Acts 13:46-49 (CEB)
Speaking courageously, Paul and Barnabas said, “We had to speak God’s word to you first. Since you reject it and show that you are unworthy to receive eternal life, we will turn to the Gentiles. This is what the Lord commanded us:
I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
so that you could bring salvation to the end of the earth.”
When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honoured the Lord’s word. Everyone who was appointed for eternal life believed, and the Lord’s word was broadcast throughout the entire region.
These verses are full of stuff.
There is historical-type stuff about the early church and how and when the split between Judaism and Christianity was finally established – how Christianity made the journey from being a sect within Judaism to being its own fully-fledged religion in its own right. And, of course, you’d expect to see some successionist language through that process. That whole thing would make an interesting study and might have been the subject of a fascinating blog. But not this one!
There is stuff in there about Jews and Gentiles and ideas about the purpose of God choosing Israel not because they are special but because they were to be a light to the nations – to show and lead the nations by the attractiveness of their example. It calls to mind all those prophetic words about Jerusalem being a shining city on a hill to draw all nations. Lots of ink has been spilled over these ideas and a blogger might well be tempted to wade in and spill some more – even if it is only virtual ink – but not this one!
There is stuff in there that hints at some kind of idea about Divine Election. When the Gentiles got to hear Paul and Barnabas preach it was those who had already been “appointed for eternal life” who believed. What on earth is that about? It would be easy for a blogger to get drawn into that and get on his internet high horse to rant about theology and doctrine. But not this one – oh no!
Those of you who know me will be marvelling at this new-found restraint! “It won’t last” I can hear you predicting.
Well, my mind did range over all of those possibilities as I listened to those words from Acts this morning. But then the Holy Spirit told me to give my head a shake and reminded me what this blog is for and – more importantly – why it is that I read the bible each morning.
I read the Bible each morning in order to listen for God speaking to me through God’s Word; and I write the blog as a discipline to make sure that I don’t then simply forget about it but DO properly reflect on it through the day.
So – whilst there is room for a historical or theological or doctrinal reading of this text – and whilst I do find that interesting (and I will probably follow up on that in some way) that’s NOT what a daily rhythm of reading the bible is for.
I am commited to reading the bible each morning and asking God’s Spirit to read it with me and show me where and how God wants me to respond. Anyone can do this. In the company of God’s Spirit we can all hear God speaking to us.
The academic reading and the theological/doctrinal reading – yes, that does need expertise and training and background knowledge – you can safely leave that to the experts. BUT that is NOT the same as abandoning the bible to experts!
Devotional reading is within the grasp of anyone who honestly seeks God’s word for their life in the company of the Holy Spirit.
I am such that the Holy Spirit needs to remind me of this often! I am easily distracted chasing theological rabbits down holes. Fortunately God’s Spirit is infinitely patient and leads me gently back to where a should be, always whispering in my ear:
“Yes, Phil, that’s fascinating! Maybe you could go and read up about that later on. But for now, listen for a moment and hear what it is God is saying to you about your life and your living today.”