07/08

July 8

Acts 15:1-21

Gentiles were being saved through Jesus, the Jewish Messiah that had been prophesied to save Israel for thousands of years. Even Paul and Peter had to have supernatural encounters with God to be convinced that Jesus was the way of salvation for everyone, for Jews and Gentiles alike.

To the Christian Jews, they were deeply rooted in the Mosaic Law with its laws and regulations. In the past, if a male foreigner wanted to worship Jehovah or enter into a covenant with the nation of Israel, he had to be circumcised, where a cut was made and blood would flow to enter into the blood covenant agreement. It was usually a mark made when a male child was only 8 days old, a sign over the covenant that would endure throughout generations.

It isn’t surprising that Jews would assume that when a Gentile was accepting this Jewish Messiah that he would have to be circumcised. It wouldn’t be strange to think that since Gentiles were entering into a form of Judaism, that they would need to learn and apply the Law, as well as Jewish religious feasts and customs.

However, Paul and Barnabas had the understanding that following Christ was a matter of the heart. Paul and Barnabas had the revelation that the old covenant was being fulfilled and certain customs and regulations were no longer required. The Law was a tutor, leading people to the realization that it was impossible to keep; and thus, we needed grace, and we needed a redeemer. This is a new covenant, a covenant where the heart (spirit) of a person is changed by grace through faith, not works. Circumcision was now more of a matter of the heart, a spiritual transformation.

The Bible says, there was “no small dissension and dispute” over this doctrinal issue of circumcision in the early church. First of all, notice there was a difference of belief, causing dissension. As long as people have differing opinions and beliefs, there will be opposing point of views. Some differences are minor and can be overlooked. Other differences are major and have split churches, formed denominations, and caused many divisions between Christians. We’re not perfect, and none of us is going to believe the same way on everything; however, we shouldn’t become so dogmatic and critical that we can’t love one another and work together in our communities.

Second, notice that because circumcision was a major issue, Paul and others went to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with Christ’s apostles. Before the Diaspora, when the city and temple were destroyed, the apostles used Jerusalem as a home base. The saved Jews looked to the Apostles of Christ for leadership. Just a side note, some point to the twelve apostles as a model for the New Testament church, saying that every pastor has to have an apostle to oversee, guide, and even correct church leaders; however, the Bible doesn’t make this requirement. Some people point to the twelve and say that apostles are supposed to have top rank in a hierarchy of church authority over the kingdom today. The Bible doesn’t describe a system where apostles are over everybody and everything in the kingdom. Apostles are starters. They start churches and ministries, and their sphere of influence is over the churches they start. Their authority doesn’t reach kingdom-wide.

To settle this dispute that had a large range among Christian Jews and Gentiles, apostles and pastors came together to make a determination. Peter, having the experience with Cornelius, made mention that God was making a distinction based on circumcision. Not only were Gentiles being saved, but they were being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. They couldn’t do that on their own – God was moving among the uncircumcised.

The Paul and Barnabas shared all that God was doing among the uncircumcised Gentiles in their travels. Miracles! Healings! God was moving everywhere and on anyone with faith. This was still new to the Jews in Israel. They thought they were God’s exclusive nation.

Then James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, stands up and quotes from the Scriptures, quoting the prophets. He goes to Amos 9:11-12 that mentions reaching the Gentiles. The Jews built their beliefs on the word of God that they received, which came through prophets. We also must recognize that what we believe, say, and do should be based on the Bible.

In verses 19 and 20, James makes the decision that Gentiles should not have to follow the customs and rituals of the Law, but they should abide by the righteous principles found under the old covenant. We can learn from the meaning of those customs, but we don’t have to perform them. Jesus did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. God revealed Himself and His character under the old covenant, and He hasn’t changed! What was holy then is still holy now. What was immoral then is still immoral now. It’s who God is! He wants us to know His life! He wants us to know His presence!

Job 38-39

In chapter 38, God now speaks to Job, in answer to his questions and comments. God had been listening, even though silently, to the conversation between Job and his companions. The first thing God says is, “Who is this who darkened counsel by words without knowledge?” Job and his friends have limited understanding of God, as do we, which God knows. God isn’t expecting Job to have all understanding, but God is showing up to reveal Himself for who He is.

Job knows about God’s creation, and God begins there. He questions Job about creation, comparing Job’s knowledge and power to His own. Basically, God is establishing that He is God, and we are not.

God didn’t talk about Job’s loss in the death of his family.
God didn’t talk about Job’s pain in his body.
God didn’t talk about Job’s loss of material possessions.
God didn’t talk about the condemnation given by Job’s friends.

God talked about His authority and power, looking for Job to surrender to Him in dependency. Satan had challenged Job’s faith and allegiance to God if Job did not have any other leg to stand upon. Satan asked to take away all Job’s strength and resources and support. Would Job still worship God in dependency?

I remember a moment when I was praying for my daughter to be physically healed from an incurable cancer, and I heard God ask me, “What is your worst fear?” I answered, “That she would be covered from head to toe in skin tumors, then for the cancer to go into her lymph nodes, then to die a slow and painful death.” Then I clearly heard His voice, “Would you still consider me to be Lord?” God went to a deep place in my heart, asking me if I would still surrender to His authority if my greatest fear manifested. I cried through my words, and I said, “Yes, you will still be my Lord.” She was healed. What was incurable, God cured. What was impossible, God made possible. I vividly remember the day when a new oncologist looked at her paperwork, saw the testing, and said, “I know she tested positive, but I know this cancer, and I don’t believe she has cancer.”

Did God care about my daughter’s health? Yes, but He also wanted to know if He had this mama’s heart no matter what we would face. It’s one thing to say we have faith; it’s another to act on that faith. God wanted Job’s heart to rely upon Him. If we only could see the greatness and power of an Almighty God that is interested in our relationship as His sons and daughters, a relationship that leans on Him as our Father. A Father is more than strong; a father uses His strength to meet our every need when we yield ourselves to Him in love.

Trust Him. Not only CAN God be our Lord; God WANTS to be the answer to our every question, our every need. We can be confident of His love, so we can throw our whole self on Him with complete abandonment of control. When we do, we give the Father access to every area of our life so He can manifest His abundant provision and care for His children. Hallelujah!

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