Devotion 7-30-15

Acts 16:1 – 5

Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.

Paul now returns to the churches he had founded in Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium. Remember how on their previous journey, Paul and Barnabas had stopped in those cities? Although there had been many believers in Iconium, the towns-people and the Jewish leaders had planned to stone them. The apostles had gotten wind of the plot and moved on to Lystra. It was there that a crippled man had been healed and the people had wanted to worship them, but were then won over by Jewish leaders from Antioch and Iconium and stoned Paul, leaving him for dead. In Derbe, at least, they were not stoned, and they made many disciples.

On Paul’s return, he finds thriving churches in the places where he had faced such difficulties! Sometimes, we can feel that we are not making a great difference, but we are planting seeds which God will cause to grow. From small beginnings and even persecutions, the church of Jesus Christ spread across the world. If one life is changed; if one person encourages another; if people love one another where there has been competition, hatred, and fear; if the word of Jesus is passed on; if there is positivity and love where there had been negativity; if new disciples are being made – then, the church, however small, will be fulfilling its mission.

The young man, Timothy, would have been about 9 years old at Paul’s first visit; he is now a teen-ager. He was a strong believer, well spoken of by the believers in the churches in his area, and his mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, are strong Jewish Christians. (see 2 Timothy 1:5). Paul decides to take the young man along on his mission, but his next step is puzzling if you don’t think it all the way through. He has the young man, whose father was Greek, circumcised. Now Paul had just returned from Jerusalem with the edict that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. Why did Timothy have to be circumcised? Timothy’s mother was Jewish. According to Rabbinic law, the children of a Jewish mother were Jewish, and so Timothy was Jewish. Perhaps Timothy’s Greek father had refused to allow him to be circumcised earlier; at this point he appears not to be in the picture. While Paul had petitioned the council not to require circumcision of the Gentiles, he does not want to appear to be flaunting the law among the Jews. He seeks to avoid trouble for Timothy by having him acknowledge his Jewish heritage in circumcision.

After this, the little group – Paul, Silas, and Timothy, perhaps with other disciples along – travels from town to town, especially among those towns where churches had already begun, encouraging the believers and “delivering” the letter from the Jerusalem Council. Note here – delivering a letter in the first century does not mean handing over a piece of paper; many in the first century were illiterate. The letter would have been read aloud by the apostles to a gathering of the people.

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