A Barnabas Background Check

I’m no stranger to background checks, although that “last 5 addresses” part stumps me. We’ve lived a lot of places! More personally, it’s hard to know someone until you know their backstory. Barnabas has come up a few times in our walk through Acts, so this week, I offer you four descriptors for Barnabas as his own man, separately from Saul/Paul. I hope you see him in a fresh light when we’re finished. Continue reading

Paul’s Preaching Pattern

I’ve never thrilled to the sermons printed in the Bible: Peter’s in Acts 2 and Acts 4, Paul’s in Acts 17, and others. They feel redundant because we’ve just been reading about everything they say. But as I stepped through Acts recently (search the tag ‘Acts’ for multiple resulting posts), I noticed a pattern in Paul’s sermon of Acts 13—a pattern that remains relevant for speakers and preachers even today. Continue reading

Nameless: Series Introduction

What’s in a name? Shakespeare said it wasn’t really important:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  -William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

But God prioritizes names. He equates them to one’s reputation—especially His own. God told Abram his name would be great (Genesis 12:2). Later, He changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “He struggles with God” (Genesis 32:28). And repeatedly, the Psalmists praise God’s Name.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Psalm 29:2

Later, Peter heals a man just by saying Jesus’ name:

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Acts 3:6

And he insists before the Sanhedrin:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  –Acts 4:12

There’s power in one’s name—especially Jesus’.

Why do we get so embarrassed
when we forget someone’s name?

And identity. If names weren’t important, we wouldn’t get so embarrassed when we forget someone’s name, and it wouldn’t be so significant if we call someone by the wrong name. We also wouldn’t work so hard to pronounce names properly.

So what does it mean when someone remains nameless in the Biblical narrative? In particular, many people Jesus healed and some with whom He interacted often aren’t recognized by name. Continue reading

Antioch: First Church of… well, Everything (part 1 – Acts 11)

Let’s dig back into Acts this week with the first of two posts about the church at Antioch. We will connect the dots between different parts of Acts and see how this church paved the way for our modern definition of church.

When the apostles appointed seven deacons to serve in the Jerusalem church, one of them was from Antioch: Nicholas (Acts 6:5). Nicholas was the only deacon for whom Luke felt it necessary to name his city of origin and note his spiritual history. Nicholas was a convert to Judaism who became a Christ-follower. Why did Luke mention all this? I think it’s because, by the time Luke wrote his history of the early church, he knew both the city of Antioch and the Gentiles who inhabited it were significant. It’s a bit of foreshadowing. Continue reading

Who God Shows Up For

A Canaanite woman came to Jesus, asking that her daughter be healed. After a somewhat peculiar exchange of words, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (Matthew 15:28).

This Canaanite woman had great faith.

An influential Roman centurion in Capernaum requested that Jesus heal his beloved servant, but he knew Jesus didn’t have to be present to do a miracle. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’” (Luke 7:9). The servant was healed by the time the centurion’s representatives got home.

This Roman centurion had amazing faith.

And yet Peter—oh, Peter—who witnessed these and many other exchanges between Jesus and various Gentiles, didn’t catch that Jesus came for all peoples. He was so acclimated to his privilege (as one of God’s chosen people) that he couldn’t move beyond it without a specific, individualized vision from the Lord. Continue reading

The Gospel Trickled Out of Jerusalem

People like to say that, in Acts, the Gospel explodes across the known world. But it doesn’t really explode. It trips, tumbles, and trickles out of Jerusalem, sometimes one person at a time.

Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.  –Acts 10:43

Everyone.

Still, it took believers awhile to catch on to what everyone meant. Continue reading