Week 48

The gospel of Jesus Christ is inching its way out into the whole world! Apostles, or those sent by Jesus, are preaching wherever they go. Peter, Paul, Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, and John are taking the gospel further. But they aren’t the only ones. The three thousand new believers who claimed Jesus on Pentecost are out there, too. Wherever they go, the gospel is shard the old-fashioned way: one person at a time. One person who is willing to take the risk to tell another about Jesus can open up a whole new world of possibilities in which the Spirit can save lives. Not everybody was happy to hear this gospel. Some believed. Some did not. But God was always at work!
As missionaries like Paul traveled from town to town, they would often stop at the local synagogue first. Christianity, or the Way of Jesus as it was first known, was originally a reform movement within Judaism. Jews were often the first to receive this new preaching. Again, some Jews believed while others did not. The apostles would then move on to the gentiles, or non-Jewish citizens next. Again, some believed while others did not. As the groups of believers began to grow around the Empire, two very troubling questions began to plague the early Church. Both of them had to do with Israel and the rest of the world. The first question had to do with gentile believers. How Jewish did these non-Jewish believers in Jesus need to be in order to be saved? Other than trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus, did they have to celebrate the
Jewish festivals? Did they have to be circumcised? Did they have to abide by the dietary restrictions mandated by the Law of Moses? The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) was the first Church wide gathering to decide a matter of faith, practice and doctrine. They ruled that the Law, important as it is for Jews, is not to be laid upon gentiles, other than to restrain from idolatry, sexual immorality and consuming blood. Even though this decision was sent throughout the empire, many were not happy about it. In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains the matter further. The second question had to do with those in Israel who did not believe in Jesus. Were they lost? Had they missed the boat? Was the “old covenant” through Abraham and Moses now out of date and useless? Would Israel be left behind? Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees finds that inconceivable. He teaches that Israel’s refusal of Christ now is holding the door open for the rest of the world to enter into fellowship with God. But the time is coming where Christ will reconcile all things to Himself and all Israel will be saved. God made a forever promise to Abraham. God made a forever promise to Moses. God made a forever promise to David. God keeps every promise made. The promises God makes to us in Christ Jesus mean nothing if God is known to break promises. God keeps God’s word. The promise to Abraham is still sound. Israel and the whole world will be saved through faith and trust in God. Now life in the early Church was no picnic. There were pressures, persecutions, and conflict. Some things never change. There is not a congregation on earth that does not experience conflict. Jesus might as well have said:
“Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there you shall have conflict!” The congregation in Corinth, that meets and worships together in each other’s’ homes, is torn apart by conflict. Paul helped to start this church and keeps in touch by letter. In this letter to the Corinthians, he is trying to straighten things out and maintain peace and order. Listen in to Paul the pastor as he reinforces the truth about Jesus. Life together is never easy. Harmony is hard work, then and now. The Church has never been perfect, but the grace of God abounds as we struggle, trust and grow!
It’s hard to believe that this year is almost over. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that we were buying our study bibles and getting things ready. Don’t let up now, especially as the holidays are upon us. Press on to reach the finish line!
Keep reading and I’ll see you in the Bible!

WEEK 48 Reading Schedule:
Nov 26 Romans 8-10 The Spirit, Israel, and Salvation
Nov 27 Romans 11-13 All Israel Will Be Saved, New Life in Christ
Nov 28 Romans 14-16 Life Together, Personal Remarks
Nov 29 1 Corinthians 1-4 Divisions Within the Church
Nov 30 1 Corinthians 5-8 Teachings on Sex, Lawsuits, Marriage, and Idolatry
Dec 1 1 Corinthians 9-11 Apostles, Israel’s History, Lord’s Supper
Dec 2 1 Corinthians 12-14 Spiritual Gifts