Devotional Reading for June 15, 2022

Acts 5:1-16

Note here that the sin was not that Ananias and Sapphira kept some of the money for themselves. The sin was that they were pretending to give all the money to the church: “When it was sold, was the money not at your disposal?” They wanted accolades and praise while succumbing to greed and deception. Since the Holy Spirit indwells believers, and believers make up the church, they were testing the Spirit by lying to Him. Unfortunately for them, that same Spirit revealed to Peter exactly what was going on!

Peter says both “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” and “you have not lied to people but to God.” Most theologians believe that Peter is equating the Holy Spirit with God here, and this points to the reality of the Trinity. One God, existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Of course the Spirit would know what was going on!

Why was the penalty so harsh? This is apparently the first time something like this happened, and God deals with it immediately and with force. This is another indication that God’s presence is in and with the church. And he seems to be in and with the church is a special way at this time. The end result is that “great fear gripped the whole church and those who heard about these things.” The apostles continued to proclaim the gospel and display God’s power. People who believed joyfully joined them, while those who may at one point have pretended to be a part of their number stayed away out of fear (“none of the rest dared join them“). Nevertheless, the apostles were held in high honor, and people acknowledged the good they were doing by actively bringing people to be healed. Note that even though they brought people out so that Peter’s shadow would fall on them, it doesn’t say that they were actually healed! This is just another way that Peter and the apostles were held in honor.

The Christian church today often prays for revival. We want the signs, miracles, and conversions! But, as one author put it, “in the church where the lame walked liars died.” God’s power is not displayed without His holiness, and if we aren’t prepared to live in His holiness, we’d better fear rather than seek His power.

Devotional Reading for June 14, 2022

Acts 4:23-37

It’s important to note that the disciples look to the Scripture for guidance and encouragement. Told that the religious authorities said that they shouldn’t spread the gospel, they turn to Psalm 2:

Why do the nations rebel? Why are the countries devising plots that will fail? The kings of the earth form a united front; the rulers collaborate against the LORD and his anointed king. They say, ‘Let’s tear off the shackles they’ve put on us. Let’s free ourselves from their ropes.’ The one enthroned in heaven laughs in disgust; the Lord taunts them. Then he angrily speaks to them and terrifies them in his rage, saying, ‘I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.’ The king says, ‘I will announce the LORD’S decree. He said to me: ‘”You are my son. This very day I have become your father. Ask me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your personal property. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will smash them like a potter’s jar!”‘ So now, you kings, do what is wise; you rulers of the earth, submit to correction! Serve the LORD in fear! Repent in terror! Give sincere homage! Otherwise he will be angry, and you will die because of your behavior, when his anger quickly ignites. How blessed are all who take shelter in him!

By using this passage they remind themselves that God said that this kind of rebellion would happen, and that the kings and rulers would be against Jesus. But the context of Psalm 2 assures them that this rebellion is useless, and the God’s kingdom will prevail. In fact, even in their rebellion the leaders were accomplishing God’s plan. The disciples ask for God to continue to use and empower them, which He does through the Holy Spirit.

If we have that same commitment, to turn to Scripture for hope, encouragement, guidance, and direction, I believe that we will develop into the same type of community that we read about in 32-37. Caring, sharing, witnessing, and loving. One such individual in the early church was Barnabas, the “son of encouragement.” He is going to feature prominently in Paul’s travels!

Devotional Reading for June 13, 2022

Acts 4:1-22

The Sadducees were upset about the apostles teaching because they (the Sadducees) didn’t believe in a resurrection! However, the arrest didn’t stop people from believing the message, and we see that 5000 men were saved. These results may help us to better understand what Jesus said in John: “I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father” (14:12). What deeds could be greater than healing, casting out demons, and raising the dead? How about the ability to preach and see multitudes saved? That can only happen because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus gave to us because He went to be with the Father. We see 5000 men saved here, 3000 people back in 2:41, and “more and more” in 5:14. Thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our world today!

All the religious authorities want to know how Peter and John were able to heal the man. Peter states that it was all because of Jesus Christ, the one the rulers crucified but God raised from the dead. It was through His name and in His power that they were able to do it. He is the “stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). He is the only way to be saved!

The rulers are flummoxed. They don’t know what to do, because the people saw the man healed (who was over 40 years old – no fake healing here), and were praising God! They do the only thing they can do at this point: they tell Peter and John to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter challenges them: should they obey God, or should they obey the authorities? God has given them a message and a purpose, and they have to carry it out, regardless of the consequences.

Do we have the same courage of our convictions today? Many around the world are physically suffering because of their belief in Jesus. Are we going to let a little resistance keep us from sharing our faith?

Devotional Reading for June 12, 2022

Acts 3

1-10: Notice the obvious supernatural nature of the healing. The man had been lame from birth, and others brought him up to beg. The people recognized who he was and the amazing miracle that had been performed. It helps that the man immediately began leaping and praising God!

11-26: Peter uses the occasion to preach a sermon. He declares that what was done was not done in his own power, but the power of God. He reminds them that they rejected Jesus, but God vindicated His ministry by glorifying Him, and it was all a part of God’s plan. In fact, God is once again revealing the truth about Jesus and their need to know Him by allowing Peter and John to heal in His name. They need to repent because Jesus is coming back, and they should want to be a part of His kingdom! Jesus is the prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) whom they need to obey (Deuteronomy 18:19). It is through Him that all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 22:18)!

There are two themes in these verses which align Peter with two other theological New Testament giants (which shows how the Holy Spirit was inspiring all of them). First, Peter calls Jesus the “Originator of life,” mirroring what John says:

John 1:3 “All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”

And by his quote of Genesis 22:18, he shows agreement with Paul:

Galatians 3:8 “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’”

We would do well to acknowledge God’s fingerprints throughout Scripture. And, according to our passage, we acknowledge God by: admitting our sin, believing in the Savior, obeying His Word, and rejoicing because of our salvation!

Devotional Reading for June 11, 2022

Acts 2:29-47

29-36: Peter gives the reason for his quotation of Psalm 16:8-11. David is dead and buried, so who was David talking about? It must have been Jesus! Peter goes on to quote from Psalm 110:1 to show that David is certainly talking about Jesus, and that Jesus must be both Lord and Christ.

37-41: The crowd wants to know how to respond to Peter’s message. He tells them that they need to repent (turn from sin), and be baptized because their sins have been forgiven! The Greek preposition used here and translated “for” is most often translated “into,” but can also be translated “with respect to.” So, a very possible translation of 2:38 could be, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ with respect to the forgiveness of sins.” This is clearer, because it doesn’t make baptism a prerequisite for forgiveness. Anyone who believes will receive the promised Holy Spirit, and the promise isn’t just restricted to Israel!

Acts 2:39 “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

42-47: The new believers “were devoting themselves to the apostles teaching.” What a reminder for us today! And we should also be encouraged to emulate their fellowship, their love, and their care for one another. Intense times of revival like we have here seem to be marked by both a commitment to the Word and the care of the church, most likely in response to the leading of the Spirit.

Devotional Reading for June 10, 2022

Acts 2:1-28

1-12: The NET Bible does a literal translation of the Greek word “glossa,” which is often translated “tongues” in accordance with the old KJV. The word literally means “language” or “dialect.” Here the Spirit supernaturally empowers the disciples to speak in languages that they don’t know, all for the purpose of spreading the message of the gospel! If this is taken as a guide for the other times the word in used in the New Testament, it may change our understanding, and lead to an even greater awe. It is truly a work of the Spirit if someone speaks in a language that they don’t know, all for the purpose of communicating God’s truth.

13-21: People think that the disciples are drunk! Peter points to Joel 2:28-32 to describe what is happening, and it raises some questions. Peter identifies what is happening as the “last days.” Did the last days start at Pentecost? Are we still in the last days? Or is what is happening a “type” of the last days, similar to when John the Baptist is identified as the Elijah who is to come for those who will believe (Matthew 11:14)? Since Acts 2:19-20 didn’t happen at the time, it seems that this may be a foreshadowing of what is to come. Or perhaps we have entered the “last days,” with a “latter days” still to come.

22-28: Peter tells the crowd that they should have treated Jesus better, since his life and ministry showed that He came from God. However, what they did to Him was not a surprise. It was all predicted, from the crucifixion to the resurrection, and Peter points to Psalm 16:8-11 as proof.

Everything we read today should remind us of the sovereignty of God. We are chosen “in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). It was His plan, and He reveals it to us though His Spirit!

John 16:7-11 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment—concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”

Devotional Reading for June 9, 2022

Acts 1

This is Luke’s companion volume to his gospel. He continues the explanation of Christianity by showing how the message of the gospel spread across the world. In fact, Acts 1:8 can be seen as an outline for the book. The gospel starts in Jerusalem, spreads through Samaria, and then reaches the farthest parts of the earth (Rome)!

The disciples are still confused as to their mission and ministry. They want to know if it’s finally time for the physical kingdom (1:6)! Jesus shares again that the Father is the one who controls the times and the periods, and it’s not time yet. They are to minister faithfully with the help of the Holy Spirit while they wait for His return. But His departure is depressing, and they stay there looking up at the sky until some angels remind them to get to work!

There were 120 gathered waiting for the promise of the Spirit. While they were waiting, Peter recapped what happened with Judas (according to Scripture) and proposed a replacement. They narrowed it down to two who had been with them from the beginning and who could testify to the resurrection: Matthias and Joseph. Matthias was chosen.

Some have difficulty with the differences in the death of Judas as recorded here and in Matthew. It’s possible to reconcile the accounts, but what is most important is seeing what they emphasize. Matthew shows us how Scripture is fulfilled even when those fulfilling it are driven by guilt and shame to self-destruction. And Acts reminds us that sin has consequences. Judas lost his office through his treachery and came to a shameful end, memorialized by the “Field of Blood.”

How will we be memorialized? Will we work for the kingdom? Will we be faithful while we wait? Or will we allow depression and discouragement to bring us to a bad end?

Devotional Reading for June 8, 2022

John 21

1-14: This event is similar to when Jesus called the disciples to full time ministry (Luke 5:1-11). We also know from the synoptics that Jesus told the disciples that He would meet them in Galilee (Mark 14:28). I believe that these are examples of John supplementing what we find in the other gospels. This forms a bookend of sorts to Jesus’ ministry.

15-19: Peter denied Jesus three times. Here Jesus gives him the opportunity to experience restoration. Jesus gives Peter the chance to boast that He loves Jesus more than the other disciples, but Peter now knows that he is just as susceptible to failure as they are! Then Jesus asks Him two more times, “Do you love me?” Peter responds that Jesus knows all things, so He knows that Peter loves Him. I also think that something else is going on here, but I am in a minority regarding this understanding. There are different words for love here. Some think that John is just using synonyms for variations sake. I believe that He is actually recording what was said, and I take it a little differently than most. Jesus starts out asking if Peter loves Him, and He uses the word agape. We tend to think of that as a special, self-sacrificing love. But I think Peter takes it differently. This is the love you can have even for your enemies. Peter’s wants to stress that his love is greater than that! Peter says that he loves Jesus like a brother! Jesus changes to that same word the third time He asks Peter, “Do you love me?” I believe that He’s acknowledging Peter’s affection and devotion. Peter is supposed to show his love for Jesus by feeding those who believe in Him. Feeding refers to teaching them the word, both by sharing the gospel and instructing them how to obey once they’ve believed.

20-23: John makes sure that we understand a rumor going around about him isn’t true! Jesus isn’t necessarily going to come back before John dies. These verses remind us that we’re supposed to be concerned about our own walk with God, and not be preoccupied with how He deals with others.

24-24: John concludes his gospel by reminding us that there is so much more that could be written about Jesus. He’s tried to give us more of the story, but there is still more that could be told!

Devotional Reading for June 7, 2022

John 20

John 20:8-9 can seem confusing, but it’s actually fairly straightforward. John saw the evidence at the tomb and believed that Jesus rose from the dead, but neither disciple really understood the Scriptural evidence that pointed to the resurrection:

Psalm 16:10 “You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit.”

Isaiah 53:8-11 “He was led away after an unjust trial— but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded. They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully. Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him. Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. ‘My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.'”

Jesus’ resurrection body foreshadows our resurrection bodies:

1 Corinthians 15:35-44 “But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ Fool! What you sow will not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare seed—perhaps of wheat or something else. But God gives it a body just as he planned, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same: People have one flesh, animals have another, birds and fish another. And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of the heavenly body is one sort and the earthly another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars, for star differs from star in glory. It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

Rather than try and find something mystical in 20:16, perhaps Jesus is simply saying: “Stop holding on to me.  I haven’t ascended yet.  I’m not going to disappear on you!” Isn’t it special that, even though He is not physically here now, He is present with us through His Spirit?!?!

John 14:16-17 “Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.”

Jesus repeatedly requests His disciples to be at peace. Life here is hard, but we can take Jesus as His word and trust that He is in us and with us!

Not to get too technical, but Jesus’ words in 20:23 are in the perfect passive tense: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they have already been forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they have already been retained.” It states what has already happened. When we present the gospel and people accept or reject it, they are completing a transaction that was settled when Jesus died on the cross. If they believe, their sins have already been forgiven; if they reject then their sins are retained. All we do is present the way, and people respond!

Acts 13:38 “Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,”

All who do believe have a special joy that comes from knowing Jesus (20:29):

1 Peter 1:8 “You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,”

And that’s the whole purpose of the gospel of John: to bring people to belief!

John 20:31 “But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Devotional Reading for June 5, 2022

John 19:1-15

The rejection and rebellion of the religious leadership is complete: “We have no king except Caesar.”

Pilate has a religious and superstitious reaction to Jesus being called the “Son of God.” He’s searching for any reason at all to let Jesus go. The Jewish leaders manipulate him to get what they want: “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar!” Pilate doesn’t want any negative reports of him to go higher up the food chain.

Sobering words: “the one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin.” Judas? Herod?