Does Acts 13:48 Teach Unconditional Election

For the last several months I have been preaching a sermon series on the Book of Acts and I recently finished a message on Acts 13. As I neared the end of the chapter, I was reminded of one of the “proof texts” Calvinists often use to point toward the doctrine that many refer to as “Unconditional Election.” Acts 13:48 says, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”[1] (emphasis mine) During my message, I briefly dealt with the issue of Unconditional Election, promising my congregation that I would deal with this text in more detail in a future message. This article is birthed out of my desire to help people clearly see the error of “Unconditional Election” and why Acts 13:48 cannot be used to teach this doctrine. While I do not want to disparage my Calvinist brothers and sisters, I believe that it is imperative that we not shy away from difficult passages of Scripture that have been misunderstood and misinterpreted to teach something about God the Scriptures do not teach. God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). All of humanity has intrinsic value and worth and I do not believe He has left anyone out of His redemptive plan. Although not all will be saved, I believe everyone can be (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10), through the provision of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

For those of you who may not be familiar with what Calvinists believe, Calvinism can be summed up with five basic points that can be remembered using the acrostic TULIP:

  • T-Total Depravity
  • U-Unconditional Election
  • L-Limited Atonement
  • I-Irresistible Grace
  • P-Perseverance of the Saints

In future messages and articles, I plan to deal with the other four points of Calvinism, but for sake of space and time I will only be focusing on the doctrine of “Unconditional Election” and why I believe it is incompatible with Acts 13:48 and the rest of Scripture.

Before going any further I would like to introduce you to one of the best explanations regarding election that I have ever read. W. W. Klein does a masterful job explaining the two main views of election in an article he wrote for the Faithlife Study Bible. Klein notes that election refers to God’s choice of who to redeem and restore through Christ. In his article he also points out the difference between corporate and individual election. Corporate election refers to God’s choice of Abraham and his descendants being His chosen people and the one’s through which the Messiah would be born. This corporate election did not guarantee the salvation of every Jew, because they still needed to have a heart commitment of faith toward God (Isaiah 29:13). He then talks about the New Testament shift in which God’s chosen are no longer identified by ethnic characteristics but rather by faith in God and His redemptive plan (Romans 2:28-29). Both Jews and Gentiles could become the true children of Abraham (John 8:38-40, 56-59; Romans 4:16-17). Klein goes on to say…

Historically, nearly all Christian interpreters have agreed that God’s electing choice flows entirely from His grace, that human beings are moral agents responsible for our actions, and that personal participation in the community of the elect is by faith. But interpreters fall into two major approaches to the question of how God’s electing purpose comes to expression in the salvation of individuals: what might be called election unto faith versus election in view of faith. Are people believers because they are elect, or are they elect because they believe?

Many interpreters (like Augustine and Calvin) have understood the biblical data on election to mean that God has chosen to save an unknown number of specific individuals from the deserved consequences of all humanity’s sin—a choice based solely on God’s undeserved mercy. Because people are dead in sin if left to themselves, they cannot and will not embrace God’s gift of salvation apart from God’s own enabling power (Rom 3:9–19; John 10:26–29). God supplies His elect with a gracious and undeserved capacity to believe; election is unto faith, since faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:4–9).

Many other interpreters (like Arminius and Wesley) have understood the biblical data differently, taking it to mean that God does not elect unto faith, but desires to give all people equally the ability to receive His offer of salvation (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9) Everyone who believes is (therefore) included among the chosen…

Whichever approach is taken, the biblical theme of election should lead all believers to praise God, like Paul does, for graciously choosing—even before the foundation of the world—to love us and save us in Christ (Eph 1:4–5; 2:14–22; emphasis mine).[2]

There you have it. A summary of the two views on election. Calvinists believe that God elected certain people to faith, while I believe that we are elected based upon our faith. It is vitally important to understand faith is a gift from God, however, Arminians do not believe this is an “irresistible gift” as Calvinists would teach. We believe this gift can be thrust aside and that’s exactly what many of the Jews did in Acts 13:46. Jesus references a similar rejection in Matthew 23:37 when He said, “’O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” [3] (emphasis mine). To further demonstrate the Calvinist’s take on election and irresistible grace I would like to quote a very well known, and well-respected Calvinist of our day, John Piper:

Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness.

We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith, for example, in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross, and then gives us spiritual life through irresistible grace, and brings us to faith.

Acts 13:48 reports how the Gentiles responded to the preaching of the gospel in Antioch of Pisidia. “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Notice, it does not say that as many believed were chosen to be ordained to eternal life. It says that those who were ordained to eternal life (that is, those whom God had elected) believed. God’s election preceded faith and made it possible. This is the decisive reason some believed while others did not (emphasis mine). [4]

I want to let John Piper’s words speak for themselves. Note that he says in the first paragraph above, “Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save.” He says there is NO condition man must meet, but in the next paragraph he admits that “We must meet the condition of faith…but faith is not a condition for election.” In summary, Calvinists, like Piper would teach that God arbitrarily elects according to His own good pleasure and for His glory those He will redeem and then gives the elect irresistible grace and brings them to faith.  In the last paragraph he then proceeds to share one of the proof texts that Calvinists often point out to demonstrate their belief in unconditional election—Acts 13:48.

In the MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur, another well-known Calvinist, says that Acts 13:48 is, “One of Scripture’s clearest statements on the sovereignty of God in salvation. God chooses man for salvation, not the opposite.”[5] In his commentary on the book of Acts, Danny Dwyer, also reiterates the fact that Calvinists use this Scripture as one of their proof texts regarding Unconditional Election. Dwyer notes:

Calvinists hold that [this verse] confirms the teaching of sovereign election in the choice of people who are saved by the “sovereign good pleasure of God” (Berkhof). John Calvin states, “For this particular ordaining can only be understood of the eternal purpose of God…for He does not choose us after we have believed; but He seals His adoption, which was hidden, by the gift of faith in our hearts.” Calvinists therefore hold that some in Antioch had been elected to be saved by sovereign decree in eternity past and now they acted in faith as decreed…[6]

The questions Arminians must answer is, “Does Acts 13:48 teach Unconditional Election as many of the Calvinists so adamantly teach? If not, what is the correct interpretation and application of this passage of Scripture?” As with any passage of Scripture we must understand the context of the passage in order to understand its interpretation and application.

Acts 13 begins with the church in Antioch responding to the Holy Spirit’s direction to set Barnabas and Saul (Paul) apart for a specific work (v. 2). This is what we would come to know as their first missionary journey. On their journey, they take the Gospel to various places including the island of Cyprus. While there, they share the Gospel and are confronted with two distinct responses: Barjesus, also known as Elymas, seeks to turn Sergius Paulus from the faith (v. 8), but despite the opposition, Sergius Paulus responds with faith (v. 12). After leaving Cyprus, their journey eventually takes them to Antioch in Pisidia (v. 14) and, as would become their custom, they first take the Gospel to the Jews in the synagogue (v. 15).

Paul addresses those who are in the synagogue and speaks to two distinct groups of people: (1) the “Men of Israel” and (2) “you who fear God” (v. 16). He refers to these two groups again in verse 26: (1) “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,” and (2) “those among you who fear God.” The distinction is made for a third time in verse 43 as Luke, the writer of Acts, demonstrates the two groups of people who had been listening to Paul’s message: (1) “Jews” and (2) “devout converts to Judaism.” It is important to establish the fact that there are not only Jews in the audience, but there are also Gentiles there who have embraced the God of the Old Testament by faith. They are referred to as individuals who “fear God” and who are “devout converts to Judaism.”

As Paul shared the word of the Lord the following Sabbath, the crowd has swelled in size (v. 44). This sent the unbelieving Jews into a jealous frenzy and they began contradicting Paul’s message and slandering him (v. 45). Paul and Barnabas responded to their vicious attacks by accusing them of rejecting God’s Word. As a result, their message would now focus on the other group of people, the Gentiles (vv. 46-47). This, of course, excited the Gentile believers because it reminded them they could be grafted into the family of God by faith (v. 48). Verse 48 reads this way in the ESV, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.[7] (emphasis mine)

To clearly understand what is being taught in this passage, it is important to answer two questions about this verse: (1) What did Paul mean by the word “appointed,” and (2) who was being appointed? In his commentary on the book of Acts Dr. Dwyer deals with the meaning of the word:

The Greek word translated [appointed] (Greek tetagmenoi) is a perfect passive participle and is taken from a military term meaning “to appoint, arrange, position, or assign” …Brian Abasciano argues strong for the translation “were disposed”…[8]

Greek scholar, Dr. Robert Picirilli, seems to agree with Abasciano’s assessment. He adds:

Even in the English language a passive voice verb can be used with such a ‘middle’ sense, having no reference at all to some agent other than oneself. Thus we say, for example, ‘I am disposed’ to do something or other, or ‘I am inclined’ to act in a certain way, and we do not mean that someone else has disposed or inclined us…There is no convincing reason, then, to think that Acts 13:48 means that God had already ordained or appointed to eternal life those who were saved by faith in Antioch.[9]

With that said, Acts 13:48b could be rightly translated, “and as many as were already inclined to eternal life believed.” Who would have been the individuals “already inclined to eternal life”? In my opinion, it was the Gentiles who were already known as those who “fear God” (vv. 16, 26) and who were “devout converts to Judaism” (v. 43). Therefore, we have answered the two questions referred to above.

Calvinists believe, however, that God elects people to faith, rather than electing people because of their faith. They not only believe in total depravity, but they also believe in fallen man’s total inability to respond to the Gospel. In the same article referred to earlier, Piper said, “all of us are so depraved that we cannot come to God without being born again by the irresistible grace of God.” Calvinists believe that man must be regenerated before they can believe. They assume that being “dead in trespasses and in sins” (Ephesians 2:1) is the same as total inability to respond to the preached word and the drawing of the Holy Spirit. That’s why Piper went on to say, “Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So, there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness.” (emphasis mine) Arminians would agree that lost mankind cannot respond to God apart from the Word (see Romans 10:14-17) and the influence of the Holy Spirit (see John 6:44). Forlines admits, “In both cases, the human personality exercises faith by divine aid. In Calvinism, the divine aid is regeneration by the Holy Spirit. In Arminianism, the divine aid is the drawing and assisting power of the Holy Spirit.”[10] However, as stated above the drawing of the Holy Spirit can be resisted and thrust aside.

One of the clearest passages to me, that demonstrates the ability of man to respond to the Word of God and the drawing of the Holy Spirit prior to regeneration is found in Acts 28:23-28:

When they had appointed a day for [Paul], they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening [Paul] expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “ ‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”[11] (emphasis mine)

After Paul expounds to them the “kingdom of God” and seeks to “convince them about Jesus” from the Law and the Prophets (v. 23), some were “convinced” and others “disbelieved” (v. 24). As Paul contemplated the results of his message, he was reminded of a passage from the Old Testament book of Isaiah (see again vv. 26-28 from the above passage). Why would they never understand? Was it because of their total inability due to their deadness? Was it because they were not elected to faith? No! It was because their hearts had “grown dull.” If we assume that being spiritually “dead” and being totally depraved means total inability to respond to the Gospel and the drawing of the Holy Spirit then why would Isaiah say their hearts had “grown dull.” The reason they had become calloused to the truth is because they had RESISTED the Word and the working of the Holy Spirit. They closed their eyes (v. 27). Yes, they were depraved, and yes, they were “spiritually dead” but they still had the capacity to respond to the truth and the working of the Holy Spirit. As a result of their resistance, their eyes were being blinded to the truth (see also 2 Corinthians 4:4…why would the “god” of this world seek to blind people’s eyes to the truth if they are so dead they are unable to respond?). In contrast, what would have happened if they had positively responded to the Gospel? Verse 27 makes it clear: “…lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them (emphasis mine).”

I do not believe Acts 13:48 is a good passage of Scripture to teach Unconditional Election. For that matter, I do not believe Unconditional Election is taught anywhere in Scripture when God’s Word is rightly understood in its context.

In conclusion I would like to present to you what Dr. Picirilli refers to as “The Arminian Doctrine of Election”:

  • Election is Christocentric…Christ (not election per se) is the foundation of the church; salvation is by Christ (not by election, except as election is an expression of God’s love in Christ); the gospel is about Christ (not about God’s decree of election). God saw man as lost, He said: “I will make my Son a mediator and love men in Him.”
  • Election is personal and individual. This is not to deny that there is such a thing, in the Bible, as national election or election to particular roles of service. But these are not election to salvation…What Arminius taught was election of individuals as believers, but individuals nevertheless.
  • Election is eternal. God’s will to save (which includes both determining what the condition is and knowing who will meet it and electing to save them) is as eternal as He is…Arminius…defined election as the decree of God by which He determined from all eternity to justify believers (emphasis mine).
  • Election is conditional. This is Arminian’s main point of departure from Calvinism…faith is the “condition” for election. For Arminius, if salvation is by faith, then election is by faith. If salvation is conditional, election is…God’s eternal decisions are made without any conditions imposed on Him. He has unconditionally decreed a conditional election, electing people as believers (emphasis mine).[12]

Conditional election is decreed by God, not by man, therefore it does not in any way deny His sovereignty. God is sovereign, but in His sovereignty, He has chosen to give man a limited free will. Part of the free will that he has given mankind allows them to choose to respond positively to His revelation and working of the Holy Spirit or to cast it aside and refuse it.

Regardless of what you believe, I think every believer, whether Calvinist or Arminian can agree with the assessment given earlier by W. W. Klein. I would like to end this article with a portion of his words as quoted previously:

Historically, nearly all Christian interpreters have agreed that God’s electing choice flows entirely from His grace, that human beings are moral agents responsible for our actions, and that personal participation in the community of the elect is by faith…

Whichever approach is taken, the biblical theme of election should lead all believers to praise God, like Paul does, for graciously choosing—even before the foundation of the world—to love us and save us in Christ.[13] (emphasis mine)

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 13:48). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Klein, W. W. (2012, 2016). Election. In Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 23:37). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism

[5] MacArthur, John. (1997). Brief commentary on Acts 13:48 in The MacArthur Study Bible, Nashville, Word Publishing.

[6] Dwyer, Danny L. (2018). p. 207. The Randall House Bible Commentary: Acts, Nashville, Randall House.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 13:48). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] Dwyer, p. 208.

[9] Picirilli, Robert E. (2017) p. 115-116. Free Will Revisited: A Respectful Response to Luther, Calvin and Edwards, Wipf & Stock.  

[10] Forlines, F. Leroy (2011) p. 121. Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation. Nashville: Randall House.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 28:23–28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] Picirilli, Robert, E. (2002) pp. 49-54. Grace, Faith, Free Will: Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism & Arminianism, Nashville: Randall House.

[13] Klein.

Open Their (Our) Hearts

In Acts 16 we read an interesting statement which is found in v. 14: “The Lord opened her (Lydia’s) heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

We find that Lydia was a “worshiper of God” and was a business lady whom Paul crossed paths with. However, she had not been baptized and possibly had not clearly understood the Gospel up to this point. It is obvious that God was working in her heart, drawing her to Himself and had set up this divine appointment with the Apostle Paul.

The word here for worship means to: “hold something in high respect, to adore and to revere.” (http://biblesuite.com/greek/4576.htm) However, it seems there was something still missing in Lydia’s life. It is possible she had yet to understand the message about the “Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.” Regardless of what was missing, she had responded to God in love and faith and God responds to her in ensuring she hears the Truth.

Scripture tells us that God opened her heart so she could pay attention to what was being said by Paul. The word “open” has a couple of different connotations. First it carries with it the idea of “opened up fully.” However, it can go much deeper than that and can also mean “to rouse in one the faculty of understanding or the desire of learning.” (http://biblesuite.com/greek/1272.htm)

My question to us is this: “What if God would do the same thing in the hearts of everyone that will be sitting under Gospel preaching on Sunday? What if God would do the same thing every time we pick up His Word and read it? What if God would do the same thing every time we share the Gospel with a lost soul?”

The God who loved Lydia is the same God who loves the souls in your family and mine, in your congregation and mine, and in your city and mine. Sure, we need more Lydia’s who will respond to the light they have, but we also need more messengers like Paul who will faithfully proclaim God’s Word and be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.

Would YOU join me in prayer for the countless confused and/or misinformed souls that will have an opportunity to hear God’s precious Word? Let’s pray together that God would “open their hearts to pay attention to what is said from God’s Word.” God’s Word is Truth and it is the Truth that sets people free! Faith comes through hearing and hearing from the Word of God!

Prayer: “Father, I come to YOU today and I ask that YOU would open the hearts of everyone who will sit in the pews of Flagship Church and every church that preaches the Gospel tomorrow. Open their mind and the window of their soul to YOUR Truth. Give them understanding of YOUR great love for them and YOUR desire to save their souls and reconcile them to YOURSELF. Give to them a desire to learn YOUR Word and YOUR ways. Give us men like the Apostle Paul who will faithfully discharge their duty to be ambassadors for Christ in their Jerusalem, their Judea, their Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. Encourage the laymen and laywomen with the Truth that YOUR Word can change lives for eternity. Finally Lord, though we may know YOU as Savior and Lord our hearts need to remain open as well. Please keep us tender and sensitive to the leading of YOUR Holy Spirit, the Truth of Scripture and the power of the Gospel.

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Perception

Too many times we are consumed with perception. Don’t get me wrong. The way people perceive us is important. After all, as Christ followers we are the ambassadors of Christ and His representatives to a lost and sin sick world. Therefore, it is important to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (see Matthew 5:14-16).

However, there is a difference between letting our light shine through our good works and putting on a show. If we are really surrendered to Christ and are walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) there will be a natural overflow of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). When we walk by faith and in humility, surrendered to God’s Word, then what God is doing in us will be reflected through us!

We need to keep in mind that even in the Christian the flesh is still driven to perform. The flesh produces jealously (Galatians 5:17-20) and pride. As a matter of fact Paul asks the Galatians in chapter three “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3). Sometimes we are erroneously convinced that God’s power saves us by grace through faith, but somehow we then are to live the victorious Christian life through our flesh and “trying harder.” Our flesh may be jealous of the Spirit’s power and capability and the great deceiver plays upon that weakness, encouraging us to live the Christian life in our own power. After all we’ve got to keep up the perception that we are good Christians.

This is exactly what we see happening in Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira were very interested in being perceived as dedicated, sacrificial Christ followers. They obviously had close ties to the church because they were aware that others were selling their possessions and giving to the church and others in need (see Acts 4:34-37). They decided to come up with a scheme to be perceived as a part of this generous group. They decided they would sell a portion of their property, bring a portion of it to the church and secretly keep a portion for themselves. They did not have to sell their land (Acts 5:4a). The problem was not they kept a portion for themselves (Acts 5:4b). The problem was they wanted to be perceived as a Christ follower who had given it all even though they had not!

Christians still have a battle with the flesh. We no longer have to be controlled by the flesh and we can reckon our flesh to be dead through the power of Christ, but if we are not extremely careful it will raise its ugly head time and time again to trip us up. It will even lead us to do the right thing for the wrong reason or seek to get us to try to do the right thing in our own power and energy. The enemy knows this leads to failure and frustration and may eventually lead us down a road of such despondent failure that we just walk out on the possibility of living in victory at all.

Yes, we should want to be perceived as people who bring God the glory. However, we all need to understand how God is brought the glory! He is not brought the glory by anything we can accomplish in the power and the energy of the flesh. Our righteousness adds up to nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We bring God the glory when we let His supernatural power work in and through us to do things that point others to how awesome He is!

Jesus went on to remind His followers in John 15:5 that the key to producing fruit was not in “trying harder” or “doing better” but rather was simply found in abiding in Him. If we want to give the perception that we are Christ followers, then through His grace and power of the Holy Spirit we must simply follow Him. If we want to produce fruit, then we must simply through His grace rest in and abide in Him and His power. If we want to be perceived as Spirit-filled people then we must through His grace walk in His Spirit step by step.

Your flesh will always be there to try to trip you up. It will always seek to get you to live the Christian life in your own strength. It will lead you to depend upon the arm of the flesh, but the arm of the flesh will always fail!

I’m not sure what the Holy Spirit would have led Ananias and Sapphira to do had they been following His leadership. But whatever it was, it would have been something that glorified God, not Ananias and Sapphira! It would have been something that said, “Look at what GOD is doing in and through their life,” rather than, “Look at what they are doing for God.”

Yes, perception is important. But the right perception can only be produced through following and being surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit working within.

Don’t Give Up

In the latter part of Luke 18 we read about a blind beggar sitting near the roadside asking for help. In those days many people who were crippled or blind were at the mercy of others. Government assistance was non-existent, and if their families did not or could not care for them they often resorted to a life of begging.

We can only imagine the desperation that must have been in this man’s heart as he heard that Jesus was passing by. It is obvious that somewhere along the way he had heard of this man who touched blinded eyes, made the lame walk again, and was offering hope to the hopeless.

Scripture tells us that he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” However, the crowd wasn’t very merciful to him. The crowd told him to be quiet. The crowd told him to stop. To the crowd he was simply a nuisance and a bother.

But he wasn’t going to let the crowd keep him from calling out to Jesus. The Bible says that he cried out even more. His concern was not the crowd, his concern was Christ! He was not going to be quiet until he heard from Jesus. Even though he couldn’t seen Jesus, he believed that Jesus was his only hope, and the solution for his blindness.

Jesus is attracted to our weakness. He doesn’t walk by and ignore the cry of faith and desperation. He is the Great Physician, not only for our bodies, but most importantly for our souls. He is waiting to show Himself strong on our behalf.

Jesus stops and heals the man. However, the man’s life is never the same. His faith in Christ not only allowed his sight to return, but it also brought reconciliation in his soul. Jesus said that his “faith had made him well.”

When he left that day he didn’t forget what Christ had done. He didn’t use Jesus as a “spare tire” to get what he wanted out of Him and then forget about Him. He left that day glorifying God! This miracle, and his response to it, caused others to give praise to God as well.

Regardless of what voices are telling you that “waiting on the Lord” is just a waste of time…don’t give up.

Regardless of who is telling you that you are beyond help and beyond hope…don’t give up…turn to Jesus.

Regardless of where the circumstances of life may bring you…don’t give up…through a personal relationship with Christ you know that He is right there with you!

In the words of Winston Churchill, “never give up!”

Short Term Mission Trip–What to Expect

Ok we are going on a mission trip this summer! Yeah! Here is what to expect:

  • We aren’t going to have enough people so pray for more
  • Expect to be bullied, harassed, attacked, injured and to possibly die
  • You cannot bring:
    • Extra Money
    • Extra Clothes
    • Cell Phone
    • Toiletries
    • Electronic Devices
  • You will eat and live with total strangers
  • You are going to be expected to preform miracles

So who wants to sign up?

I’m not sure how many parents will sign the permission slip for this one! For that matter how many adults would be willing to go?

This is the short term mission trip requirements found in Luke 10:1-12. Jesus was going to send out 72 people (36 teams of two). However, He indicates there are still more people needed, so the first matter of business for his recruits is to PRAY! The same is still true for those who are interested in taking short term mission trips today. Prayer is vital. If you are planning a short term mission trip bathe it in prayer. Bathe the participants in prayer, bathe the city in prayer and bathe those who you are going to minister to in prayer!

Secondly, Jesus lets them know that He is sending them out “as lambs in the midst of wolves” (v. 3). All they that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. For most of us and for most of the mission teams that we host in America, that simply means someone saying, “I’m not interested…get off my property, etc.” However, what if it meant more? Are we any better than the martyrs who willingly shed their blood to take the Gospel to the heathen? Make sure your mission team knows there will be opposition and prepare them to face that opposition with a Christ-like spirit.

Thirdly, Jesus instructed them not to carry any excess and to depend upon Him to provide them with a place to stay and food to eat (vv. 4, 7). I’m not suggesting you go on your next mission trip without any hotel reservations, money or food. However, pray for creative ways to help your group learn to depend on God to do something great! Jesus wanted these 72 disciples to strip away any dependence they had upon themselves and their belongings and depend wholly upon Him! Find a way to let this trip become a way to put God to the test (not tempt Him, but rather test Him…see Malachi 3:10).

Fourthly, Christ enabled them to have the power to heal the sick (v. 9). Though God still heals, these apostolic sign gifts are not for us today. However, if a mission trip does not have the supernatural touch of God upon it, what spiritual mission has it accomplished? Let this be a time when those who are involved depend upon the power of Christ to get out of their comfort zone! This summer, one young man had never taught a lesson before. However, he was willing to do so and the Lord used him to share the Gospel and a young man received Christ as his Savior! In a sense this young man was a vessel whom God used to bring healing (spiritual healing) to this lost soul!

If Jesus’ invitation were extended to your church or mine in hopes to recruit a short term mission team the volunteers may be few. However, the harvest is still plentiful and we need to pray that the Lord of the harvest would continue to send forth the laborers into His harvest field!

Is Anything Too Hard for God?

The atmosphere was electric. Herod was being praised, the unbelieving Jews were thirsty for more blood and Peter happened to be a convenient scapegoat. This is the summary of Acts 12:1-4. Peter has been arrested, and he is surrounded by 16 well trained soldiers in a locked prison behind a locked gate. Surely his destiny is sealed and all hope is gone. It would take a miracle…it would take divine intervention for Peter to walk out of this prison a free man. However, that’s exactly what happened. Notice verse 5 of Acts 12 and notice the word “but”-

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

The word “but” in the preceding verse is a word of contrast. It links the impossible situation to the improbable solution. That solution is prayer to God! Notice several things with me today:

What Did They Do–They Prayed!

There are many things they could have done. They could have went to Herod’s palace and tried to come up with a solution. They could have tried some type of attack on the prison to set Peter free. They could have given up hope and just walked away. However they chose to PRAY!

Secondly notice:

How Did They Pray–They Prayed Earnestly!

The word “earnest” is an adjective that means “stretched out.” The KJV translates this word “without ceasing.” However, it means more than just a prayer that is stretched out in length. It is a prayer that is stretched out in intensity and earnestness.

Picture a family surrounding the bed of an accident victim and they have just been told their loved one will not make it through the night unless a miracle takes place. Imagine the “intense and earnest prayer” that may go on as a result. This is the picture we have here. They did not recite a meaningless prayer, but they cried out to God with a broken heart.

Thirdly:

Who Did They Pray For–They Prayed for Peter!

They were interceding on Peter’s behalf. They realized he was in prison and realized that in a matter of hours he would probably be dead. However, we understand that because of Peter’s faith in Christ, his execution would only land him in Heaven.

We all know of people who are in far worse prisons than what Peter found himself in. They are in a spiritual prison. They may be in a prison of drugs, alcohol, greed or some other thing that Satan is using to blind them to the Truth of the Gospel.

If the early church was willing to have a passionate prayer meeting for a Christian, how much more should we pray for those who do not know the hope they can have in Christ.

We also see:

Who They Prayed To-They Prayed to God

They did not pray to Herod.

They did not pray to saints.

They prayed directly to God.

They did not go to God as a last resort, but rather a first resort!

Finally:

Who Prayed–The Church Prayed

The church is not brick, mortar, pews or windows. The church are those who have placed their faith in Christ and have been adopted into the family of God.

Because of sin we cannot expect God to hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:1-2). However, when we trust Christ to forgive us and cleanse us of our sin we have access to God through prayer! The reason we have this access is because of our mediator–Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).

If you read the rest of the story you find out that God did intervene on Peter’s behalf. God opened the door to Peter’s freedom and allowed him to continue to live.

I do not know what type of prison you or your loved ones may be facing today. However, I know that Jesus Christ holds the keys and can set you free to enjoy the life He has planned for you!