Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Goes Around Comes Around (Acts 18:9-17)

Our lesson this week in Tentmakers came from … You guessed it! … Acts 18.  Before I get all fired up, I want you to go there and read verses 9-17.  While you do, please allow me to pray for our time together.

Father God, we come to You in Jesus’ name, asking Your blessing on our time together.  Lord, that our minds will be fixed on You and that nothing (phones and family alike) will divide our attention.  Give us understanding that we may learn... (Ps 119:73).  Amen.

Okay!  Now that you’ve read Acts 18:9-17, I want you to look back at the passage and make a list of the cast of characters found in this clip.  Try picturing it in your mind.  (Please realize that, even though we may use some movie/theater terms to help us connect to the passage, Acts is an historical book.  The events Luke depicts here really happened!)

Verse 9-10:  We see Paul asleep in bed, then …

Verse 11:  Paul settled down in Corinth.  What does “settling down” look like?  What would he be doing?

Verse 12-13:  Who’s the new guy?  What do the Jews do to feel him out (typical when under new authority)?

Verse 14-16:  How does each participant in the scene (Paul, Gallio, the Jews) react to this testing?

Verse 17 … finally (exclamation of excitement not exhaustion)!  If you think we reached the climax of the scene with Gallio putting the Jews in their place, you now see otherwise.  Describe the activity in the scene, but also look at each person still in the courtroom.  Can you see the looks on their faces?  Mob of Greeks?  Gallio (I like KJV for Gallio)?  Sosthenes?  Paul?





I don’t know how you pictured Paul’s face, but what I see is a look of uncomfortable familiarity.  This wasn’t Paul’s first time with a front-row seat to an undeserved beating.  In his previous life as ‘Saul the Pharisee,’ he was usually the one doing the dragging (see Acts 8:3, 9:1-2).  I imagine this as a full-circle moment for Paul.

We might have initially wondered (at least I did) if Paul appreciated (at the least) or encouraged (at the most) Sosthenes’ beating … After all, Luke does say that “the Jews unitedly made an attack upon Paul and brought him before the judge’s seat” (Acts 18:12).  Unitedly must have included Sosthenes, the leader of their synagogue, right?  (This is not a trick question.)  I think instead that what happened in that courtroom (Acts 18:12-17) took Paul back to a place he regretted he had ever been.  To distance himself further from that place, Paul didn’t respond with an attitude of satisfaction; instead he reached out to Sosthenes with a compassion that could only come from one who had been there.

If you continued reading in Acts 18 – even only into verse 18 – you may wonder where I’m getting the idea that Paul reached out to Sosthenes, and you would be right to ask that question!  For those of you who haven’t read it, please do.  Sosthenes is never again mentioned in the book of Acts.  So where is he mentioned?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  A few years after leaving Corinth, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, and guess who Paul includes in his opening greeting.  That’s right … Sosthenes!  Don’t take my word for it; read 1 Corinthians 1:1 to see for yourself.

In reading and re-reading this week’s passage from Acts 18:9-17, the term “judgment seat” kept jumping out at me.  I think that’s because, when God gave instructions to Moses for the Tabernacle, there was no judgment seat; instead there was a mercy seat (Exodus 25:17-22).  That day in Gallio’s courtroom, God showed mercy to Sosthenes by specially positioning Paul to minister to him.  When we feel we’ve been wronged by someone and then the tables are turned and that person is the one under fire, don’t we sometimes respond from a judgment seat – instead of a mercy seat? 

Now what?  Today, when you see someone hurting, ask yourself if God has strategically positioned you to minister to their needs.  Using the backdrop of Paul and Sosthenes, I’ll give you two questions to consider with your situation in mind:  (1) Is it a person who has wronged you?  (2) Have you been where s/he is?  If either one of these is a ‘yes,’ then prayerfully consider reaching out.  You may be the only one who can.


“And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia…” (1 Thess 1:8, NLT)

Look back at the Scripture address for the verse above – 1 Thessalonians.  It should come as no surprise that Paul was writing to the church he had planted at Thessalonica, but where was he writing from? Corinth.  From the last post (or class) this is the place where the Holy Spirit tarried, allowing Paul to “settle down … teaching the Word of the Lord” (Acts 18:11, Amp).  We’re going to pick back up here in Acts 18 in just a minute, but before we get too deep into this week’s lesson.  I want to share some news with you…

When Tentmakers (our Sunday school class) began last year, we weren’t “High Tech” (as Leroy likes to refer to us).  The highest our tech went was weekly emails of summaries and thoughts about our time together in class.  Blogging never even crossed my mind until Jason encouraged me to start posting my thoughts here, and even then I didn’t do anything until Jason himself set up the blog and emailed me the login/password information.  :)

If you’ve been following our posts from the beginning, you may have noticed a shift in my writing style – from an ‘our class primarily’ to a ‘whomever may be reading’ perspective.  This change happened when I noticed an “Audience” feature on the blog.  I saw that, “the word of the Lord [was] ringing out from you to people everywhere” (1 Thess 1:8).  So the big news?  Yesterday, I saw that we have surpassed the 1000-view mark.  Maybe not as impressive as the millions of views the ‘Gangnam Style’ guy had just yesterday, but I want you to know that God is using our experiences here to minister to people (literally) all over the world.  To Him be the glory and honor and praise!  And “may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thess 5:28).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Settle Down and Teach (Acts 18:1-11)

We (myself included) like to joke around in Tentmakers about how slowly we’re making our way through Paul’s missionary journeys most recently studying Acts 18:1-11 in which Luke records Paul’s first visit to Corinth.  This morning instead of thinking about how I needed to pick up the pace so that we can cover more ground my mind (led by the Spirit) likened our pace of study to walking as opposed to driving somewhere.  Think for a second about what I might mean … Don’t look down at the next paragraph to see my thoughts until you form your own.  What often happens when you walk a route that you’re used to driving?


For me, I tend to notice things at 4 or 6 mi/hr that go unnoticed at 40 or 60.  This week, that thing was a change of description regarding Paul’s activity (when compared to his previous stops):  “So he settled down among them for a year and six months, teaching the Word of God …” (Acts 18:11, Amplified).  Paul does two new things here in Corinth that we have not seen at his other stops he settles down and teaches.

During Paul’s first missionary journey, he and Barnabas covered about 1,400 miles from AD 45-47 … not leaving much time to settle down.  Now on his second missionary journey (begun in AD 50), Paul has visited 9 cities/regions and is now in Corinth (the 10th city, AD 52) after 2 years traveling.  That kind of schedule would be exhausting even with the luxury of a car/plane to quicken your travel time between stops.  I’m sure that settling down gave Paul the opportunity for some much needed physical rest, but it also allowed him to put on a different hat in the spreading of the Gospel. 

After Luke (the inspired writer of Acts) tells us that Paul settled down in Corinth, he immediately follows with what Paul was doing, i.e. “teaching the Word of God” (vs. 11).  You may be asking, “Isn’t that what he always did?”  I’m going to throw that question back to you.  Ideally I would encourage you to go back and read Acts 13-18:11 for yourself, but if you don’t currently have time for that, use the following verses speed up your research.  Specifically look for what Luke tells us that Paul was doing at these other stops:

First Missionary Journey (Acts 13-14):
Salamis (Cyprus)     Acts 13:5                                                                  
Antioch (Pisidia)     Acts 13:43                                                                
Iconium                     Acts 14:1, 3                                                              
Lystra                         Acts 14:7, 9                                                              
Derbe                         Acts 14:21                                                                
Lystra, Iconium, Antioch (Pisidia)
                                    Acts 14:22-23                                                          
Perga                          Acts 14:25                                                                

Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16-18:22):
Macedonia                Acts 16:10                                                                
Philippi                      Acts 16:13, 32                                                         
Thessalonica Acts 17:2-3                                                              
Berea                          Acts 17:13                                                                
Athens                       Acts 17:17                                                                
Corinth                      Acts 18:4-5                                                              

Before we discuss what you noticed in these verses, I want add one more layer to our thinking.  If you’re reading this as one from my home church (or, like us, from one who has recently been between pastors), then you have a unique perspective from which to recognize the differences between when someone being called to deliver one or two messages and one being called to a long-term placement.  Again, give yourself a minute to think of a difference (or two) on your own before reading my thoughts …


Like Paul during his short visits (even up to his arrival in Corinth, Acts 18:1-8), God will call ministers to deliver specific messages to specific groups of people without calling them to tarry in that place.  In these times, we notice themes similar to the ones you should be able to see in your research above preaching, speaking, encouraging, exhorting, declaring, proclaiming, reasoning, arguing.  But when a minister is called to a long-term position in a church as God called Paul to stay on with the Corinthians (Acts 18:9-10) the tenor of the message changes.  Instead of preaching, Paul began teaching (vs. 11).

We learned here at Corinth that Paul had a trade aside from his role in the spreading of the Gospel tent making.  If you don’t know, I am a teacher by trade specifically, a math teacher.  A few months ago, a former student of mine (currently a pre-service teacher) interviewed me for a paper she is writing.  Her first question was, “What does it mean to be a teacher?”  For whatever reason her question caught me off-guard, and I don’t know that I was able to answer her very eloquently.  Since then, I have allowed her question to remain in my mind perhaps for this very lesson.  Preaching versus teaching.

Preaching is often a monologue; teaching on-the-other-hand is an on-going interaction.  While preaching may mean the delivery of a message, teaching is the facilitation of experiences that allow students to learn specific concepts along with habits of mind that equip them to continue learning in the absence of their teacher.  Often frustrating for students, a teacher asks more questions than s/he answers.

Both preaching and teaching are vital to the health of the Body of Christ, but they are not one-in-the-same (Eph 4:11-12).  For this reason, I do not believe Luke’s choice of words in Acts 18:11 to be casual.  Remember that Luke also wrote the Gospel bearing his name, and in it we have so much to learn from the “Good Teacher,” Jesus Christ (Lk 18:18) – Who also left us with some amazing sermons along the way!

Now what?  Let’s continue our walk through the Scriptures.  There’s so much we miss at 60 mi/hr.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Are Your Tags Hanging Out? (Acts 17:15-34)

For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ.” (Galatians 3:27, Amplified Bible)

So Sunday was my turn in the piano rotation during worship service. Being Easter, church was packed.  About mid-service, as I sat at the piano – with my back to the congregation – I realized that I had forgotten to take the tags off of my new dress and sweater. I thought, ‘Could I discreetly rip off these tags so I don’t further embarrass myself?  Wait … Nicole is sitting behind me.  Surely she would have said something if they were hanging out.  Right?  Maybe that means they’re tucked in…. So how can I (again) discreetly reach my arms around to my shoulder blades to check? …’

Since I’m sure you all have a similar story, I’m hoping that you will be able to relate to our lesson today.  Turn in your Bibles to Acts 17 and read verses 15-34.  (That’s right; we finished Acts 17 this week!)  I’ll be here waiting when you’re finished …

… As you read, after leaving Berea hurriedly, Paul arrives in Athens and waits for Silas and Timothy to catch up with him.  While waiting, Paul’s spirit is provoked by the city’s complete saturation in idolatry.  When in Acts 17:16, Luke says that the city was “full of idols,” remember that includes in the synagogue itself.  Paul can’t stand it any longer.  He begins preaching Jesus and His resurrection to anyone who would hear him – first in the synagogue and also in the marketplace.

I find it interesting to compare how Paul and the Gospel were received in different cities – especially by those who refused to be convinced about Jesus.  Looking back just in Acts 17, the unbelieving Thessalonians were down-right hostile (vs. 5).  In Berea, on the other hand, we don’t see any conflict until the Thessalonians showed up (vs. 13).  To me that says that the unbelievers in Berea either were well out-numbered by believers or were more-or-less indifferent to Paul and his teaching.  Now in Greece, the Athenians seem neither hostile nor indifferent; rather they were curious, wanting to hear any and all new ideas (vs. 18-21) … simply for the sake of hearing them. Thinking back to shopping for that dress and sweater, the Athenians made a sport out of window-shopping for new religious ideas.

Like any good salesperson, Paul knows that the first step to completing this transaction is getting the Athenians away from the window and into the store.  We can learn a lesson from Paul here in how he approached the Athenians.  Paul doesn’t lead off with a direct rant about the inadequacy of their “gods.” This would have offended them, causing their minds to close immediately to his message.  Rather Paul uses the Athenians’ curiosity as well as their acknowledgement of an “unknown god” as an open door to invite them in and to tell them about the God (unknown to the Athenians) Whom Paul served.  Instead of attacking them outright; Paul contrasted God the Father with all of the others that the Athenians wasted their time worshiping (vs. 22-29).

Continuing our shopping analogy – when Paul concluded his message, the curiosity of some was satisfied by what they had seen through the window. These people mocked Paul and were ready to move on to see what was in the next window. Others however, including a judge of the Areopagus named Dionysius, saw something in Paul’s message worth exploring further (vs. 32, 34). This time just hearing the latest trend in religion was not enough for these people. They were enticed to do more than window-shop on that day, and so they followed Paul wanting to learn more of this Jesus Whom Paul preached.

Acts 17:34 counts Dionysius and Damaris (a woman) among those who “believed (became Christians).”  Remember/look back at Galatians 3:27 (quoted at the beginning of today’s post).  In becoming Christians –Dionysius, Damaris, the apostle Paul, … even you and I – we have all clothed ourselves Christ. Maybe, like Dionysuis, we saw Christ while out window-shopping and just couldn’t keep ourselves from running in and claiming Him right then-and-there. Maybe like a pair of shoes I bought a few summers ago, we visited the store time after time – checking every time to see if Christ was still waiting, wanting to try Him on one more time before we decided if following Him was worth the cost (Lk 14:26-33).

Friends, if we never did anything beyond walk by the window or briefly try Him on … if we never took the steps necessary to complete the transaction, then we may never have known that the price was already been paid.  The gift of salvation is free – paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:15-16).  As Paul said in Gal 3:27, “you have put on Christ,” but have you fully committed to Him by taking off the tags?  Tags are a way out – temporary ownership.  Whether left on intentionally or out of forgetfulness, they say, “I want the option of returning this.”  I ask you today, Do you intend to return Jesus Christ? Have you put Him on only temporarily? I beg you to take off whatever tag is still giving you the option of backing out! Jesus has claimed you as His for eternity. Will you claim Him likewise?

… If you have read this as one who has never put your trust in Jesus, I would be honored to lead you in a prayer to accept Him as your Savior.  As Paul told the men of the Areopagus, “He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task …” (Acts 17:31). 

Dear God, I come to You in Jesus’ name.  I have heard Your call on my life.  I was created in Your image, and I thank You for Jesus the Christ! I believe that He came to earth, lived among men, and died in my place.  I believe that You raised Him from death to life so that I, too, can be where You are.  Come now, Lord, and let Your Holy Spirit be with me where I am.  Amen.

If you prayed that prayer with a believing heart, then – brother or sister – I am humbled to be the first to welcome you into the family of God.  I’m sorry that I do not have any fancy pamphlets to offer you as to how to begin your Christian walk, but I would recommend that you find a Bible-based church and a pastor who can be there to hold your hand while you take your first steps in the faith.  I look forward to meeting with you in fellowship again – either in Sunday school or through this blog.  God bless you!