As we began in the New Testament in our Whole Story sermon series, you will recall that we took the first few books in this order: Matthew, Mark, John; and then Luke and Acts. There were two reasons we did this.
First, Luke was the common author of Luke and Acts. And he wrote those books as one, singular history of the work that Jesus began to do and teach, followed by all the Acts of Jesus and the Spirit that would then continue through the church, the gathering of his rescued and transformed disciples.
Second, that two-part history provides the entire backdrop and timeline for the rest of the New Testament. Everything else we will encounter in the rest of The Whole Story has been
setup in that two-volume history from Luke. Which means that it is quite important that you have read it, so you understand the context and backstory of what you are continuing to read.
Which is why we must turn in our Bibles to Acts chapter 18…
We are jumping into Paul’s story, and he has just spent time in Athens, Greece “proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection” (17:18), and doing it so well that it has landed him on trial before the Areopagus to present Christianity in the very heart of the public square. From there, he has made his way to Corinth.
18 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word: testifying to the Jews that the [Messiah] was Jesus.
(Acts 18:1-5, ESV)
So I need you to understand something about Paul and his beliefs. And actually, this was true of everyone in Paul’s day. “In Paul’s day, “religion” consisted of god-related activities that, along with politics and community life, held a culture together and bound the members of that culture to its divinities and to one another. In the Modern Western world, “religion” tends to mean God-related individual beliefs and practices that are supposedly separable from culture, politics, and community life. For Paul [and his contemporaries], “religion” was woven in with all of life; for the modern Western world, it is separated from it.” (N.T. Wright, Paul: A Biography, p. 3.)
So for Paul, there is no separation between private and public life. He has one, singular way to look at the world, and to live within it. And the massive shift that had happened for him on the road to Damascus was to move from believing that Christianity was a heresy that was a threat to his identity as a Yahweh-follower who was awaiting the long promised Messiah who would bring in the fullness of God’s kingdom, to, in person, face-to-face with the risen Jesus, seeing Jesus as the Messiah and fulfillment of all he had so zealously believed and lived his whole life. And he was now seeking to persuade Jews and Greeks—he was announcing—that believing in this crucified and risen Jesus would open up for them a whole new reality. A whole new way of seeing absolutely every single part of their lives.
I invite you now to watch or listen to part one of two sermons on 1 Corinthians, where we will sit at the feet of Paul as he applies the reality of Jesus and the Good News to four issues in the lives of Corinthian Christians. It will allow us the opportunity to watch and learn how we can do the same thing in our own lives, for we will never get beyond Jesus and the Good News as the very practical solution to how we may live a life of flourishing.
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.
This last Sunday, we made our way into Paul’s second letter to some very dear friends who made up the church he and Silas had planted in Thessalonica, a city in Greece.
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First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.