Wednesday 29th June 2022

ACTS 19

Today is also about discipleship, and what happens if it goes slightly wrong.  It also demonstrates that you cannot help but reproduce what you are in your disciples.  Paul had begun his third so-called ‘Missionary Journey’ and decided to take the inland route through Turkey to get to Ephesus on its west coast.  See map: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AqmXwc9NXEEFgZlyLjvj35k76eycgQ?e=vzqFXJ ).  He stumbled upon some disciples of Apollos and got into an interesting conversation with them.  It turned out that they were only ‘part-educated’, having been baptised only with John’s baptism and having not even heard of baptism into Christ or the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Who does that remind you of?  See Acts 18:24-25.  Apollos had been described in almost exactly the same words.  It would have been a huge coincidence if these men were not his disciples.  And the very first verse of Acts 19 even mentions Apollos’ name again.

So we see that our faulty or incomplete doctrine will produce disciples who have an incomplete experience of the Lord.  This is easily corrected as long as the disciple is also teachable.  Paul explained both the meaning of the Baptism of John and the need for Christian baptism, resulting in the in-filling of the Holy Spirit and their full inclusion in Christ.  This passage is often used erroneously to prove that conversion is always a ‘two-stage’ blessing; whereas the truth is that, if you respond fully in obedience to the gospel (including water baptism), you will receive every spiritual blessing all at once (see Ephesians 1:3).  The Holy Spirit is part of God’s salvation ‘package’ and is received by grace, through faith, just as everything else is.

Paul, as was his habit, first spend three months trying to persuade the religious people to accept their Messiah; some did, but many didn’t .  So he then left the synagogue and hired the nearby lecture hall of Tyrannus (a local celebrity philosopher).  Paul probably managed to get a cheap ‘booking’ during the middle of the day, when it was much too hot for philosophy!  He and his team ran discussions about the gospel for anyone and everyone who would drop in.  It was so successful that the series continued for two whole years!

Some extraordinary miracles occurred through Paul at this time (wouldn’t we be delighted with just some ordinary miracles!!) and an awareness of the supernatural fell on the whole population, who came to Christ in a huge revival, repenting of their occult practices and confessing their sins.  Sadly, not all the locals saw sense: there was a large-scale trade union movement in the city, a guild of craftsmen who made a great deal of money from selling trinkets and idols to the gullible worshippers of Artemis / Diana.  Paul’s success pointed to the probable failure of their businesses, so they rioted and threatened violence towards the Christian believers.  Even the City Clerk, a Roman appointee, thought that this was uncalled for!

1 KINGS 22

“Do not be unequally yoked” is a common phrase or concept in both Old and New Testaments.  It means not to involve yourself in any relationship or enterprise that may risk you compromising your own beliefs and values.  Well, the godly Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was invited to join forces with Ahab, king of Israel, in order to begin a military campaign whose objective was to retake Ramoth Gilead – an Israelite city across the Jordan – from the rule of Aram.  Foolishly, Jehoshaphat agreed, without counting the cost.  Later on, in 2 Chronicles 19:2, we see that God was very displeased with Jehoshaphat for doing this.  However, Jehoshaphat did have the sense to propose that they sought the Lord about the wisdom of fighting at all.  Somewhat grudgingly, Ahab agreed.

Ahab’s method of getting guidance was to ‘ask the audience’ – of a hundred-plus prophets who had close associations with Baal worship, and only nominal allegiance to the Lord.  Without the Spirit of God in them, their answer was both expedient and political: they told Ahab what they thought he wanted to hear.  A prophet whose main motivation is popularity is, by definition, no prophet!  “Go for it” – they chorused – “because the victory will be yours!” 

Maybe we could get an independent opinion, said Jehoshaphat, maybe even God’s view?  Ahab knew of just such a prophet, but was not happy, since nothing good was ever prophesied about Ahab himself; Jehoshaphat recognised the voice of God in this and persuaded Ahab to send for Micaiah.  When he arrived, either through fear or through sarcasm, he mimicked the false prophets’ message; even Ahab saw through that one!  “OK, tell me the truth” he insisted.

Micaiah had seen the court of heaven, with the Judge on the Throne; he delivered heaven’s verdict on the forthcoming battle: defeat for Israel and death for Ahab.  He also revealed that God had allowed a deceiving spirit to infiltrate the ranks of the false prophets and put the false message into their mouths.  Despite hearing this prophecy, Ahab and Jehoshaphat went ahead with the campaign, although Ahab disguised himself and left Jehoshaphat as the more vulnerable king.

In the battle, God protected Jehoshaphat and a ‘random’ arrow shot hit Ahab in the only part of his armour that was vulnerable.  What we describe as random is actually the will of the Lord; there is no such thing as ‘random’ to Him.  So Ahab died and his son, Ahaziah, succeeded him.  He was a ‘chip off the old block’ as far as character and religion were concerned; he did evil and he worshiped evil.

Jehoshaphat continued his reign in Judah, mainly acting to please the Lord, but sometimes forming unwise alliances for trading or military purposes.  Again, let us be warned that unequal yoking can undermine a godly character and derail a positive lifestyle.

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