Daily Reflections January 16, 2017
Nehemiah 6 is a wonderful reminder that the devil tends to deal in rumour and exaggeration. He is rather like a noisy dog on a chain. He tries to make us afraid and he encourages us to abandon our post but he is not to be listened to. Keep calm and carry on. Perseverance and courage is a form of witness in an uncertain and hostile world.
The growth of the church against all odds and all prediction has a humbling effect on overconfident and godless men:
And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:16 ESV)
I am reminded of the Psalmist who said:
Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! (Psalms 9:20 ESV)
Amen Lord - may it be so again in our day!
If you are doing the full 1 year RMM plan then you might find yourself reflecting on the place of circumcision within the early church. Circumcision was given to Abraham in Genesis 17 but in Acts 15 the Jerusalem Council decided that Christians no longer had to be circumcised - those bloody rites having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as Matthew Henry said. Why then does Paul have young Timothy circumcised?
Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:3 ESV)
There is a big difference between what is necessary and what is helpful. Paul was willing to fight over whether circumcision was necessary. As soon as something other than faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, we have lost the Gospel. But many things may be helpful when it comes to working with people. Paul was willing to be “all things to all people to reach some” and here he seems to apply the same logic to Timothy. Timothy was half Jewish and half Greek and Paul immediately spotted the usefulness of his situation. He could speak to Greeks as a Greek and - if circumcised - could speak to Jews as a Jew. This was practically quite useful as long as Timothy understood that it was not necessary for salvation. John Stott summarizes usefully:
“Once the principle was established that circumcision was not necessary for salvation, he was ready to make concessions in policy. What was unnecessary for acceptance before God was advisable for acceptance by some human beings” .
When we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, we are willing to make almost any concession imaginable in order to reach as many as we can. This is faith working in love - thanks be to God!
Pastor Paul Carter