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Day 287 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Acts.
Acts 17 – The gospel has not changed, though Paul’s presentation of it begins in a much different manner than usual. Proclaiming the gospel takes a variety of forms in the book of Acts. Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures” in Thessalonica (Acts 17:2). But here in Athens, Paul freely uses aspects of Greek culture as bridges to the gospel, while calling people influenced by that same culture to repent (verses 23–24, 30). God is gracious to reach each culture where we are, even in the midst of our idolatry; He is too gracious, though, to allow us to remain there.
Paul’s approach to the Greek elites of Athens is a contrast in preaching style to how he approaches the Jews in the synagogues, but it is the same gospel of the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Paul’s outreach to the Gentiles, though it tends to stir up the Jews to jealousy, is simply a reflection of Jesus’ gracious approach to outsiders.
Jesus’ ministry was inclusive from its beginning. He ministered to the rich, the poor, the despised, the religious, the secular, men, and women (examples, Matthew 8:1–13; 15:22–28; John 4:2–42). Jesus’ ministry reached beyond Jerusalem to include Nazareth, Galilee, and Samaria.
Paul and the other apostles simply carried forward the inclusive approach set forth by Jesus. Paul insisted, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), and he taught that the expansion of God’s kingdom to other nations was at the very heart of God’s plan to redeem the cosmos. The inclusiveness of the kingdom of God is artistically expressed in the book of Revelation, where we read that people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9; 14:6) receive the gospel and are gathered in celebration of the Lamb.
How do you share the same Gospel in different ways to different people?
Acts 18 – God speaks directly to Paul, encouraging him to remain in Corinth despite his frustrations, because God apparently has many people to redeem there (verse 10). In the face of opposition, God steps in with faithful love to strengthen Paul’s resolve. God promises (1) protection: despite the danger of Paul’s opponents, God will ensure that they do not harm him; and (2) presence: God will be with Paul so that he need not doubt whether the hostility he experiences reflects God’s displeasure.
Jesus offers Believers both of these promises. We are protected from the wrath of God through His death as our substitute. We also possess the promise of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit as we partner in His mission (Matthew 28:18–20; John 14:18, 27). Knowing that God dwells within us allows us to press forward through adversity. It is God’s presence (“I am with you”; verse 10) that not only energizes Believers but protects them in the midst of fear, anxiety, and doubt. This is a recurring theme in Scripture: God’s presence casts out fear.
Apollos helped “those who through grace had believed.” Belief is not something humans can manufacture; salvation, including faith, is completely the work of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are saved by grace, not by anything we have done. Salvation is completely a gift of God. We have done nothing to bring it about that could lead us to boast. And yet it is nearly impossible not to boast in the radical love of God when we grasp this reality.
How do the two promises revealed here (protection and presence) encourage you today?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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