“You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the Law. But they have heard it rumored about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses […].”
I can’t quite seem to wrap my head around how the elders in Jerusalem sent Paul into clear and present danger based on rumors.
While they must have had the best intentions when ordering Paul to go into the temple, I cannot imagine modern elders ever asking a member of the congregation to make such a bold statement at the risk of his or her life. (Acts 21:4,11,12)
Their decision is all the more surprising because in a way, the people they were trying to win over were immature Christians who were unwilling to part with Jewish customs. (Acts 21:24,27,28; Rom. 2:28,29)
Paul humbly acceded, willing to make just about any personal sacrifice to settle divisiveness. (1 Cor.9:20)
Rather than crouch away from responsibility, he seized the opportunity to try to ‘legally establish the good news’ not only in Jerusalem, but throughout the Roman empire. (Acts 24:10-22; 25:10-12; Php. 1:7)
Most Christians today will never have to put themselves in life-threatening situations to prove their faith in God’s Word, but from time to time our humility is tested when our elders ask us to do something that does not make sense to us.
We should always try to put the congregation’s peace and unity before personal opinions. (Php. 1:8-10)
“I do not consider my own life of any importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.”
Paul did not feel entitled to the privilege of teaching others about Christ.
He humbly recognized that he was a sinner and attributed the success of his ministry to Jehovah God. (1 Cor. 3:6; 15:9,10; 1 Tim. 1:12,13)
When a need for financial aid struck the congregation in Jerusalem, Paul personally risked his life to carry relief over to them. (Rom. 15:25,26)
He fulfilled his sense of debt towards God, grateful for the ransom sacrifice that allowed him to be God’s friend. (2 Cor. 5:18)
If we have the privilege of sharing God’s good news with others, may we equally treasure it.
“[Apollos] was acquainted only with the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, and when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him into their company and explained the way of God more accurately to him.”
Apollos was an eloquent Jew of the well-educated city of Alexandria. (Acts 18:24)
He evidently learned of Jesus at least nineteen years prior to this account, before Pentecost and the pouring of holy spirit.
Despite being well-versed and a skilled speaker, he humbly allowed the Christian couple to spiritually enlighten him.
In time, he came to be a respected missionary working under the congregation’s arrangements. (Titus 3:13)
In our ministry, we sometimes encounter spiritual people who are somewhat familiar with the Scriptures and who profess faith in Jesus.
If we patiently help them develop a more accurate knowledge, we may be surprised at their willingness to learn the truth and serve God alongside us. (1 Cor. 3:6,9; 1 Tim. 2:3,4)
“Barnabas was determined to take along John, who was called Mark. Paul, however, was not in favor of taking him along with them […]. At this there was a sharp burst of anger, so that they separated from each other.”
All three men involved in the discord were spiritually strong and had an extraordinary record of service to God. (Acts 13:4,5)
Still, there was at least one occasion in which Paul was disappointed by Mark, and eventually, he and Barnabas had a grave argument about it.
In time, though, Mark took on more responsibilities and even wrote a gospel account of Jesus’ life, having been eyewitness to some events. (Mark 14:51,52; Phm. 23,24; 1 Pet. 5:13)
Some time prior to the completion of the gospel, Paul came to forgive Mark and even requested his company in Rome. (2 Tim. 4:11)
This account teaches us that while Christians should constantly strive to display patience and self-control, we are not perfect and from time to time, will have serious disagreements with other mature Christians. (Gal. 5:22,23)
But much like Paul, Barnabas and Mark, such disagreements should not impede our desire to continue serving Jehovah to the best of our abilities. (Acts 15:39b,40)
That a fellow believer has a differing point of view does not automatically disqualify them as a spiritually strong person.
“[…] They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them outside their boundaries. […] And the disciples continued to be filled with joy and holy spirit.”
Jesus had foretold the type of joy his disciples would reap on account of persecution:
“Happy are you whenever men hate you, […] and denounce your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for look! your reward is great in heaven […].” (Luke 6:22,23)
Paul and Barnabas were physically thrown out of Antioch of Pisidia by “God-fearing” women and prominent men after only about one week of preaching there.
But the many Greek-speaking new disciples were happy despite the opposition because they knew they had God’s spirit. (1 Pet. 4:14)
While some modern day Christians enjoy more freedom of worship than others, all of us undergo various trials to our faith.
Whatever we are experiencing, if we endure with a positive attitude, we will also be blessed with a feeling of joy. (Jas. 1:2,3)
“When [Barnabas] arrived and saw the undeserved kindness of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all to continue in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.”
The early Christian congregation was changing in the sense that it was no longer exclusive to Jews or Jewish proselytes.
Barnabas was a Levite who had converted to Christianity. (Acts 4:36)
He was appointed an apostle because holy spirit moved him to do missionary work. (Acts 13:4; 14:14)
When he saw the enthusiasm with which the new converts in Antioch received the good news of the kingdom, he sought out Paul and together they helped strengthen the congregation. (Acts 11:25,26)
It was there that “by divine providence” Christ’s disciples were first called “Christians.”
In Greek, the phrase translated “heartfelt resolve” literally means “purpose of the heart.”
Other synonyms could be: firmness, conviction, determination.
Barnabas not only told his new spiritual family to stay in the truth; he took them under his wing and nurtured their faith.
Through personal sacrifice, tolerance toward others, and a joyous spirit, he exemplified ‘continuing in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.’
“Jehovah’s spirit quickly led Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him anymore, but he went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, found himself in Ashdod, and he went through the territory and kept on declaring the good news to all the cities until he got to Caesarea.”
After Philip taught and baptized the Ethiopian traveler, he appears to have been suddenly swept away to the town of Ashdod.
He then proceeded to travel north 80 km (50 mi), presumably by foot, to Caesarea.
He “kept on declaring the good news” zealously, despite having had no say in his choice of territory.
Perhaps he had left unfinished business or personal belongings in Samaria, but he listened to the Holy Spirit’s direction and preached along the Mediterranean coastline.
Sometimes we have the privilege of studying the Bible with someone who values what they learn to the point of becoming a baptized Jehovah’s Witness.
While they rejoice with their new hope, we have to keep moving forward, bringing the kingdom message to as many people as possible.
I vividly recall meeting a student under similar circumstances as Philip and the eunuch’s, in the sense that she was reading a Watchtower magazine when we arrived at her business.
I asked her if she understood what she was reading.
She said, in sign language, “How? If no one explains it to me?”
She took the steps to get baptized six months later, despite having two serious disabilities.
We seldom meet people so eager to learn in our ministry, but when we do, their memory continues to motivate us for the rest of our lives, regardless of which territory we end up in.