+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Opening: (A Collect for Sabbath Rest – Saturday)
Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and set aside a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared to meet you in worship, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1st Morning Reading: Acts 18:18-20:5 (NLT)
Paul Returns to Antioch of Syria
Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that, then said good-bye to the brothers and sisters and went to nearby Cenchrea. There he shaved his head according to Jewish custom, marking the end of a vow. Then he set sail for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him.
They stopped first at the port of Ephesus, where Paul left the others behind. While he was there, he went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews. They asked him to stay longer, but he declined. As he left, however, he said, “I will come back later, God willing.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. The next stop was at the port of Caesarea. From there he went up and visited the church at Jerusalem and then went back to Antioch.
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul went back through Galatia and Phrygia, visiting and strengthening all the believers.
Apollos Instructed at Ephesus
Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.
Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah.
Paul’s Third Missionary Journey
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
“Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”
As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
Paul Ministers in Ephesus
Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord.
God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.
A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.
Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. “And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!” He sent his two assistants, Timothy and Erastus, ahead to Macedonia while he stayed awhile longer in the province of Asia.
The Riot in Ephesus
About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way. It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy. He called them together, along with others employed in similar trades, and addressed them as follows:
“Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!”
At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.
Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward and told him to explain the situation. He motioned for silence and tried to speak. But when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. “Citizens of Ephesus,” he said. “Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven. Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess.
“If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges. And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly. I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.” Then he dismissed them, and they dispersed.
Paul Goes to Macedonia and Greece
When the uproar was over, Paul sent for the believers and encouraged them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia. While there, he encouraged the believers in all the towns he passed through. Then he traveled down to Greece, where he stayed for three months. He was preparing to sail back to Syria when he discovered a plot by some Jews against his life, so he decided to return through Macedonia.
Several men were traveling with him. They were Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. They went on ahead and waited for us at Troas.
2nd Morning Reading: 1 Corinthians 1 (NLT)
Greetings from Paul
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes.
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Paul Gives Thanks to God
I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Divisions in the Church
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”
Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.
The Wisdom of God
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”
So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
“Christ crucified” – offensive and foolish
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction!
But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
– 1 Corinthians 1:18 –
Today’s reading spans a lot of time and covers a lot of territory. But at its center is the message of the cross – offensive to some and foolish to others, but to those who believe the power and wisdom of God.
The resistance to the message of “Christ crucified” was both virulent and varied. In Ephesus Jews and Greeks alike rioted and attacked believers in their homes. In spite of this, many of them became believers and confessed their sinful practices. The Ephesian “Chamber of Commerce” got into the act when their livelihood was threatened, causing an uproar that required the civil authorities to quell. In Syria a plot to kill Paul was discovered. And everywhere Paul and his companions traveled their personal safety was in jeopardy.
But our two readings are especially relevant for believers today. In communities and countries where there is a significant Christian presence we are sometimes surprised at the virulence and violence of the resistance. But we shouldn’t be, our reading in 1 Corinthians clarifies what’s at stake – foolishness or nonsense to unbelievers vs the very power of God to those who are being saved.
Christ crucified is fundamentally divisive and disruptive – it challenges and confronts the secular wisdom of our times. And they won’t give up without a fight.
So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters?
God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.
– 1 Corinthians 1:20 –
This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans,
and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.
– 1 Corinthians 1:25 –
Questions for consideration:
- When you consider your family, friends, and neighbors, what do they think of the message of the cross – foolishness or powerful? Please explain.
- When you consider peoples’ resistance to the message of the cross – what offends them? What do they have to lose by accepting Christ crucified? Please explain.
- Compare the tenets of prevailing human wisdom with the tenets of God’s wisdom. What challenges do you face trusting in God’s wisdom? Please explain.
Morning Prayer: –
Thank you heavenly Father for adopting us into your family and enriching our lives through faith in your Son Jesus Christ
- Fill us with your Spirit as we eagerly await his return.
- Strengthen us and free us to live holy, blameless lives.
It’s in Christ that we are made pure and holy. It’s in him that we are freed from sin and made right with you. And it’s through him that we ask you to empower and strengthen us. Amen.
“The Power of the Cross” – Stuart Townend
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen