Thursday, December 3, 2015

Acts of the Apostles, Day 4 Readings

Confronting Idolatry in Ephesus & Paul Is Arrested   

Today's first reading records the months that Paul spent preaching and teaching in Ephesus.  In that time, while spreading the news about Jesus Christ, he confronted a misunderstanding.  There were a group of Christians who had been baptized, but they had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit -- which they had never heard of.  Instead, they had received John the Baptist's baptism of repentance.  Paul explained the Holy Spirit to them, and they gratefully received it.

While in Ephesus, two issues about idolatry arose.  First, there were some itinerant miracle workers who tried to use Jesus name to cast out evil spirits -- an attempt that utter failed.  This rather humorous episode served as a two-sided lesson -- first, practicing magic is inappropriate and sometimes causes problems for those who would cast spells or charms.  More practically, though, it showed that merely speaking the name of Jesus did not give one power (or, presumably, faith); instead, one needed to be touched by the Holy Spirit -- as these miracle workers were not.

After this, some idol makers became disgruntled at Paul's teaching -- and its effectiveness.  Frankly, they were worried about losing sales, and they tried to prey on cultural anxieties about outsiders to persecute and silence the Christians.

Read Acts 19:1-41  (NIV)   (NRSV)   (CEB)
[links to Bible Gateway open in a new window]

The second reading marks the beginning of Paul's difficulties with Roman authorities.  After agitating the Jews in Jerusalem, Paul was arrested by the Roman governor -- basically for disturbing the peace.  Paul defended himself against the charges to the governor, who evidently recognized that this was mostly an internal matter between Paul and the Jewish council.  Out of deference to them, the governor kept Paul under arrest, but Paul was granted a number of privileges, including visits by anyone who wanted to see him or bring him food and medicine.  (Astute readers may notice how Paul's trial is both similar to, and different from, the trial of Jesus.)

Read Acts 24:1-27  (NIV)   (NRSV)   (CEB)
[links to Bible Gateway open in a new window]

Reading the Bible in Its Entirety

If you are planning to read the Bible in its entirety, you should read Acts 18-22 today.