Category Archives: Salvation

Redeemed, and able to cry, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4; Galatians 5)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4; Galatians 5

Today’s Scripture reading is packed with doctrinal content, and I hardly know how to begin. For brevity’s sake, I will limit our devotional to a portion of Galatians 4.

In Galatians 3, Paul presented “the law [as] our schoolmaster [instructor, teacher] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (3:24). The law of God instructs man regarding sin, and shows him how to live to please God. It is the revelation of God’s promises of grace, mercy, and forgiveness that brings sinners to saving faith. As God’s spiritual instructor [schoolmaster], the law serves to lead sinners to Christ as Savior Redeemer (3:24; 4:5).

From Slavery to Sonship as a Child of God (4:1-5)

The introductory portrait found in the opening verses of Galatians 4 contrasted a servant\tutor with the law of God. It was common in that day for a wealthy master to choose a servant who was charged with the responsibility to instruct his son. Though the son’s standing was as his father’s heir, as a child he was nevertheless subject to the servant\teacher. Only when the father declared his son mature enough to oversee his inheritance and matters of the home (4:2) was he no longer subject to the servant.

Keeping in mind the illustration of the master’s son being subject to the servant, consider Galatians 4:3-7.

Every one was born into the world under the bondage and curse of sin (for we are sinners by nature, 4:3; Romans 3:10, 23). God the Father, knowing man’s bondage to sin, sent His Son into the world when the law had fulfilled its purpose. Having instructed man concerning his sinfulness, “the time was come” on God’s timetable when Jesus was born (4:4a).

How did God’s Son come? (4:4)

The implication of God sending His Son is that He was with the Father eternally, before He was sent forth “made of a woman, made under the law” (4:4). The Son of God was in essence Eternal God, and “equal with God” (Philippians 2:6). Being “made of a woman” (4:4) he became flesh (“form of a servant…likeness of men,” Philippians 2:6), and was therefore “made under [subject to] the law” (4:5). By being “subject to the Law, Jesus was subject to the demands of the law, and yet He was “without sin (Hebrews 4:14; 9:28).

Why did God’s Son Come? (4:5)

“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (4:5). As sinners, we are born in bondage to sin, and condemned by our own sinfulness.  The law and commandments serve to convince man of his sinfulness, and bring him into a right standing with God. Because we are slaves to sin, no amount of works or “deeds of the law” can justify us in the sight of God (Romans 3:19-20; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), nor indeed ever could. The Law was never intended to save mankind. Only God can save.  The law was given to help us walk pleasing to the Father.

God the Father, seeing man’s universal need of a Redeemer, sent His Son to “redeem them that were under the law” (4:5). Who needs redemption? Every one of us, for “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:19). We also know from the Scriptures that “all the world [is] guilty before God” (Romans 3:19), “for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

What does redemption accomplish?

Those who receive the gift of God’s redemption by faith, the sacrifice of His Son, are no longer slaves to sin, but adopted as sons (4:5). We read in John 1:12, “But as many as received him [Jesus], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

Through our redemption in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin or aliens to God. We are “sons” (or children of God), and have the assurance “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into [our] hearts” (4:6). Because we are sons, we are able to cry, “Abba, Father” (4:6). We who are redeemed are no more slaves to sin, but sons and heirs “of God through Christ” (4:7). When we sin, we must confess our sin (1 John 1:9), knowing “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Closing thoughts“Abba, Father”—what a loving, wonderful expression of a believer’s personal and intimate relationship with God. We are no longer slaves bearing the burden of a spiritual debt we cannot pay. Instead, we are through Christ, redeemed, adopted as children of God, and through our relationship with Christ, able to pray, “Abba, Father!” What a wonderful, blessed relationship!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

Contending for the Gospel of Grace (Galatians 2; Galatians 3)

Scripture reading – Galatians 2; Galatians 3

We are continuing our study in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our Scripture reading is Galatians 2 and 3 with the focus of this devotional being limited to chapter 2. We considered in our prior study Paul’s defense of his apostleship (1:1-2, 10-24), and a fundamental doctrine of our faith, salvation by grace (1:6-9; Ephesians 2:8-9). Galatians 2 introduces us to two events in two geographical settings. The first event recalls Paul and Barnabas’ meeting in Jerusalem with the apostles and elders of that church (2:1-10; Acts 15). The second event was the drama that unfolded in Antioch when Paul confronted the hypocrisy of Peter (2:11-21).

Galatians 2

Our study of Acts 15 considered the meeting of the Jerusalem council with Paul and Barnabas. Paul acknowledged that same meeting in Galatians 2, which had taken place 14 years after his first missionary journey through Asia Minor (modern day Turkey, 2:1).  Many Gentiles turned from worshipping idols, were saved, and churches were established. As a reminder, the subject of Paul’s teaching was the Old Testament Scripture, which laid the foundation of the Gospel of Grace he preached.

Paul’s Private Conference with Church Leaders (2:1-2)

In Paul’s absence, false brethren had entered the churches in Asia Minor and attacked Paul’s credibility as an apostle. Those same enemies taught salvation ideas that conflicted with Christ as Messiah, which included circumcision of the flesh to be saved (1:1, 6-7, 15-17). When Paul confronted the false teachers, the contention was so great he and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to conference with the apostles and church leaders (2:1-4; Acts 15:4-6). I invite you to consider three primary points in the opening verses of Galatians 2.

Paul states he went up to Jerusalem “by revelation,” and followed the leading of the Lord (2:2). Notice Paul first addressed the leaders of the Jerusalem church privately, and acknowledged they were men “of reputation” (2:2) and “pillars” of the church (2:9). His motive was to not risk being publicly discredited, though he confessed he was passionate about his ministry among the Gentiles (2:2). Paul and his peers were “received of the church,” and with that reception was an acknowledgment of his apostleship to the Gentiles (Acts 15:4). Paul observed, Titus, a peer of Paul who was a Greek, was not “compelled to be circumcised” (2:3).

Paul’s Public Confrontation with his Adversaries (2:4-5; Acts 15:5-7a)

Paul did not make the mistake of failing to define his enemies (2:4). In fact, he described them as “false brethren” 2:4), and in Acts 15:5 as “of the sect of the Pharisees. Those “false brethren” came in secretly, and demanded Gentile believers observe circumcision to be saved (2:4).  The debate was heated, for the “false brethren” caused “much disputing” (Acts 15:7). Refusing to yield to the enemies of the Gospel, Paul writes, he gave no “place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (2:5).

Public Confirmation [affirmation] of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. (2:6-10)

Paul was not awestruck nor intimidated by men (2:9). He had not come to Jerusalem to seek men’s favor. Yet, he did desire the Jerusalem leaders would acknowledge God’s grace and favor on His message and ministry to the Gentiles (2:7). The apostles and elders affirmed Paul’s ministry (2:7-8), and Peter, James and John publicly affirmed Paul and Barnabas as ministers of the Gospel to the Gentiles (2:9).

Contending for the Faith (2:11-16)

Galatians 2 also chronicled Peter’s visit to believers in Antioch (2:11). This event occurred before Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41). Following the first Jerusalem council, Peter came to Antioch where he fellowshipped and “did eat with the Gentiles” (2:12). Later, a second delegation from Jerusalem came to Antioch, and was comprised of believers who “came from James” (the leader of the Jerusalem church, 2:12). Sadly, in the company of the men from Jerusalem, Peter “withdrew and separated himself” from the uncircumcised Gentile believers (2:12).

Paul, a passionate defender of the faith, would not allow Peter’s hypocrisy to pass, and “withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (2:11). Paul observed, Peter feared “them which were of the circumcision” (2:12c). Unfortunately, others followed Peter, including Barnabas who “was carried away with their dissimulation [hypocrisy]” (2:13).

Paul’s Controversy with Peter (2:14-16)

We take away many lessons from Paul rebuking Peter. Notice his rebuke was specific, and pointed, “because [Peter] was to be blamed” (2:11). We also learn that Paul, an apostle, was Peter’s equal (2:11,14). He openly opposed and reproved Peter whose public failure demanded public correction.

Closing lesson (2:14-21) – The most important lesson was Paul’s zeal for keeping the “truth of the Gospel” (2:14). Peter had failed to walk “according to the truth of the gospel,” and Paul openly challenged his hypocrisy, saying, “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (2:14). Error demands reproof; public error demands public reproof. (1 Timothy 5:19-20)

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Gospel: God’s Grace Through Christ” (Galatians 1)

Scripture reading – Galatians 1

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s Epistle to believers living in Galatia (modern Turkey). Ancient Galatia was due north of the isle of Cyprus, and was a thriving Roman province in the 1stcentury. The Greeks referred to the people of that region as “Gauls,” a name derived from the Latin word, “Gallia.” They were believed to have been Celtic, a Germanic tribe of western Europe. Major cities of the southern region of Galatia included Antioch of Pisidian, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship

Judging by the subject matter of the Epistle to the Galatians, we find false teachers had infiltrated the churches. Those heretics called into question Paul’s credibility and authority as an apostle, and were undermining the doctrine of grace that is central to the Gospel. Paul had two objectives in writing the epistle: The first, a defense of his apostleship. The second, a defense and declaration of the Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ.

Paul commenced the letter introducing himself as its author, and boldly declaring his apostleship was “not of men, neither by man” (1:1b). In other words, he did not look to a council of men for his office. Paul proclaimed his apostleship was from God, and wrote: “Paul, an apostle…by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised [having raised] him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c).

Four Qualifications of an Apostle (1:1-2)

The Scriptures reveal a man had to meet four qualifications to be an apostle. The first, he had to have seen the LORD after His resurrection (Acts 1:22; 9:3-5; 22:6-8; 1 Cor. 9:1). Secondly, he had to receive His calling from Christ Himself (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:6; 22:10; Galatians 1:1). The third qualification was that his teaching had to be divinely inspired (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 9:15; 22:14; 1 Thess. 2:13). Finally, he must evidence the power to perform miracles as a sign of his apostleship (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 14:8-10; 16:18; 10:10-12; 1 Cor. 12:8-11).

Paul met the four requisites of a man divinely appointed as an apostle. Not only had he been commissioned “by Jesus Christ” (1:1b), he was called by “God the Father, who raised Him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c). He had the witness of “all the brethren” (1:2), which were traveling with him. Though not named, it is certain the believers in Galatia were aware of those men who labored with Paul.

The Recipients of the Epistle (1:2b)

In the custom of formal letters of his day, Paul introduced himself as the author, and addressed the intended recipients of the letter: “unto the churches [assemblies or congregations] of Galatia” (1:2b). The letter served as a general message to the believers of “the churches of Galatia,” and would have been read publicly, and shared with each of the assemblies of believers.

The Historical Context (1:6-9)

Having formally greeted the Galatian believers, Paul moved to address the provocation of the letter, stating: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (1:6). Like a loving shepherd, Paul was concerned some believers had been so easily led astray. Not only had some lost confidence in his authority as an apostle, but there were some who even defected from the faith and followed “another gospel” (1:6b). Yet, it was not another gospel, but a contradiction of the gospel of grace Paul had preached (1:7a).

Who were those false teachers? They were known as Judaizers, men of Jewish descent who troubled the congregations, and perverted the “gospel of Christ” (1:7b). They were men who taught, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, 5). Paul was not opposed to believers following the Law and Commandments (Acts 15:20-21, 29); however, he was passionately opposed to teachers who contradicted the “gospel of grace.” Paul declared, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (1:9).

Paul’s Spiritual Authority and Biography (1:10-24)

We have followed Paul’s life through the Acts of the Apostles: From his zeal as the persecutor of the church (Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-2), to his dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and his salvation (Acts 9:3-22). Galatians 1:11-17 fills in the blanks in Paul’s personal testimony, and gives us how he was taught, not by man, but by the Lord Jesus in the desert of Arabia for three years (1:17-18a). He writes he “went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (1:18-19).

Closing thoughts (1:20-24) – Rather than look to man for his authority, Paul looked to the LORD and the authority of His Word. The first chapter of our study concludes with Paul’s transition from the persecutor of the Church, to becoming its greatest preacher (1:21-24). Though he was known best among the believers in Asia Minor, his reputation as a preacher of the faith proceeded him to “the churches of Judaea” which he once persecuted.

Paul’s life and testimony should inspire believers of which, Paul writes, “glorified [magnified] God in me” (1:24).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

Marvelous Grace! (Acts 15; Acts 16)

Scripture reading – Acts 15; Acts 16

I introduced you to James, the author of the Epistle of James, in a prior devotional. He was believed to be the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), and the head of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17). That same James appears in today’s Scripture reading in the role of the senior pastor\elder of the congregation in Jerusalem.

Acts 15

Today’s Scripture reading chronicled the growth pangs of the 1st century church. While the church began with Jewish converts, the growing number of Gentiles who believed presented a theological crisis. Because there were historic prejudices between the Jews and Gentiles, it was inevitable that conflicts would arise in the Antioch congregation that was comprised of both Jews and Greeks. The arrival of “men which came down from Judaea” (15:1a) created a conflict that threatened not only the unity of the church, but questioned the foundational doctrine of salvation by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The men of Judaea taught, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (15:1b).

Paul and Barnabas confronted the dissension that was created by those men, and it was determined they, along with other men, should “go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about [the] question” (15:2). The same debate soon raged in Jerusalem as believers “of the sect of the Pharisees” maintained that Gentile believers must not only be circumcised to be saved, but also be commanded “to keep the law of Moses” (15:5).

The Jerusalem Council (15:6-21)

The apostles and elders gathered as representatives of the congregation, and listened as the dispute over circumcision raged (15:6-7a). Peter finally arose, and declared what had already been agreed upon in an earlier council (15:7b). It had been determined the Gospel was not only for the Jews, but for all men (Acts 10:1-48). When Cornelius, a Roman centurion heard the Gospel and believed, God gave him the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:44-48). Peter observed how God had “put no difference” between the men of Jewish ancestry, and those who were Gentile. All sinners come to salvation by faith (15:9).  Peter declared, whether Jew or Gentile, “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (15:11).

Then, the people fell silent, as Paul and Barnabas shared how the Lord had validated their preaching and teaching by “miracles and wonders” that only the LORD could have produced (15:12). James, whom I believe was the senior pastor\elder of the Jerusalem congregation (Galatians 1:19), declared he was in agreement with Peter (i.e. Simeon, 15:14). He reminded the believers how the prophet Amos had foretold that Gentiles would be a part of God’s kingdom (Amos 9:11-12). James counseled the members of the church to accept the doctrine of salvation by grace though faith alone, and not overburden Gentile believers with instructions that were not required for salvation (15:19-21).

There was a consensus to accept James’ summary, and affirm the decision in writing. Furthermore, two men of the Jerusalem congregation were chosen to accompany the letter, and act as representatives of the church to believers in Antioch (15:20, 22-23). The letter also urged Gentile believers to, “abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (15:20), truths from the Old Testament they needed to know and practice.

The Effect of the Letter Addressed to Antioch Believers (15:31-41)

The letter affirming salvation by grace alone stirred up a spirit of rejoicing among believers (15:31). Silas, one of the two men sent from the Jerusalem congregation, remained in Antioch, and became a missionary peer of Paul (15:34). Paul and Barnabas “continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord,” and “many others also” became teachers and preachers (15:35).

Closing thoughts (15:36-41) – The concluding verses of Acts 15 remind us that, though Paul and Barnabas were giants of the faith in the early church, they were nevertheless human. With the dissension over the doctrine of salvation by grace resolved, Paul announced his desire to journey and visit believers in the cities and towns where he and Barnabas had “preached the word of the Lord” (15:36). Yet, Barnabas insisted on bringing John Mark (15:37), whom Paul opposed for he had deserted them in Pamphylia (15:38). The quarrel between the two men was so great, they separated themselves, “and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus” (15:39).

There has long been a debate regarding who was right concerning John Mark, Barnabas or Paul? I could make several arguments on this point, but because Paul was an apostle and Barnabas was not, I wonder if Barnabas failed to submit to authority? Another point in Paul’s favor is, when he and Silas departed, they were “recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God (15:40). The same affirmation was not said of Barnabas and John Mark. Nevertheless, at the end of his life and ministry, Paul wrote of John Mark: “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

In the providence and sovereignty of God, John Mark not only came to Paul’s aid, he would later author the Gospel of Mark! What marvelous grace!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Commencement of the Mission of the Great Commission (Acts 14)

Scripture reading – Acts 14

Continuing our study of the Acts of the Apostles, we observe an ever-rising tide of persecution. Paul and Barnabas had left the believers in Jerusalem, and took with them John Mark (12:25). Returning to Antioch, the Holy Spirit moved on that church to “separate” and consecrate Barnabas and Saul to be sent forth as the first missionary team (13:2-4). Traveling with that dynamic duo was John Mark; however, he soon deserted their company and “returned to Jerusalem” (13:13). (John Mark’s departure would later prove to be a divisive issue between Barnabas and Saul, Acts 15:38-40).

Paul and Barnabas came to another Antioch, known in the Scriptures as “Antioch in Pisidia” (13:14). This Antioch began in Asia Minor as a Roman outpost, but by Paul’s day was the capital city of Galatia in modern day Turkey. Antioch’s population of Jews was large enough to have a synagogue, and as it was their custom, Paul and Barnabas worshipped there on the Sabbath (13:14). As was the tradition, as guests of the synagogue, Paul and Barnabas were invited to give a “word of exhortation for the people” (13:15).

Trained in the Scriptures, Paul was a powerful, persuasive speaker, and he began to declare God’s providential work and care for Israel (13:18-22). He beckoned them with his hand saying, “26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent… 28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30But God raised him from the dead” (13:23-41).

At that time there were many Jews and Gentiles who heard the Gospel, believed and were baptized (13:42, 47-48). Nevertheless, there were many who rejected Christ, opposed Paul and Barnabas, and “expelled them out of their coasts” (13:45, 50). In turn, Paul and Barnabas rejected their rejectors, and “shook off the dust of their feet against them” (13:51). Yet, though rejected by man, those preachers “were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (13:52).

Acts 14 – Preaching the Gospel in Iconium (14:1-7)

Paul and Barnabas continued their missionary journey from Antioch in Pisidia to Iconium (a distance of approximately 120 miles). As they spoke in the synagogue, there was once again “a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed” (14:1). Isn’t it interesting, how the same message that convicted and moved Jews and Gentiles to repent and believe, stirred up others to reject and persecute? (14:2).

In spite of the opposition, Paul and Barnabas persevered and remained in Iconium “a long time…[and] speaking boldly in the Lord…gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders [miracles] to be done by their hands” (14:3). Yet, “the city was divided,” and some followed the Jews, and others believed the apostles (14:4). The opposition was so great, that some were determined “to stone them” (14:5). They fled Iconium, and came unto “Lystra and Derbe” where they “preached the gospel” (14:6-7).

A Crippled Healed (14:8-17)

Paul healed a crippled man in Lystra, who had been so from birth, and had never walked (14:8). Paul, saw the crippled man “had faith to be healed,” and “said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked” (14:9-10). The people of Lystra saw the miracle, and their thoughts shaped by their mythology, began praising Paul and Barnabas as gods (14:11-12). Indeed, the “priest of Jupiter” came, and would have offered the apostles sacrifices had they not protested and said, we “are men of like passions with you” (14:15).

Paul then declared the true God had made Himself known in creation:  “The living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein… left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (14:15, 17).

Persistent Enemies (14:19-21)

Though they had traveled 120 miles, Paul’s enemies from Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra, and proved the fickle nature of sinners, and stirred up the people who “stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (14:19). Left for dead, Paul regained consciousness, “rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (14:20).

Closing thoughts (14:21-28) – Bold, courageous, and Spirit-filled, Paul and Barnabas returned to the cities where they had preached (14:20-21). They instructed “the souls of the disciples” and exhorted “them to continue in the faith” (14:22). They made their journey back to Antioch, (of Syria) where they “rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (14:21). Perhaps tired, and weary, Paul and Barnabas stayed a long time with the believers in Antioch (14:28).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Fury and Death of Herod, Enemy of God (Acts 12; Acts 13)

Scripture reading – Acts 12; Acts 13

Acts 12 begins with the phrase, “about that time,” and gives us cause to consider “the time” that was the setting for today’s devotional. Putting our Scripture reading in its historical context, it was “the time” that followed Peter learning the Gospel was to be preached to all men, Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:1-48). Peter had given a defense of his doctrine before the believers of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), and they “glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).

The church in Jerusalem commissioned and “sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch” (11:22). The work was so great that Barnabas determined to travel to Tarsus, and invite Saul to minister with him in Antioch (11:25-26). It was also at the time when a believer named Agabus prophesied the world would experience a “great dearth” (a time of famine, 11:28). Exercising love and compassion for their brethren in Jerusalem, the believers in Antioch “determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea,” and “every man [gave] according to his ability” (11:29). Barnabas and Saul were sent with an offering for believers in Jerusalem (11:30).

Acts 12

Perhaps for political reasons, and to distract the people from the famine, king Herod (the grandson of Herod the Great), began a systematic pattern of persecuting the church. The king “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (making him the first of the apostles to be martyred, 12:2). When he realized his actions “pleased the Jews” (12:3), he determined “to take Peter” and would have put him to death had God not intervened (12:3-4).

With Peter in prison, the believers of the church began to pray “without ceasing” (12:5). While they prayed, “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison” (12:6). What faith, and confidence Peter had in God’s care and providences. Then, God miraculously intervened, and sent an angel who struck Peter in his side to awaken him, and commanded him, “Arise up quickly” (12:7). So deep was his sleep, the angel instructed him to put on his shoes and his garments. Even then, Peter believed it wasn’t so, and he was having a vision (12:8-9).

Peter was delivered from the prison by the angel, and then made his way through the streets to where believers were gathered to pray at the home of Mary, whose son was named “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12). (This is the same John Mark who would be the author of the Gospel of Mark).

Arriving at the house, Peter knocked and a young lady named Rhoda, answered the door (12:13). Hearing and recognizing his voice, Rhoda was so excited she neglected opening the door for Peter to enter the house (12:14). She told the believers Peter was outside the gate, but they accused her of being “mad” (literally out of her head or mind, 12:14). Some suggested she had seen Peter’s angel, though Peter continued to knock (12:16).

Finally opening the door, the believers rejoiced to find Peter standing before them! (12:16) He quieted their enthusiasm, and explained how he had been delivered from the prison (12:17). He then instructed them to send a message to “James, and to the brethren” (this is probably James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the son of Joseph and Mary, 12:17b). By this time, James appears to be the leader of the believers in the church in Jerusalem. Wisely, Peter departed from Jerusalem, “and went into another place” (12:17c).

Herod’s Fury and Death (12:18-23)

When it was day, the soldiers and keepers of the prison discovered Peter was missing (12:18). Those who slept in his cell, and those who stood guard at the door of the prison, had no explanation for Peter’s absence (12:19). Herod then ordered the execution of those men who failed to keep Peter prisoner (12:19).

The king then departed for Caesarea (a city on the Mediterranean Sea), and remained there (12:19b). Proud of his position and power, the king set a day of pageantry for himself, and “arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them” (12:21). The people flattered the foolish king, “saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (12:22). Herod accepted their blasphemy, and even as they praised him, an “angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (12:23). Imagine the horror of seeing the king struck down, and worms consuming him till he was dead! (12:23).

Closing thoughts (12:24-25) – While the persecution of believers increased, so did the reach of the “Word of God,” which increased more and more (12:24). Acts 12 concluded with Barnabas and Saul departing Jerusalem and returning to Antioch, and this time in the company of “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12, 25).

Though today’s Scripture reading continues with Acts 13, and the historical record of the beginning of modern missions, I must leave that study for another time.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Only Solution to Racial Prejudices (Acts 10; Acts 11)

Scripture reading – Acts 10; Acts 11

We are continuing our study of the Acts of the Apostles with today’s Scripture reading, Acts 10 and 11. What exciting times those were following the ascension of Christ (Acts 1), and the coming and baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The powerful, unapologetic preaching of the Gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, 3:12-22)) spawned a movement that saw thousands trust Christ as Savior, be baptized and added to the church (2:41).

Yet, that same message of hope enflamed a conviction among the enemies of Christ, who determined to silence the preaching with threats and persecution (Acts 4-5). While persecution brought sorrow and physical suffering, it was the martyrdom of Stephen that was the catalyst for believers at Jerusalem to be “scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria” (8:1). Saul, the great persecutor of believers, was the instrument God used to thrust believers out of Jerusalem, preaching Christ wherever they went (8:3-4). Of course, Saul’s salvation and transformation (Acts 9) became a powerful testimony of the Gospel to believers and the unsaved. Those with whom Saul once consulted in his persecution of believers, then “took counsel to kill him” (9:23).

Acts 10

A Centurion Named Cornelius (10:1-8)

Acts 10 opened a new era in God’s redemptive plan, as a “man in Caesarea called Cornelius” (10:1) received a vision from God (10:3). Who was Cornelius? He was a Roman soldier, a centurion, an officer over 100 soldiers (10:1). Though a Gentile by birth, Cornelius had come to believe and “feared God with all his house” (10:2). He was “a devout man” who cared for the poor, and “prayed to God always” (10:2).

To Cornelius, a man of faith, God gave a vision of an angel who affirmed the Lord had not only seen his good works, but heard his prayers (10:4). The angel commanded Cornelius to send men to Joppa (modern Tel-Aviv), where they were to go to the house of “Simon, a tanner,” and find Peter (10:5-6). He was assured Peter would tell him “what thou oughtest to do” (10:6). Obeying the angelic messenger, Cornelius sent two servants and a “devout soldier” to Joppa (10:8).

God Prepares Peter’s Heart (10:9-23)

Unbeknownst to Cornelius, God was preparing Peter’s heart with a vision that forever changed not only his heart, but also the preaching of the Gospel. We find Peter praying on the housetop about the noon hour (10:9), and as he became hungry, he witnessed heaven open and a “great sheet” being lowered on which there “were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (10:12). Then, the Lord spoke and commanded him, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat” (10:13). But Peter answered, saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (10:14). The Lord spoke again, and then a third time, saying, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (10:15-16).

Providentially, as Peter wondered what the vision meant, the men sent by Cornelius arrived at the house where he was staying. Standing at the gate of the house, they “asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there” (10:18). Peter, not knowing men were at the gate, was commanded by the Spirit, “Behold, three men seek thee. 20Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them” (10:19-20).

Peter went down from the housetop as he was told, and found three men waiting as he had been told. Remember, though he knew he was commanded to go with the men, he did not know they were Gentiles until he saw one of the three was a soldier of Rome. They introduced themselves as men sent by Cornelius, a centurion whose testimony was great “among all the nation of the Jews” (10:21-22). No doubt taking a lesson from his vision of the unclean animals on the sheet, Peter invited the three men to lodge with him that night, promising “on the morrow” he would accompany them to Joppa (10:23).

Cornelius’ Preparation (10:23-33)

The next day, Peter and six other Jewish witnesses traveled to Caesarea, and came to Cornelius’ home where he waited with “kinsmen and near friends” he had called to hear Peter (10:23-24). Even “as Peter was coming in [into the house], Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him” (10:25). Peter, evidencing humility, said to him, “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (10:26). Peter, reflecting on his vision of the unclean beasts and the command, “kill and eat” (10:13, 28), understood the interpretation of the vision and said, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (10:28).

Cornelius shared the vision he had received, and the command for him to send for Peter (10:30-33). In a wonderful testimony to the working of God’s Spirit, Cornelius humbly confessed, “we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (10:33).

The Breadth and Power of the Gospel Message (10:34-43)

Peter began to teach the Gentiles who had gathered in Cornelius’ house, and confessed, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (10:34-35). Declaring Jesus Christ “is Lord of all,” Peter realized the Gospel was not for Jews only, but was a message for all sinners, Jew and Gentile (10:36). He reminded his audience how Christ’s coming was first published among the Jews by the “baptism which John preached” (10:37), and the ministry of “Jesus of Nazareth” was manifested by good works (10:38).

Peter’s message reached its pinnacle when he declared he was a witness “of all things which [Christ] did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly” (10:39-40). Confirming Christ’s bodily resurrection, Peter declared he “did eat and drink with [Jesus] after He rose from the dead” (10:41). Even the prophets were witnesses of those things, “that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (10:43; Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 31:34; Zechariah 13:1).

The Salvation and Baptism of Cornelius’ Household (10:44-48)

As Peter concluded his message, the Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and his household, for they had not only heard his words, but believed (10:44). The Jewish witnesses with Peter were astonished, as Gentiles began to manifest the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, speaking with tongues and glorifying God (10:46). Peter then, commanded Cornelius and his household “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (10:48). The hunger for truth was so great, the young believers begged Peter to stay with them for several days (10:48b).

Closing thoughts – Take time to read Acts 11, and consider Peter’s glowing defense and declaration that salvation had come also to the Gentiles (11:1-18). Acts 11:22 gives us the record of the first missionary sent out by the church, and once again it is Barnabas who was chosen (Acts 4:36; 11:22-25).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

Amazing Grace: From Saul the Persecutor, to Paul the Preacher (Acts 9)

Scripture reading – Acts 9

Our previous devotional concluded with Stephen being martyred for Christ (Acts 7:54-60). Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, records those who participated in the stoning “laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (7:58). We next read, “Saul was consenting [approving] unto his death” (Acts 8:1). Yet, the persecution of believers had the effect of not only seeing them “scattered abroad” (8:4), but also “preaching the word” everywhere they went (8:4).

Coming to Acts 9, we find “Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, [and going] unto the high priest” (9:1). Under the deluded pretense he was serving God, Saul requested letters of authority to go to Damascus synagogues, and arrest men or women who identified with “this way” (9:2).  (The “way” being the name of any who identified Jesus Christ as the Messiah.) Driven by a religious zeal contrary to the Law and Commandments (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:16), Saul planned to drag followers of Christ out of the synagogues of Damascus, and take them bound by ropes and chains to Jerusalem, a journey of 175 miles.

As Saul “came near Damascus” (9:3), he encountered a light from heaven” (9:3). Blinded by the light (9:8), he fell to the earth “and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (9:4a). With humility, Saul answered, “Who art thou, Lord?” Then Jesus revealed Himself to Saul by name, and identified his persecution of believers as an offense against Himself.

“The Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (9:5b). Like an ox that is goaded with a long stick to prod it to obey its master, Saul had foolishly been goading God. “Trembling and astonished [amazed]” (9:6), he realized he had been persecuting the Son of God. Blind and shaken, Saul surrendered his will to God, and acknowledged Christ as Lord, saying, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”(9:6a).

Unable to see, Saul was guided to Damascus by the very men he had chosen to persecute the followers of Christ. Though rendered “speechless” (for they had heard a voice, but saw no man), they were unchanged by the experience that transformed Saul’s heart and life (9:7). Saul arrived in Damascus; with the Lord’s promise he would be told what he must do (9:6c). For three days, the great persecutor of believers found himself blind, and with no appetite for food or drink (9:9).

While Saul waited, the Lord moved on the heart of Ananias, a devout man, and a follower of Christ (9:10). He learned the LORD had chosen him to restore Saul’s sight. He resisted the LORD, for he knew Saul’s reputation, and the path of death and destruction he had blazed. Ananias prayed, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name” (9:13-14). Then, the Lord revealed to Ananias how Saul was “a chosen vessel” and would bear Christ’s name “before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (9:15). As he had persecuted believers, Saul would himself become an object of persecution, for the Lord would reveal to “him how great things he must suffer for [His] name’s sake” (9:16).

Ananias obeyed the Lord, “and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (9:17-18).

Closing thoughts – Because he was a Pharisee and trained in rabbinical schools, Saul had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. With not only his physical eyes restored, but his spiritual eyes open, he believed and began to preach Christ “is the Son of God” (9:20). The Jews of his day were amazed at the transformation in Saul’s life.

The transformation in Saul’s life was nothing short of radical. He had been transformed from the great persecutor of the followers of Christ, to a faithful apostle and preacher. What a testimony of saving, transforming grace! No wonder Paul would later write, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

* 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.

Be Strong in the LORD and Bold in Your Witness! (Acts 7; Acts 8)

Scripture reading – Acts 7; Acts 8

Recorded in Acts 7 and 8 are two of the great pivotal points in the maturing of the early church: The death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church (Acts 7); and the conversion of Saul the great persecutor of the church (Acts 8).

We first met Stephen in Acts 6 when he was named among the seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the rapidly growing congregation. Though there is some debate, I believe the seven were the first Deacons, one of only two Biblical offices in the New Testament church, the other being the Pastor\Elder (1 Timothy 3).

The role of the seven was defined as serving tables (Acts 6:2), meaning the menial, but intimate care of the members of their assembly. Particularly noteworthy was the spiritual character that was demanded of those who would be Deacons. Those men were to be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

Of the seven chosen, Stephen, was specifically distinguished as a man, “full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8). His testimony and boldness in faith, spiritual wisdom, and power in the spirit made him a formidable witness among those in the synagogues (6:9-10).

As it was with Christ, so it was for Stephen; the enemies of the Gospel were determined to silence him. After arresting Stephen, evil men were employed to bring false accusations against him (6:11-13). Hurling lies against his character, those who sat in the council were amazed, for his countenance was “as it had been the face of an angel” (6:15).

Having heard the charges of his accusers, Stephen was asked by the high priest, “Are these things so?” (7:1).

Stephen’s defense reflected a breadth and depth of knowledge in the Old Testament Scriptures, that made his argument before the council powerful and convicting (7:2-53). He systematically set forth a historical case for Christ beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon (7:2-50). Concluding his defense, Stephen fearlessly rebuked the council, exposed their hypocrisy, and charged them and their fathers with the deaths of the prophets (7:51-53).

Rather than answer Stephen’s indictment, the lawless members of the council broke their laws, and without an answer or passing judgment, stoned him to death (7:54-58).

The religious hypocrites were guilty. They were guilty of the blood of the prophets, and having already rejected Jesus Christ, they added to their condemnation the blood of Stephen. There was, however, one exception in that crowd of mockers: “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul”(7:58). Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church, would soon come face to face with the reality of a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

Closing thought – I trust Stephen’s knowledge of the Scriptures, and his courageous example will stir your heart to study the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and embolden your faith to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

* 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.

Are you ready for Christ’s coming? It may be today! (Acts 1)

Scripture reading – Acts 1

The “Book of Acts,” also known as the “The Acts of the Apostles,” is a pivotal book in the New Testament. The book is, as its name implies, a record of the actions and activities of the Apostles following Christ’s bodily resurrection.

 Jesus appeared to His followers on at least ten separate occasions following His resurrection from the dead.

He first appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9), and other women who came and found His tomb empty (Matthew 28:8-10).  He then appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5), and later to two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). He then appeared to ten of the disciples, less Thomas who was not present (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-29).  Eight days later, He appeared in the midst of the eleven disciples, and Thomas was present (John 20:24-29). Jesus also appeared to seven of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, which was known to the Jews as the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23).

In his epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul chronicled Jesus’ appearance to five hundred followers at one time, and then to James (I Corinthians 15:6-7). Lastly, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus appeared to His disciples, and commissioned them to “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Observations – The literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central hope of believers (Luke 24:39-40; 41-43; Acts 1:3). Therefore, Jesus stayed with His disciples 40 days after His resurrection, and emboldened them with “many infallible proofs,” that forever changed their lives (Acts 1:3). After exhorting His disciples to “WAIT for the promise of the Father… [and] ye shall be BAPTIZED with the Holy Ghost” (1:4-5),  Jesus “was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (1:9).

Then, two angels appeared to the disciples, and assured them with a promise that has been the hope of believers for 2,000 years: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (1:11).

Closing thoughts – The resurrection and promise of Christ’s imminent return forever changed the disciples’ perspective on their lives and ministry. They lived, ministered, and died in anticipation He would come again, and His coming would be sudden and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

 Are you ready for His coming? It may be today!

* 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.