A Just & Loving God: Reconciling Love and Justice

In church, our pastor has been doing a series called Christianity 101. It lays down some of the basic understandings of Christianity. You can watch or listen to the past four sermons here, or you can listen to them in our iTunes Podcast. I’ll be doing my own series for a few days here as well, that also parallels what he has preached. God seemed to work this perfectly for me, because I had it only my mind all weekend, already, and when I did my daily reading, (I’m doing a “read the Bible in a year” plan) the following passage was on my list to read, and it fits perfectly with what I wanted to talk about today anyway.

Romans 3:21-31 New King James Version (NKJV)

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Background

Paul has been writing to the Church at Rome about the Justification of the Believer through faith, not by works or circumcision. Many people wrongly put the focus on Read more

February 7, 2018

Acts 19:11-20 English Standard Version (ESV)

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.


Background

Short background today: The Apostle Paul had been in Asia (The Roman province in modern-day Turkey, not what we think of as Asia) for two years, preaching the Gospel. In Acts 19:10 it actually says that all the residents of that province heard the Word. What a ministry.

Extraordinary Miracles

Verse eleven says God was doing extraordinary miracles through Paul’s hands. Now, I usually use the New King James Version of the Bible for our scriptures, but I decided to use the English Standard Version, today, because of this one verse. The KJV and the NKJVS are interesting translations, because they aren’t English translations of the Greek and Hebrew texts, but rather English translations of the Latin Translations. (And the NKJV translates the KJV to modern English) So they are a translation of a translation. (Of a translation, for NKJV). This doesn’t mean that they are not inspired by God, I still believe they are. You see, God promised to preserve His Word, not the languages. So things change. The King James Version of the Bible translates verse eleven to “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul”, while the New King James Version translates it to “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul.” 

Why choose the ESV today? Because of the original Greek verses the translation from Latin. In the Greek, there are four words for what we say in one word, as extraordinary, or unusual, οὐ τὰς τυχούσας ὁ. The word τυχούσας (tychousas) means “being ordinary” when used with οὐ (ou) which means “not”. ( τὰς and ὁ are both articles in Greek which mean “the” but wouldn’t be needed in English or Latin translations)

In the Latin Vulgate (the Latin Bible, required to be used by the Catholic Church until 1963) the verse is virtutesque non quaslibet Deus faciebat per manus Pauli, which translates in English to And God wrought no ordinary miracles by the hands of Paul… 

So the KJV translators chose to use the word special, and later, the NKJV translators chose unusual.

So, why the big deal about it? Because extraordinary, special, and unusual imply different things about these miracles. Miracles by themselves are extraordinary, but to say that God was working extraordinary miracles is a powerful statement. Special and unusual just don’t cut it. It literally says that a handkerchief of Paul’s was used to heal and exorcise remotely. That is insane. These miracles all led to the Glory of God.

Using His Name In Vain

The Bible calls these exorcists “itinerant”. This means that they were wanderers. Other translations use vagabond instead. They traveled around, exorcising demons. The fact that they so quickly chose to try out the Name of “Jesus whom Paul proclaims” probably means they would try any number of names. They were charlatans. They used the name of their father, Sceva, and that there were seven of them, (the holiest number, also considered the most magical number) to buy some influence.

So they decide to use the Name of Jesus, and the Demon answers them, “I know Jesus and I know Paul, but I don’t know you.” And then he kicks their tails. Beats them and rips their clothes off, so they ran out naked, wounded and embarrassed. They invoked the Name of Jesus without believing in the One who they invoked. This had dire consequences. His Name is powerful, and clearly not to be used lightly.

Exodus 20:7  says You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. That is the Fourth Commandment. Speaking the name of the LORD in vain means saying it without its due reverence. Remember, when you say His name, He answers.

Still, though, His name was magnified, because of this event. The people heard what happened when these charlatans used His name in vain and saw the power of God. They knew the commandments and then saw the power in Jesus’ name. This meant that Jesus told the truth, he truly was God in Flesh.

Daily Challenge

Take a moment and think about how you treat the name of the LORD. Remember that when you say His name in any context, He listens, and answers. (Parents don’t have to imagine what it’s like to have your children call you a million times for nothing) He deserves our reverence, so let’s show Him that reverence.

January 31

Acts 14:19-20 New King James Version (NKJV)

19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.


Background

This is what we consider the end of the first of Paul’s famous four mission trips. Many people have a bible with some maps at the end of the book, and most commonly, one of those maps probably details his four mission trips, like the following from the American Bible Association:

Paul's 1st and 2nd Trip

As you can see, his first journey was a considerably shorter distance than the second, kind of a warm-up, but no less important. If you’re interested in reading all the scriptures on each missionary journey, this webpage has compiled the scriptures from Acts that deal with Paul.

So, after first Preaching to those in Antioch and Iconium, he sees a man in Lystra healed by his faith in the Name of Jesus, ( Acts 14:8-18 ) we come to our scripture.

Supposing Him To Be Dead

I’ve read a few opposing viewpoints on this topic. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says of verse 19, “Supposing he had been dead – They did leave stoning him till they had the fullest evidence that he was dead; and so, most probably, he was.” But in Through the Bible Day by Day F. B. Meyer says he was likely in some sort of trance, citing 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 as support.

mostly-dead

I go back and forth, but for me, when you look at the wording of “supposing him to be dead” it seems to me that he actually wasn’t dead. After reading the words of 2 Cor 12:1-4, which speak of men who “went a third of the way to Heaven” in visions, I am leaning toward that.

What does it mean? It means regardless of whether we are mostly dead or fully dead, God has the power to protect us, when doing His work. Whether or not we are protected from death, like Paul, or called Home, like James, (Acts 12:1-2) we should not shirk our mission to be the Salt and Light. For even if we are called Home, His glory will be known. If my life is needed for His sake, I gladly give.

 

Shake It Off

Yesterday we saw how the entire nation of Judah came together in prayer and fasting to ask deliverance. I imagine the same happened here. The disciples see Paul’s body, having been wrecked by the Jews, and then discarded out of the city like some trash. They gathered and likely were fervently praying in on accord.

I love how succinct Dr. Luke is with his account of this next event: “he rose up and went into the city.” I can just imagine the disciples standing there, slack-jawed as he stands up, brushes the dust off his shoulders and just starts walking back into the city. Back to the stones.

Brush Your Shoulders OFf

This is a clear call to action for modern Christians. Paul didn’t let a simple matter like stoning stop him from being about the LORD’s work. He walked right back into the city for all to see. F. B. Meyer’s Through the Bible Day By Day says specifically he walked back to show the Jews who stoned him that he was alive and well, moments later. I think he also went to show the disciples the power of the Living God.

Imagine that showing to the Jews and the disciples: “My God is stronger than your stones.” And so He is. Because of that strength, and that faithfulness that God shows to us, we are called to stand back up after our trials, and as Paul says when we returned back through Lystra Iconium and Antioch in Acts 14:21-23, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” This wording in the NKJV is interesting, I like the NASB translation, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Daily Challenge

My challenge to you this day is to shake it off. Whatever trials you are going through, remember that God’s mercies are new every morning. ( Lamentations 3:22-23 ) Pray that He restores your soul, giving you the energy to walk right back to the stones that hurt you yesterday, praising God.

I know it’s hard, and some of you are going through the worst part of your life, it could be divorce, loss of a parent, spouse, child, or friend, but God is still there. Even in the midst of the storm, you may not hear Him, but He’s there. Ask for His mercy, and the strength to get through this, one day at a time.