This series of posts pertains to the life of the Apostle Paul and the way Jesus Christ lived in him. Since God has no favorites, his life in Christ is a pattern for Christ's life in you.
Saul is brought to teach the church an Antioch (Day 4)
“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”
Acts 11:19-26 ESV
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
Acts 13:1-3 ESV
The persecution of those in the Way by the Jewish authorities, Saul included, caused them to be scattered to cities north of Israel. God grew His church in those places.
Barnabus, who Saul had met in Jerusalem, known to be full of the Holy Spirit and faith, was sent to Antioch. What he saw there caused great excitement. After encouraging the believers there, he went to Tarsus (within Cilicia) to look for Saul to join him.
Barnabus brought Saul back from Tarsus as a companion with which to minister to the church in Antioch, Syria. For a year, they had fellowship with and taught this church.
It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, and the name has persisted to this day.
This is the church from which Saul was sent out on his first missionary journey, by the instruction of the Holy Spirit to the church. Saul and Barnabus had built up this church, and the Holy Spirit wanted them to go. This church started the tradition of laying hands on those who would be sent out.
Prayer: I praise You for establishing Your church, Lord, on faith in Jesus Christ, including the faith of Your apostles. Thank You for the way You lead us in Your church, Holy Spirit. I ask to be part of Your work to build up Your church, both where You have placed me now and wherever you lead me.
- Based on Matthew 16:18, 1 Corinthians 14:12
Saul begins to preach the faith he once tried to destroy (Day 3)
Saul wrote the following about what he did after his conversion:
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
Galatians 1:15-17 ESV
In Damascus, Luke recorded the following about Saul:
“And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.”
Acts 9:20-23, 25 ESV
Saul wrote about what happened next:
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.”
Galatians 1:18-19 ESV
Luke wrote about Saul’s return to Jerusalem:
“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
Acts 9:26-31 ESV
About this time, Saul wrote:
“Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.”
Galatians 1:21-24 ESV
Saul left for Arabia, located east of Jerusalem and Damascus, after Jesus told him to leave Jerusalem. It’s unclear how long he was there nor what he did while he was there, although it could have been a few years before he returned to Damascus.
In Damascus, Saul preached Jesus as the Son of God. This created confusion, for it was known that he had recently come there to capture those in the Way, taking them into captivity in Jerusalem. Instead, he taught about how Jesus was the Messiah. After some number of days, he became very unpopular with the Jews in Damascus because of his boldness. When the Christians at Damascus learned of the plans of the Jews to kill Saul, they helped him to escape at night.
Three years after his conversion, Saul went back down to Jerusalem, where he was not well accepted among the disciples of Christ. Most of them thought Saul was trying to trick them, although Barnabus advocated for Saul. Peter accepted him, and Saul spent 15 days with him, also visiting with James, Jesus’ brother. This is the writer of the book of James, another leader of the church in Jerusalem. It would be interesting to know how those discussions among the three apostles–- Saul, Peter and James— started and how they progressed.
After Saul began preaching in Jerusalem, he was unable to stay, coming out and going back in. His clashes were particularly significant with the Hellenists, those who had adopted Greek culture. The believers sent Saul to his home city, Tarsus.
In any case, Saul had become part of the building up of the church of Jesus, and the word about this was spreading throughout the region, causing the Christians to glorify God: “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy”!
That’s right. Nothing is too difficult for God! He is glorified in doing the impossible, and the change in the life of Saul is one of the most beautiful testimonies of what God is all about: life change!
Prayer: I praise You, Lord, for nothing is too difficult for You. Your ways are higher than mine, Lord, as are Your thoughts. Blessed be Your Name. Thank You, Spirit of God, for fellowship in Your church that builds us up, and for giving us words to speak when we step out in faith.
- Based on Jeremiah 32:17, Isaiah 55:8-9, Job 1:21, Luke 12:12
Saul's converion (Day 2)
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.”
Acts 9:1-19 ESV
Paul later testified about his vision:
““As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’””
Acts 22:6-21 ESV
Paul testified a second time about it:
““In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”
Acts 26:12-18 ESV
Sometime circa 33-36 AD, Saul sought the permission of the chief priests through letters to the synagogues in Damascus to travel there in order to continue his persecution of the Way. He planned to capture and bind followers of Jesus, leading them back to Jerusalem to imprison them. Saul obtained permission and left with an entourage of force.
As Saul approached Damascus, Jesus appeared to him in a vision. This appearance was accompanied by a bright, blinding light, as if the Jewish men were staring into the sun, and they all fell to the ground as the living Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2), spoke. Saul was blinded except for the vision of Jesus, and the others with him heard Jesus speaking but didn’t see Him.
Jesus confronted Saul, speaking to him by name, “Saul, Saul, Why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Jesus used an agricultural term with which Saul was familiar, a pointy, iron, ox goad that prodded the oxen to plow and would be driven further into their flesh if they were to try to resist by kicking at it.
When Saul asked who was speaking to him, Jesus identified Himself as “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” At this moment, Saul must have been shocked. Jesus continued, “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
Saul replied to Jesus, “What shall I do, Lord?”
He was instructed to go into Damascus. Now blind, Saul had to be led in by his companions. They found shelter at the home of a man named Judas. Saul had to wait for 3 days for Ananias to show up, directed by God. Able only to replay his humbling experience in his mind, Saul neither ate nor drank. Instead, he prayed.
When Ananias received instruction from the Lord by way of a vision to go to Saul to fulfill another vision given to Saul about Ananias coming to him to restore his sight, Ananias resisted. Saul had a reputation, and Ananias knew Saul had come to Damascus to put Christians like him in prison. God changed his mind by sharing His purpose for Saul with Ananias: “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Ananias obeyed God, going to Saul and laying hands on him, and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit… Brother Saul, receive your sight.” The Spirit of God in Ananias filled Saul, now a brother in Christ, at Ananias’ command and touch, healing him from blindness at the same time. Something like scales fell from his eyes, and within the hour Saul received his sight.
Ananias said to Paul, “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”
Obedient to this man of God, Saul rose and was baptized. Taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he stayed with the followers of Jesus at Damascus, now one of Jesus’ disciples, as one abnormally born. He had called on the name of the Lord Jesus in faith (Romans 10:9-13), and his sins were washed away.
When Saul returned to Jerusalem, he had yet another vision while praying in the temple. This time, he fell into a trance and saw Jesus saying to him, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.”
Paul replied, “Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.”
Jesus replied, “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”
Prayer: I praise You that you relentlessly pursue us, Lord, as a shepherd does a lost sheep, giving each of us a testimony of your pursuit of us and your work within us. You have changed my heart and mind, Lord, by Your Spirit, and I am fully yours.
-Based on Matthew 18:12-14
A free book of mine called Identity in Christ: 33 Characteristics of His Church was recently made available on the Downloads page.
Saul (Day 1)
In Acts 22, Luke the physician turned evangelist recorded Saul’s words about his past. Luke is thought to be a disciple of Saul, who called him a “fellow worker” (Philemon 1:24). Saul also wrote about it in Phillipians 3:5-6.
Born in Tarsus in Cilicia to the tribe of Benjamin, Saul was educated by the great teacher Gamiliel, later able to call himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and a Pharisee.
The highest thing a young Jewish man could aspire to was to be educated by an esteemed teacher of the law as a disciple. Saul had scored! His education made him la crème de la crème, setting him up for leadership among his people, and he took the opportunity.
As a leader of the Jews, cooperating with the high priest and the council of elders, Saul was zealous for God and His righteousness. He saw himself as righteous because of his adherence to the law of the Old Testament. Saul said of himself,
“And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”
Galatians 1:14 ESV
Saul’s confidence and zeal led him to persecute the people of the Way, or those who were later called Christians. The council saw them as a cult. Saul said, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.”
And this is exactly where Saul is inserted into the narrative of the Bible by Luke, as one who stood by condoning the murder of the first apostle of Jesus circa 30-33 AD. The apostle was Stephen, who was described as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), “full of grace and power, … doing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8).
For his faith, Stephen was seized and brought before the council because “they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10). Here is the end of the account of Stephen speaking before the council, where he was prompted to rebuke the leaders of the Jews, Saul included:
“ ”You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Acts 7:51-60 ESV
Such was the young Saul’s zeal. Having come near enough to the site where Stephen was stoned that the stone throwers could keep their outer garments with him, Saul was a murderer of this man full of God’s Spirit who represented the Righteous One, Jesus. Saul didn’t stop there:
“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”
Acts 8:1-3 ESV
Saul became a leader (or the leader) of the persecutor of Jesus’ followers! This intense Jewish council member literally dragged off the men and women of Jesus’ church in order to attempt to quell what was actually the movement of the Spirit of God.
Later in his life, Paul testified:
““I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.”
Acts 26:9-11 ESV
Clearly, it’s not possible to stop God’s work. His word and His will will be done. God had something very special in store for Saul, who would later call himself “one abnormally born”.
Prayer: Lord, You can do all things, and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted, not even because of death. I praise You for the riches of Your goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, desiring instead that all come to repentance.
- Based on Job 42:2, Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9
No partiality with God (Introduction)
“for there is no respect of persons with God.”
Romans 2:11 KJV
The Apostle Paul, the writer of the book of Romans, stated that God is no respecter of persons. He shows no partiality. God uses anyone, each of us like a jar of clay, able to hold the treasure of God (2 Corinthians 4:7), Christ in us (Colossians 1:27)!
God uses the Peters and the Pauls. Peter was an uneducated commoner, while Paul was a Jewish scholar that persecuted Christians! Jesus changed their names and made them new creations for God’s use when they yielded to Him. As the Apostle Peter brought the gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles for the first time (most of us), he said the same thing that Paul did to the Roman church: “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, KJV).
God uses the Marys. He greatly used Mary, the mother of Jesus, a commoner from Nazareth, who said “let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV), and Mary Magdalene, who followed and loved Jesus along with the other disciples, a supporter of his ministry (Luke 8:2-3). The latter was the first to witness His resurrection (John 20:1), and they were both in Jerusalem with the believers when the believers received the promised Holy Spirit for the first time (Acts 1:14). Ever countercultural, Jesus was a champion of women, seeing them as equal in the family of God: “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).
Jesus taught all of His followers, all of them considered family, to see everyone the same. His brother James said of the prophet Elijah “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17).
God can use you! He shows no partiality to any now or any that have come before. You are made in the image and likeness of God!
The Apostle Paul may be the most shocking example in Scripture of one who can be used by God, showing that if God could use him, he can also use you.
As discussed in this book, Paul was turned from one who excelled in Jewish law and persecution of the cult of Jesus, as he saw it, to one who excelled in the building up of God’s church even unto his own death.
The living Jesus took this hater of Christians and, when yielded to Him, caused the Holy Spirit to shed love abroad in his heart for the church (Romans 5:5,KJV). As Jesus said, “…with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). God redirected Paul’s intensity to do good and to bring freedom and life to much of the known world at the time, as Jesus had done in Judea.
I'm now writing a book that describes selected parts of the Apostle Paul’s life and writings from the Bible, separated into 60 days of content. (As before, I'll post them here one day at a time.) In it, we will follow the supernatural life and the passionate thoughts of this unlikely disciple of Christ, one filled to overflowing with God’s Spirit, the author of much of the New Testament.
As we journey together with Paul, seeing him perhaps as we’ve not seen him before, my prayer is that we will see more of what God has in mind for us as those in whom Christ dwells, His beloved church.
To check out my free book on the Apostle Peter called Experiencing Jesus through Peter, see the Downloads page.
The series of posts below pertains to our identity as members of the church, made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). They lift up Jesus as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). The post that follows is from the last chapter of my book Identity in Christ: 33 Characteristics of His Church that is available for free download on the Downloads page.
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
John 7:37-39 ESV
In Christ, we start in new life, resurrected with Jesus by the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11). This is the miracle-working power of God.
Abiding in Christ, He gives us fullness of life from His own fullness, and causes His resurrection life to flow out of us. This is life in God.
He is the Giver, and as His ambassadors we come to share in the generosity of God’s giving in its various forms. Partners in His grace and compassion, we give life, seeking more and more thanksgiving and glory to be given to God (2 Corinthians 9:6-13).
Abiding in Him, enthroned at the right hand of God, the Spirit of God makes us fruitful. His will is for you to bear fruit that will last (John 15:8,16).
In us and through us, He multiplies grace and peace. His church is the channel through which He has chosen to flow out.
As Christ is now, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17). As a member of God’s church, You are a channel of the living God and every good thing.
Let’s believe the Word of God given to us. Let’s nourish it, causing it to grow and do what God designed it to do: bear fruit, demonstrate His love, generously give, make things right, bring freedom, multiply.
Prayer: I praise You that You are alive in me, Jesus, and in Your beloved church. Thank You for who You have made us in Your image and likeness, God, transforming us into the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another. I believe it. I seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness. I intensely desire to see spiritual results, the fulfillment of Your will. Thank You for making me a co-worker with You, a doer of Your Word, led by You, Holy Spirit. I attune my spirit with You, Spirit of God, for action in Your will.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Romans 15:13 ESV
Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). The living Jesus Christ is the hope of His church. We let Jesus have the preeminence and lift Him up. The more He is held up, the more people will get in love with Him and drop everything else.
The fullness of Jesus is the hope for our lives. Christ in us, we already are (in our spirits) what we may have been waiting to become. Let’s drop everything else. It pales in comparison to the fullness of Jesus.
Consider the perfect love of a parent for a child. God made that, and He made us as His glory. Considering that He created every good and perfect thing, can you imagine what He is preparing for His church in the time when all evil has been put under Christ’s feet? It’s time to drop everything else.
Jesus and what He has already accomplished in His finished work is the hope for our families, our neighborhoods, and our nations.
With such a hope, we are very bold (2 Corinthians 3:12). Believing, let’s step out in faith and love — the faith of the Son of God and the love of the Son of God, led by the Spirit of God —- until God has made this hope complete. He Himself is our joy and our peace; this can never be taken away from us.
Prayer: I praise You for Your fullness, God, and that You have shared it with me in Christ. You are my hope, for You are able to do far more abundantly than all I ask or think, according to the power You have at work within me. To You be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,”
Psalm 103:2-3 ESV
There is life and healing in the love of God, as shown in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the redemptive purpose and the redemptive names of God. One of those names is Jehovah Rapha, or “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). As part of our faith in God, we can come to Jesus in faith, trusting Him as our healer (1 Peter 2:24, Mark 5:25-34) to restore us to wholeness or keep us in health, up until the time that the good works He has prepared for us here are complete (Ephesians 2:10). These good works are accomplished in cooperation with God and other believers to obey Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8) and to show God’s love.
Jesus was a healer, and He didn’t leave people sick as He ministered. Neither did His apostles. Jesus healed all that came to Him (e.g, Matthew 4:23-25), believing He could make them whole (Luke 8:48-50, KJV). Healing is part of the fullness of redemption in the atonement of Jesus Christ in fulfillment of Isaiah 53: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17, NKJV). Healing is a sign that confirms the gospel and the kingdom of God preached by evangelists (e.g., see Mark 16:20, Acts 3:4-8, 4:30,33, 14:3). Jesus also called healing “the children’s bread,” something that belongs to God’s children (Matthew 15:26). According to Jesus, His family includes those who do the word of God (Luke 8:21).
The Apostle James wrote his letter to God’s children who were young in the faith, saying they should call on elders in the church to pray a prayer of faith for the sick that they may be healed (James 5:14-15). An elder is a mature believer, a person of unwavering faith (James 1:6-8), that has taken on the leadership of a local body of the church. It is someone who is obedient to Jesus’ commission to believers (Mark 16:15-20) as the apostles were (e.g., Acts 4:29-33, 5:12-16).
Gifts of healing are gifts of the Holy Spirit given to some in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:9), even as they were given to the Apostle Paul (e.g., Acts 14:9-10, 19:11-12). He revealed that the key to this Life flowing out of him by the Spirit to others was “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) and “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20, KJV). It was his identity in Christ. Paul had taken responsibility for God’s mission to the world, and so the Spirit of God worked through him as he strove to excel in building up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).
For Christians in the West, we at least believe that God wants our spirits and minds healthy and whole. Along with a significant part of the worldwide church, I contend also, as Jesus Christ did and as the Apostle Paul did, that the body is sacred as well. It’s the very temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), even as the outer courts were part of God’s temple — and, through the fullness of His atonement, He wills to make our bodies whole for His work as well. As doers of His word, we are members of His healthy, functioning body, and the Great Physician desires to quicken us with His Life and strength.
Some may also consider wholeness (shalom) to include financial prosperity. If He is to make any of us financially prosperous, this is for the generosity of giving to His will and purposes as well (2 Corinthians 9:11, Proverbs 30:8-9).
Prayer: Living Jesus, I thank You that You still heal as You always have, in demonstration of the kingdom of God that has come near. Thank You for Your finished work and the Life you give in fullness. Spirit of God, I praise You for Your work, Your power and Your love shed abroad in bringing freedom, health and wholeness. I love You with all that I am, and my will is to do all of Your will. Help me to assimilate Your love.