“To The Unknown God”

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March 13, 2022

  • Daily Devotional

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    DAY 1 – A Guide to This Week’s Reading and Reflection

    The Book of Acts covers a period of 33 years and the entire Mediterranean world. Acts 1:8 is the model Luke uses to create his missional history of the birth and growth of the Church. Acts 13 is the hinge chapter where the Gentile mission (to the ends of the earth) begins. Luke provides three main sections of that mission.

    Paul’s first missionary journey: Acts 13-14 (from AD 45-46)
    The Jerusalem Council: Acts 15:1-35 (in AD 49 or 50)
    The second missionary journey: Acts 15:36-18:22 (AD 50-53)
    The third missionary journey: Acts 19:1-21:14 (AD 55-58)

    Last week’s devotional guide covered most of the second missionary journey. This week will conclude the second and cover the third journey. That journey concludes with Paul going to Jerusalem and his experience of being on trial for his faith.

    This week’s readings will not have explanations about the details of the chapters. As you read each chapter, discover what Luke continues to teach about the Word-Gospel, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Church on a Mission in the World.

    The daily reflections are on Paul, his context, his ministry, and his heart for the Church.

    DAY 2 – Acts 18

    As you read Acts 18 be sure to notice the introduction of important new people who will become leaders and teachers in the church. A wife and husband team of Priscilla and Aquilla, and then a Jew named Apollos who they train for ministry.

    Paul had many roles. He was an apostle and missionary. While he always started with the Hellenistic Jews and the synagogue, he knew he was an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 13:47; Galatians 2:2, 8; Romans 15:16). He was a teacher and preacher, as well as an evangelist and disciple-maker. And Paul was a pastor-shepherd.

    Paul’s mission was to preach and teach, evangelize and disciple, AND start and grow the Church. The Church was the new community God was creating. The Church—made up of Jews and Greeks, slave and free, rich and poor, women and men— would be the people of God from all nations.

    Paul loved the Church of Jesus and Paul would do anything for the sake of the Church. That meant Paul would suffer greatly for the Church. You can read how much he suffered in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33. As you read Acts, you will see the story of some of those times of suffering.

    Because he loved the Church, Paul had great concern for the health and maturity of the church (see 2 Corinthians 11:28-29).

    Paul was a spiritual father and mother for the Church (Thessalonians 2:7-11). Some of his churches were a source of great joy, like the church in Thessalonica. Other churches were a source of great heartache, like the church in Corinth.

    Acts 19 shows how powerful and fruitful Paul’s ministry was in Ephesus. Acts 20 describes the deep affection and love Paul and that church had for each other. As you work through Acts this week, see the heart and ministry of Pastor Paul. Pray that the same love and affection would be strong at our church.

    DAY 3 – Acts 19

    Acts 19 shows the fruit of Paul’s ministry as God does great things through him. There is amazing victory over spiritual evil and a great confrontation with the local religious culture.

    There is a strategic question in every chapter of Acts. How does the gospel and Church relate to the world? In Acts, there are four worlds that interact. Paul lives in each of those worlds.

    First, there is the Jewish world. Paul is Jewish. He is rooted in the teaching of the Old Testament. Paul has deep insight into the scriptures and religious ways of his faith. He lives diligently according to that way (see Philippians 3:4-6).

    Second, there is the Hellenistic world, or Greek culture, that is the dominant culture of the Mediterranean region. Paul grew up as a Hellenistic Jew, in the city of Tarsus. Tarsus was a city known for its Greek philosophical schools. Paul knew the language, culture, customs, religions, and philosophies of that world.

    Third, there is the Roman world. That world is an Empire. Through war and conquest, Rome now ruled one of the greatest empires of history. The legal system of Rome was everywhere. Peace was enforced by Roman armies. Regions were governed by Roman officials. Everyone paid taxes. And Rome required everyone to worship Caesar and to worship Rome itself. The Jewish religion was an official religion in the Roman Empire and had some protection and freedom to follow their own religion. Still, Rome required obedience, conformity, loyalty, and worship. To say “Jesus is Lord” is spiritual and political!

    Finally, there is the Christian world where Jesus is Lord. That world was the new communities that would be known as the Church. People from all social groups became Christians and joined churches. How would the Church relate to the other three worlds in which they lived? Sometimes it became explosive, as Acts 19 shows. Sometimes it feels explosive for us today! How will we live in a world like that?

    DAY 4 – Acts 20

    Acts 20 has three sections, with Paul’s farewell to the leaders of the Ephesian churches being the longest section.

    Acts shows us a thoroughly religious world. All of life was religious. Every aspect of life was shaped by religion. There was no separation of religion and social or political life; they were enmeshed. It is also a pre-Christian world. While Christianity was rapidly spreading and growing, it was still a small religious minority. It was also an “at risk” religious minority.

    The Greek and Roman world was a world of polytheism or many gods. You know the names of these gods in both Greek and Latin: Jupiter-Zeus, Mars-Ares, Mercury-Apollo, etc. In Ephesus, Artemis was the “great goddess” (Acts 19:26-27). It was a time of magic, sorcery, and witchcraft. “Powers” were everywhere. The gospel challenged all that (Acts 19:11-20).

    It was also an exciting time of new philosophical traditions developing. Most of these philosophies were quite religious. The Stoics and Epicureans were two of the widespread philosophies (see Acts 17:16-34; Colossians 2:1-23).

    To be a religion in the Roman Empire required official permission. The Jewish religion had Roman sanction and certain exemptions for their faith, so a Jew did not have to participate in many of the cultural events that involved religion and worship. For the Jew, that would be idolatry.

    At first, the Christian movement was seen as a sect or sub-group within the Jewish faith. Therefore, Christians had some protection and room to worship Jesus and not participate in the daily cultural-religious ceremonies. As the tension between Jews and Christians grew, Jews and Greeks said, “They are not Jews and they have no official sanction. They are an illegal religion! And they are against Rome, Caesar, and our gods (Acts 18:12-17; 19:23-41).” This is the pre-Christian world where the Church lived! This may be the post-Christian world in which we live!

    DAY 5 – Acts 21:1-14

    In this part of Acts 21 the mission is over and Paul is headed to Jerusalem. Through the Holy Spirit he is warned of the dangers of going there. Some would think, “Wonderful, a word from God to keep Paul out of danger.” Paul has a better understanding of God’s will for him (see Acts 9:15-16; Philippians 1:12; Colossians 1:24). When you hear from God, careful interpretation and discernment is needed.

    Pastor Paul loves the Church and Teacher Paul nurtures faith and builds the Church through his Jesus-centered teaching of the scriptures.

    Paul was always on the move. Even if he stayed at a place for 2 or 3 years, he would move on. But the churches he had pastored remained dear to him. So, Pastor-Teacher Paul wrote letters to his Church. Over the years he would have written many letters. We have 13 of them. Four were to individuals and nine were to churches. Paul wrote to one church while working at another church. Here is a chart of Paul’s location in Acts, the approximate years, and the letters he wrote. The letters to Timothy and Titus were written after Acts.

    Acts 14-15
    From Antioch AD 48-49 Galatians letter

    Acts 17-18 From Corinth AD 51-53 1 & 2 Thessalonians

    Acts 18-19
    From Ephesus AD 54-55 1 Corinthians

    From Macedonia AD 55-56 2 Corinthians

    Acts 19-20
    From Macedonia AD 56-57 Romans letter

    Acts 28
    In Roman prison AD 61-63 Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon

    You will understand Acts and Paul’s letters when you see their connection.

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