Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’ 

© November 4, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 4, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain; Choruses                            

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                          

Responsive Reading #662: Freedom from Sin (Romans 5 and 6)                           

Message by Steve Mickelson:  

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’  

                                

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the first Sunday of November 2018. For those of you gathered here this morning, congratulations for having set your clocks back an hour, in order to make the change from Daylight Savings to Standard time. Please be kind to those who arrive in an hour, as they may have forgotten about the time change. Today, being the first Sunday of the month makes it a Communion Sunday. We invite all present, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God died on the cross to pay the penalty for our, to join us in partaking the elements of Communion. There is no BLCF Church membership requirement to take Communion, only the conviction that Christ, Jesus is Lord and Saviour, who died for your sins, rose from the grave by the power of the Spirit, ascended to heaven, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our companion, forever.

When we talk about taking Communion, we remember the sacrifice of the Lord, whose death on the cross resulted in the forgiveness of all sin, allowed us, by way of faith, the means to avoid the judgment for sin. Jesus came not to fulfill the Law, but to fulfill the judgment mandated by the law, by surrendering his life as a payment for the death judgment awaiting us all.

In John 8, verses 1-11, we have an account how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman, caught in the act of adultery, asking Jesus how they should deal with her crime, as the Law stipulated death by stoning. This was intended to be not only a test of Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew Law and the consequences one may expect for violating it. Let us begin today’s lesson reading this passage from John’s Gospel:

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

These eleven verses, from the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, provide us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding how violation of the Law, in this case, the seventh of the ten itemized in Exodus 20. In this case Exodus 20:14, 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

The woman had broken the Law and the scribes, Pharisees, and others gathered expected a pronouncement of death to the woman. This was the same judgment that the people of Israel expected when Moses brought the Laws from God down from the mountain, Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV):

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[a] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Exodus 20:18 Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Masoretic Text the people saw

These Laws came from God to instill a respect of God’s ordinances, and an avoidance of sin by the people, so as to not have Him render judgment upon them. But the people feared that if they heard God speak to them, that they will surely die. The Law was intended to guide the people on a righteous path of behaviour, to demonstrate their love for God and for others.

In the case of Jesus and the adulteress, Jesus indicated that no man or woman is innocent of sin, and therefore none are qualified to act as judge and executioner. That is God’s privy, and as such, He alone has the authority to render judgment or its consequences upon sinners. This does not mean that there won’t be any judgment for violation of the Law, which will be rendered by God, alone.

Did scribes and Pharisees take the words of our Lord to heart? Apparently not, as we see the actions taken against the Apostle Stephen, whom Christian scholars are considered to be the first Christian martyr, as we see in this account taken from Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 7:54-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes:a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Though Jesus had been sent to pay the penalty for sin, we that human tendency to sin had not eliminated. Though Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, in that he saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God, the Father, the lord did not intervene. Stephen’s last words before he died were a plea to the Lord not to hold the sin of murder against them. You may note that watching the garments of the murderous mob, was a young man named Saul, better known as Saul of Tarsus.

Saul’s testimony on the matter is recorded in Acts 22:1-21:

Acts 22:1-21 (ESV)

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b.Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

We see that before his conversion Saul had busied himself by rounding up and persecuting Christians. And in the process of one of the first persecutions, Saul witnessed Stephen’s death by stoning while he stood by watching over the garments of the members of the crowd who killed the Apostle.

But why was there no judgment from God against Saul or the mob who had murdered Stephen?  God had no plans for members of the mob in general, he did have plans for Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, after his conversion. We see the degree of conviction demonstrated in Paul’s testimony, expressed in the following epistle addressed by the Apostle to members of the Church in Rome, see Romans 10:9-10:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Paul said that salvation comes to those who confess that Jesus is Lord, whom God raised from the dead. This confession comes not from a fear of a judgment by God, but a belief in the heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. We know from last week’s lesson, that the heart is associated with the intangible aspect of our beliefs, such as love, faith, and hope. With this belief, comes the tangible response of confession of our belief that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins. And from that expression of faith, God will respond to the tangible sacrifice made by His Son on the cross with the intangible actions of our own justification and salvation through Christ, which in turn leads to the tangible actions of our own resurrection and granted eternal life.

All of God’s actions come as an expression of God’s love for us for us and our love for Him. For only He is able to make manifest the tangible from the intangible, merely by His own Word.

Let us pray…

Responsive reading #663: Communion Observance (1 Corinthians 11)         

Closing Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction – (1 Timothy 1:17): 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Zacchaeus and Saul – A Tale of Two Callings

BLCF: footprints-in-sand-following-Jesus

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Zacchaeus and Saul – A Tale of Two Callings’

© August 21, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 21, 2016

BLCF: exercise your faith

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #662 (Freedom from Sin – Romans 5 and 6) Prayer; Prayer                                                                                           

Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken                                                                 

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Today’s Scriptures: Luke 19:1-10, Acts 22:6-21, 1 Timothy 1:12-20

Let us pray…

For today’s lesson, I would like to examine the similarities and differences between the accounts in the Scriptures of two individuals, Zacchaeus and Saul, whom were called by the Lord.

Our first account, about the conversion a tax collector named Zacchaeus, is found in Luke 19:1-10.

Luke 19:1-10 (ESV) Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

You will note that in order to satisfy the old Mosaic Law, Zacchaeus had to commit to give a fourfold restitution to those whom he had defrauded and give half of his material wealth to the poor.

In the above passage, Zacchaeus finds salvation through Jesus, and Christ acknowledges that he came to seek and save sinners, whom he calls “the lost.” Another example of Christ seeking to save a sinner is the account of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul, we see described in Acts 22:6-21.

 Acts 22:6-21 (ESV) Paul’s Testimony

Paul on the Road to Damascus

Paul on the Road to Damascus

 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

Both Zacchaeus and Saul worked as a tax collector and a persecutor of Christians, respectively. Zacchaeus was called by Jesus, before the Lord was crucified on the cross.

By contrast, Saul was called by the Lord, after Jesus had ascended to heaven, following the Lord’s resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And Saul, now known as Paul, not only received salvation from the Lord, he was baptized in Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit provided Paul, and other believers baptized in the Spirit, with the means of sharing the Gospel of Christ and defending the faith from those who oppose or reject the Word of God.

In his letter to Timothy, (1 Timothy 1:12-20), Paul explains why God chose to demonstrate the power and perfection of His love grace at work in his own life, as a proof and testimony to other sinners.

1 Timothy 1:12-20 (ESV) Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners

BLCF: devil_says_Jesus_says

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[a] Amen.

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Footnotes: a. 1 Timothy 1:17 Greek to the ages of ages

Paul’s conversion, from a life of sin to an Apostle of Christ, is significant because it impacts an individual, but how the Spirit empowers a believer to minister to an Empire and plant seeds of faith that impact the world. Here is a Wikibits biopic of the Apostle Paul, courtesy of about.com.

Apostle Paul

Get to Know the Apostle Paul, Once Saul of Tarsus

(From: christianity.about.com – Updated August 08, 2016)

BLCF: San_Paolo_St_Paul

The Apostle Paul, who started as one of Christianity’s most zealous enemies, was hand-picked by Jesus Christ to become the gospel’s most ardent messenger. Paul traveled tirelessly through the ancient world, taking the message of salvation to the Gentiles. Paul towers as one of the all-time giants of Christianity.

Apostle Paul’s Accomplishments

When Saul of Tarsus, who was later renamed Paul, saw the resurrected Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, Saul converted to Christianity. He made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians.

Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as the author of 13 of them. While he was proud of his Jewish heritage, Paul saw that the gospel was for the Gentiles as well. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans, about 64 or 65 A.D.

 http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/Apostle-Paul.htm

Let us pray…

 Closing Hymn #484: Pass it On

 Benediction – 2 Peter 1:2-3 (ESV):

 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence

Trusting, Serving and Sharing the Victory in Christ

BLCF: conversion_of_paul

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trusting, Serving and Sharing the Victory in Christ’ 

© May 18, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin May 18, 2014

 BLCF: 51_Psalm Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #605 (Prayer of Penitence – Psalm 51) Prayer  Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken                                                                        Scripture Verses: Psalm 51:1-17 and Acts 9:1-22

CreatInMe  

Let us pray… In our Lesson, Last Sunday, we examined how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was chosen because she had found favour with God and lived an exemplary life, not just as the mother of Jesus, but as a faithful disciple to the Lord as well. We also saw how the disciples hid in the Upper Room, until Jesus, on the evening of the day that he resurrected from the grave, came to give them his Commission and breathed upon them God’s Holy Spirit to enable them to achieve the goal. Still, one may question, whether Mary and the Apostles could be anything other than the best choice to trust and serve the Lord, as well as to share the gospel of Christ. And by asking this question, we, as every-day sinners, may seek to be excused from serving as the Lord’s apostles or messengers. This Sunday, let us look at how God chose, as His instrument, the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, an individual, who with the exception of the Emperor Nero, was considered the least likely candidate to become a preacher of Christ’s gospel. Let us briefly look at our Wiki bits for the background of Saul of Tarsus, who became the Christian Apostle, Paul:

BLCF" Acts_Map_Paul_to_Damascus

The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, was, according to the New Testament, an event that took place in the life of Paul the Apostle which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus. It is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36.[1][2][3] The phrases Pauline conversion, Damascene conversion and Damascus Christophany, and road to Damascus allude to this event. Within the New Testament, Paul’s conversion experience is discussed in both Paul’s own letters and in the book known by the title Acts of the Apostles. According to both sources, Paul was never a follower of Jesus and did not know Jesus before his crucifixion. Instead, he severely persecuted the early Christians. Although Paul refers to himself as an “Apostle” of Jesus, it is clear that Paul was not one of “The Twelve” apostles.[1 Cor. 9:1-2] Paul’s conversion occurred after Jesus’ crucifixion. The accounts of Paul’s conversion experience describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a “zealous” Pharisee who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus. Some scholars argue that Paul was a member of the “Zealot” party. Says Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians:

BLCF:apostle-paul

Galatians 1:13-14 (ESV)

13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. Paul also discusses his pre-conversion life in his Epistle to the Philippians,[3:4-6] and his participation in the stoning of Stephen is described in Acts 7:57-8:3. Acts of the Apostles discusses Paul’s conversion experience at three different points in the text, in far more detail than in the accounts in Paul’s letters. The book of Acts records that Paul was on his way from Jerusalem for Syrian Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, with the intention of returning them to Jerusalem as prisoners for questioning and possible execution. The journey is interrupted when Paul sees a blinding light, and communicates directly with a divine voice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_of_Paul_the_Apostle Looking at Saul’s background, we see that he was a citizen of Rome and Jewish, a Pharisee who was generally opposed to the teachings of the Way of Christ or Jesus’ gospel. In fact Saul of Tarsus was zealous persecutor of Christian believers, who was present at the killing of the Apostle Stephen, described in Acts 7:58-60.

BLCF:ThestoningofStStephenwithSaulofTars

Acts 7:58-60 (ESV) The Stoning of Stephen

58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Saul not only was present at the stoning of Stephen, as one who watched the garments of those who gathered to observe the execution. His role in the persecution of Christian believers and the ravaging the Christian Church was far darker than described in Acts 7, as we read in Acts 8:1-8.

BLCF:stephen_dead

Acts 8:1-8 (ESV) Saul Ravages the Church

8 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city[a] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. Footnotes: a. Acts 8:5 Some manuscripts a city In spite of their continued persecution, we see that the apostles, including Philip, continued to proclaim the gospel of Christ and to heal the afflicted in the name of the Lord, by the power of the Spirit. But on a journey on the Road to Damascus, Saul experienced a life-changing event: an encounter with the Lord, which is described in Acts 9:1-31.

BLCF: WINDOW DEPICTS CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL

Acts 9:1-31 (ESV) The Conversion of Saul

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

BLCF: animated-passion

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

BLCF: Paul_lowered_in_a_basket

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.

BCF: Jerusalem

Saul in Jerusalem

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Footnotes: a. Acts 9:23 The Greek word Ioudaioi refers specifically here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, who opposed the Christian faith in that time b. Acts 9:25 Greek through the wall c. Acts 9:29 That is, Greek-speaking Jews

BLCF: the_Apostle_Paul

 

This passage describes a vision within a vision: the Lord appears to the apostle Ananias to inform him about Saul, who in turn has been a vision that he, Ananias, would heal the blinded Saul by the laying of hands. Ananias’ reservations of having to deal with a man whose reputation was to bind all who profess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour is reduced when the Lord tells him that he has plans to use Saul as his instrument. “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. Ananias complies with Lord’s request by laying his hands upon Saul and saying: “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” You may recall from our lesson last week, that the Lord called those who were obedient to God, brothers and sisters. Reading further, we see that not only is Saul healed, but is baptised, not in water, but by the Holy Spirit: 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. We see that salvation by the Lord is not reserved solely to the good, the pious, or those who are favoured by God. We see that He has a purpose for those who oppose and persecute believers, as was the case of the persecutor Saul of Tarsus, who became transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, to the Apostle Paul. And Paul’s past actions as Saul became part of his confession and testimony as an apostle in Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

BLCF: 1Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV) The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6, 31, 50, 58

BLCF: confessing_sin

Saul of Tarsus, as a Roman Citizen(he ran a tent manufacturing business), a merchant, and a Pharisee was eminently qualified to travel throughout the Empire of Rome to interact freely with Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman, Citizen and King, to attack the Way of Christ movement, which was perceived as a threat to undermine the authority of Rome and the Jewish Faith. These same qualifications enabled the same man, now an Apostle of Christ, called Paul of Tarsus, to preach and minister, provide hope and healing, to spark faith and belief in the gospel of Jesus, as God’s instrument.

BLCF: imperfect_person_Perfect_God

 

I  would like to read: Psalm 51:1-17, as our closing prayer.

Let us pray… Psalm 51:1-17 (ESV) Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. 51 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,      according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy      blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,      and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions,      and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned      and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words      and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,      and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,      and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;      wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness;      let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins,      and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,      and renew a right[b] spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence,      and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,      and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,      and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,      O God of my salvation,      and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips,      and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;      you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;      a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Footnotes: a. Psalm 51:1 Or Be gracious to me b. Psalm 51:10 Or steadfast

Amen.

 

BLCF: Psalm51

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark (Pass It On)   

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

BLCF: justification

 BLCF: Oh_My_God_Jesus