22. November 2023 Acts 0

Text: Acts 16:1-5

Theme: Paul was careful to be respectful and strategic along his journey.

Key verses: “Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lysta, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers…so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. Then they went from town to town, instructing believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day” (v. 1-5).

What I believe God said to me: Dwayne, it could be easy to blow past this brief occurrence and not realize its significance. Think about it: What was Paul’s primary objective on this second missionary journey? He wanted to check on the churches he had started and help strengthen them. He was going to instruct the believers to follow the decisions made by the Council at Jerusalem. He was going to let the believers know they don’t have to be circumcised in order to be saved. And yet, how startling and ironic is it that he had Timothy circumcised before he could go with them on their journey? Does that not strike you as odd? It almost seems contradictory to Paul’s purpose and beliefs. What you need to consider are the potential deeper reasons for Paul’s decision to have Timothy circumcised. There was a method to Paul’s apparent madness in this moment. Paul was very methodical and logical in his approach to ministry. Every decision and situation mattered to Paul. He knew that how he handled each situation could either open more opportunities for ministry or hinder opportunities for ministry. The narrator of Acts didn’t go into detail about why Paul had Timothy circumcised. The explanation given simply states it was “because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” However, the New Living Translation interprets Paul’s motive as “deference to the Jews.” While that idea is not explicit in the Greek, it is certainly a plausible possibility. Deference implies “a yielding or submitting to the judgment of a recognized superior, out of respect or reverence.” Respect or reverence is the sticking point here. Did Paul have genuine respect for these keepers of the law? Based on his interactions with Jewish elders in other places, he did seek to respect such men and their differences of opinion. After all, they were trying to follow the laws laid down by Moses. Reverence for them might be a stretch, but respect is something Paul seemed to foster and maintain. It’s a principle he taught on and exhorted in his letters to fellow believers. I belabor this fine point because it’s important–really important–to dissect this unusual scene. Paul didn’t ignore his convictions or compromise his beliefs when he had Timothy circumcised. He was showing respect to the people he loved and being strategic for the ministry ahead. Love, respect, strategy: Those are all great goals for any minister of my Gospel. See ye to it.

What I said to God: Good early morning, Lord! On this pre-Thanksgiving day, I am grateful to be sitting here with my sister in Texas, surrounded by her beautiful (albeit fake) fireplace and nicely-lit (also fake) tree. I am at peace that You will provide for our every need (although that too might seem a bit fake-ish like wishful thinking, in light of our sadly-lacking bank account). I choose not to look at my circumstances. I choose to believe what You have said and to walk by faith and not by site. This faith is not based on what I’ve done or deserved but on Your mercy and grace over my life all these years and on Your never-failing promises and love. Please help me go out of my way to respect the wishes and beliefs of others, as Paul did–even at the risk of appearing to compromise at times. I will not, I dare not compromise on my convictions. I see now that Paul didn’t actually compromise his in this situation. There was nothing inherently wrong with a boy being circumcised. It just wasn’t necessary for his salvation. Help me think ahead and look for ways to hedge off possible issues by being strategic and careful in each situation. This is only possible through the leading of Your Holy Spirit.