Bible Reading Day 185
Day 185: July 4 (Acts 11)
Happy Independence Day!
As we celebrate 237 years of this nation, we are reading about another event with far-reaching consequences: the inclusion of non-Jews into the church of Jesus Christ. When Peter returns to Jerusalem with his companions, the believers there are shocked at the news that he has gone into a Gentile home and defiled himself by eating with them. They think that new equals wrong (a common mistake we have all made at some time). But the One who can determine right and wrong is God. And God is the one who commanded this change. Therefore this change is right.
As Peter explains the process God took him through, the others can see that this is OK, and they praise God for this radical change. The process that led to the birth of the United States was similar, but the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Church has had an impact throughout the world.
Change is always challenging, but change is here to stay! God’s mercies are new every morning!
After this huge change, Luke adds details about the other believers who were scattered in the persecution after Stephen was martyred. Some made their way to Antioch (a major city in Syria, with important connections to most of the known world). This was where they also began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. With many Gentiles saved, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to check things out. Remember how he was the one who was instrumental in bringing Saul to the apostles after his conversion? Clearly Barnabas has a gift for discerning what God is doing and encouraging believers in their faith. He encourages the new Gentile converts in Antioch, then goes on to Tarsus to bring Paul from there to Antioch where they can both encourage the church. It is here that the believers are first called Christians.
Finally, Luke also records the prophecy by Agabus that there would be a famine, and so the young church takes up a generous offering for their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, and sends it off with Barnabas and Saul. So after a year in Antioch, Saul and Barnabas are now on their way back to Jerusalem. What a difference these couple of years have made to the future of the church, just as the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 led to the birth of a great nation.
So today, you have two things to celebrate: our nation’s birthday and your inclusion in the Church of Jesus Christ; the gathering of those called out of the world and into relationship with God.
Have a great day!