Galatians, chapters 1-3

“All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. […] You are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”
~Galatians 3:27,28

We are all equally valuable within the congregation, regardless of our gender, ethnicity, social class, or whatever we identified as before becoming Christians.
Jesus gave his life for us each as individuals.
That is why we strive to give up our old divisive attitudes and humbly learn to see all our brothers and sisters with honor and appreciation (Rom. 12:10; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:24)

1 Corinthians, chapter 13 & 14

“[…] In a congregation I would rather speak five words with my mind, that I might also instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
~1 Corinthians 14:19

What was the purpose of Christians speaking in tongues and how do we know God discontinued the use of this miracle in his service?
Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, 120 of his Jewish disciples gathered together in Jerusalem to observe the Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4)
They received through holy spirit the ability to communicate with Jews visiting from foreign countries.
Thus, many converted to Christianity. (Acts 2:5-11; 41-43)
This was one of nine gifts of the spirit early Christians relied on to help others learn the truth about Christ.(1 Cor. 12:7-11; Heb. 2:3,4)
But Bible prophecy states those gifts would cease. (1 Cor. 13:8)
When?
After Pentecost, Christians who continued to receive the gift of speaking in tongues were notably in the company of an apostle. (Acts 8:18; 10:44-46; 19:6)
It is to be understood then that after the last apostle’s death, these miraculous gifts would cease and the only way to identify God’s true congregation would be through its love. (John 13:35; 1 Cor. 13:13)
While modern Christians do not speak in tongues, we can still use our speech to build each other up. (1 Cor. 14:12)

(Last week there was no assigned Congregation reading corresponding to my personal study so I respectfully remind JW blog readers not to use these notes to prepare comments for this week’s meeting. Thank you.)

Romans, chapters 15 & 16

“Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
~Romans 15:5

Paul had just advised Christians who were strong in the faith to selflessly bear the weaknesses of others. (Rom 15:1-3)
This requires a lot of humility and is not an easy thing to nurture in ourselves.
Being imperfect, we tend towards selfishness. (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 7:18,19; 12:16)
Every day we have to struggle against the negative, discontent, self-centered spirit in the world. (Eph. 2:2; 4:17,18)
We may relate to the following statement: “Our obvious imperfection, standing in sharp contrast with the perfect pattern that Jesus left us, may at times cause us to be discouraged. We may doubt that having the same mental attitude that Jesus had is even possible.”
Despite our inability to carry out everything God requires of us, we can still serve him in a way that pleases him.
We can read about dozens of exemplary people in the Bible who managed to serve him faithfully and be inspired to imitate their humble attitudes.(Rom. 15:4)

Acts, chapters 21 & 22

“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 […].”
~Acts 21:20,21

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)

Acts, chapters 15 & 16

“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.”
~Acts 15:37-39

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.

Acts, chapters 9-11

“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.”
~Acts 11:23

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.’

Acts, chapters 1-3

“All those who became believers were together and had everything in common, and they were selling their possessions and properties and distributing the proceeds to all, according to what each one needed.”
~Acts 2:44,45

Were the first Christians practicing an early form of Communism?
The story of the first Christian congregation relates that they went from 120 members to over 3,000 people in a single day. (Acts 2:41,47)
Many of those people were from far away and had not originally planned to extend their stay in Jerusalem, but that is what they ended up doing in order to learn more about Christ. (Acts 2:5-11,42)
The generous Christians knew that very soon, they would be persecuted and eventually, Jerusalem would be destroyed, so their possessions would be lost. (Acts 8:1)
Their material things were put to better use because they had a sense of urgency, not because of a philosophical ideology.
While donations were administered by the congregation, property owners could choose how to manage their own assets. (Acts 2:46; 5:1-4)
Later on, a formal distribution was arranged for the benefit of widows only. (Acts 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:16)
Christians were always encouraged to share, even after the congregation had been well established. (Acts 20:35; Jas. 2:15-17)
But the fact that there were still class distinctions indicates that the congregation did not redistribute wealth as a rule. (Rom. 12:13; 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:7)