Acts 16:5

Steep wooden bridge.

Sunday, 16 April 2023

So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. Acts 16:5

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 noted that Paul and his companions went through the cities and delivered the decrees of the council. With that, it now says, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith.”

The verb, being imperfect, gives the sense of continuance. Thus, it more appropriately reads, “So the churches were strengthening in the faith.” In other words, it wasn’t just that they were strengthened for the moment and then may have started to slide backward. Rather, because of the decrees of the council, they felt a freedom that encouraged them, and they continued strengthening as time passed by.

This would be especially so when considering that the matter that was resolved dealt with them personally. Being Gentiles, any Scripture that they possessed would have highlighted the role of Israel and the Jewish people. To impose upon them the Law of Moses and circumcision would be to rob them of their culture and identity while leaving them among their own culture and people.

But with the decision of the council, they would remain within the Christian faith but still be just who they were within their culture. The demands of the Judaizers would have robbed them of this. It would have started with circumcision, gone onto law observance, and soon enough they would be told how they still didn’t fit in because they didn’t speak or act like the other Jewish people.

This is no stretch of the analysis at all. This even happened among the Jewish people as was evidenced in Acts 6 –

“Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” Acts 6:1

If this type of prejudice arose among the Jews just because they didn’t speak Hebrew or Aramaic, how much more would this become an issue with the Gentiles? The legalistic demands on them would never end. But with the encouragement of the letter and the words of these missionaries, they would continue to strengthen day by day in their faith. And more, others would see and be encouraged to join. As it says, they “increased in number daily.”

With each passing day, and with the freedom from the fear of death found in Christ and freedom from the bondage of the law, the churches would realize that every answer to the longing of the human soul was to be found in a rightly established faith in Christ. This would appeal (and for two thousand years has appealed) to those who “through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15).

Life application: Even today, reading the Old Testament might leave a non-Jewish person wondering what part or role they could have in the redemptive plans of God. If all there was of Scripture was the Old Testament, no answer to the problem of sin would have come, but more, only a total identity with national Israel – conforming to their standards and cultural practices – would bring about any state of communion with God as He is presented there.

But more, there would only be identity with a group of people who had CONSTANTLY failed to measure up to the strict demands of their God. Yes, His grace and mercy upon them are evident, but so is His wrath and indignation. The bondage of the Jewish people, which they failed to realize hung over them, would be evident to anyone who properly studied their Scriptures.

As such, anyone joining them would have to be a person who was filled with the pride of saying, “I can do what they have failed to do. I can please God through adherence to His law.” When this occurs, as it does to this day with such people, their religion is one based on self. Despite the supposed piety of saying, “I follow the God of Israel and keep His Torah,” there is nothing pious in the statement. The actions are based on self.

Only when one submits to Christ and says, “Jesus Christ has made me right with God,” is there any true freedom at all. He has done it, He continues to do it, and He will carry us through to the very end. It is all about what Jesus has done. Put self aside! Trust in the work of Jesus. And then, forever and ever, praise the glorious name of Jesus Christ our Lord – to the glory of God.

Lord God, thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord who alone has the power to save us and to keep on saving us, despite ourselves. Yes, O God, thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Hallelujah and Amen.