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Luke is such an honest man. He wants us to see how the Holy Spirit worked to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world. An exciting story! But it not an easy story. Luke is honest: the messengers of the good news face conflict and have to compromise, or do what seems like compromise.
Paul and Barnabas are to take the letter from the Jerusalem Council affirming salvation by grace and requesting a grace-led life to the churches in the Roman Empire. Barnabas wants to also bring John Mark along. Paul does not. Paul has issues with John Mark because of previous history. So the two friends part company. It had to be painful. But grace was still at work, for they placed one another and their companions “in God’s care” (15:40).
And Paul had his new friend Timothy circumcised. After all the debate in Jerusalem? Is Paul backing off on salvation by grace and grace alone? No, he is wanting to remove any barrier to the spreading of the good news. He wants to bring Timothy with him on missions among Jews. He does not want any stumbling blocks, so has Timothy accept the sign of the covenant in order to getting a hearing. Paul would later spell out his strategy on this in his first letter to the Corinthians (9:19-23).
As a result of blessing those with whom they disagreed, and being willing to sacrifice to remove any possible scandal, the churches thrived!
Dear Father, You want your gospel to go to all the world. Grant us grace to bless those who do not see eye to eye with us, and grace to be willing to be and do whatever it takes to bear winsome witness to Jesus. In his name we pray. Amen.