Tag Archives: Ministry

Parting Words (2 Peter; Jude 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Peter 1-3; Jude 1

Today’s chronological reading brings us to two epistles, written by two different authors. The letter known as “The Second Epistle of Peter” (titled in some Bibles, “The Second General Epistle of Peter,” (general meaning it was not addressed to a specific individual or congregation), was written by the apostle Peter who was one of Christ’s twelve disciples.

The second letter is titled, “The General Epistle of Jude,” and bears the name of its author in the title. Bible historians are nearly unanimous in their opinion that Jude was the half-brother of Jesus Christ, the son of Joseph and Mary, and was the “brother of James” (Jude 1:1). This James was most likely the pastor\elder of the congregation in Jerusalem (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Acts 12:17; 21:18-25; Galatians 1:19).

2 Peter probably predates Jude; however, both were likely written in the latter half of the 1st century, and to believers who found themselves in the throes of persecution. I fear 2 Peter and Jude are not well known in today’s churches; however, they are worthy of your time and attention. The scope of this devotional is limited to “The Second Epistle of Peter.”

2 Peter 1 – An Introduction

One senses an urgency in the opening verses of Peter’s brief letter, as he called on believers to grow spiritually, pressing them to manifest the godly virtues that should be evident in the lives of all believers (1:3-7). Impelled by the imminency of his own death, Peter wrote, “14 Knowing that shortly I must put off [lay aside] this my tabernacle [physical body], even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed [modeled; given a pattern] me” (1:14).

Leaving no doubt that he expected Christ’s prophecy of his martyrdom would soon come to pass (John 21:18-19), Peter continued, “15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (1:15).

2 Peter 2 – False Teachers and Their Heresies

Knowing he would not have another opportunity to address believers, Peter exhorted, and warned them of the dangers they would soon be facing. He warned that enemies of the Gospel, “false teachers,” would enter the congregations, and bring with them their “damnable heresies, even denying the Lord [Christ] that bought them [i.e. redeemed them with His blood], and bring upon themselves swift destruction [judgment]” (2:1).

Tragically, Peter prophesied that many believers would accept the heresies, and so doing would turn from the truth, and give themselves to all manner of immorality and wickedness (2:2). Those wicked teachers would enrich themselves, and with their lies and insincere professions of faith, would take advantage of ignorant, foolish believers (2:3, 19-22).

2 Peter 3 – The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Peter concluded his last epistle, urging believers to remember the promise of Christ’s Second Coming, and warning that scoffers would come into their midst, and would question and ridicule the promise of Christ’s return. Wicked men would suggest that believers were vainly looking for Christ’s coming, telling lies and making the observation that nothing had changed, and “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (3:4). Such falsehoods would lead some to stray from the truth, and be turned to sinful ways.

What do you believe regarding the promise that Jesus Christ will return for believers? Some might argue, “Well, the Church has been waiting for two thousand years, and nothing has changed. If Jesus is coming back, where is He?”

Peter answered that query, encouraging believers to look at life and eternity from God’s perspective. 

Earthly life is fleeting (“a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away,” James 4:14); however, the Lord is the God of eternity and “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (3:8). Fortunately for sinners, God is slow to judge, and is patient. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (3:9).

If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, don’t presume upon His patience, or scoff and question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (3:4).

He is coming, and we should always be ready and watching!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Keep the Faith! Wear Your Spiritual Combat Boots to the Grave! (2 Timothy 1-4)

Scripture reading – 2 Timothy 1-4

Our chronological reading schedule brings us to Paul’s final epistle, and his second letter to Timothy, whom he addressed as “my dearly beloved son” (1:2a). The date of 2 Timothy is presumed to be sometime between A.D. 65-68, and was written during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome.

2 Timothy 1:1-12

Paul’s letter evidences the agape’, self-sacrificing love and concern that he had for Timothy, a man whom he loved as his spiritual son. The epistle was purposed to encourage the young preacher, and assure him of the apostle’s love, though he found his own ministry limited to Nero’s prison (1:2-4).

After affirming the sincerity of Timothy’s faith, and reminding him of his godly heritage (1:5), Paul began to challenge and exhort him to not lose heart: “Stir up [rekindle] the [spiritual] gift of God, which is in thee” (1:6). Take courage: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear” (1:7a). Don’t fall victim to shame, whether it is to give testimony for the Lord, or identify with Paul as “his prisoner” (1:8). Understand that preaching the Gospel will bring its share of “afflictions,” but accept them in “the power of God” (1:8b).

Paul reminded his “son in the faith,” of his own life and testimony as a “preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles (1:11). He declared, “12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (1:12).

2 Timothy 1:13-2:26 – The next verses and chapters build upon the responsibility that Timothy, and every other preacher of the Gospel bears.

The preacher is challenged to herald the Word of God with conviction (1:13), and not be deterred by adversaries (1:15). He is to “be strong” (2:1), “endure hardness” (2:3), be disciplined in studying the Scriptures (2:15), and not get entangled with foolish, pointless, vain conversations (2:16). He must not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or fight that has no righteous purpose (2:23).

2 Timothy 3

2 Timothy 3:1-9  describes the ungodliness, and wickedness that will be characteristic of the last days. Reflecting on his own life and ministry, Paul challenged Timothy to be a godly example, and be true to his godly heritage, and the Scriptures he had been immersed in since he was a child (3:10-17).

2 Timothy 4

Though he realized his life and ministry were in their twilight; Paul’s love for the Lord, his passion for the Gospel ministry, and his affection for the saints of God were undiminished (4:6-8).

He had suffered persecution, and knew the sorrow of desertion (4:10a, 16). He understood his death was imminent; however, he had experienced the Lord’s presence, and strength (4:17), and was confident the Lord would “preserve [him] (4:18a). Paul was determined that he would not quit until the Lord was finished with him and took him home to heaven (4:18b).

For nearly two millennium, Paul’s life, and the manner in which he approached his last days, has served as an inspiration to believers. The aged apostle left us not only an inspiring example, but a challenge to finish our course in life, and keep the faith (4:5-8)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What Do You Believe? (Hebrews 11-13)

Scripture reading – Hebrews 11-13

Continuing with our chronological reading of the Bible, today’s Scripture (Hebrews 11-13) concludes our brief study of the Epistle of Hebrews. I have been impressed afresh with the splendor of God’s redemptive plan of salvation for my sins.

Review of Hebrews 10

God gave His Commandments and Law (Exodus 20), and thereby we are, along with Israel, convinced and convicted of our sinfulness. Rather than proving our merit to God by keeping the Law, the Law proved that we are all sinners by nature and practice. In Paul’s words, “all the world [is] guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).

God instituted His covenant that required sacrifices and offerings for sin; however, they were never meant to “take away our sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The sacrifices were offered daily, and were a perpetual reminder of man’s guilt in the sight and judgment of a Holy God (10:1-4). Understanding “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a), and that God requires a blood sacrifice for sin (because life is in the blood), God had a perfect, complete way for man’s sins, and our salvation.

Hebrews 10:1010 By the which [i,e, in accordance with God’s] will we are sanctified [made holy; sanctified] through the offering [sacrifice] of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Jesus Christ was ONCE offered, for our sins. He being perfect and sinless, was the necessary sacrifice for sins (10:10, 12, 14). When we, by faith believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and trust Him as our Savior, God promised, our “sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (10:17) and “no more offering for sin” is required (10:18).

What then is “Faith?” (Hebrews 11)

Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance [confidence; the basis or foundation] of things hoped for, the evidence [conviction] of things not seen [things that cannot be proved physically].”

According to Hebrews 11:1, faith is a settled confidence; a belief that what God says in His Word is true. In other words, faith believes God! Faith is an act of the mind, heart, and will. It might be said that faith not only hears truth, but also believes, and acts upon it by claiming it.

I have not seen God, but I have faith that He has revealed Himself in His Creation (Psalm 19:1) and revealed Himself in His Word. The writer of Hebrews made the same observation writing, “Through faith we understand [perceive; discern] that the worlds were framed [fashioned; prepared] by the word of God, so that things which are seen [visible] were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3).

Take a moment and weigh Hebrews 11:3 –  “Through faith we understand [perceive; discern] that the worlds were framed [fashioned; prepared] by the word of God, so that things which are seen [visible] were not made of things which do appear.”

Friend, look up at the stars of heaven, see the glory of God displayed, and know that far beyond the naked eye, there are tens of thousands of galaxies, with innumerable stars.

Psalm 19:1 – “1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Is Jesus Christ Your High Priest? (Hebrews 7-10)

Scripture reading – Hebrews 7-10

You might have heard someone use the term “deep waters,” in describing a topic or subject that is difficult, and challenging to grasp. I fear today’s Scripture reading might tempt many to label the passages “too deep,” and too difficult to understand (Hebrews 7-10).

Before you give up, allow me an opportunity to narrow your focus to one chapter, Hebrews 7, and attempt to make the difficult as simple as possible. First, allow me to introduce you to Melchisedec (7:1).

Who was Melchisedec? (Hebrews 7:1-19)

Melchisedec is mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 5-7. Scholars and preachers have long debated the identity of Melchisedec; however, we know very little about him, apart from his spiritual stature in the Scriptures.

We first meet Melchisedec in Genesis 14 where he was identified as the “king of Salem” (Genesis 14:18-20), Salem being an ancient name for Jerusalem. He is identified in both Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7:1-2, as the “priest of the most high God.” Hebrews 5:5-6 identified Jesus Christ “as a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec,” and Christ Himself being “called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (5:10).

In other words, Melchisedec, who appeared as the “priest of the most high God” in Genesis 14, and preceded Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection by 4000 year, was a type, a forerunner, a preincarnate portrait of Christ.

Hebrews 6:20 identified Jesus as “an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” While the Aaronic priesthood was hereditary, passed from father to son, the Melchisedec priesthood was established and appointed by “the most high God” (7:1).

Melchisedec was Superior to Abraham and His Seed. (7:1-7)

An illustration of Melchisedec’s superiority to Abraham, is shown by that patriarch returning from a successful battle, and with the spoils of his victory, offering the sacrifice of a tithe, “a tenth part of all” to Melchisedec (7:1, 4).

Melchisedec is also identified as the “King of righteousness, [the] King of Salem, [and the] King of peace” (7:1-2). Unlike the Levitical\Aaronic order of the priesthood that was dependent upon one’s physical heredity (7:5), Melchisedec’s priesthood was not dependent upon human lineage. He was the “priest of the most high God” (7:1), “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (7:3).

Jesus Christ is the Believer’s High Priest, After the Order of Melchisedec (7:21-28)

Melchisedec served the office of the “priest of the most high God” (7:1), and like Jesus Christ , his lineage was not that of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah, the royal tribe (7:13-14).  Of Jesus we read, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec (7:17).

The Levitical priests had to continually offer daily sacrifices for their sins, and the sins of the people (7:27); however, Jesus is the perfect, sinless, perpetual high priest (7:24-28).

Jesus has the power to save us from our sins! (7:24-25)

We who have accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, do not require another priest to intercede for us. He “is able also to save [sinners] to the uttermost [wholly, completely, nothing lacking] that come unto God by him [Jesus], seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (7:24-25).

Jesus is the perfect high priest. (7:26-27)

He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (7:26-27).

Is Jesus your high priest? He is, if He is your Savior.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Challenge to Grow Up! (Hebrews 1-6)

Scripture reading – Hebrews 1-6

Nearing the conclusion of our chronological study of the Scriptures for the year 2020, we come to the book of the Bible identified as Hebrews. Some of your Bibles might suggest the title, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.”

Because of the length of today’s reading assignment (Hebrews 1-6), I have purposed to keep the devotional brief, while giving you some historical details that I hope might enrich your study.

The Author of Hebrews

Many scholars, and preachers have supposed the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul. If he is the author, he neglected to identify himself in its opening salutation as he did in his other letters (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; and so on). There is much about Hebrews that would commend itself to Paul as its author, especially the fact that it was certainly addressed to Hebrew believers.

The Date of Hebrews

The date of the writing of Hebrews is uncertain; however, most scholars agree that it must have been composed to Hebrew believers before Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed (A.D. 70). Persecution and imprisonment were beginning in the Roman empire, in fact, Hebrews 13:23 mentions that Timothy was expected to soon be “set at liberty.”

The Recipients of Hebrews

I have already expressed the opinion that the letter was written to Hebrew believers. Those saints would have had knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, and understood the references to the priesthood, the Temple, and sacrificial offerings (10:11).

I also propose that the epistle was written to a second generation of believers, especially since the author takes to task some of the saints who were failing to evidence spiritual maturity (5:12-13). They had been privileged to sit under the preaching of the Gospel, and instruction in the God’s Word (Hebrews 5:14; 13:7). The author expressed great disappointment that the recipients had failed to grow into spiritually mature believers.

A Closing Thought

Could it be there are some reading today’s Scripture who might see themselves among those who “ought to be teachers” (5:12)? To be content with the “milk” of God’s Word and remain a spiritual preemie? No wonder there are many 21st century believers who are spiritually anemic, and lack spiritually discernment.

Hebrews 5:14 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Copyright 2020 – 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

Philippians: An Epistle of Joy (Philippians 1-4)

Scripture reading – Philippians 1-4

Our study of Paul’s “Prison Epistles” concludes with the beloved Epistle to the Philippians, and was written to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (1:1). Though written in particular to believers in Philippi, the epistle has been providentially preserved for the saints of all ages.

Introduction to the City of Philippi

The city of Philippi, located in eastern Macedonia, was on a major traderoute between Asia and Europe and was the gateway between two continents. The city had a large population, was a center for Greek culture, and had become a thriving commercial center in Paul’s day.

Apart from Paul’s epistle, there is little mention of Philippi in the New Testament. It was in Philippi where we first met the Jewess named Lydia, a woman described as a “seller of purple,” and who became a believer in Christ, the Messiah (Acts 16:14-15). Paul and Silas had also been jailed in Philippi, following an uprising led by some who protested their trade in idols was being harmed. When God had sent an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison, Paul bid the jailer to not take his own life; and he and his family became believers and were baptized (Acts 16:30-34).

The Circumstances of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

Scholars believe the letter was sent by Paul to Philippi sometime between 60 and 65 A.D. The apostle, now an elderly statesman of the Gospel, was under house arrest, and humanly speaking appeared to be on the shelf of ministry service. Unable to travel, his future uncertain, and the reality of martyrdom being a very real fate, it would have been an easy step for Paul to despair of life.

Though bound by Caesar, Paul was a prisoner of the Lord and his heart effused with the joy of ministering to believers. Instead of an epistle conveying gloom and despair, Paul penned a letter expressing love and joy! He was buoyed by a mutual love and affection that he shared with the believers at Philippi. His care and expressions of love fill the pages of this epistle (1:2-4, 7, 9). Even in the midst of his own bondage, Paul writes, “I pray, that your love may abound [abounding love] yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).

Following the example of the apostle’s self-sacrificing love and ministry, the believers at Philippi had evidenced their love and affection for Paul in very tangible ways. They were, as many have observed:

Models of JOY: Jesus first; Others second; and Yourself last.

Appreciating the abundance of God’s grace bestowed on them through Paul preaching the Gospel, the Philippians gave sacrificially, even out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). They became models of self-sacrificing giving, disregarding their own needs, they gave cheerfully “by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). When Paul was in need, they sent a generous offering to support his ministry (Philippians 4:14-16), even sending Epaphroditus, one of their own to minister to Paul in Rome (2:25-30).

I have merely touched upon the mutual love Paul and the saints at Philippi had for one another. Suffice it to say, their affectionate bond should encourage 21st century believers and their ministers to cultivate the same loving relationship between those who minister, and those who are served.

Philippians 4:1 – Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Call for Unity (Ephesians 1-6)

Scripture reading – Ephesians 1-6

Our devotional study of the Acts of the Apostles concluded with Paul under house arrest in Rome, where he was imprisoned for two years (Acts 28:30). Today’s Scripture reading, The Epistle to the Ephesians, is one of four “Prison Epistles” that the apostle wrote during those years of confinement (the others being Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon).

You might remember that Paul had spent three years ministering in Ephesus, and had warned the leaders of that congregation, that “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29), would enter the assembly after his departure and would spiritually ravage the believers. Indeed, the very life and health of the church would be threatened by enemies from within the congregation.

Ephesians 1-3 – The Believer’s Relationship in Christ

In the first three chapters, Paul reminded the believers of their position in Christ: Redeemed “through His blood” (1:7), “saved through faith…created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (2:8-10), “sealed [secured] with the Holy Spirit of promise” (1:13), “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (2:12-13), Jew and Gentile “fellowheirs, and of the same body” (3:6) which is the church.

Ephesians 4-6 – The Believer’s Life and Walk in the World

Paul exhorted the believers of Ephesus to live, “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (4:2), to the end that they “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). Whether Jew or Gentile, Greek or Roman, slave or master, sincere believers were to have a mutual affection, a spiritual kinship because they were “one body, and one Spirit” (4:4-6).

Paul taught that unity and harmony would characterize believers as they accepted their place and function in the body of Christ (4:7-8, 11-12, 4:16). While the world was known for its self-centeredness, and narcissistic pursuit of sinful pleasures (4:14, 19, 22, 25-30), the believers were to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:23-24).

Because the Gentile believers had been saved out of a heathen, idol worshipping culture, Paul took pangs to define the character of God’s people and the transformation their salvation and sanctification was to have made in their relationships with others. Unlike their culture, believers were to be characterized by self-sacrificing love (5:2), “goodness and righteousness and truth” (5:9), gratitude (5:20), and submission (5:21).

Husbands were commanded to love their wives, “even as Christ also loved the church” (5:25), and their wives were to love and revere their husbands (5:33). Children were to fulfill the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12), and obey and honor their parents (6:1-3). Servants were to obey their masters “as unto Christ” (6:5-8), and masters were to treat their servants with dignity and respect (6:9).

In other words, salvation and sanctification was to have turned their world upside down from the common order!

Paul’s letter closes with a challenge, a warning, and an exhortation: “Be strong in the Lord11 Put on the whole armour of God12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (6:10-13).

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