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The Scriptorium

Blinded by Religion

It happens a lot. Acts 14.1-3

The Gentiles Question Resolved (1)

Pray Psalm 115.1-3.
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say,
“So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.

Sing Psalm 115.1-3.
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Not to us, O God, not us, but unto Your Name give glory!
For Your love and faithfulness, ever to Your Name be glory!
Why should the nations cry, “Where is their God on high?”
You rule us, Lord, on high: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Read and meditate on Acts 14.1-13.

Preparation
1. What happened as Paul and Barnabas continue preaching in Iconium?

2. How did they respond?

Meditation

From Antioch of Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas turned back to the east, arriving at Iconium. As was their custom, they went to the synagogue and waited for an opportunity to speak. When they did, they were very persuasive – because they were, as we’ve seen, very Biblical. A “great multitude” believed the Gospel, both of Jews, and of Greeks associated with the synagogue (v. 1).

But the power of the Gospel does not affect everyone alike. The enemies of the Gospel “stirred” up the Gentiles and “poisoned their minds” against Paul and Barnabas (v. 2). Despite the opposition, the brothers persisted, speaking boldly in the face of threats, and God blessed their witness with signs and wonders (v. 3). We might have expected that to calm the opposition, but it only served to fuel their anger. Soon the city was divided. Those opposing the Gospel became convinced that the only way to get rid of these preachers was to kill them (vv. 4, 5).

Effective witness-bearing does not always result in people coming to faith in Christ. We should expect some to believe, of course. But there will be many who just aren’t ready and will want to think or talk about it a little more. And there will be some who, for whatever reason, are downright hostile to the Good News and those who proclaim it. Their responses may not be rational, but they will be effective, at least with some.

Paul and Barnabas moved on to Lystra and Derbe (v. 6). The people of Lystra were so blinded by their religion that the only explanation they could offer for Paul’s preaching and the healing of the lame man (v. 8), was that their own gods had come among them. So the priest of Zeus moved to incorporate this amazing episode into the pagan religion of the Lystrans (vv. 9-13). This is as we might expect. To the snow-blind, everything looks green. To the religion-blind, everything looks like their worldview.

Good works, good preaching, mixed responses. It has always been thus, and always will be thus. All people are religious in that they have some idea of ultimate goodness, beauty, and truth, and they are pursuing as much of that for themselves as they can. Christians know that God alone is ultimate goodness, beauty, and truth. But can we use the longings and hopes of lost people to “redirect” their “devotions” toward the Lord?

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Some people are blinded by religion. Others have their eyes opened by Jesus.

When we see Jesus, and we know that He sees us, we then actually care about seeing the people in our Personal Mission Field.

Do we like it when someone is aware of us? Sees us? Do we care that we have someone’s undivided attention? Well, I do, and I bet you do too.

When Paul was speaking, he was ministering to a crowd, but he was also ministering to the individuals; the parts who made up the whole. There was one chronically lame man in this large crowd who Paul observed intently and saw that he had faith to be healed (Acts 14.9). Paul was paying attention. To the crowd. And to the one man.

The first step to being mindful of others is to see Jesus. “…we wish to see Jesus” (Jn. 12.21). “But we see Jesus…” (Heb. 2.9). “…looking unto Jesus…” (Heb. 12.2).

And seeing Him, we are encouraged to see others: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Ps. 27.13). “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Ps. 36.9).

The best way to see Jesus, so we can ultimately see others, is through His Word: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119.18). “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119.130).

There are many people in our Personal Mission Field who need us to see them, and to share the Good News with them.

We must never be so focused on a crowd, a small group, a task, or a cause (even seemingly good ones) that we ignore an individual in need. The program is never more important than the person!

Jesus told us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13.34, 35). See them. Love them. Minister to them.

And together we “shall see His face…” (Rev. 22.4)

For reflection

1. It’s easy to get discouraged in sharing the Good News. What can you do to make sure you are daily renewed for this calling?

2. People who do not believe are blinded by their worldview. What does this mean for us as believers in trying to witness to them?

3. How can you be renewed in your love for Jesus every day?

The apostles teach them with these specific words, lest glory along with worship and adoration be conferred on themselves rather than to God, who alone is a help in times of need, and lest we worship any human being in place of God, that is, lest we place our confidence in the favor and power, intercession or restoration of some saint. Konrad Pelikan (1478-1556), Commentary on Acts 14:14.4

Pray Psalm 115.12-18.
Thank God for the many blessings He bestows upon you day by day. Call on Him to increase your faith, to have a greater vision of His sovereign exaltation over the world, and to be ready to praise, thank, and bear witness to Him throughout this day.

Sing Psalm 115.12-18.
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Blessings from our gracious Lord – ever to Your Name be glory –
will attend us evermore – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless all who fear You, Lord, all who obey Your Word,
all who Your Name adore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Grant us, Savior, great increase – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless us with eternal peace – ever to Your Name be glory!
Heaven and earth are Yours; let every soul adore
and bless You evermore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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