Christianity 201

July 30, 2022

Being a Vessel

Today we celebrate having posted 4500 consecutive devotions at Christianity 201.

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Acts 9:15

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. Acts 9:15

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse stated the words of Ananias, “And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” With his words complete, we read, “But the Lord said to him.”

Jesus responds to Ananias’ protestations with a direct and unambiguous command, saying, “Go.” It is an imperative verb. Ananias probably was a bit confused at this point. He had just clearly explained to the Lord that Saul (Paul) was not a good guy, but the Lord directs him to go anyway. Jesus explains why he is to do this, saying, “for he is a chosen vessel of Mine.”

The Greek literally says, “he is a choice vessel to Me.” Jesus looked beyond Saul’s current state and saw the value in him. Calling Saul a vessel is a Hebraism that is used in various ways in the Old Testament. For example, it is used a couple times in Jeremiah –

“Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol—
A vessel in which is no pleasure?
Why are they cast out, he and his descendants,
And cast into a land which they do not know?” Jeremiah 22:28


“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon
Has devoured me, he has crushed me;
He has made me an empty vessel,
He has swallowed me up like a monster;
He has filled his stomach with my delicacies,
He has spit me out.” Jeremiah 51:34

In the New Testament, it is also used when referring to people –

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7


“that each of you know his own vessel to possess in sanctification and honour,” 1 Thessalonians 4:4 (YLT)

Unlike the king of Israel in Jeremiah 22 (above) who was a vessel in which the Lord had no pleasure, He knew Saul’s potential and his determined attitude. With a correction of his thinking about who Jesus is, it was clear that Paul was the very best possible choice to, as He says, “bear My name.”

The meaning is that Saul would be an ambassador of Christ Jesus, a function where a person bears the name – meaning one to communicate the intent and words – of the one who sends him. Saul twice specifically states that he is an ambassador of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, he cites it in connection with the other apostles, saying, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Also, in Ephesians 6:20, he says, “for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

As you can see, in both of those instances, the idea of bearing the name of Jesus is evident. The apostle spoke on behalf of the Lord, conveying His intents and purposes for those they encountered. In Saul’s case, that was to include writing out epistles on behalf of the Lord. Jesus next notes that Saul’s authority extended to representing Him “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”

Speaking to Ananias, the Lord clearly indicates what the primary function of Saul would be. It was not to speak to Israel so much as it was – first and foremost – to speak to the Gentiles. This explains the term “apostle to the Gentiles” that Paul states several times (Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8, 1 Timothy 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:11, and implied many times elsewhere).

Despite this being his main calling, it was not his only calling. He was to speak on Christ’s behalf before Kings, something he did before Agrippa and Caesar, and he was to also carry the Lord’s words to the children of Israel, something he always did prior to then going to the Gentiles. In each new city or district that he traveled to, he would present himself and his doctrine to the synagogue first.

As can be seen here, the ministry of Saul to the Gentiles was to be one of primary focus, but not sole focus. The same is true with Peter. His primary focus was to the circumcision (meaning the Jews), but it was not to be his sole focus, as will be clearly evidenced in the coming chapter. The lie that there are two gospels and that the church began with Paul (hyperdispensationalism) is clearly refuted by a simple read through Acts and the epistles.

Life application: Jesus’ words to Ananias clearly tell us that the church did not replace Israel (replacement theology). Jesus was commissioning Saul to go “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” He specifically states Israel as a separate category to be witnessed to. At no future time does the Bible ever call the church “Israel,” nor do the promises to national Israel ever transfer to the church while leaving Israel out.

Rather, the church joins into the spiritual blessings (the commonwealth) of Israel (Ephesians 2:12). Such points of doctrine as this are not difficult to determine, but once someone accepts faulty doctrine, it becomes solidified in the mind. From that point on, no matter how much evidence of what is correct is presented, unless the person is willing to say, “Maybe I am wrong,” nothing will change his mind.

This is why trying to convey one’s personal doctrine to another person, even if it is absolutely correct, can be so maddening. What is accurate is plainly evident, but the other person’s mind simply refuses to accept the truth. This is mostly because pride steps in and refuses to admit error has taken over. It is also why we are admonished to not argue with people over such things. State your case, show what is correct, and then let it be. Until they are willing to accept what Scripture actually teaches, they are vessels of obstruction and are of no value in discussing proper doctrine.

Lord God, help us to know when to walk away from someone who is unwilling to accept sound doctrine. In the end, our constant attempts to correct them will fall on deaf ears, and they often only cause the person to even further set his feet on the path of falsity. May we know when to state our case and when it is time to no longer argue. Help us to be discerning in this. Amen.

December 4, 2020

Prayerful Preparation for Turbulent Times

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re introducing you to Mark Rowland who writes at A Faith Understanding (domain name: Rays-of-Light consulting). Mark is an ordained minister originally from Iowa who recently moved to Fort Worth, Texas. After discovering his blog earlier today, I read several good articles and we chose this one to share with you today. Send some “stats love” to our contributing writers by clicking headers like the one below and reading at their site.

Facing These Times

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:7-19 (NIV)

Life can be difficult at various times. There are times when a person can wonder if the effort is worth it. Many who are engaged in work which benefits others can easily become discouraged. Challenges can seem to abound and meaningful results can seem impossible to obtain. Health care workers, teachers, pastors, non-profit workers, emergency responders and other service workers can relate many stories of times when they have felt like throwing up their arms and walking away.

In Peter’s letter, he writes about the end and about the experiences of those working to live out the Gospel through their lives. First, Peter tells the followers that they should use prayer to prepare themselves for the coming end. The early Christians lived in great anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on earth. There was an urgency in their understanding of the timing. Since they were certain this fulfillment would occur in their lifetime, they were anxious about being prepared. Peter instructs there to use prayer to assist them in being prepared.

Peter then turns to the suffering which they have been experiencing while doing the work of the Gospel. The believers had been engaging in acts of compassion as a demonstration of the love encompassed in the Gospel. They had also been sharing the story of the Gospel and what it is about with others. While engaging in these actions, they experienced ridicule, condemnation, and even physical harm. Peter informs them that this suffering aligns them with the sufferings of Christ. Their suffering witnesses to their bearing of the name of Christ.

Peter’s words spoke to the early Christians who felt like foreigners in this world but they also speak to us today as well. We currently live in very turbulent times once again. Uncertainty quickly overcomes us due to events and conditions throughout the world. We, like those who Peter wrote to, can feel unprepared and anxious. Peter’s advice can benefit us, pray. Prayer can calm our souls and bring us comfort. Prayer can open to us ways to prepare for what is ahead, even if we have no idea what that is or when it might happen.

The other perspective which Peter presents, the concept of enduring suffering for bearing Christ’s name, provides guidance to us. Whenever we serve others or share our experience with the Gospel, we open ourselves to frustration, alienation, ridicule and judgment. Remembering that Christ understands suffering for God since he suffered for this reason, we can find strength to continue the work. Our purpose becomes higher than earthly benefits. By demonstrating the love found in the Gospel through our words, work, and actions, we can witness to others and build them up in life.

Church life: In an article from one year ago, Mark writes,

…[T]he church is not exempt from the realities of interpersonal relationships outside of the church. While there is a desire that inside the walls of a church there is safety and love instead of hatred and attacks, this desire is something still to strive for and not a reality. The human behaviors which we encounter in neighborhoods, workplaces, and social groups can all be found within the church…

Check out this piece on Church Bullies.