Through the Bible, September 14

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today is the regularly scheduled day for the second week of September to catch up if you’ve fallen behind in reading. Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration for today from this week’s readings.

  1. The address of the book of James to “the Dispersion” may seem unusual to us, but was a common thought among first century Jews. During Jesus’ ministry, He said to ones sent to apprehend Him, “You will seek me and will not find me.  Where I am you cannot come.”  Not understanding Jesus’ meaning, the Jews said, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?” (John 7:34-35).  Following the time of Babylonian captivity more of the Jews lived outside of Palestine that within.  A condition referred to as “the Dispersion.”
  2. Why is so much of Acts focused on the work and ministry of Paul? Undoubtedly, others of the apostles also traveled and preached.  We know, for instance, that Barnabas and Mark—though not apostles—upon parting with Paul sailed to Cyprus (Acts 15:39).  What happened there and where else they may have gone we are not told.  Additionally, early church history tells of a strong representation of Christians in Alexandria, Egypt.  Someone took the gospel there.  We simply don’t know who and when.  So why the nearly exclusive attention given to Paul?  In part, it may well be the purpose for which the book was written. It, along with Luke, is addressed to one named Theophilus as an account first of Jesus, then of the spread of his message—primarily through Paul.  With Acts’ abrupt ending with Paul in prison, it is suggested that perhaps the books were written initially as a part of Paul’s defense for his trial and that Theophilus was somehow involved.
  3. Paul’s mission efforts were hardly individual endeavors. In addition to Barnabas and Silas as primary companions, he obviously enlisted the efforts of many other preachers.  Reading his letters, in addition to Acts, one pieces together a picture of a traveling band who evangelize a town, and sometimes a larger region, with Paul at some point in time moving on while others remain behind to assist and teach these fledgling churches.
  4. Luke’s participation in the work of Paul can be traced by following the personal pronoun “we” in the accounts of Paul’s travels. The first person plural pronoun, which would include the narrator of the story—Luke—is found in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 17:1-28:16.

Devotional Thought:

It’s Not In the Bible

Just so you’ll know, this devotional is really based on what’s not in the Bible.  That might sound a little dicey but stay with me.

We are quite familiar with Paul and his evangelistic efforts because the book of Acts devotes so much attention to them.  We ought to be duly impressed.  What Acts doesn’t tell us about are the mission efforts of the other apostles.  Is that because they didn’t do anything?  No, I do not believe that to be true.  The Bible is always selective in what it chooses to record.  Just like with Jesus, John says he did and said many other things that aren’t recorded in his Gospel (John 20:30; 21:25).  The same, I believe could be said of the rest of the apostles.

A very popular tourist attraction in Kiev, Ukraine is called Saint Andrew’s Slope.  It is a street on a steep hill rising from the Dnieper River.  The street is cobble stone and near the very top is situated Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, a comparatively small, yet very ornate Russian Orthodox Church.  Inside is a portrait of Andrew, probably ten or twelve feet tall.  The legend is that Peter’s brother, the apostle Andrew, traveled north across the Black Sea (the very southern portion of which usually shows up the very top of the map at the back of your Bible of Paul’s journeys) and evangelized the region that is today covered by parts of Ukraine and Russia and perhaps beyond.

We don’t know if he did or not.  Many legends are based in fact and we have not definitive records of his or any other of the apostles’ travels, so, perhaps it’s true.

I’d love to know the stories of Andrew’s travels.  I’m sure many are no less thrilling than those from Paul’s travels.

Here’s the point.  What we and others do in service to God does not have to be, or need to be, known by others.  As far as history is concerned these other faithful servants of God worked in anonymity—compared to Paul—and that’s OK.  It could be said we only know 1/13th of the apostolic work in taking the gospel into all of the world (the number is actually much smaller because we don’t even know all that Paul did).

Don’t let the fact that others don’t know what you’re doing discourage you.  As a matter of fact, there’s inherent danger if they do (see Matt. 6:1).

Might one of the great joys of heaven be learning the stories of all the other things Jesus, Paul, and the twelve other apostles did that Scripture didn’t record?

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