Appointed to eternal life

woman-163789_640Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (ESV)

On a cross-cultural evangelism, the apostles were seeing fruits of their labours as people chose to follow Jesus. They were not there to wile away time, they did not join a new fad, they were on a life or death assignment, communicating the love of God through Jesus to people where they are.

They were there to tell the people the implication of the death and resurrection of Jesus, to show that now the people of God can now officially include all people.

What they were doing was unique. They were pushing a novel agenda. In the time they lived, influence came either by military conquest, economic link, or long-held tradition, or a teacher rising up among the people, giving them a new perspective of things, but in Paul and Barnabas, we see pioneers of a systematic invasion of other locations with truth.

They came into an area and spoke of things the people have not heard of. They opened a door by their activity and many followed after. They are the hunters (Jeremiah 16:16), who leave the comfort of where they are, endure the uncomfortable life in the “bush”, and hunt for those appointed to eternal life.

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No discrimination

jesus-284414_640Acts 11:12: And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. (ESV)

There is no one beyond the reach of God. No matter the state they are in, background, what they have done or are doing. The gift of righteousness is for everyone (2Corinthians 5:21). Sometimes we discriminate with age, thinking that some are too young to make sense of the message of the gospel.

In the focus verse, the problem of Peter was social. He was brought up thinking that none-Jews are inferior, innately deficient, defiled and defiling. But the blood of Jesus does not discriminate.

Though Jesus may be physically different from you and me in age, in sex, in purity, in relationship with God, in complexion and facial features, when he died on the cross, the blood which flowed from him is the same as ours. There is no distinction.

We share humanity, in the same way, we can share the life of God when we believe in him, we can experience his righteousness as he shared our sinfulness. The gift of righteousness is extended to all, no barrier is respected.

I too am a man

hawaiian-hula-dancers-377653_640Acts 10:26: But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

Peter was a man like Cornelius just as Elijah was a man like anyone of us (James 5:15-18).

Peter is like Cornelius and is not like Cornelius. Elijah is like us and is not like us.

Peter is different from Cornelius, in what he knows, in who he knows. He knows Jesus and knows his grace. He was a candidate of heaven while Cornelius was not. They may be similar in their physical attributes being men, but they were different in their spirits, in the core of their being. They are different in the relationship with God, not much as in religious practice. Cornelius gave alms, prayed and fasted but he was as lost as lost can be and needed Peter to preach to him the word of God (Acts 10).

What about Elijah? He was different in two ways: his passion for prayer and righteous stance. He stood for God in the most in auspicious times. He was attached to the cause of God both privately and publicly. He was so given over to him and cooperated with God to bring change.

Go

spot-862274_1280Acts 9:15: But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. (ESV)

The commandment of God that Ananias should go and meet and minister to Paul, recorded in the focus verse is without prejudice to how he feels about it. The same can be said of Peter who in spite of his misgivings about reaching out to the gentiles, because of his innate Jewish sentiment, was asked to go and meet them (Acts 10).

Both incidents in which these two men had to go minister in spite of consideration for safety (in the case of Ananias) and consideration for tradition, or what is acceptable in his culture (in the case of Peter) resulted in great advances for the kingdom. Both incidents were pivotal to the shape of  the church as we know it.

So if God asked you to go, then go you must, not knowing the full implication of it, but hearing and obeying.

The bible says that blessed are those who hear and do the word of God (Luke 11:28), not argue with the word of God, not postpone the word of God, not dodge it, or excuse themselves from it.

Forgiveness

spring-664911_640Acts 7:60: And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (ESV)

Jesus said that we need to forgive others from our heart, otherwise, we have something else coming for us (Matthew 18:35).

When we dwell on the forgiveness we have had from father, God. Then we will be more disposed to give it to others. Jesus also said: freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8).

We did not have to pay for God to forgive us, he extended the grace of forgiveness to us, we should do the same to others, becoming conduits of the grace of God.

When we speak it should be as those ministering grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29). Unforgiveness, vengefulness, all manifest in the words that we speak, in caustic words. The same with love, kindness.

The woman who is described as virtuous in the book of Proverbs was said to have the law of kindness in our mouth (Proverbs 31:26).

She expresses good wishes to others, they love to be around her, her love expressed empower others to be themselves in all ramifications.

Unforgiveness is the brother of bitterness, which the bible says is a root that causes defilement, and the evil end of it cannot easily be unveiled (Hebrews 12:14-15).

Appointment

Acts 6:3: Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. (ESV)

The qualification for this leadership was threefold. They must be known by the people for being highly regarded, which speaks of social standing, and long-term proof of probity, and respected.

To be of good repute is not a day job. It follows a consistent pattern of uprightness.

Then there was the issue of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Many people may be dependable, but not many people are full of the Holy Spirit. The latter live an empowered life. The power of God is manifest through their lives, in spiritual giftedness in expression. That is the meaning of infilling from the book of Acts.

Then thirdly, they should be full of wisdom. That means they are not just all talk, but have practical result as evidence of their wisdom. I define wisdom as what to do to get result, the divine how-to. Jesus said that wisdom is justified by its children, it’s results (Matthew 11:19).

The apostles wanted those who are approved by men (of good repute), approved by God (full of the Spirit) and approved by the results they have been getting in their practical lives (full of wisdom).

The reasons correspond to the three qualities the Apostles wanted:

They needed those who will move among the people, therefore, must be approved by men.

Since it is about the church, and not a social club, not a political party, not a natural entity but spiritual, those who will lead must be full of the Spirit, must be intentional followers of God, on his own terms, submitted to his will.

Then thirdly, since the matter at hand is a practical matter of the “serving of tables” (Acts 6:1-7) they need people who will be effective, so that the apostles would not border about such things again. They needed people who can deliver results on a practical level, exhibiting high intelligence, ability to coordinate, intuitive enough to marry what is on ground with what the people need.

Sharing

Acts 4:32: Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (ESV)

The reality described above of the first-century church was about the generosity of hearts.

When it comes to giving, there are three things we can give relating to the three parts of man: body, soul and spirit (1Thessalonians 5:23).

For the body, there is the need to share physical things, like shelter, food, water, clothing. John addressed this issue when he said that we should not see someone in need and say that they should go, without meeting their need, when we can do so, saying that shows the love of God is not in us (1John 3:16-18)

There are the needs of the soul, which Jesus party addressed when he said that he favours those who visit the imprisoned (Matthew 25:32-46).

James said that pure religion is to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27). The bible says: rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, which is about identifying with people in their different situations (Romans 12:15).

Then there is a giving from the spirit, which is about the release of the spiritual gifts in all forms to minister, to serve another person.

Paul said that as we have received different gifts, we should minister the same (Romans 12:3-7). Peter said that those who speak should do so as the oracle of God while those who serve, should do so with the ability that God gives (1Peter 4:10-11).