14 December 2007

Acts 13:16-33a

"So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: 'You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen.'" (v.16)


Paul is given an opportunity to speak in the familiar surroundings of a synagogue (a Jewish place of worship). This was a place and a people he was trained to address with skill. Paul demonstrates his Jewish heritage as a man who knows the God of Israel and now, the God of Jesus Christ.

With eloquence he retells the significant events and people in the story of Israel. Rather than dismissing the dearly held beliefs of his audience, Paul uses them as the foundation for the gospel message. He convinces with his wisdom and that day, many Jews became Christian. Not all however - by the end of the chapter Paul and his companion Barnabas were expelled from the region.

This passage brings great hope for those who believe that God does not remain confined to one story or tradition but constantly encounters new generations in fresh and creative ways. Even though Paul's preaching did not change every Jewish heart that day, some were able to see that the God who had guided them and their ancestors was the same God who now continued to change the course of history in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Those faithful to a traditional Church can take courage from this story. The way of the Lord is often in places of familiarity, which can be the hardest to accept change of all. Paul did not change every heart, but throughout his ministry, he proclaimed the good news of Jesus enough to make sure the gospel flourished in the Jewish tradition from which it sprang.

To Ponder

What reluctance do you find in your church or circuit to embrace new things? Where do you think this reluctance comes from?

What can you do to encourage people to look to what God has in mind next?

Bible notes author

Revd Matt Finch

Matt Finch is a Methodist Minister in the West Norfolk Circuit where he shares oversight of ten rural chapels. He is a Fresh Expressions Associate Missioner and passionate about seeing churches flourish in all contexts and people groups.