90 Day Challenge – Day 87

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Bible Time Period: The Church

The Church carries on your work in the world: Make me a faithful ambassador of your love.

Reflection

Paul’s first missionary journey, in which the Gospel begins to be preached beyond the borders of Judah and Samaria, is launched in Acts 13.  On this trip, he establishes a number of churches.  In his second and third journeys, he will return to instruct and strengthen them.

  • First Journey Acts 13-14
  • Second Journey Acts 15:36 – 18:22
  • Third Journey Acts 18:23 – 20:38

As the Church begins to welcome Gentiles into its membership, a serious dispute arises over whether Gentile converts must be circumcised (in essence, whether they must first become Jews).  This is addressed and resolved in what we call the “Jerusalem Council” in chapter 15.  Notice how the council rules and how the ruling is communicated to the new churches.

Today’s Reading

Acts 13-16

Today’s Question

In each city they visit, where do the missionaries go first?  When do they move on to preach to another?

Join the discussion below!

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Janet

    The disciples’ first stop was the synagogues in any community they entered. I agree with Anthony, that this was to preach first to God’s chosen people, the Jews. Then they would move on to the Gentiles. If, after preaching to all, they were not accepted by the Jews, they shook the dust from their feet as they left that community. Yet before leaving, they always delegated at least one strong convert in each community to oversee the new church.

    Jesus came, not to abolish the law of Moses, but to fullfill it. He created a new covenant with his chosen people, everyone – Jews and Gentiles alike, by being the sacrificial lamb and dying for everyone’s sins. The old Jewish laws of circumcision and not eating unclean food ceased to apply when Jesus instituted the new covenant.

  • Margie

    Paul and Barnabas were guided by the Holy Spirit to spread the word of God and entering the Jewish Synagogues they were welcomed to preach and received many believers after they listened to their proclamations that God’s law and the forgiveness of sins for everyone through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Many Gentiles opened their minds and hearts increasing the numbers of those following the beliefs. However, many Greeks mistook them for Zeus and Hermes when they performed miracles on the lame and crippled. It was amazing despite the many obstacles they faced they knew their mission and never tired of what they were destined to do. Yet, to prove how human they were when they disagreed with one another they went their separate ways Paul with Silas and Barnabas with Timothy, and still followed their mission to convert Gentiles.

  • Carla Archuleta

    The first stop was at the synagogue ready to preach the word of the Lord. Many believing and wanting to stay aligned with believing in God. While others, just as it is today, following the human belief versus God. The tests that Paul and Barnabas weathered were tough, but with the help of the Holy Spirit they trusted their well-being to God.

    One of the precious sections in these reading is the invite and openness to the Gentiles. This is so against political rights and so God’s way. I love it because all people are people of God!

    Amen

  • pnkyB4brain

    With the missionaries being devout men, they would attend the synagogue services and preach after the services. Many of the Jewish people would not accept the teachings of Jesus but the Gentiles did. This infuriated the Jews even more. With that anger and jealousy built up within them, they would provoke the city leaders to do harm to these faithful men that preached the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus. The missionaries would leave the cities where there was danger. They knew the Spirit of God was with them at all times!

  • Marian Potts

    Paul and Barnabas went the synagogues first but when they preached to the Gentiles this made the Jews jealous. They worked signs and wonders that led the people to believe. They were the Lord’s instruments doing his work and the kingdom of the Lord grew with their service.

  • Elaine Boone

    Paul and the disciples go first to the synagogues because they do as Christ did, offer the faith first to God’s chosen people. When they are rejected by the majority of the Jews, who were jealous of the crowds of followers, they move on to the next town. What a contrast between the Jews who hated to the point of stoning the disciples and the Gentiles who were delighted to hear that salvation was being offered to them, along with “God’s chosen people!” But even persecution didn’t discourage Paul and Barnabas. It says in Acts 13:52: “The disciples were filled with joy and the holy Spirit.” An encouragement to us to always be joyful in our efforts to spread “the Good News.”

  • In each city they visit, their usual practice is to begin his preaching in the synagogue, if there is one (see v. 5 and 17:1–2). This is not simply a clever, human tactic; it is in line with what Paul knows to be God’s plan of salvation. Like Jesus, he feels obliged to proclaim the Kingdom first to the Jews, because “to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ” (Rom 9:4–5). The Jews have a right to be the first to whom the Gospel is preached, for they were the first to receive the promises (see 13:46). Once they preached and and made a considerable number of disciples, The apostles ‘appointed’ a college of presbyters in each community. They laid hands on them at the liturgical assembly after fasting and prayer, and then commended the faithful to the Lord, Jesus, in whom they now believed. When they left any place that rejected them, As Jesus stated (see Luke 9:5), He commanded the disciples to shake the dust off their feet. This was a sign of their condemnation. Paul does the same to signal that the Jews in Pisidian Antioch were under God’s wrath.

  • Carla Archuleta

    First priority was to proclaim the word of God in synagogues. Paul and Barnabas were amazing on their journey of ministry. They traveled the area over and over converting Gentiles. Amazing work from apostles back in the day!

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    Paul and his companions preach first in the synogogs then they preach to the Gentiles the move on (out of the synogogs) when the Jews protest against them. The Jews see them as blasphemers and the Gentiles see them as gods. Both notions are problems

  • Avila

    It seems right that the missionaries went to the synagogues and shared the good news with the Jewish people first, thereby respecting the special relationship between the Jews and God. But because Jesus’ mission was for the whole world and He suffered the Passion for everyone, the invitation whould be extended to all.

    Sorry but that is all I can come up – recovering from a tooth extraction.

    • Marianne

      Time to “offer up” your suffering… in union with Christ…
      Feel better, Avila! Blessings, Mar

      • Avila

        Thank you.

  • Marianne

    The first priority of the missionaries when they arrive at each city is to go to the synagogues and preach. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they share the Good News of Jesus, son of David, who came into the world to forgive our sins and save our souls. The Jews were angry and jealous and incited the people to persecute Paul and Barnabas. Seeing that the Message was rejected, they “shake the dust from their feet” (a symbolic curse) and move on to another city. Before they leave, they appoint leaders to build up the church in each community.

    At the Council of Jerusalem, Peter (the first Pope) settles the matter of whether or not to circumcise once and for all. After much prayer and debate, Peter declared that they should not place undue burden on the Gentiles. All they needed to do was “abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right”. (Acts 15:29)

    In Chapter 16, we see the presence of evil spirits (in the fortune telling slave girl). In the Name of Jesus, Paul commands the evil spirit to leave her and it immediately comes out. The slave’s owners are angry because they made money off of her fortune telling abilities, and they seize Paul and Silas and drag them before the local authorities, who put them in jail. I love the story of their deliverance from prison. Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened. There was suddenly a severe earthquake and all the doors flew open. They could have escaped but they didn’t. They stayed and preached salvation to their jailer.

    So here we see another battle of good and evil; and Goodness prevails. I think we have to be very vigilant and aware of the presence of evil in the world, even today. Evil spirits are not a fairy tale, they are very real and they are wreaking havoc on lost souls. We can follow the example of Paul and Silas, ever filled with the Holy Spirit. Even though persecuted, they remained joyful in hope. Even though imprisoned, they prayed and praised Jesus. The Words of Jesus remained in their hearts and on their lips. They prayed the Lord’s Prayer and quoted Scripture to thwart evil in their time.

    I am currently reading a book called, “When the Spirit Comes in Power”…
    Rediscovering the Charismatic Dimension of the Christian Life. I heartily recommend it to anyone who seeks help from the Holy Spirit in being Jesus’ disciple and apostle.

    • Rosi

      Thank-you Marianne. You summarized the chapters beautifully. Paul and Silas are like the ‘energizer bunny’….they keep going. Even when they are beaten severely and imprisoned, they keep giving God praise and glory! What tremendous examples of endurance and faithfulness they show us! And how faithful the Lord is by opening the heart of the jailer and his family to conversion and thereby providing physical care to Paul and Silas. And like the ‘bunny’, they just kept going proclaiming the Good News and encouraging the brothers. Nothing can stop them. Unlike the ‘bunny’, who relies on battery-power, they have the everlasting power of the Holy Spirit !
      I definitely want to get the book you mentioned, “When the Spirit Comes in Power”…
      That is exactly the kind of book I am looking for!

  • Michelle

    These chapters left me in awe of Paul and Barnabas as they traveled throughout the world telling of the Good News without fear for their personal well-being. Their faith in Jesus was beyond words! They went into each town without fear but instead such devotion to their Lord wanting to spread the Word about eternal salvation and inviting all those listening, whether gentile or Jew, to follow His way. What strength of conviction they had. This is a testament to the power we each could have if only we put all of our faith in Jesus and His saving power.

  • Judy

    The synagogues was where they would start which is understanding since they still considered themselves as Jews. They definitely move on when they are not accepted and “shake the dust from their feet.” I also see, though, that they move on after they have at least 1 convert.

    I am also not completely clear on the decision of on circumcision. I’m reading it as another sign that God has spoken to them through the Holy Spirit explaining that some of the earlier laws are not necessary in current times if not impacting the acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Savior…similar to the unclean foods. Same as Liza, I would like to read others understanding or explanation of the change.

    • Michelle

      Good morning Judy, I also wondered about circumcision and also found it comforting that several of us had the same question. I wonder if circumcision was now viewed as just being an outward sign of one’s devotion to Jesus. Does being circumcised mean you are a true and devout follower of Jesus? No, being a follower of Christ is so much more personal than the act of having one’s body “altered” with circumcision. Being a follower of Christ is loving Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind. That is my extremely basic shot at answering this question that I too had. Hopefully someone much more knowledgeable than I will provide a truer more correct insight. Have a blessed day.

      • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

        Here is my take on that for what it is worth…We know God has always brought people into a better understanding of Himself and their relationship with him. When circumsion was instituted, it was to be a sign to the Jewish nation and those around them that the Israelites were a chosen people, blessed by God. Now, we see God is moving to show people that not only are the Jewish people the chosen ones of God, but that all people are chosen. So therefore, it is not necessary to fast from “forbidden” food, or to be circumcised in order to have a relationship with God. Did that mean God was in actuality changing His mind? No, it just means that as we develop in our relationship and knowledge of God, we are coming to a better understanding of who God is. Our relationship with God is not a stagnant one…it is always evolving, as we believers come to “know” God better, we learn a new characteristic about God…one that was always there, but that we didn’t know as deeply before. Isn’t this the way of any friendship? As we get to know someone better we learn more about them and what they are really like…I is my firm belief that this is still going on with our relationship with God today. We are coming to “know” God better, and as we do, there will be changes in how we look at Him, ourselves; and in how we worship God. It is this way, I believe, that God is coming into “fulfillment”…It is exciting and wonderful to know that God and us are part of such a beautiful living relationship. Thanks be to God…

        • Fisher

          Very sound and we’ll thought out reply. It does boil down to the fulfillment of the old law through Christ; outward devotions like circumcision and the food laws are not essential for holiness. It is our inner, heart condition that matters.In other words: the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter of the law. If one wishes to be circumcised or adhere to food laws, etc., as a personal devotion that is fine and admirable; it is not fine to impose them on others, however.

          Prudence is my favorite word where the passage concerning the gentiles and Jewish conscripts are concerned. It is okay to eat meat offered to idols, for example, knowing the idols are false and the offering is null. But is it prudent to do so, as it could confuse those who are discerning/new to the Christian faith, or even turn people away? Best to do nothing that may hinder the faith of another.

          • Mike

            Circumcision and dietary laws were Gods way of setting the Jews apart from all other people as His chosen people. With the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the gates of heaven were opened for all people and the previous laws were replaced by something new: circumcision of the heart and the bread of eternal life i.e. all who believe in Him and all who eat of His body will be called children of God and have eternal life. Praise be to God.

          • Fisher

            Yes!

  • Liza

    The synagogues were a good place to start as they could explain the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises through Jesus and these chosen people could then pass on the good news with a solid understanding of God and his relationship to us. (Both Paul and Peter explain the Good News as fulfilment of the promises to Abraham). When Paul talks to the Gentiles they easily become confused and think Paul and Barnabas are Zeus and Hermes! So, thank you again to Sarah, as you have grounded us in our Old Testament story this past 3 months.

    I am still not clear about the reasons we adhere to Old Testament teaching (for instance on sexual practice and marriage) yet something as essential as circumcision (so often demanded in Old Testament law) was allowed to lapse. We know Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and forbade people to ignore any of it. Can anyone explain?

    Finally, it was stressful in the early church: not only were beatings, nearly to death, a common occurrence and imprisonment was a daily threat, they also fell out with each other (Paul and Barnabas). It is re-assuring that even with the Holy Spirit guiding them they couldn’t always see eye to eye. Not surprising they had to shake the dust off their feet and move on: they did not take their eyes off the task to make disciples of all men.

    • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

      I believe the cardinals have been called to Rome to discuss the marriage issue among others by Pope Francis…and as I believe in an evolving Church…I have hope that these views will be, after much prayer and meditation, be brought in a better fulfillment of how God wants us to view them.

      • Jeanne

        As far as am concerned, there is no marriage issue. One man and one woman. I would be interested in you view of an evolving church.
        Thanks

        • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

          In the early Church, there was much discussion and discerning over whether Jesus was both human and God…some at the time said just God..some said human…and this was the result of much prayer and discernment…so the Church evolved…another time that the Church did this was over the fact of Mary’s conception was Immaculate; and later that she was assumed into Heaven and still later the is Queen of Heaven and Earth…these were things that we as a people of God came to know about how we relate to God and He to us. I don’t believe God is done with us yet…I think it will be exciting to see what God has in store to reveal to us in the future…

      • Fisher

        What I believe of the Church: we are not a static entity. God does continue to reveal the truth and the magisterium continues to be open to discerning this truth. The truth is the truth; it is not about evolving, but rather revelation. The truth is the truth; it is not about watering down our ideals to make the faith more palatable to the secular cultures bombarding us, but rather proclaiming the Truth, the Good News, in mercy and love.

        The last Canon in the Code of Canon Law, #1752, is the most important (paraphrasing): The salvation of souls is the highest law of the Church.

        • Liza

          I think I see what Beverley is talking about. The church has shifted it’s position on many things such as how we regard the Jewish faith (and other faiths), how we regard homosexuals, what we have to say about science (Galileo), and so on. I suppose the church must apply the message of Christ to the reality we understand now. Sometimes the church discerns a need for discipline (Ezra saw a need for this after the exile) and sometimes the church discerns a need to emphasise compassion (as Pope Francis does now). I suppose he realises many people no longer understand God’s love and compassion for them and this must be the main thing we say.

          • Fisher

            Yes, I see what Beverly is saying, too. Yet, I do not see the Church shifting so much as coming to a deeper understanding. I see the human element needing the Holy Spirit to come into the situation and reveal the truth.

          • Rosi

            We must show love to the sinner…but not to the sin.

    • Jeanne

      Circumcision was an outward sign in the OT .Sexual practices and marriage to me are a moral issue.
      Matt. 19:6 ..and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body. ..So then, what God has united, man must not divide.

      • Fisher

        Just so; yet we do not dictate morality, but proclaim the truth and try to live up to the lofty ideals. The Church professes, instructs and is there in mercy and love welcoming sinners (we all fall short of at least some ideals, after all), offering strength and healing through the Sacraments and prayer.

  • pnkyB4brain

    The disciples would always begin their preaching in the town’s synagogue. Jesus, Our Savior said to them “…And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them” Luke 9:5.