ACTS 17:22-31

THE BACKGROUND

The apostle Paul has been traveling throughout the region northwest of Israel, through modern day Turkey all the way to Greece  Rome has overtaken Athens in political power, but Athens is still the center of the world for philosophy and religion (other than for Christian and the Jewish faiths).   In fact, the Roman gods are all renamed Greek gods—they have copied the Greek religion. .  In the verses just before this reading (verses 15-21), Paul has reached Athens, Greece.  He has been walking around Athens, noticing all the idols to all their “gods”.  Since he is a Hebrew by birth, these graven images are repulsive to him.  He even found an idol entitled “To An Unknown God”.  So, he starts preaching the good news.  Some Greek philosophers invite him to speak about his god to a group of philosophers who regularly meet at the Areopagus, a meeting place for philosophers.

THE DETAIL

If you will remember Peter’s sermons to the Jews, Peter quotes Old Testament scripture, pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. 

These Greek philosophers know nothing of Jewish Old Testament scripture, so Paul must take a different approach.  Paul gives these philosophers a very nicely-developed philosophical presentation of the life and work of Jesus Christ.  He makes several key points:

  • There is only one God, creator of the earth and all its creatures, including mankind.  (v 24-27)
  • In Him, we have our being.  We are his children.  (v28)
  • You can’t make a likeness of him out of gold or stone. (v29)
  • God has overlooked our sins in the past, but not for much longer. It is time to repent.  (v30)
  • God has appointed “a man” (Jesus) who will judge the righteous. We know this man is the one, because God raised him from the dead. (verse 31)

In the verses after our reading, especially in verse 34, we see that Paul didn’t get a lot of converts that day; only a handful.  He left there for Corinth.  There are hints in his letter to that church that he was disappointed about his lack of success in Athens.  (See 1 Cor. 1:18-25)

THE TAKEAWAY

Have you ever done your best to preach the Gospel, only to have it fall on deaf ears?  I know that I have “been there, done that”.  Sometimes, even the most eloquent of speeches do not win the day for our Lord.  It helps me to remember that I have one small part to play in God’s grand plan.  I am asked to plant the seed.  The Holy Spirit has the job of making it grow.
 

1 PETER 3:13-22

THE BACKGROUND

The apostle Peter has written this letter to the all the churches. It is chock full of instructions from him on how to live life as a Christian.  At that time and place, some households had a mixture of faiths.  A wife may have accepted Jesus as her savior, but the rest of the family had not.  In some cases, a servant became a Christian, but not his or her master.  In these situations, there was the opportunity for some to suffer for their faith in Jesus.  In other situations, a person might be the only family member to follow Jesus.  They might be shunned or shut out of family activities because of their faith.

THE DETAIL

  • In verse 14, Peter uses the word “blessed”.  This might remind us of when Jesus used it in the Sermon on the Mount.  In the context of suffering, Matthew 5:10-11 is particularly notable:  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you… on my account.”
  • Verses 15 and 16 give good advice on how to witness one’s faith. He tells us to always be ready to do so, and do it with gentleness and reverence.  This might not always be easy to do, especially in a hostile situation.
  • Verse 20 calls to mind the story of Noah, in which God “cleanses” the world.  Verse 21 makes a water connection with baptism, in which we are cleansed of our sin. Both are acts of salvation.
  • Finally, verses 21 and 22 remind us that Jesus is our Lord, waiting for us in heaven. 

 

THE TAKEAWAY

If we endure some form of hardship because of our faith in Jesus, we can take assurance in knowing:

  • We will receive a special blessing because of our suffering.
  • We can take comfort in the knowledge that through our baptism, we are cleansed by God.  We have been saved.
  • As we learned in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus has prepared a home for us, and is waiting.

 

JOHN 14:15-21

THE BACKGROUND

This is a continuation of Jesus’s farewell address at his last supper.  It continues on for several more chapters.  Next week will be the conclusion of the study of his farewell address. 

THE DETAIL

  • Jesus says something very important here.  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” My question is “which commandments is he referring to?”  He said “my” commandments, rather than the 10 Commandments, or any of the other 613 Laws of Moses.  His commandments.  If you look around, you’ll find out that Jesus gave us lots of instruction, but only one commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”   John 13:34  This one commandment really summarizes all 613 Laws of Moses, including the 10 Commandments.  Jesus himself said this, when a lawyer asked him which was the greatest of all the commandments.  He answered that it was to love God and one another.  That all the other laws depend upon this law of love.  (Jesus’ words, not mine.)  (Mt. 22:34-40)  (v. 15)
  • He promises to send an “Advocate”, the Holy Spirit.  Actually, he says that he will send another Advocate.  What might this mean?  Is Jesus calling himself an advocate of the Father?  (v. 16)
  • Most of all, he promises that if we love him and keep his commandments, that we will live, and be together with him.  (vv. 18-21)

 

THE TAKEAWAY

Jesus has made it very simple—we “only” have to love one another.  I don’t know about you, but this might be simple, but it is not easy! Some people are not very loveable. But this is Jesus’ one commandment, so we need to try.  Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit to help and guide us on our way.