“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.’”
John 16: 13-14
Acts 15-16 (Psalm 126)
The Council at Jerusalem is a monumental occasion, a watershed, for the Church. I will consider this matter on Sunday in our service (17th Oct). Today I want to focus on the ‘spiritual realities’ we see in these passages.
Firstly, the dispute between Paul and Barnabas; who was right? In a sense it didn’t matter; Barnabas the encourager, who saw potential in Saul now Paul, sees the same in Mark. The outcome is two mission trips not one. It seems a later reconciliation occurred between Paul and Mark (2 Timothy 4: 11), but what we see here is God bringing good out of all situations as all loved God and were called according to His purposes (Romans 8: 28).
Secondly, the Holy Spirit prevents Paul from entering Asia, where towns like Ephesus and the recipients of the letters we read in Revelation were located. What was God doing? He was opening the door to Europe instead. The Spirit gave Paul a vision which took them to Philippi and the first European convert, a wealthy lady called Lydia. The Spirit is working to spread God’s Kingdom to all.
Thirdly, the opposition Paul then faced which led to a beating and imprisonment. A slave girl possessed by a spirit that gave her the ability to tell the future was making money for her owners. In frustration, and an act of kindness, Paul by God’s power delivered this girl. The retaliation was swift and brutal. Paul, and his mission, came up against the principalities and powers behind the spirit of the world. The Gospel will always bring a reaction.
Finally, in prison the Holy Spirit enabled Paul and Silas to praise God despite their situation and condition (Philippians 4: 4-6). Their witness, and the work of the Holy Spirit in conviction, brought a family to faith
For us the lessons are clear. Firstly, conflict can be healthy if submitted to the Lord; growth will always come. Secondly, God is Sovereign and owns the big plan; we need to keep our hearts open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to be led by Him and keep in step with Him. Thirdly, opposition will come when we obey God and it can get nasty; we need to remember that He that is in us is greater than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Finally, the Holy Spirit can enable us to focus on God in praise despite the situations we may be facing; this is a true source of strength and courage.
These are realities that we may all face. How wonderful that we can face them empowered by the living Holy Spirit of God within rather than on our own.
The Question of Application
How might the Holy Spirit enable and empower you today in a situation that you are facing?
O, Holy Spirit, fulfill in us the work begun by Jesus. Let our prayer on behalf of the whole world be fruitful and unwavering. Hasten the time when each of us will attain a genuine spiritual life. Enliven our work that it may reach all, and may all be accomplished in accordance with your will through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen
Fall Afresh - Bethel Music
Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God – Keith and Kristyn Getty
For those wondering why Paul had Timothy circumcised just after the Council at Jerusalem, there is a probable explanation. Timothy was a Jew by birth but his father was a Greek; the Council did not declare circumcision unnecessary for the Jews. An additional note; a mixed marriage would not normally be accepted but Paul, by excepting Timothy as a brother in this way, actually showed how barriers had been broken down
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.