Gospel Motivation

Scripture Focus: Acts 16:3
Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Reflection: Gospel Motivation
By Carolyn Westendorf 

On the heels of the Jerusalem Council’s decision to not make circumcision a requirement for believers, Paul decided Timothy needed to be circumcised. Why would he do this? 

Paul did not do this so Timothy could become a believer. Timothy was a disciple of Jesus Christ, highly praised by other believers, half-Jew, half-Greek, and uncircumcised. Verse 3 explains that Paul was concerned about the Jews they would encounter on their missionary journeys. 

There were cultural concerns in Paul’s mind. Perhaps he desired not to bring contention among those Timothy would be ministering to. Because Timothy was half Jewish, circumcision would be an indication that he embraced his heritage. Timothy could remove this stumbling block in the hearts and minds of his fellow Jews. Perhaps by doing so, the message of the gospel could soften their hearts. 

We can be sure of this: the gospel motivated Paul to act with Timothy in this way. The good news of the gospel frees believers from the power of sin. We are free from trying to prove ourselves worthy of God’s gift. Circumcision does not save a person, but it teaches us that our sin nature needs to be cut off. Similarly, baptism does not save us, but it is a symbol of new life in Christ.

Paul, living in this gospel freedom, circumcised Timothy; not to save him, but to help him. The gospel motivated these men to think of the people they would minister to. What could they give up so that others might hear and receive the gospel? If the sacrifice does not result in sin, if it does not compromise our commitment to the gospel, then why would they not give it up?

What could you give up so that others might hear and receive the gospel? In Paul’s mission to share the good news, he proclaimed: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9.22‭b-‬23) May we join Paul and Timothy in their commitment to sharing the gospel and also join the church in being strengthened and encouraged with this reaffirmation of the gospel (Acts 16.5).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 58 (Listen -3:09)
Acts 16 (Listen – 5:53)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 59 (Listen -3:54)Acts 17 (Listen – 5:28)
Isaiah 60 (Listen -3:55)Acts 18 (Listen – 4:06)

Read more about Resisting Culture’s Mold
The cultural marriage norms followed by the patriarchs and passed down by Moses were condemned by Jesus.

Detoured by the Holy Spirit

Scripture Focus: Scripture: Acts 16.6-7
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

Reflection:  Detoured by the Holy Spirit

By Jon Polk

Paul, Silas and Timothy intended to go and spread the message of Christ in some very major and influential cities in Asia Minor, cities that had access to roads and commerce which would help the gospel message spread. While this certainly sounds like a smart idea, God had other plans for them in Macedonia. God often changes the plans of even those with the best intentions.

Scottish pioneer medical missionary and explorer David Livingstone had hoped to travel to China as a missionary, but the Opium Wars kept him from going. He later met a missionary on leave from South Africa who convinced him to go there instead. It was there that Livingstone laid the groundwork for several major European missionary efforts to Africa.

Adoniram Judson
, one of the first American missionaries to travel overseas, initially began his work in India, but along with many others, he was ordered out of the country by the British East India Company. He then moved to Burma, where he started a number of churches and translated the Bible into Burmese.

The legendary William Carey, called the “father of modern missions,” wanted to go to the Polynesian Islands, but God had directed another missionary there, so William Carey ended up in India instead. While there, he helped form the Baptist Missionary Society, one of the first major modern mission sending organizations.

Sometimes we like to think we have everything in our life so planned out that all we need to do is pray to God and ask him to bless our plans. We expect everything to unfold exactly as we’ve scripted it, but in reality that is almost never the case. Often, it is the interruptions, the redirections, and the unexpected changes that shape and mold us most. When following God, we need to be ready and willing to take a detour in unexpected directions.

This is the perspective that Paul, Silas and Timothy had to have as they were time and again redirected by God on their travels. This perspective helps keep us in touch with God’s leading in our lives, allowing him to take us where he pleases, rather than us trying to find the easiest or shortest path between two points. Growth can occur most along the twisting, winding path and God knows the way much better than we do.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name. — Psalm 86.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 6 (Listen -3:19)
Acts 16 (Listen -5:53)

Read more about Following Through Jerusalem
When Jesus calls us to follow him, …the path leading to glory with Christ is the path leading through suffering to death.

Read more about Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
People, issues, politics, career—these things all push to the front of our minds and demand our supreme attention and commitment.

Avoiding Avoidable Offense

Acts 16.15
When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Reflection: Avoiding Avoidable Offense
By John Tillman

Accommodating to the culture does not include compromising the gospel. The gospel is non-negotiable. Paul consistently defends the gospel, refusing to compromise with sin or affirm sinful behaviors. But he endlessly strives to accommodate to the culture of those he is reaching, adjusting his behavior and language. The gospel is offensive and counter-cultural in its nature, but Paul strives to avoid avoidable offense. 

In the rest of Paul’s ministry, he goes first to a synagogue to teach the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. Here in Phillipi, he goes out to the river to find a “place of prayer” and speaks to a group of women. The word proseuchē, which is translated as “place of prayer” is occasionally synonymous with a synagogue, however, many commentators believe its usage means there were not enough male Jewish believers to form a synagogue. 

What is unusual about this Jewish gathering, is the prominence of Lydia—not only a woman but a non-Jew. In all the other cities they visit, Luke neglects to name the male leaders of synagogues who either welcomed or rejected Paul’s message, but here in Phillipi, Lydia is given special attention. By comparison, later in the chapter, Luke leaves nameless the Phillipian jailer who also came to faith “with his entire household” as Lydia did. 

Lydia is also the first person scripture records as being baptized in Paul’s ministry (though we know there were others before her). She is also the first baptized Christ-follower in the European continent. Scripture tells us that after Lydia’s conversion she “persuaded” Paul and the others to stay with her. The word implies entreaty or compelling someone to do something they would not ordinarily do. Jews would not normally stay in the home of a non-Jew, not even a proselyte believer such as Lydia.

What we see at work here is the continuing development of Paul’s pattern of accommodating himself to different cultures for the sake of spreading the gospel. As Paul set out on this journey, he had Timothy circumcised, so as not to be an offense to Jews as they traveled. This was an accommodation to his intended audience. Paul was opposed to requiring non-Jews to be circumcised. And here, among the most Jewish part of Phillipi’s culture, Paul abandons Jewish customs that he upholds at other times.

Too often, perhaps, we confuse “boldly” proclaiming the gospel, with “rudely” proclaiming the gospel. This is a mistake Paul works hard to avoid. May we do the same.

Prayer: A Reading
And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it. — Mark 16.19-20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Judges 12 (Listen – 2:21) 
Acts 16 (Listen – 5:53)

Thank You!
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Read more about Cringing at Culture or at Christ?
As we attempt to manifest Christ in our world and to our culture, we must allow the Holy Spirit to bring out in us the fullest picture of who God is.

Read more about Balaam’s Success
Balaam coached Balak on a conspiracy to tempt Israel to sins that their culture was prone to.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org