Saturday, December 3, 2016, 2:22 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 18:1-17 (ESV).
Building Bridges, Not Walls? (vv. 1-4)
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
Aquila and Priscilla were in Corinth because the Roman Emperor Claudius commanded all the Jews (including Jewish Christians) to leave Rome. It appears his reasoning was the disturbances being caused by Jews over the preaching of Jesus Christ and his gospel. Many Jews rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah and thus they maligned The Way, and they were persecuting those who were teaching in the name of Jesus Christ. It appears that Claudius opposed proselytizing in any religion, so his solution was to just expel all Jews from Rome. Proselytism “refers to the attempt of any religion or religious individuals to convert people to their beliefs, or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not” (Wikipedia).
Pope Francis, in 2013, said that “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.” When questioned concerning what he intended by those remarks, his response appears to have been that there is a difference between proselytizing and evangelizing. “A Christian,” said Pope Francis, “must proclaim Jesus Christ in such a way that He be accepted: received, not refused” (1). The pope encouraged the building of bridges between people, and not the building of walls. Proselytizing builds walls, in his opinion, where evangelizing builds bridges. His implication was that Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul knew how to build bridges and how not to build walls. Well, if that is the case, then why was Jesus Christ killed? And, why was the Apostle Paul severely persecuted?
What the pope was saying, which is also what Obama and many world and national leaders are saying, including now Donald Trump, is that we all need to get along. The people of the world, according to them, all need to join hands and hearts together as one voice, with one single objective, and we all need to sing “Kumbaya,” as well as we need to remove all which divides us. What they are promoting now, though, is not just a diluted gospel made to appeal to human flesh, which does not confront sin, warn of divine judgment, or call to repentance. What they are promoting is building bridges between Christian and non-Christian, between Christian and people of other religions, and between devoted followers of Christ and those who think being saved is merely an escape from hell and a promise of heaven when they die.
So, what does it mean to “build bridges” and not walls? It means to increase understanding and/or to improve relationships between different people (thefreedictionary.com). It means “to promote reconciliation or cooperation between hostile groups or people” (Collins English Dictionary). So, what is a bridge? A bridge is “a connecting, transitional, or intermediate route or phase between two adjacent elements, activities, conditions, or the like” (dictionary.com). So, if we build bridges between us and people of other religions or between us and people of all walks of life, what does that mean? And, is that what Jesus and the Apostle Paul did? No!
Pope Francis, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and other world and national leaders want a Jesus who is on friendly terms with all people of all religions and all walks of life, who requires no repentance, no forsaking of false religions or sinful behaviors, and who does not claim that he is the only way to God and to heaven. They want a Jesus who is accepting of all people right where they are and who requires nothing of them at all, other than to ask that they all get along with each other. They don’t want a one-way bridge which is the cross of Christ over which we must all travel if we want to have genuine salvation from sin and the hope of heaven when we die. They want a two-way bridge which allows for exchange of thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, etc. between people who believe differently from one another, which allows for cooperation and compromise, and which promotes unity among all people of all faiths and all walks of life. This is not what Jesus died for!
Opposed and Reviled (vv. 5-8)
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
The Apostle Paul did not preach building bridges between people of all faiths and all walks of life. He did not “proclaim Jesus Christ in such a way that He be accepted: received, not refused.” He did not dilute the gospel message to make it more appealing and acceptable to human flesh. He preached that we have to forsake our former way of life of living for sin and self, that we have to be crucified with Christ in death to sin, be transformed in heart and mind, and be resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). He preached that if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh that we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, he preached Jesus Christ as the ONLY way to God the Father and to heaven.
This is why he was opposed and reviled. And, this is why Jesus Christ was persecuted and put to death on a cross, not because he built 2-way bridges between himself and people and their various religions in the world, but because he built a one-way bridge to God and to heaven through his blood shed on a cross for our sins. The way to heaven is not a broad road that many (or all) travel. The way to heaven is narrow, and there are few who find it, according to scripture. And, the way is narrow because it requires that we die to sin and live to righteousness; that we no longer walk according to the flesh, but that we walk according to the Spirit; and that we believe that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to God and to eternal life.
So many of today’s world and national leaders and institutional churches are promoting building 2-way bridges between Christians and the world, and they are also preaching Jesus in a way which makes him acceptable to this sinful world. They refuse to preach the Jesus of scripture or the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles, because they want the world to like them, rather than want the world to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ alone, and to be delivered out of their slavery to sin. And, because they deny the Jesus of scripture and his gospel, and they instead promote what is contrary to scripture, their blood is on their own heads. God will judge them.
Don’t Be Afraid (vv. 9-11)
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Although this was a message specific to Paul, from the Lord, under particular circumstances and at a definite time period, much of what he told him is consistent with what he told all of us. We are not to fear opposition and revilement (being subject to verbal abuse). We are not to be afraid of persecution at all, which has already come to many throughout the world, and which is coming to America, too. Those who hold firm to the tenets of the Christian faith and practice, who do not deny their Lord, and who preach the full gospel message as Jesus and his NT apostles taught it, will be persecuted, because the gospel (the cross of Christ) is an offense to those who are perishing. Sadly, it is also an offense to many who profess to know Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, too, who call themselves gospel ministers. And, some of them will be our persecutors, as well.
Also, we are to know that our Lord is with us. He will not leave us or forsake us. And, he will give us all we need to endure, to persevere, to stand strong on our faith, and to keep speaking, and to not be silenced by those who oppose us and who object to the gospel of our salvation. As well, we are to know that we are not alone in this battle. There are many Christians throughout the world who are standing strong in their faith, who are speaking boldly in the name of Jesus, and who are also being persecuted for their faith in Christ. Yet, we cannot claim the promise that we will not be attacked or harmed. That promise made to Paul was temporary, at best, for he suffered much persecution, rejection, beatings, imprisonment and the like because he preached the gospel of Jesus unadulterated.
So, be aware of what is presently being presented in the name of Jesus Christ and in the name of Christianity, and know that there are many lies and deceptions taking place within the institutional church and within our governments. Know the truth so you can refute the lies. Be students of the scriptures, and know what Jesus and his NT apostles taught with regard to our salvation. Read the Bible in context, for many deceptions come through taking scriptures out of context. Many “gospel” presentations are also based on scriptures removed from context, and made to say something else, while also ignoring the bulk of teaching on the gospel of salvation. So, don’t fall into the trap of a social gospel which builds 2-way bridges between Christians and the world, but follow the 1-way bridge to heaven via faith in Jesus Christ in death to sin and resurrection to newness of life (new birth).
His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014
Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.
Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.
Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.