Christians are commanded to promote the welfare of everyone, including those who are in prison.
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3)
Some think this command merely says we are to be concerned about prisoners in general and need to pray for them and enable them to hear the gospel. There are many Christian organizations dedicated to reaching prisoners with the gospel. Perhaps the best known of these is Prison Fellowship. This is certainly a legitimate application of this verse, but I don’t think it is what the author of Hebrews had in mind. When the New Testament was being written Christians often faced severe persecution and many were in prison because of their faith. This statement is a reminder not to forget them. Read the rest of this entry
God told Abraham that he was going to judge Sodom for its sins. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived in Sodom and this fact prompted Abraham to intercede for the city.
Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
. . . . .
Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.”
He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” (Genesis 18:23-26,32)
King Herod began to persecute the church.
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:1-5)
The church prayed for Peter and their prayers were answered.
Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. (Acts 12:6,7)
When a believer is imprisoned because of his faith we should pray for him. The church prayed for Peter and he was freed in response to their prayers. But should we just pray that the imprisoned believer be released? Paul might have held a different opinion. Read the rest of this entry
God chose Paul to carry the gospel to the gentiles. Wherever Paul went he preached to the gentiles but he also preached to his own people, the Jews. Acts contains two detailed accounts of his preaching the gospel, once to the Jews and once to the gentiles.
During his first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch in Pisidia and attended the synagogue on the Sabbath. They were invited to speak to the congregation and Paul gave this message. Read the rest of this entry
Paul had a very busy schedule, going from town to town preaching the gospel and establishing new churches. Yet he always took the time to pray for his converts and the churches he helped to establish.
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:15-21)
Acts 27:1-28:16 describes Paul’s voyage to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. It was late in the year, when sailing on the Mediterranean was dangerous. At one point they had to decide whether to continue to Rome or spend the winter where they were and finish their voyage the following spring.
Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
They rejected Paul’s advice and continued their journey.
But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
A storm rose and the crew of the ship gave up all hope of survival. Read the rest of this entry
When Paul visited Jerusalem for the last time the Jews started a riot in the temple that led to his arrest by the Romans. The Romans brought him before the Jewish council for trial and he was acquitted. Acts 21:27 – 23:11
Many of the Jews wouldn’t accept this and were determined to kill him.
When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
Paul’s nephew learned of the plot and warned Paul and the Roman commander. The commander sent Paul to Caesarea so he would be safe from the Jews. Acts 23:12-35
When reading this I have often wondered whether the Jews who swore not to eat and drink until they killed Paul kept their oath. Did they die of thirst and starvation? Read the rest of this entry
This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Later in the same letter he tells us what some of these light afflictions were. Read the rest of this entry
The book of Acts begins with Jesus telling his followers to remain in Jerusalem and wait until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. After he gave his final commands he was taken up into Heaven. The promised baptism occurred in chapter two. Between these two events Peter felt the need to take care of some unfinished business, choosing a replacement for Judas.
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
It is written in the Book of Psalms,
‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
and ‘Let another take his office.’
So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
Acts 1:15-16; 20-22
Every year before Christmas we see many displays of the birth of Jesus. The display normally consists of a baby in a manger with Joseph, Mary, some shepherds, and the Wise Men gathered around him. The birth of Jesus was an important event in history and it is appropriate that we should remember it but our traditional picture of how it happened is inaccurate. The Wise Men were not there. They were probably still in their home country and hadn’t even started their journey to Bethlehem.
Most of the elements in the traditional manger scene are taken from Luke’s gospel. He tells us why Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem in the first place and that they had to lay Jesus in a manger because there was no room in the inn. He describes the visit of the shepherds to see the baby. But he never speaks of the Wise Men here or anyplace else. Read the rest of this entry
There is an Irish blessing, “May you be in Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.”
The apostle Paul was someone whom God blessed very much. Do you suppose he was in Heaven half an hour before the Devil realized he was dead?
Shortly before his crucifixion Jesus gave this command to his disciples.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
In order to carry out this command we must take a look at how Jesus loves us. There are two places where he describes his love.
The first one is well known.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
When Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel in Cyprus they encountered opposition from a false prophet name Bar-Jesus.
When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
Acts 13:6-8 Read the rest of this entry