Category Archives: missions

The Ending was Just the Beginning! (Matthew 28)

Scripture reading – Matthew 28

Our chronological study of the Gospel of Matthew concludes today with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the commissioning of the disciples (less Judas who betrayed Him) to “Go…teach all nations” (28:19).

The Greatest News: “He is Risen, As He Said” (28:1-6)

“Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary” had followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to see the place where the body of Jesus was laid (27:61). When the Sabbath was past, several women began making their way to Christ’s tomb to anoint His body (although Matthew named only two in his Gospel, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary,” 28:1). Matthew records “there was a great earthquake [and] the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (28:2). The sight of the angel, whose “countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (28:3) terrified the guards who “did shake, and became as dead men” (28:4).

When the women arrived at the tomb where Jesus had been buried, they found it open, and an angel waiting. Luke identified two angels in his Gospel (Luke 24:4-5); however, Matthew only mentions the one who spoke to the women, and said, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified” (28:5). Calming their fears, the angel communicated an extraordinary message that not only changed their lives, but changed the course of history forever. The angel “said unto the women, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (28:5-6).

The Greatest Privilege (28:7-10)

With the command, “go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead” (28:7), a small handful of faithful women were entrusted with the greatest privilege…to tell others Christ was risen from the dead! As those same women departed, they came face-to-face with the risen Christ, who saluted them with the words, “All hail” (28:9). Imagine the joy, the hope, the emotions when they saw Christ! They fell before Him, and “held him by the feet, and worshipped him” (28:9). He then comforted them with the words, “Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (28:10).

The Great Dilemma (28:11-15)

The news of Christ’s resurrection was celebrated by the women, and the “eleven disciples [who] went away into Galilee” (28:16). Yet, when the soldiers reported to the chief priests “all the things that were done” (28:11), the religious leaders set in motion a plot that we would refer to today as “damage control” (28:11). No effort was made to locate Jesus, instead, the Sanhedrin was assembled and it was determined there was only two possible explanations for why the body was not in the tomb: either Christ rose bodily from the dead, or His body was stolen (28:12).

The elders then bribed the soldiers with a great sum of money, and charged them to say, “His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept” (28:13). A solider sleeping at his post was deemed a capital punishment offense, but the Jewish leaders urged the guards to lie, and assured them, “if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you” (28:14). The soldiers agreed to the bribe, “took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (28:15).

The Greatest Mission (28:16-20)

Our study of the Gospel of Matthew concludes with the disciples receiving their commission to spearhead the greatest mission of all…to tell the news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to the nations. With the assurance of Christ’s power and authority, the disciples were given a threefold mission that would be for all people, races, and nations:

Matthew 28:19–2019Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Good Shepherd, and the Great Commission (John 10; Luke 10)

Scripture reading – John 10; Luke 10

Our Scripture reading covers two wonderful passages that are not only familiar to believers, but also known to many non-believers. The Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, records what is often referenced as a model for the Great Commission (Luke 10:1-20), addresses life’s most important question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(10:25-29), and presents the Parable of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37).

The Gospel of John, chapter 10 is also a favorite of believers. Here Christ taught on the sheep and the shepherd, and introduced Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). As you read both Luke 10 and John 10, remember Jesus’ appointment with the Cross is only six months in the future. Rather than an extended commentary, I will limit today’s devotional to a highlight of these well-known passages of Scripture.

John 10 – The Good Shepherd

Let’s remember chapter breaks and numbered verses have been added by men to assist in charting our way through the Scriptures. Sometimes chapter breaks interrupt the flow of a passage or event, and such is the case as we transition from John 9 to John 10. In other words, the context for understanding Jesus introducing Himself as the “Door” of the sheepfold (10:1), and the “Shepherd of the sheep” (10:2), is part of a continuing narrative that began in chapter 9.

In John 9, Jesus showed compassion on a blind man, and healed him (9:1-7). That chapter concluded with Jesus having searched for and found the man who had been blind (9:35a). When He found Him, Christ asked, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (9:35). The man responded, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” (9:36). Christ then revealed Himself to the man, saying, “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee” (9:37). The man confessed, “Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him” (9:38).

Now, the Pharisees, heard and witnessed the dialog between Jesus and the man who had been blind (9:39), and they surmised Christ considered them blind, not physically, but spiritually (9:40). What followed added to Jesus introducing Himself in chapter 9 as “the light of the world” (9:5). Jesus next told the Parable of the Good Shepherd (10:1-18), and announced, “11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (10:11).

Understanding John 10 is well known to most, I will save a thorough commentary for another time.

Luke 10Pray for Laborers!

Scripture reading – Luke 10

Luke 10 began with Jesus appointing “seventy” (i.e. seventy disciples), and sending them out “two and two…into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (10:1). The number of disciples sent out, being seventy, no doubt surprises some believers. There were many who followed Jesus, besides the Twelve He had called to be His disciples. Consider the verses that preceded the commissioning of the seventy (Luke 9:57-62), and be reminded not all who followed Jesus were sincere believers.

Having chosen seventy disciples out of the multitude that followed Him, Jesus instructed them to go before Him, two by two, into every city and village where He would soon come and minister (10:1). He then challenged the seventy with the spiritual need of those among whom they would labor (10:2).

Luke 10:2 2Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

Those sent out were challenged with the image of the opportunity (“The harvest [of needy souls] truly is great” – 10:2a), the magnitude of the need (“but the labourers [preachers and teachers of the Truth] are few” – 10:2b), and the challenge to do something every believer is compelled to do: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Knowing He was within months of the Cross, there was an urgency for the Gospel to be taken far and wide throughout the villages and cities of Israel (Matthew 9:37-38). Though the opportunity to reach lost souls was stunning, the reality was few would be willing to take the Gospel to them. John wrote in His Gospel: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields [of lost souls]; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

Closing thoughts – What can a believer do in the face of so great a need of lost souls? “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c). Pray for laborers. Pray for men and women who will dedicate their lives to serve the LORD, and take the Gospel.

Pray with urgency, knowing “the harvest truly is great” (10:2a). Pray with fervency, for “the laborers are few”(10:2b). Pray perpetually, until the LORD answers your prayer and sends forth laborers (preachers, teachers, and missionaries) who will faithfully sow the seed of the Gospel.

As you pray, ponder the question: Are you willing to go?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Sin More Grievous Than the Sins of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 10

Though accompanied by His disciples, Jesus had ministered to great crowds as a solitary figure. With multitudes coming, Jesus needed fellow laborers who would assist in teaching and preaching the “Good News” (9:36-38). Moved with love and compassion, Jesus declared to His disciples: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” (9:37). With that declaration, He challenged them to Pray (9:38), Go (10:1-6), and Preach (10:7, 27). (note – This is the first of two devotionals for today.)

Matthew 10

Matthew 10 marks a fundamental shift in Christ’s public ministry. The Twelve whom He had called to be disciples(lit. students, pupils, learners), Jesus now commissioned to be apostles (lit. one sent out).  In Mark 3 we read Jesus “ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:13-15). Among the Twelve named (10:2-4) was one whom Matthew identified as “Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him” (10:4). The future of the Gospel ministry and the Church would rest upon the Twelve, less the traitor Judas Iscariot.

The disciples, now apostles, were commissioned to “Go” (10:5-7), and given two directives. 1) They were told where not to go, “Go not into the way [road; path; lifestyle] of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not” (10:5). 2) The second, they were told where (or rather to whom) to go: “Go rather to the lost [dying; bound for destruction] sheep of the house of Israel [Twelve Tribes; lineage of Jacob]” (10:6).

We find in Matthew 10:7-15, the message of the apostles: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (10:7); the ministry of the apostles, for they were to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils” (10:8a). In manner, the apostles were to be selfless, humble, and faithful: “freely ye have received, freely give. 9Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat” (10:8b-10).

The apostles were to be discriminating of where they stayed, and to whom they ministered (10:11-14). Should a city or town reject their message, they were instructed to deem it “not worthy…[and] depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (10:13b-14).

Closing thought – Bear in mind the principle, “unto whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). The apostles were told the judgment of God would fall heavier upon those who heard the Gospel and rejected it, than when the wrath of God fell upon “the land of Sodom and Gomorrah” (10:15).

A sobering truth: The weight and degree of God’s judgment will be greater on those who have heard the Truth and rejected it, than it upon those who have little or no knowledge of God’s Word.

Hebrews 10:26a, 29a, 30a26For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins…29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God…30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Song of Thanksgiving (Psalm 67; Psalm 69)

Scripture reading – Psalm 67; Psalm 69

Our study of the Psalms continues with two songs of worship. According to its title, Psalm 67 was addressed to, “The Chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song” (it is believed that “Neginoth” was a stringed instrument). Psalm 69 is titled, “To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim,” and describes it as, “A Psalm of David.) The focus of today’s devotional is Psalm 67.

A Prayer for God’s Grace and Mercy (67:1)

Like other psalms of thanksgiving we have considered, this brief, but beautiful song as a petition to the God of Israel to be “merciful” and gracious to His people. The psalm continues, “bless us; and cause his [God’s] face to shine upon us” (67:1). Literally, shine your favor upon us, O Lord!

We might ask, “Why should the LORD bless His people?” The answer: “That thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations. 3Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:2-3).

The motivation for asking for the LORD’s blessings was not a selfish desire for success or material possessions, but as a testimony of God’s favor upon His people before all the nations of the earth (67:2-3).

A Petition for Universal Praise and Thanksgiving (67:4-5)

4O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: For thou shalt judge the people righteously, And govern the nations upon earth. Selah.”

The psalmist longed for that which should be the desired of all believers: that the nations of the world would turn to the LORD and “be glad and sing for joy” (67:4a).

What part might believers have in seeing the nations of the world turn to God? Jesus Christ answered that question with His Great Commission: “19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Unlike the scales of man’s justice, God’s judgment is perfectly righteous, and altogether just (67:4b). He is a just, and holy God; He is kind, and compassionate. What a great cause for rejoicing! “5Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:5).

God’s Response to Praise and Thanksgiving (67:6-7)

The psalmist observed, when a nation praises the LORD, He in turn blesses the earth. The psalmist writes, “6Then shall the earth yield her increase” (67:6a). Unless you grew up on a farm, or have had a family garden, you might not grasp the beauty of that promise. A man who praises the LORD in his labor, enjoys the blessings of God, and the fruit of his labor.

Twice we read, “And God, even our own God, shall bless us. 7God shall bless us” (67:6b-7a). What an inspiring thought! When our hearts and thoughts are upon the LORD, and we offer Him our prayers of thanksgiving, He blesses us twofold!

Psalm 67 concludes with the assurance, “all the ends of the earth shall fear him” (67:7b, 22:27). All people, everywhere, will have cause to fear, revere, and worship the LORD.

Closing thought: Take a few moments and count your blessings. Offer to the LORD a prayer of thanksgiving for the multitude of His blessings.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

He Died for You; Will You Live for Him? (1 Peter 1-5)

Scripture reading – 1 Peter 1-5

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the First Epistle of Peter. Though brief in comparison to other books of the Bible, this small letter is a spiritual gold mine, but to sum up its doctrines and applications in one devotional commentary is an impossible task. For the sake of brevity, I will limit my focus to Peter’s opening salutation, 1 Peter 1:1-2.

Historical Background

The Roman Empire was near its peak when this letter was written to first century saints. Reaching as far west as Britain, and into the African continent as far south as Egypt, Rome’s territories covered nearly two million square miles. The emperor of the day was the infamous Nero, and by the time Peter penned his epistle, the dark clouds of persecution were beginning to form. The church would soon experience its first wave of persecution, and among those who would become martyrs were the apostles Paul, and Peter, the author of our Epistle.

The Author – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:1a)

What a testimony of God’s saving grace!  Peter, the fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), brother of Andrew, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and an apostle!  He was a natural leader, and along with James and John, was privileged to be named in Christ’s inner circle (Matthew 17:1-2; Mark 5:37, 9:2, 14:23). He was the disciple who had boasted he would never deny Jesus (Matthew 26:29-35), but thrice denied Him the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:69-74). Humiliated, broken, and finally restored; Peter became a testimony of faith, courage, and faithfulness to the Lord.

The Addressees of the First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter 1:1b-2)

Peter identified the recipients of his letters as “the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). Who were these “strangers”? They were not “strangers” to Peter, but aliens in this world (1:1) because they had been scattered from their homelands (1:1). Driven from their homes by religious persecution, they were believers, who had accepted the Messiah, and become sojourners, people without a home or country.

They were not only “Strangers”, they were the Saved, the Elect,” the chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1:2a). The elect were the same in Peter’s day as they were in every generation.  God’s chosen people are elect.  The blessing for you and me is that anyone can be elect if he or she accepts Christ and becomes part of God’s family.  To be elect is a term of endearment, much like a parent refers to his children as his family.  When we become a part of God’s kingdom, we become part of His family, and we are elect – endeared to the Father.  

I believe the “elect” are chosen by God, according to His foreknowledge, and they are the objects of His saving grace, through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for our sin [His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection]. The apostle Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words:

Ephesians 1:4 – “According as [Even as] He hath chosen us in Him [for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy [consecrated & set apart] and without blame [above reproach] before him in love.”

Who then are the chosen? Who are the elect? Who can be saved?

Some might take me to task on this point, but my answer is, “whosoever will” (John 3:16; Romans 10:13).  The elect are “whosoever will.”

John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in himshould not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 10:13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

My heart rejoices to close with this eternal promise:

“And He [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Let Your Light Shine! (Titus 1-3)

Scripture reading – Titus 1-3

Today our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s Epistle to Titus. This letter was most likely written after Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, following his visit to the infant churches on the island of Crete. We know Paul was set free from prison sometime after his epistle to the believers in Philippi; however, the cause of his liberty is not revealed (although it may be that his accusers from Jerusalem had failed to appear before Caesar to bring a witness against the apostle.).

Like 1 Timothy, the Epistle to Titus is included in the books of the Bible known as “The Pastoral Epistles.” Though addressed to Titus, it appears the letter was meant to be read to the churches in Crete among whom he was a minister. Paul’s purpose seems to have been that of assuring the churches that Titus was empowered to act upon Paul’s authority.

As we observed with Timothy in an earlier devotion, Paul had a loving bond with Titus and addressed him as “mine own son after the common faith” (1:4). Titus was a Greek convert, and is identified in the Scriptures as an uncircumcised Gentile (Galatians 2:3). He was also a member of Paul’s inner-circle, and his “partner and fellowhelper,” privileged to be recognized as Paul’s co-laborer (2 Corinthians 8:23). Titus was entrusted and charged with the responsibility of ordaining “elders [pastors] in every city” on the isle of Crete (Titus 1:5-9).

Unlike contemporary letters that conclude with a parting salutation and signature, the Epistle to Tituscommences as Paul has all of his letters, introducing himself as its author, and stating his calling and authority as “a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (1:1).

Titus 1:1 captured the essence of Paul’s calling as a minister: A “servant,” literally a slave subject to the will of God. An “apostle,” a messenger sent to bear the message of another, and representing the authority of the sender, Jesus Christ. A custodian of the Faith, and a purveyor of the Truth that promotes godliness (1:1).

I invite you to pause and consider that, though you and I do not bear the authority of the apostle Paul, we are nevertheless the servants of God, the witnesses of our faith in Jesus Christ, and bear the responsibility of speaking the truth and promoting godliness (1:1).

Jesus taught His disciples the same responsibility (Matthew 5:13–16) in His Sermon on the Mount when He said:

Matthew 5:13–16 – “13 Ye are the salt of the earth [salt having a natural cleansing, healing, and preserving nature]: but if the salt have lost his savour [meaning to have been contaminated, compromised, and unfit for use], wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world [guiding lights, guiding sinners to Jesus Christ]. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven [unlike the world that seeks the spotlight for themselves, and the applause of men; believers are to direct the focus of the world to Jesus Christ].”

Fellow believer, we are living in a day that is growing spiritually darker, and even the smallest of God’s lights (believers), will stand out in such an hour.

Let’s shine for Christ, in words and our works!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Journey’s End (Acts 27-28)

Scripture reading – Acts 27-28

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the close of our study in the book we identify as The Acts of the Apostles. Our study has taken us from the historic fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and public appearances (Acts 1:1-3), to Him commissioning the disciples to be His apostles (1:4-8), before He ascended to heaven (1:9). After receiving the promise that Jesus would return (1:10-11), the disciples returned to an “upper room” (1:12-13), and there waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who came on the Day of Pentecost (2:1), fifty days after the Passover and Christ’s death on the Cross.

There are many other events that are essential to the historical narrative of the early church that are found in the Book of Acts, including the death of Stephen, the first of many martyrs (7:55-8:1), the salvation and transformation of Saul, the great persecutor (8:1; 9:1-9), who became Paul, and the apostle to the Gentiles (9:10-16).

Our study of Acts has followed Paul’s three missionary journeys as the Gospel spread throughout Asia, Greece, and Europe (reaching at least as far west as Spain).

Taken prisoner in Jerusalem, Paul was held in the fortress of Caesarea, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where he was tried and falsely accused of sedition by enemies who would have killed him (24:1-6). Knowing by revelation that he was to be a witness in Rome, Paul had exercised his right as a Roman citizen, and appealed for a hearing before Caesar (25:10-11).

Acts 27 – Paul’s Shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea

Arrangements having been made for Paul to sail to Rome, he was assigned a military escort with “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1).  The ship had stopped at several ports in its journey, including Sidon where Luke noted the centurion’s favor in allowing Paul to fellowship with other believers (27:3).

Departing from Sidon, the centurion transferred Paul and other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria [i.e. Egypt]“ that was sailing to Italy (27:4-6).  The sailing was slow (27:9), and knowing storms would soon make sailing hazardous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and his centurion guard to seek safe harbor (27:9-10). Those men, however, dismissed Paul’s concerns, and set sail until the vessel was caught up in a great storm so that, in Luke’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:11-20).

The balance of Acts 27 chronicles Paul’s shipwreck (27:21-44), while Acts 28 records his time and ministry on the isle of Melita, an island located south of Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea (28:1).

Acts 28:11-31 – Paul’s Final Journey

Beginning with Acts 28:11, we follow Paul from his ministry on Melita, to his arrival in Rome. Although a prisoner of Caesar, he was a captive of God’s grace, and for the next two years preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome, the capital of the world in the first century (28:17-22).

A rented house, serving as his prison and sanctuary (28:30), Paul opened his door and heart to “all that came in unto him,” and faithfully preached “the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (28:31).

What happened during the years that Paul was a prisoner in Rome?

We will answer that question as our chronological study takes us next to the letters Paul wrote while a prisoner in Rome.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Paul’s Indomitable Spirit (Acts 20-23)

Scripture reading – Acts 20-23

Our chronological Scripture reading returns to the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 20-23, when, once again, we examine Luke’s record of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Since we were last in the Book of Acts, we have been privileged to consider Paul’s epistles to believers in both Corinth and Rome in our daily readings.

Acts 20 picks up the narrative of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41) where Paul had spent two years ministering (19:10a). The influence of the apostle’s preaching had spread throughout Asia, and both “Jews and Greeks” had received “the word of the Lord Jesus” (19:10b). Paul’s bold condemnation of idolatry (19:26), and the powerful effect of his preaching had not only threatened the commerce and trade in the worship of the Greek goddess Diana (19:27), but also set the whole city in an uproar (19:28-41).

Acts 20 – Departure from Ephesus

Paul, realizing his continued presence in Ephesus would endanger the lives of believers, determined to depart from Ephesus, and began his journey through Macedonia (a province of Rome north of Greece that we know today as the Balkan region of Europe). The apostle retraced his earlier missionary journeys, and traveling south to Greece (20:1-2), encountered Jews who were plotting against him (20:3).

God wonderfully and providentially blessed Paul with a mission’s team who accompanied him in his journey (20:4) through Asia. Among his traveling companions was Timothy, his beloved “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), who would one day become the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3).

Realizing he would not pass-through Macedonia again, Paul came to Miletus, a seaport city about 30 miles from Ephesus (20:16), and there he sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus (20:17).

The balance of Acts 20 records Paul’s final challenge to the pastoral leadership of the church in Ephesus (20:17-38). This passage is extremely moving as we see Paul’s passion for preaching and ministry (20:17-27), his loving compassion for those to whom he ministered (20:28-32), and his example of self-sacrificing charity and service (20:33-35).

Neither time or space permit me to adequately consider the balance of today’s Scripture reading; however, I will take liberty to give my readers a quick overview of Acts 21-23.

Acts 21 gives Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem (21:1-16), and the insurrection led by those who opposed him and the Gospel he preached (21:17-40).

Acts 22 recounts Paul’s personal testimony (22:1-5), his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (22:6-10), his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles (22:11-21), and the uprising of his enemies (22:22-40).

Acts 23 lays out Paul’s public address to the Sanhedrin: Notice the apostle’s courageous rebuke of the high priest Ananias (23:1-5), the clash of factions in the Sanhedrin (23:6-10), the conspiracy by some of the Jews to kill him (23:11-22), and the Roman authority’s resolve to move Paul to safety (23:23-35).

Our next Scripture reading will follow Paul’s ministry from Caesarea by the Sea (a beautiful seaport on the Mediterranean that I have visited), and his journey by sea that will end in his imprisonment in Rome.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Cause for Fear, When You are In the Center of God’s Will (Acts 18-19)

Scripture reading – Acts 18-19

We find ourselves nearing the end of Paul’s second missionary journey, this time with Silas (15:40), and later Timotheus (16:1; 17:14), as his travel companions. Paul’s ministry in Athens had been a fruitful one, and he had with unapologetic boldness declared to the Jews and Greeks that Jesus Christ was LORD, whom God had raised from the dead (17:31).

Acts 18 – Paul’s Ministry in Corinth

Departing from Athens, Paul traveled alone to the city of Corinth some 40-50 miles west of Athens. Corinth was the capital of Achaia, a Roman province on the Mediterranean Sea, and was renowned for its commerce, culture, scholarship, and its wickedness.

In Corinth, Paul was employed by “a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla” (18:2). This couple had been exiled from Rome by the decree of Claudius, the fifth Roman emperor, who around 49 A.D., commanded that all Jews were “to depart from Rome” (18:2). Providentially, God led Paul to the home of Aquila and Priscilla who were like himself, tentmakers, and there he resided while ministering in Corinth (18:3).

As was Paul’s custom, he began preaching “in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded [convinced] the Jews and the Greeks (most likely Hellenistic Jews)” (18:4). Silas and Timotheus’s arrival in Corinth (18:5) stimulated Paul to boldly and earnestly testify “to the Jews that Jesus was Christ [the Messiah]” (18:5).

The Jews’ strong rejection of the Gospel, and Paul’s rebuke of them is described in the following verse:

Acts 18:66  And when they [the Jews] opposed themselves [resisted; i.e. raised up in opposition to], and blasphemed [railed; reviled; slandered], he shook [to shake violently] his raiment [robe; i.e. indicating exasperation], and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads [i.e. a  disclaimer; Paul was not responsible for their souls]; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”

Literally and figuratively shaking his robe (18:6), Paul continued his ministry in the home of a man “named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard [bordered on; beside] to the synagogue” (18:7). No doubt Paul’s proximity to the synagogue infuriated his enemies. Adding to the offense was the news that “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed [commitment of faith] on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (18:8).

In spite of the opposition and threats he faced, after the LORD assured him “in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10  For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (18:9-10), Paul continued “teaching the word of God” among the citizens of Corinth another eighteen months (18:11),

Believer, it is comforting to know that even a man like Paul needed assurance that the LORD was with him.

Lesson – There is no greater place of safety, or comfort, than in the center of God’s will.

Isaiah 41:1010 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hello, Athens! (Acts 17)

Scripture reading – Acts 17

Today’s Scripture reading follows Paul’s ministry in Philippi, and what some might describe as a “hullabaloo” (i.e. uproar, tumult, clamor) that was created after he and Silas were falsely accused of teaching “customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” (16:21). Those men were thereafter beaten and jailed (16:22-24). The next day they were set free and departed from Philippi (16:39-40), traveling “through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica” (17:1).

Acts 17 – Paul and Silas’ ministry in three prominent cities of the first century: Thessalonica (17:1-13), Berea (17:10-14), and Athens (17:15-34).

Notice that it was Paul’s custom to go into a city, and on the Sabbath enter into a synagogue, and boldly declare Jesus as the Messiah (i.e. the Anointed One) and Savior (17:1-3). Time and space prevent me from an in-depth study of Paul’s ministry in those cities; however, I trust my amplification of some key verses will be a blessing.

The city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-13)

Acts 17:1-3Now when they [Paul and Silas] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was [i.e. as was his custom or habit], went in unto them [the Jews in the synagogue at Thessalonica], and three sabbath days reasoned [disputed; preached; conversed] with them out of  [from] the scriptures [i.e. The Old Testament Scriptures], 3  Opening [explaining; setting forth] and alleging [setting forth], that Christ must needs [ought; should] have suffered [experienced pain], and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach [declare; proclaim] unto you, is Christ [the Messiah].

The response of some was to believe; however, the response of many was to reject Jesus Christ and oppose witnesses.

Acts 17:5-7But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy [jealous over Paul’s success], took unto them certain lewd [evil; wicked] fellows of the baser sort [vulgar; good for nothing], and gathered a company [crowd], and set all the city on an uproar [tumult; disturbance], and assaulted [rushing at] the house of Jason [a man who was a Christian], and sought to bring them [Paul and Silas] out to the people [for the purpose of publicly accusing and attacking]. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned [made an uproar] the world upside down [made an uproar] are come hither also; 7Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary [oppose; against] to the decrees [laws; ordinances] of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

The city of Berea (Acts 17:10-14)

Acts 17:11 – These [the people of Berea] were more noble [i.e. noble minded] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received [accepted] the word with all readiness of mind [eagerly; joyfully], and searched [examined; investigated] the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The city of Athens (Acts 17:15-34)

Known for both its scholarship and idolatry, Paul journeyed to Athens and seeing the idols of that ancient city in every place, he boldly declared Jesus Christ in both the synagogue and public places.

Acts 17:16-17 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit [soul; inward man] was stirred [provoked] in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry [i.e. was full of idols]. 17  Therefore disputed he [reasoned; preached; teach public twin ] in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons [religious; reverent], and in the market [i.e. The town square; public thoroughfare] daily with them that met with him [that he chance to meet].

Acts 17:20-22For thou bringest certain strange things [surprising; shocking] to our ears: we would know [understand; desire to know] therefore what these things mean. 21  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood [standing] in the midst [center; lit. he seized the opportunity] of Mars’ hill [a hill in Athens; a meeting  place], and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things [everything] ye are too superstitious [religious ;i.e. fearing the gods of idols ].

Acts 17:29-31Forasmuch then as we are the offspring [family; people] of God, we ought not to think [suppose; regard] that the Godhead is like [similar; i.e. the nature of God] unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven [scratch; etched; sculpted] by art and man’s device [thought or imagination].30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at [overlooked;  do not punish]; but now commandeth [ declares] all men every where to repent [change of mind accompanied by sorrow]: 31  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge [condemn] the worldin righteousness [justice] by that man whom he hath ordained [i.e. Jesus Christ]; whereof he [God] hath given assurance unto all men, in that he [God] hath raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead.

We might imagine the shock to the pride and feelings of those men of Athens who, in the words of the Scripture, did nothing more than want to “tell, or to hear some new thing” (17:21). Here was a man who boldly declared what they knew in their hearts, that the God of creation and heaven (17:29a) is nothing like the idols they had sculpted with their own hands and imaginations (17:29b). Paul warned, God would no longer overlook their willful ignorance, and was commanding “all men every where to repent” (17:30).

Like in our own day, many mocked and rejected the Gospel (17:32a), some desired to hear more (17:32b), and there were some who believed (17:34).

What about you? What do you believe? Is your heart ready for God’s judgment? (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith