Sunday, July 9, 2017

well-paved paths of righteousness

The Word for today:
Acts 18:18-28
mark these: Acts 18:22-23; 19:21
The next stop was at the port of Caesarea. From there he went up and visited the church at Jerusalem and then went back to Antioch. After spending some time in Antioch, Paul went back to Galatia and Phrygia, visiting all the believers, encouraging them and helping them to grow in the Lord.
Afterward Paul felt impelled by the Holy Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before returning to Jerusalem. "And after that," he said, "I must go on to Rome!"
The three verses above are typical of the book of Acts, which can often sound and feel like the dizzying itinerary of a whirlwind tour. Let's take a look at the place names in just those three verses:
"Caesarea, Jerusalem, Antioch, Galatia, Phrygia, Macedonia, Achaia; then back to Jerusalem, then on to Rome!"
Whew! The book of Acts follows Paul on three distinct missionary journeys along the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Normally, travel in the ancient world had been imperiled by pirates, barbarian armies, and hostile border guards.
But by Paul's lifetime, Rome had established an enforced peace--Pax Romana--which prevailed throughout the empire.
Furthermore, Roman engineers had crisscrossed the empire with a network of roads (some built so well that they still survive.)  Paul, as a Roman citizen, was at liberty to take these highways to any destination.
Language, too, was unified. The Greek tongue--famed yet today for its full range of expression--crossed all ethnic and political boundaries. The New Testament, in order to take full advantage of these factors, would be written in Greek
The conditions were as good as they would ever get for the spread of the gospel.
And Paul himself could not have had a more advantageous background: a Pharisee who had studied with the famous teacher Gamaliel (1), he was fully attuned to the Hebrew mind. At the same time, his Roman citizenship gave him the status he needed to open certain doors and avoid some legal impediments.
Make no mistake that, despite his advantages, Paul was in "enemy territory" during his missionary travels. (The reader of Acts is left with two main impressions: the relentless travel--and the relentless beatings, stonings, lashings, death threats, and imprisonments.)
But God had "set the table" before him in the presence of those enemies! God had chosen an optimum era in which to launch the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The infrastructure had been constructed, the peace had been established, the language had taken hold--and God was leading a man of unique gifts and temperament down well-paved paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

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