel 38:5-6]

Any preliminary study of the ancient world will show that Magog, Meschech, Tubal, Gomer and Beth-togarmah all refer to modern-day Turkey/eastern Greece — or what was known as Asia Minor in Biblical days. See the map below.

Persia is modern-day Iran. Cush represents modern day Sudan, while Put represents modern-day Libya. Again, this brings Northern Africa into view.

The Kings from the East

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.”

[Revelatin 16:12]

The final piece of the Armageddon puzzle refers to the kings from the east, which potentially could include armies from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, and possibly China. Although we can’t be sure, I believe Islam will be the ultimate unifying factor in this massive assembly of armies.

Potential Territories of the Kings from the East

Conclusion

The final invasion of Israel and the siege of Jerusalem will be led by the Antichrist (Gog, the Beast) and will involve a massive Middle Eastern army from the surrounding nations. This assembly of hostile armies will most certainly include Israel’s closet neighbors like Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria [Psalm 83], but also will involve the predominantly Muslim nations of the greater Middle East and Northern Africa.

The Scriptures are filled with depictions of this final battle for Jerusalem and also of the subsequent outpouring of wrath on the nations by King Jesus Himself. I would like to leave you with a sample of these prophetic passages that describe this fateful battle on the Day of the LORD.

Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there
.
Bring down your warriors, O LORD.
Let the nations stir themselves up
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there I will sit to judge
all the surrounding nations
.

Put in the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Go in, tread,
for the winepress is full.
The vats overflow,
for their evil is great.

Multitudes, multitudes,
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision
.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.

[Joel 3:11-15]

“Therefore wait for me,” declares the LORD, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.”

[Zephaniah 3:8]

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.

[Zechariah 14:2-3]

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.”

[Luke 21:20-22]

“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.”

[Revelation 19:19-21]

3 thoughts on “The Day of the LORD — The Siege of Jerusalem

  1. IRAN PAKISTAN TURKIE NOT TAKENOVER all other rebuke by chinese and american europas and izraels worst enimies is SAUDIS AND ENGLISHMEN with india -Moćna molitva za slamanje svakog zla i bolesti!
    29. veljače 2020.ADMIN
    Najjače oružje protiv svakog zla koje nam je na raspolaganju

    Image result for krv kristova

    Među raširenijim pobožnostima u Katoličkoj Crkvi je svakako i pobožnost Predragocjenoj Krvi Kristovoj. Ne radi se o jednoj pobožnosti među mnogima nego je ta uzdignuta u Crkvi na posebno mjesto i nalazi se u središtu objave. Brojni su crkveni dokumenti koji to potvrđuju.

    U biblijskoj objavi, bilo na stupnju starozavjetnoga pralika, bilo na stupnju ispunjenja i usavršenja u Novome zavjetu, krv je prisno povezana sa životom i – po antitezi – sa smrću, s izlaskom zalazom-prelaskom, sa svećeništvom i bogoslužnim žrtvama, s Otkupljenjem i Savezom. Starozavjetni pralikovi vezani uz krv i njezinu spasenjsku vrijednost ispunili su se na savršen način u Kristu, osobito u njegovu vazmu smrti i uskrsnuća. Zbog toga je otajstvo Kristove Krvi u središtu vjere i spasenja.

    Krv Kristova slama svako zlo, svako prokletstvo, svaku bolest i sve što nas čini robovima grijeha, slama se po Krvi Isusovoj za oslobođenje u Kristu Isusu.

    Stoga je ova pobožnost, primanje Tijela i Krvi Kristove kao i molitve Krvi Kristovoj najmoćnije oružje koje smo pozvani koristiti ovdje na zemlji.

    Image result for OVA JE POBOŽNOST UZVIŠENIJA OD SVIH: Moćna molitva za slamanje svakog zla i bolesti!

    Molite ovo svaki dan:

    U Ime Isusovo neka me Predragocjena Krv Kristova obrati u srcu u iskrenoj, dubokoj vjeri, ljubavi i pouzdanju u tebe, Gospodine… ! Predragocjenom Krvlju svojom Gospodine Isuse Kriste molim Te, Operi me od glave do pete, iznutra i izvana ! Neka Predragocjena Tvoja Krv poteče mojim venama, mojim organima, cijelim mojim tijelom, umom, dušom, duhom…! (možeš ovdje, po poticaju Duha meditativno i polako, imenovati svaki dio tijela, duše i duha … ili bolest i smetnju koju imaš, a koji želiš da Gospodin ozdravi svojom Krvi i u duhu osjetiti kako te Krv Kristova čisti, oslobađa i iscjeljuje, …)

    Neka me Tvoja prečista Krv, Isuse Kriste iscijeli od svake bolesti tijela, uma, duše i duha. Odstrani iz mene i od mene svaku negativnost i sve što nije od tebe, Isuse! Gospodine Isuse Kriste, napravi štit oko mene, od svoje Predragocjene otkupiteljske Krvi i svih onih za koje te molim. (možeš navesti imena osoba za koje moliš…).

    Isuse, Krvlju svojom operi i zapečati zrak koji dišem, hranu koju jedem, vodu koju pijem, putove koje hodim, prostore u kojima boravim, stvari koje dotičem, ljude sa kojima kontaktiram…!
    Zapečati u svojoj svetoj Krvi mene (ime i prezime, osobe za koju molim), moj lik gdje god se nalazili i sve što je u vezi mene i onih za koje te molim.
    Krvi Kristova operi me ( nas )… ( više puta zazivati…);
    Krvi Kristova, zaštiti me (nas); Krvi Kristova pobjednice zlih duhova spasi me (nas) i zaštiti me (nas); Krvi Kristova iscijeli me (nas)…
    U Ime Isusovo , zapovijedam neka me sad ovoga časa, napusti svaka bolest tijela, uma, duše i duha i iziđe iz mene VAN. (po poticaju Duha govoriti koliko dugo …)
    Krvi Kristova , u ime Isusovo blagoslovi me u ovom danu …
    u ime + Boga Oca, + Boga Sina i + Boga Duha Svetoga ! Amen !
    Hvala Ti Isuse, Slava Ti Isuse… ( zahvaljivati neko vrijeme i vjerovati da se molitva već ostvarila …)

    Image result for OVA JE POBOŽNOST UZVIŠENIJA OD SVIH: Moćna molitva za slamanje svakog zla i bolesti!

    3. LITANIJE PRESVETOJ KRVI ISUSOVOJ

    Gospodine, smiluj se!
    Kriste, smiluj se!
    Gospodine, smiluj se!
    Kriste, čuj nas!
    Kriste, usliši nas!
    Oče nebeski, Bože, (Smiluj nam se)
    Sine, Otkupitelju svijeta Bože,
    Duše Sveti Bože,
    Sveto Trojstvo, jedan Bože,

    Krvi Krista, Jedinorođenoga Sina Vječnog Oca, (Spasi nas!)
    Krvi Krista, utjelovljene Riječi Božje,
    Krvi Kristova, Novoga i Vječnoga Saveza,
    Krvi Kristova, u smrtnoj borbi na zemlju potekla,
    Krvi Kristova, koja si kod bičevanja izvirala,
    Krvi Kristova, ispod trnove krune prokapala,
    Krvi Kristova, na Križu prolivena,
    Krvi Kristova, cijeno našega spasenja,
    Krvi Kristova, bez koje nema oproštenja,
    Krvi Kristova, u Euharistiji okrepo i čišćenje duša,
    Krvi Kristova, rijeko milosrđa,
    Krvi Kristova, pobjednice zlih duhova,
    Krvi Kristova, snago mučenika,
    Krvi Kristova, jakosti priznavalaca,
    Krvi Kristova, koja rađaš djevice,
    Krvi Kristova, čvrstoćo onih koji su u pogibli,
    Krvi Kristova, okrepo umornih,
    Krvi Kristova, u plaču utjeho,
    Krvi Kristova, nado pokornika,
    Krvi Kristova, utjeho umirućih,
    Krvi Kristova, mire i milino srdaca,
    Krvi Kristova, jamstvo vječnoga života,
    Krvi Kristova, koja izbavljaš duše iz Čistilišta.
    Krvi Kristova, svake slave i časti predostojna,

    Jaganjče Božji, koji oduzimaš grijehe svijeta, oprosti nam, Gospodine!
    Jaganjče Božji, koji oduzimaš grijehe svijeta, usliši nas, Gospodine!
    Jaganjče Božji, koji oduzimaš grijehe svijeta, smiluj se nama!

    – Otkupio si nas, Gospodine, Krvlju svojom.
    – I postadosmo Kraljevstvo Boga našega.

    Pomolimo se! — Svemogući vječni Bože, Ti si jedinorođenca svoga Sina postavio za Otkupitelja svijeta i htio da Te Njegova Krv ublaži; podaj, molimo, da cijenu našega spasenja tako štujemo da nas njezina snaga tako brani od zala ovoga života na zemlji, da uživamo na nebu vječni plod svete Krvi! Po istom Kristu Gospodinu našem! Amen!

    DRUGO ČITANJE:
    Iz Razlaganja svetog Augustina, biskupa, o psalmima (Ps 60, 2-3; CCL 39, 766)

    U Kristu smo kušani, u njemu smo đavla nadvladali

    O Bože, vapaj mi poslušaj, budi pomnjiv na molitvu moju! Tko ovo govori? Vidi da li je jedan: S kraja zemlje vapijem k tebi, jer mi srce klonu. Nije, dakle, više jedan nego je jedan stoga, jer je Krist jedan, čiji smo mi svi udovi. Naime, koji to čovjek, jedan, vapije s kraja zemlje? To je ona baština koja vapije s kraja zemlje za koju je njegovu Sinu rečeno: Zatraži samo, i dat ću ti puke u baštinu, i u posjed krajeve zemaljske. Mi smo ovaj Kristov posjed, ova Kristova baština, ovo Kristovo tijelo, ova jedna Kristova Crkva, ovo jedinstvo, koje vapije s kraja zemlje. A što vapije? Ono što prije navedoh: Bože, vapaj mi poslušaj, budi pomnjiv na molitvu moju! S kraja zemlje vapijem k tebi. To jest, ovo vapijem k tebi s kraja zemlje: to jest odasvud!
    A zašto ovo zavapih? Jer mi srce klonu! Pokazuje da on u svim narodima po svem svijetu nije u velikoj slavi, nego u velikoj kušnji.
    Život naš na ovom hodočasničkom proputovanju ne može biti bez kušnje. Rast naš ostvaruje se kroz kušnje. Nitko sebe ne poznaje ako nije kušan. Nitko ne može biti okrunjen, ako nije pobijedio. Nitko ne može pobijediti, ako se nije borio. A nitko se ne može boriti, ako nema neprijatelja i napasti.
    U tjeskobi je, dakle, onaj što s kraja zemlje vapije, ali ipak napušten nije. Htio je predoznačiti nas, tijelo svoje, u onom svome tijelu u kojem je umro i uskrsnuo i na nebo uzašao, da bi onamo kamo je glava već otišla i njegovi udovi s pouzdanjem kretali. U sebi nas je, dakle, preobrazio, kad je htio biti kušan od Sotone. Upravo smo pročitali u Evanđelju da je davao u pustinji kušao Gospodina Isusa Krista. Upravo Krista je Sotona iskušao! A u Kristu si ti bio iskušan, jer Krist je od tebe sebi uzeo tijelo, a od sebe tebi dao spas; od tebe je sebi uzeo smrt, a od sebe tebi dao život; od tebe je preuzeo na sebe pogrde, a od sebe je tebi dao slavu; dakle, od tebe je sebi uzeo kušnju, a od sebe tebi dao pobjedu!
    Ako smo u njemu iskušani, u njemu smo đavla nadvladali. Primjećuješ da je Krist bio iskušan, a ne primjećuješ da je obijedio? Spoznaj da si ti u njemu iskušan i spoznaj isto tako da si u njemu pobijedio. Mogao je on đavlu zabraniti kušnju. No, da nije on bio iskušan, ne bi tebi, koji si kušan, dao poduku kako pobijediti.

    Otpjev Jr 1, 19; 39, 18
    R. I borit će se s tobom, ali te neće nadvladati * jer ja sam s tobom da te izbavim, govori Gospodin.
    O. Nećeš od mača poginuti, nego ćeš dobiti život kao plijen. * Jer ja sam.

    HIMAN − TEBE BOGA HVALIMO

    Tebe Boga hvalimo, * tebe Gospodinom priznajemo.
    Tebe vječnog Oca * sva zemlja poštuje.
    Tebi svi Anđeli, * tebi sva Nebesa i Vlasti,
    Tebi Kerubi i Serafi * kliču bez prestanka:
    Svet, Svet, Svet, * Gospodin Bog Sabaot!
    Puna su Nebesa i zemlja * veličanstva Slave Tvoje.

    Tebe hvali * slavni Apostola zbor,
    Tebe proroka * dična četa.
    Tebe mučenička * svijetla vojska,
    Tebe po svem svijetu * sveta uzvisuje Crkva,
    Oca * neizmjernoga Veličanstva,
    Časnog Tvojeg istinitog * i jedinog Sina.
    I Svetoga * Tješitelja Duha.

    Ti Kralju slave, * Kriste.
    Ti si Očev * vjekovječni Sin.
    Ti da za naše spasenje postaneš čovjekom, *
    nisi se strašio krila Djevice.
    Ti svladavši oštrinu smrti, *
    otvorio si vjernima Kraljestvo Nebesko.
    Ti sjediš zdesna Bogu * u Slavi Očevoj.
    Vjerujemo da ćeš doći * kao Sudac.
    Tebe, dakle molimo, pomozi svojim slugama, *
    Koje si otkupio dragocjenom Krvlju.
    U vječnoj slavi daj, da se ubrojimo među Svete tvoje.

    (Slijedeći se dio može izostaviti).

    Spasi puk Svoj, Gospodine *
    i blagoslovi baštinu Svoju!
    I vladaj njima * i uzdiži ih u sve vijeke!
    Iz dana u dan * blagoslivljamo Tebe
    I hvalimo Ime Tvoje u vijeke * i u vijeke vjekova.
    Dostoj se, Gospodine, u dan ovaj *
    sačuvati nas od grijeha!
    Smiluj se nama, Gospodine, * smiluj se nama!
    Nek bude milosrđe Tvoje, Gospodine, nad nama *
    kako se ufamo u Tebe!
    U Tebe se, Gospodine ufam: *
    o da ne budem postiđen dovijeka!

    Molitva
    Svemogući Bože, udijeli da godišnjom proslavom korizme napredujemo u spoznaji Isusa Krista i u životu slijedimo njegov primjer. Po Gospodinu. Amen.

    O. Amen.
    Blagoslivljajmo Gospodina.
    O. Bogu hvala.

    Acts Wednesday: Chapter 13, Paul and Barnabas Commissioned

    (This is a longish post, so I’ve added pictures to break up the wall of text)

    A marked shift in Luke’s narrative begins in Chapter 13: Now it will become chiefly the trail-blazing story about Paul fulfilling the third stage of Jesus’ commission in Acts 1.

    Stage 1 Was Acts 1-7 the Gospel spread in Jerusalem.
    Stage 2 Happened in Acts 8-12, the Gospel spread in Judea and Samaria.
    Stage 3 Now Acts 13 begins the missionary journeys, bringing the gospel to the rest of the world.
    The church in Antioch was growing both spiritually and in numbers at a robust pace. Barnabas and Saul had been team-teaching and building up the church for a full year, and due to their large numbers, the church met at several assemblies located throughout the city. Prophets helped to lay the foundation for the church by proclaiming and speaking forth the word of God. Teachers helped to ground the new believers in the doctrines of their faith.

    The leadership represented among these assemblies was quite diverse: Notice how integrated this church was with Africans, Jews, Romans, and Greeks.

    1) Barnabas was a Levite and a Jewish priest, who was born on Cyprus, a Hellenistic Jew. A rich man, he gave his wealth away to the church, and gave his whole life to the Lord. Being listed first, we can think of him as the official representative of Jerusalem Headquarters.

    2) Simeon the Niger, “Niger” means “black,” so Simon was probably of African origin. He is most likely the Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry His cross to Golgotha. Based on the gospel John Mark wrote, it’s possible Paul lived with Simon while he taught in Antioch, and became close with Simon’s sons, Alexander, and Rufus who later became a leader in the church

    St. Luke the Evangelist
    Vladimir Borovikovsky [Public domain]
    3) Lucius the Cyrene, like Simeon, was of African origin. It was men from Cyprus and Cyrene who had first brought the gospel to the Greeks in Antioch, so possibly he was among them. Lucius is a Latin name, so he was probably brought up in a Roman culture. There is some speculation that Lucius might be the Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke and Acts.

    4) Manaen, a Greek form of a Hebrew name, it has been suggested, was Jewish by birth, whose grandfather, Menahem, had been commended by the Herod the Great for prophesying his rise to power. Herod the Great may have invited Menahem’s grandson to be one of a few select boys to be brought up with the young Herod Antipas (who had John the Baptist killed) as a playmate, schoolmate and sometimes whipping boy. Manean was of noble birth and a Hellenistic Jew.

    5) And finally Saul, the former fanatical Pharisee, Roman citizen, born and raised in Tarsus, a Hebrew of Hebrews from a wealthy and influential family, who would soon be known as Paul.

    We find out later in the text that when Barnabas and Paul went together to Jerusalem to bring the famine-relief fund to the Jewish brothers John Mark came back with them as a helper to his cousin Barnabas and the great teacher Paul, who was still a young man himself, probably in his early thirties.

    Mark’s mother Mary was well-to-do, and her home was the meeting place of one group in the Jerusalem church, the one including the Apostle Peter. Barnabas and Paul must have discerned John Mark’s potential, his gift of writing, and his place in the assembly where Peter worshiped and taught.

    Luke depicted a vibrant church, teaching the truth and seeking God’s direction in the spread of the gospel, to raise up new gatherings, putting an emphasis on prayer: they set aside time for God, to include fasting, worship, and listening for God’s direction. During one of these prayer sessions, God guided them to take their two best leaders and send them out into the world.There was no hint of jealousy or resentment over whom God had chosen. The church recognized and obeyed God’s divine calling.

    Barnabas and Saul humbly submitted to the laying on of hands, with hearty prayer, unity of spirit, and with a deep concern for those who had never heard the gospel. As the Holy Spirit sent them, so also would the Lord go along with them, to strengthen them, carry them on in their work, and make their work fruitful.

    Paul’s Missionary Journeys
    JWooldridge [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
    As you trace their path, you see Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark went down from Antioch to the port town of Seleucia, about 15 miles, a one-day journey. From Seleucia they sailed 130 miles to the harbor city of Salamis on Cyprus island. Salamis to Paphos was 100 miles of walking, and that’s where the Roman proconsul came to a saving faith in Messiah Jesus, and Paul called down God’s judgement on the Jewish sorcerer.

    Island of Cyprus
    NASA [Public domain]
    It was logical to start their journey in Cyprus as this was home to Barnabas. Salamis was a great commercial center on the east end of the island, where they began to preach the gospel, and they made their way 90 miles across the island of Cyprus to Paphos, the capital city, known for its luxury, licentiousness, and the worship of Venus and Jupiter.

    Their evangelizing created enough of a stir to gain the attention of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paullus, who sent for them to hear what they were saying. But there was active opposition that stood between the proconsul and the gospel: one of his advisors, a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus.

    If Satan opposed God in heaven, he will certainly oppose God on earth. Expect opposition! But we have the Holy Spirit to overcome evil, free people from bondage and bring them to Christ. As Paul would later write, “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.” Thank God, we have the Holy Spirit to win such battles.

    Paul met opposition head on, denouncing the sorcerer as a child of the devil. He made a play on words: you call yourself Bar, or “son of,” Jesus, but you are really Bar, or “son of” Satan. But, who knew what was going to happen next!

    The Conversion of the Proconsul
    Raphael [Public domain]
    “And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.”

    Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

    Paul, in Acts 13:11-12 (NRSV)
    It was a heart-stopping, disturbing sign from God, no less rattling than Paul’s own blindness had been to him, on the road to Damascus. But what happened afterward was even more startling.

    Sergius Paulus was the first recorded totally Gentile convert. He was not a God-fearer before his conversion. Yet now, as a Christian magistrate the proconsul did much to further the gospel throughout Cyprus.

    This kind of demonstration of power is still happening today, in those places where the gospel is being heard for the first time, and Satan’s opposition is strong. Evil spirits are being cast out, and when people see God the Holy Spirit at work, they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s Spirit also works quietly, dispelling doubts and making people able to hear and understand the gospel, and to believe.

    Nevertheless, it seems it was at this point that John Mark left them and turned home to Jerusalem. Paphos to Perga was 200 miles by boat. After this boat ride, John Mark headed straight back for Jerusalem. Scripture doesn’t say if he walked or sailed, but either way, it was quite a distance to go alone.

    I think of the times in my own past when I began a work for God, but dropped it when the going got too hard. John Mark dropped out and lost the thrill of sharing in the reports of the first mission journey, the privilege of being a part of the spiritual heritage of all those came to saving faith. He missed out on some of the best training he could have ever received from two legendary leaders of the church, and he lost his reputation with Paul.

    Because, whatever Mark’s reasons, Paul saw Mark’s departure as a desertion, and considered him a feckless man, without the grit and mettle to press forward in faith.

    Of all the gifts and talents God has given you and me, our greatest ability will be our dependability. The one thing required of a servant is to be faithful—as Jesus said “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

    Perga to Pisidian Antioch was another 100 miles on foot, and about a 3,600 foot climb up a mountain. Paul and Barnabas then walked 85 miles from Antioch to Iconium. They had to tackle a rugged climb, robbers, cold and exposure to weather, and arrived in Pisidian Antioch as two complete strangers. They looked for a place to stay in the Jewish quarter, once they arrived, and waited for the Sabbath because it was always customary for visiting rabbis to speak.

    ABRAHAM GRAICER [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
    The seating arrangement in the synagogue reserved the highest honor in the front for those who were born Jews. Behind them sat the proselytes, who would never be counted the real thing until their family had been living and worship as Jews for several generations. In the very back sat the God-fearing Gentiles, who loved the Lord and honored His word, but didn’t want the circumcision and all the ceremonial laws.

    So, at the beginning of his sermon, Paul looked directly at the Jews, emphasizing God’s provision for them, their ingratitude and God’s willingness to suffer them, as well as God’s preparation for the Messiah.

    Then Paul vividly, richly, portrayed Jesus’ intense love for everyone in the room—Jews and Gentiles, Jesus’ love ultimately expressed in death, giving Himself up as a real sacrifice, not a symbolic one, but a real man dying a real, excruciating death. These were historical facts, fulfilling Scripture. But the incredible joy came not even from that ultimate expression of love, but from the eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, and that having ascended to heaven, He now sends out the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of those who believe in Him.

    Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you;

    by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

    Paul, in Acts 13:38-39 (NRSV)
    Paul’s voice rang out in the still air as stunned faces stared slack-jawed at him.

    Now that’s the Gospel!

    Paul was saying that no one can follow Moses’ law perfectly.

    The demands are just too great.

    If you and I try, then we will feel guilt and condemnation. This way of living will lead to anxiety and insecurity because you can never be sure that you are living up to standards sufficiently.

    Paul told them that through Jesus Christ they could have two blessings the law could never provide:

    The forgiveness of their sins.
    And justification before the throne of God.
    Justification is the act of God where He declares the believing sinner to be counted worthy in Jesus Christ.

    Paul warned his listeners that if they didn’t believe the gospel, they would experience God’s judgement and perish.

    The Jews followed Paul to hear more about this gospel. It was disturbing to them that the Covenant of Law was not enough to insure their place in the people of God, this flew against everything they had ever been taught. But it was the Gentiles who really responded to the good news. They told everyone they knew and brought back their families, neighbors and friends so nearly the whole town was there the following Sabbath to hear Paul’s message of love and forgiveness.

    Imagine how unhappy the Jews were to find their synagogue full of Gentiles to hear Paul’s message on the Covenant of Grace, rather than to hear their own rabbi’s teaching on the Covenant of Law!

    They were jealous.

    Tragically, the Jews refused to accept the Gentiles coming as Gentiles, without circumcision or the law, yet being received by God. They utterly rejected the message of God’s love, forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation.

    What’s more, they were not going to sit back and let Paul and Barnabas take over. After hotly disputing with them, the Jews brought legal action against them and had them expelled. But though Paul and Barnabas were persecuted, they were far from being discouraged.

    Paul and Barnabas considered it a privilege to suffer in the name of, and for the sake of, their beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Praying Hands
    Esther Gibbons
    https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
    As a Bible teacher and leader of a large women’s Bible study, years ago, I used to brace the women I was bringing in to train as leaders. “Expect trouble,” I would say to them, “Once you make a commitment to lead in the cause of Christ, you will be opposed. Now that you have taken up God’s call you have put yourself into the sights of God’s enemy. Do not resent it. The Bible teaches that successful work for God will surely involve suffering and hardships. Opposition is usually a sign that you are doing well, and the enemy has noticed you.“

    There have been plenty of times when I have had to remember those words for myself. Has the Lord provided me with enough grit to trust Him in faith for what lies before me? Or will I pull a ‘Mark’ and bail out?

    [Cyprus Larnaca Hala Sultan Tekke | needpix.com]

    The Sign of the Rainbow

    In biblical language, a covenant was a promise made by God, given to a person or group of people, which God often accompanied with a sign.

    It can be conditional: “If you obey My commandments, I will bless you; if you disobey my commandments, I will punish you.”

    It can be unconditional: such as the promise God delivered to Noah’s clan, “I will never again destroy all life with a flood.” No strings attached.

    But really, even conditional covenants are based on God’s grace. There is honestly nothing to obligate God to enter into a pact with humankind. As supreme and ultimate Creator and Sovereign Lord, God may do as He sees fit with His creation. Every living thing, every -thing- owes God its very existence. The Lord God therefore has authority over every person, all people are dependent on God and morally obligated to obey God without thought of reward.

    Truly.

    We need to get our heads wrapped around that.

    Yet, God instead chooses out of His love and goodness to make Himself vulnerable to covenant with people. These covenants are solely for the benefit of humankind, and continue to be active until they have been fulfilled, until God’s purpose for them has been accomplished.

    All of God’s covenants have been cut in blood. After Noah’s sacrifice, God blessed and commissioned Noah and his family, then established His covenant with all living things, which is where we pick up the story today.

    After over a year of silence, of simply sitting and waiting, with no idea when this period of waiting would end, or even if it would end, with their resources shriveling up before their eyes, and the relentless hard work of caring for the entire world’s treasure of life forms wearying them a little more every day, Noah and his family must have felt overwhelmed by God’s voice. From silence to a wall of sound, from no words to a whole stream of words: blessing, instruction, promises, commissioning. And now, God would speak with them about a lasting covenant.

    This covenant actually begins clear back in Genesis, chapter 6, when God said, “I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” The first provision of God’s unconditional covenant was to preserve a remnant from His judgment.

    Now God gave reassurance that whenever the clouds came, or whenever it rained, it would not be like it had been for the Great Flood. God’s promise of protection would now be there as a reminder. A rainbow is a particularly apt sign of God’s grace. As I’m sure you know, rainbows are produced by the very elements that threaten—clouds and rain.

    God already knew “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.” God knew eventually Noah and his family would involve themselves in doing wrong, because the source of their motivations (and ours, too) was their hearts. There is nothing you and I can do, either, about this situation, not on our own steam. We are never going to be able to kick the sin problem on our own, not by sheer dint of will, not by strength of character, not by becoming an ascetic hermit, not by spending every moment doing good deeds.

    All our best efforts to correct sin will only make it worse, because now we will be locked into the great deception that it can be done. We’ll end up down the road of denial, or rationalizations, or legalism, or antinomianism, or you name it. But, God has a solution to the sin problem, His covenant of grace through Jesus.

    The word “testament” in Greek means covenant: Old Covenant, New Covenant. God’s conditional covenant of law, the “old testament,” was fulfilled in the Messiah, Whose work on the cross, and His resurrection, inaugurated an unconditional covenant, the “new testament,” of grace. If the promises attached to the coming and work of the Messiah had been conditional, you and I could never have lived up to them. From Adam on down, people have been covenant breakers.

    So, God established His new covenant purely on grace, the precursor of which is this rainbow covenant. That’s the amazing spiritual component to the sign of the rainbow. One day, the very elements that threaten storm and destruction, God’s cleansing power (often called God’s “wrath”), will become what transforms us into the stuff of life by the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, through the eternal work of Jesus, made possible by the gracious work of the Father.

    Because, filled with the Spirit, our faith anchored in Jesus, those storms become the proving ground of the inner transformation already at work.

    The rainbow ends up being the longest section of this covenant, it’s where God put His emphasis. Noah and his family had endured the loss of everything they knew. They had endured the hardship of living in the ark for over a year, wondering what would happen next. Would they have to live in there forever? Had God forgotten them?

    Now, God gave them every reassurance of His love and careful protection, and He gave something beautiful to sign and seal His promise. In the same way, Jesus’ sacrifice and the pouring out of His blood establishes the covenant of grace you and I can enter into, and the rainbow sign is the seal of His Holy Spirit Who enlivens and empowers us.

    I look forward to that and let God’s beautiful sign give me comfort and encouragement.

    God knows life is filled with tragedy. Sin is ugly, but God is the God of beauty, and in Him you and I can overcome these things.

    At the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, God is sitting on His throne and all around is a perfect rainbow, not half an arc, but a whole circle, heaven and earth finally made one.

    After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

    At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne!

    And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald.

    Revelation 4:1-3
    europa rainbow | Robert Couse-Baker, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

    Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is one of the foundational principles of living by faith,

    “Always be joyful, pray continuously, in all things give thanks, for this is God’s desire for you in Christ Jesus.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
    Years ago, I read a fascinating article called “How the New Science of Thank You Can Change Your Life.” Apparently, scientific research has now been able to prove what God has been teaching people since the days of Cain: practicing gratitude can actually make us healthier – literally!!

    Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis, was able to prove, in his lab, that being thankful can change us for the better. He took three groups of volunteers and assigned each group to focus on one thing:

    Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
    All that’s wrong in life All that makes life better Ordinary life
    1) The first group concentrated on everything that went wrong, or irritated them

    2) The second group homed in on situations they felt made their lives better

    3) The third group was asked to think about ordinary life events

    After the experiment was over, the people who focused on gratitude discovered they were happier – in fact, the difference was so noticeable that others recognized it too.

    We’ll sleep better
    We’ll be more enthusiastic, more interested, more determined
    We’ll be less materialistic, less apt to connect life satisfaction with material things
    We’ll be more energetic and actually exercise more
    We’ll feel more optimistic and joyful, better resilience during tough times
    We’re more likely to share what we have with others
    We’ll have fewer headaches and colds and a stronger immune system
    We’ll be less envious, less anxious, less prone to feel the blues and less stressed
    We’ll be more alert and active
    We’ll be more likely to help other people
    We’ll actually live longer
    We’ll have closer family ties
    We’ll have a deeper spirituality
    And if we’re willing to stick to it, being thankful, practicing gratitude, we’ll realize we’re making progress toward our life goals.
    Paul was no stranger to pain and hardship. He knew what it was to be hated, persecuted, beaten and left for dead. He did time in prison, dealt with chronic physical disability, and extended emotional distress. Sometimes, Paul was left holding the bag, when all his friends and fellow workers simply abandoned him.

    There was a lot about his life that you and I might find hard to be grateful for.

    So how could Paul even write this sentence to the believers in Thessalonica? How in the world are we to remain joyful and give thanks when the person closest to us has betrayed us? When we’re facing an incurable disease, or live with constant pain? When our hopes or dreams are crushed? When someone close to us is dying? When we lose something, or someone, and we wonder how we’re going to make it, now? When we are facing ruin, or disaster, or calamity?

    Let’s look at what Paul wrote, again,

    Always be joyful pray continuously in all things give thanks

    But, you might be thinking, but sometimes it feels like God isn’t answering my prayers. Why didn’t God prevent this awful thing that’s happening? I asked Him to, I saw it coming. Why doesn’t God provide for my bills? I work hard, I’m doing the best I can, but God seems not to care. Why won’t God give me a friend when I am so lonely? I reach out, I’m nice to everyone. But here I am, still alone. Why hasn’t God healed me, or at least given me some relief from my suffering?

    I’ve been on my knees, pleading with God in tears. I’m at my most vulnerable, and I feel like nothing’s happening. So what’s the point of praying continuously?

    Here’s the point. When you have Jesus’ Spirit within you, then He is there, with you.

    The Lord is here.

    He is with us. His comfort, His strength, His compassion, His encouragement. When you and I pray continuously, we are remembering we’re not alone, and we can survive even this because God is with us, and in us. He has wisdom for this moment, He has courage and wherewithal for what we are experiencing.

    Sometimes you and I are not asking the right questions and we’re not looking for the answers that God is giving. Sometimes the answer is something we don’t want to hear. Part of the reason is that you and I might be looking at prayer in a distorted way. We’re using the consumer mentality which has a list of things we’ve decided are good and we should have.

    When God doesn’t deliver, it feels like rejection, doesn’t it.

    Yet, God has our ultimate good, our eternal good, in mind, as well as God’s ultimate plan for all creation. Every prayer is weighed against this good.

    So what can we pray, then? In a spirit of joyfulness, in a spirit of thanksgiving, when everything seems to be going up in flames? Can we cry? Is it okay to be sad, or angry, or afraid?

    Thank You God by Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer
    Thank You for being with me.

    Thank You for Your Spirit, Who gives me strength for this moment

    For giving me wisdom

    For giving me love

    Thank You for giving my life meaning

    And for giving all life meaning

    Thank You for giving me the capacity to feel

    For the capacity for sorrow, I understand worth

    For anger, I understand justice

    For fear, I understand danger

    Thank You that I experience all this with You.

    Thank You for getting me through this

    Thank you for the signs of Your love everywhere

    For beauty in hidden places, and in bleak places

    Thank you for being You

    And for making me me.

    Acts 15: “Iron Sharpens Iron”

    Paul’s leading edge was love, unity, harmony in community, building up and willingly adjusting to those who were less spiritually mature, or weaker in their consciences.

    So, how does all this square with the way Paul publicly rebuked Peter?

    Well, some thoughts come to mind.

    First of all, Peter was no stranger to public rebuke. The Lord Himself had taken Peter to task on a number of occasions, one time in a very public and painful way. Peter would have had experience in understanding how to navigate through this kind of encounter.

    Secondly, Jesus had anticipated how hard it would be for His beloved ones. Early in His ministry, the Lord provided some simple, practical steps for resolving conflict within the body, beginning with a one-on-one conversation, moving to a small meeting with one or two others who could act as mediators, and only when that doesn’t work, to bring the conflict before the whole community.

    Finally, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus interceded for His own, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth,” He had prayed, and made supplication for the church’s unity.

    There is no doubt both Paul and Peter knew these teachings and prayers of Jesus. They were both apostles, they had both received years of personal tutoring from the Lord Himself. They knew.

    So, though the record does not reflect it, my guess is Paul must have talked with Peter, with Barnabas, and with the Jewish believers who had come down from the Jerusalem church, both one-on-one and in small groups. My guess is, the Jewish believers were completely unmoved by Paul’s arguments.

    I have one piece of intriguing evidence to support this thought. Paul wrote in one of his letters to the believers in Corinth,

    This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

    I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others,

    since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.

    2 Corinthians 13:1-4 (NIV)
    It seems this is how Paul was in his relationships. He followed Jesus’ basic outline for correction and resolution of conflict within the Body of Christ.

    Now something that often gets missed is that there was more than one group of Jewish people who were opposing Paul.

    One group rejected the gospel. They were staunchly Hebrew covenant Jews, and considered Paul a renegade and worse, a heretic and blasphemer. These were the ones seeking to destroy Paul.

    Another group seems to have believed in Jesus, but they did not preach the same gospel as Paul. Perhaps at least some of these were among the former priests, and Pharisees who believed the old covenant of the Hebrew Bible was still active—I say this because Luke described them as “some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees.” This group was seeking to correct Paul.

    On this side of the issue were the Pharisees who had become believers.

    To them the scriptures clearly outlined nonnegotiable terms for inclusion with the people of God.

    They had two thousand years’ worth of scripture to back them up. They knew God had given the covenant of circumcision to Abraham, and had made it crystal clear anyone without circumcision would be removed from the people of God.
    This covenant was so serious, and so important to God, Moses nearly lost his life when he attempted to answer God’s call to lead without taking care of this issue.
    Again, no one was permitted to enter the Promised Land until every male had undergone the rite of circumcision.
    In the middle were Peter and Barnabas.

    According to Paul, this believing group of Pharisees from the Jerusalem church had come down to Antioch after Peter had arrived, and had been so convincing in their arguments that both Peter and Barnabas were finally swayed, even though:

    Barnabas had worked side-by-side with Paul and experienced the miracle of salvation among the Gentiles with Paul. Barnabas was both well-known and well-loved by the church at Antioch, where he had been teaching with Paul for years.
    Peter had been given a vision by God Himself to show that Gentiles would now be included in the people of God. However, this vision was so disturbing to Peter he had at first resisted God.
    Peter’s vision led to the centurion Cornelius’ conversion, and that of his whole household. Shockingly, to Peter and the six Jewish believers who had accompanied him, God poured out His Spirit on these uncircumcised Gentiles. So, Peter baptized them all, seeing God had already brought them in to His household.
    And on the other side was Paul, left standing alone.

    There is no question the Gentile Christians, who had up to this point been received as full members into the family of God, were now getting the message something was wrong with them. Frighteningly, this contingent of believers from Jerusalem, men learned in the scriptures and familiar with the things of God, were teaching a very convincing message that grace and faith were far from enough, for not only the famous Peter, but even their beloved teacher and shepherd Barnabas was drawing back from them.

    The only one left who might defend them was Paul.

    It was necessary Paul publicly defend them, so the Gentile Christians would be reassured of their place with God. Paul did this not simply for the sake of truth, but for the sake of keeping the church from being irreparably broken apart.

    Paul was left with an untenable situation, where God’s beloved ones were being told they were unacceptable when God Himself had already imparted His Spirit to them. In this case, the believers who had come down from Jerusalem were 100% convinced they were right, they had solid scripture references, they had thousands of years of tradition, they had the backing of all the scholars, and they had a sympathetic ear in Jerusalem…Paul had none of those things. Yet, on this issue they were wrong. We know that, now.

    What Paul did have was the Spirit of Christ, the evidence of God’s powerful, divine work among the Gentiles, and prophecies from scripture that he was now interpreting in a fresh, new way based upon Jesus’ powerful salvation of grace through faith as understood in the gospel.

    Make every effort to protect and nurture the unity God has given us by His Spirit, including, as a last measure, public rebuke.

    It is all part of living in a community to be open about what we think and feel, to be passionate about the things that are important to us, and to establish boundaries. It is also healthy to listen to each other, to be willing to learn from each other, and to humbly understand none of us is 100% right about everything. We may feel we are right, but we may be quite wrong.

    [Sword pommel | Courtesy of Pexels]

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