SAUL/PAUL, Apostle to the Gentiles

Saul/Paul (c.5 – c.67), was an apostle (though not one of the 12 Apostles) who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century Gentile world.  Through 3 missionary journeys, he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. Paul used his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to advantage in his ministry to both Jewish and Roman audiences.

The Apostle Paul, the New Testament person second only to Jesus in prominence, was a man of single-minded devotion.  His mission to take the Gospel to the Gentile world took him back and forth across the Roman Empire.  It may not have seemed like it at the time, but Paul’s background prepared him to be the perfect choice for this God-ordained mission.

Saul was born in the city of Tarsus (in present-day Turkey), which was urban and diverse; it was one of the leading university cities of that day.  There, Saul encountered all kinds of religious, cultural, and philosophical differences.

But, Saul was devoted to the faith of his ancestors.  He studied under Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel, the most famous rabbi of his day.  As an adult, Saul bore the markings of a rabbi.  He was even a Pharisee.

Yet, in spite of or because of his background, God chose Saul to “carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings” (Acts 9:15).  With one foot in the Jewish world and the other in Gentile cultures, Saul was ideally suited to take the gospel from one to the other.

LifeAPP:

Paul was a zealous man.  He was passionate about whatever he did, and threw himself completely into the task at hand.  And, as devoted as he was to his Jewish religion, he would become just as devoted to his relationship with Christ.

How passionate are you about Jesus?

*  Our spiritual health is revealed by the things we get passionate about… and whether or not we get passionate at all.

Saul was a leader in the persecution of the early church.  In the book of Acts, while traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to “bring them which were there bound into Jerusalem“, the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light.  Saul was struck blind, but after 3 days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus.  Saul became Paul… and began to preach that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God.

His status as a Roman citizen – which suggests he belonged to the elite – gave him much freedom as he traveled the Empire.  Paul used his citizenship not for his own gain, but to gain an audience with Caesar – knowing full well that to appeal to the Roman emperor (as only a Roman citizen could) was to put his very life at risk (Acts 25:11).  And his life was in danger for most of his life as a Christian!

About half of the book of Acts deals with Paul’s life and works.

14 of the 27 books in the New Testament have been attributed to Paul.

Much of the doctrine accepted and practiced by Christians today comes from Paul’s writings.

Paul’s fate is not recorded in the Bible.  But, it is believed he gained his audience before Caesar – the dangerous emperor, Nero, to be precise – where tradition says he became a martyr – beheaded – for his faith.

You can read Paul’s story in Acts 7:58—28:31.  You can also pick up details about his life throughout the many NT letters he wrote.

ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH, Government Official Met by Philip

Sometimes it just happens.  Someone begins asking questions about God, or the church, or the gospel… and before we know it, he or she has practically unrolled a red carpet to be led to Jesus Christ.  That’s what happened when the Ethiopian eunuch crossed paths with Philip.

Ethiopia is the same country that was called Cush in the Old Testament.  It was – and is – south of Egypt, in Africa… hundreds of miles from Israel.  During the time of the Babylonian conquest of Judah, many Jews fled to Ethiopia to escape.

By the time of the New Testament, Ethiopia had been ruled by several queens, all taking the title Candace – much like the title of Caesar in the Roman Empire.

I.  The Charge Given to the Eunuch (Acts 8:27)

This eunuch was a government official of this kingdom, and he had been to Jerusalem on business… and had evidently purchased an Old Testament scroll of the book of Isaiah there.

II.  The Confusion of the Eunuch (Acts 8:28-34)

God led Philip, a Christian leader/deacon/evangelist, to go down to Gaza… where he crossed paths with the Ethiopian’s chariot at just the right time.  As they entered into conversation… and the eunuch asked Philip who Isaiah was talking about in Isaiah 53.

III.  The Clarification to the Eunuch  (Acts 8:35)

Philip told him this referred to Jesus… and began to tell him more about Jesus.

IV.  The Conversion of the Eunuch (Acts 8:36,37)

The eunuch became a believer in Jesus as the Christ, and then was baptized.

Philip was then led by the Spirit to Azotus, and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:26-40).

LifeAPP:

If this eunuch had been a typical politician, he would have had little use for Scripture reading.  A man concerned with power and self-interest would not have been concerned with self-reflection.  A man too calloused to hear the words of Is. 53 would not have cared about the “Suffering Servant” he read about.  But this man’s heart was open to hearing about Jesus.

How often do you listen with your heart as you read the Scriptures?  Or hear a sermon?  Or seek advice?  Have an open mind.  Have a softened heart.  Let the truth of what you hear grab your attention.

*  The Scriptures change soft hearts.

You can read the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-40.

PHILIP, the Evangelist

Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He gave His followers a Great Commission… reminding His disciples that His salvation was to cross over all ethnic, national, and cultural barriers.  Philip took this to heart.

Philip is first mentioned as 1 of the 7 men chosen by the apostles to care for the widows – ALL the widows – of the Jerusalem Church.  It was seemingly a small act of service – but, even this, was a barrier-breaking act.

Later, when Saul’s persecution scattered the church of Jerusalem, Philip took the opportunity to go to Samaria.  By extending the good news of Jesus to the Samaritans, Philip crossed over another centuries-old barrier.

But, Philip was not finished with his barrier-breaking career.  In the midst of a great revival in Samaria, Philip was directed by an angel to journey from Jerusalem to Gaza… meeting an Ethiopian eunuch along the way.

On that road to Gaza, Philip “just happened” to encounter this Ethiopian government official.  “Coincidentally”, this man was reading a scroll of Isaiah’s prophecy.  “By chance” the man invited Philip into his chariot to explain the meaning of what he read.

LifeAPP:

There is no such thing as luck or chance where God is concerned.

The next time you get stuck in traffic, or meet a stranger, or end up in a place you did not intend to visit.  Pay attention to what God might have arranged.  You may have become part of a divine appointment with eternal ramifications!

*  Chance encounters are really divine appointments.

This man had 2 strikes against him:

1)  He was not Jewish (not even part Jewish like the Samaritans were).

2)  As a eunuch, Jewish law considered him ritually unclean… damaged goods.

But, this did not stop Philip from sitting with this man.  Nor did it stop Philip from explaining the gospel to him.  The real test came, though, when the man asked Philip if he could be baptized.  And another barrier was broken.

Philip’s life became the first of many signs that the good news of Jesus is for all people.

LifeAPP:

I, for one, am certainly glad God’s grace is offered to ALL people.  Including me.  Including you!  Have you received God’s grace as your own?

You can read Philip’s story in Acts 6:1-7; 8:5-40; 21:8-10.

SIMON, the Sorceror

Before the gospel came to Samaria, Simon was a minor phenomenon with a major ego… not unlike attention-seekers of our day and culture.

But, Simon seems to have been drawn more to the power than to the Source of that power.  He was willing to settle for the fringe benefits rather than the abundant life at its source.

I.  The Circumstances (Acts 8:14-17)

When Peter and John came to impart the Holy Spirit to the Samaritan believers, Simon was beside himself.

II.  The Confrontation (Acts 8:9-13,18-25)

-  The Pride of Simon  (v.9)

Simon was a magician/sorcerer; he was arrogant, boastful, and claimed to be great.

Pretending to be someone important – maybe even claiming to be God Himself (Acts 8:10) – Simon wowed the people with his sorcery, convincing them he had power over the spiritual realm.

-  The Popularity of Simon  (v.10,11)

In a time when many people assumed the existence of a spiritual world – and believed it was probably out to get people – magicians like Simon were in hot demand.

-  The Profession of Simon  (v.12,13)

Until Philip arrived on the scene, the man famous for taking the gospel to unexpected places.  As a follower of Christ, Philip had a power within him that made Simon look like a conjurer of cheap tricks by comparison.  Even Simon was impressed – so much so that he “believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:13).

-  The Perversion of Simon  (v.18,19)

Desperate for his former glory, he offered the apostles money in exchange for the ability to dispense God’s Spirit.  After all, he had spent years pretending to do that very thing…

-  The Punishment of Simon  (v.20-23)

How wrong he was.  Enraged, Peter reduced Simon to a whimpering wreck, denying him any part of their ministry and warning him to beg God’s forgiveness before it was too late.

-  The Plea of Simon  (v.24,25)

Nothing more is said of Simon, except that he humbly begged Peter to pray on his behalf – now afraid to even speak to the God whose power he had just tried to buy.

Only God knows whether his salvation was a true conversion… or just another attempt at manipulation.

LifeAPP:

Serving God is not a franchise operation.  We don’t pay a fee and get a proven product to market to others for our personal gain.  There are too many modern examples of people who are using God’s name for their own fame and financial benefit.

Listen to your own prayers.  Are you asking God to give to you – and do for you – for your own gain?  Do you go to church expecting to get something for yourself, or to give worship to God and encouragement and service to others?

It can be a great temptation to use church, connections made with certain people, or even God Himself for our own ends.  Or to think we can somehow buy Him.  We can’t.

*  God does not exist to serve us; we exist to serve Him.

You can read Simon’s story in Acts 8:9-25.

STEPHEN, First Christian Martyr

Stephen, traditionally regarded as the first martyr of Christianity, was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the hatred of members of various synagogues by his teachings.  Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech, fiercely denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him… and was stoned to death.  His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus (later better known by his Roman name, Paul), a Pharisee who would later become a follower of Jesus and an apostle.

The only primary source of information about Stephen is the New Testament book of Acts.  Stephen was one of the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews selected for a fairer distribution of food to the Greek-speaking widows in Acts 6.

Background

Stephen is first mentioned in the book of Acts as 1 of 7 deacons appointed by the Apostles to distribute food and charitable aid to poorer members of the community in the early church (Acts 6:5).  Since another deacon, Nicolas of Antioch, is specifically stated to have been a convert to Judaism, it might be assumed that Stephen was born Jewish, but nothing more is known about his previous life.  The reason for the appointment of the deacons is stated to have been dissatisfaction among Hellenistic (Greek-influenced and Greek-speaking) Jews that their widows were being slighted in preference to Hebraic ones in distribution of food (and, possibly, alms) from the community funds.  Since the name “Stephen” is Greek, it has been assumed he was one of these Hellenistic Jews.  Stephen is stated to have been full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and to have performed miracles among the people (Acts 6:5,8).

LifeAPP:

Stephen was a doer.  But, more significant than what Stephen did was who he was!

Who we are is always more important than what we do.  Before we busy ourselves with serving God, we need to make sure we are in God’s will.

*  It is obvious to all when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

It seems to have been among synagogues of Hellenistic Jews that he taught and performed “signs and wonders“, since it is said he aroused the opposition of the “Synagogue of the Freedmen“, and “of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia” (Acts 6:9).  Members of these synagogues had challenged Stephen’s teachings, but Stephen had bested them in debate.  Furious at this humiliation, they paid off false witnesses to testify that Stephen had preached blasphemy against Moses and God, and dragged him to appear before the Sanhedrin, the supreme legal court of Jewish elders, accusing him of preaching against the Temple and the Mosaic Law (Acts 6:9-14).  Stephen was calm throughout, his face looking like “that of an angel“.

LifeAPP:

In the midst of the greatest crisis of his life, Stephen’s face was radiant!

Do you shine for Christ in a similar way?

Speech to Sanhedrin

In a long speech to the Sanhedrin, comprising almost all of Acts 7, Stephen presents his view of the history of Israel.  The God of glory, he says, appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia, thus establishing at the beginning of the sermon one of its major themes, that God does not dwell only in one particular building (meaning the Temple).  God was with Joseph, too, in Egypt.

Stephen recounts the stories of the patriarchs in some depth, and goes into even more detail in the case of Moses.  God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and inspired Moses to lead His people out of Egypt.  But, the Israelites turned to other gods.

This establishes the second main theme of Stephen’s speech, Israel’s disobedience to God.  Stephen was accused of declaring that Jesus would destroy the Temple in Jerusalem and of changing the customs of Moses, but his appeals to the Jewish scriptures prove how the laws of Moses were not subverted by Jesus but, instead, were being fulfilled.  He denounces his listeners as “stiff-necked” people who, just as their ancestors had done, resist the Holy Spirit.  “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him.”

The Stoning of Stephen

Scorned, the crowd could contain their anger no longer.  But Stephen, seemingly now oblivious to them, looked up and cried, “Look!  I see Heaven open, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:53). To the Sanhedrin, this claim that the recently executed Jesus was standing by the side of God (not sitting, as He is usually described in NT texts) was such intense blasphemy that they covered their ears so as not to hear it (Acts 7:54).  They rushed upon Stephen, drove him outside the city to the place appointed, and stoned him.  At this time, Jewish law permitted the death penalty by stoning for blasphemy.

The witnesses, whose duty it was to throw the first stones, laid their coats down to be able to do this, at the feet of a “young man named Saul“, later to be known as Paul the Apostle.  Stephen prayed that the Lord would receive his spirit and his killers be forgiven, sank to his knees, and “fell asleep“.  Saul “approved of their killing him“.

LifeAPP:

Stephen prayed that all those involved be forgiven.  I assume that included Saul.  Not even one of the greatest enemies of the church was beyond the kind of forgiveness Stephen prayed for.  God would prove this by the next chapter in Acts!

Regardless of who you are… or what you may have done, you are NOT beyond God’s forgiveness.  If God could forgive Saul, He can forgive you.  And if God could turn a Saul into Paul, He can certainly use you for the good of those around you!

Stephen’s death marked a crucial turning point for the church.  Not only was it the beginning of the first great persecution of believers, but it also set the stage for Saul to become one of its most important figures.

You can read Stephen’s story in Acts 6:3—8:2.

NICOLAS, Deacon of the Early Church

At a time when the church was comprised almost entirely of Jewish believers, its growing numbers brought tension between 2 groups: the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebraic Jews.  Hebraic Jews kept close ties to the Promised Land, its language, and its culture.  Hellenistic Jews were those who were influenced by Greek thought and language – most had been born far from Jerusalem.

LifeAPP:

What do you think some of the differences were?  Do you think maybe the Hebraic Jews thought of themselves as being more “legit” than the Hellenistic Jews were?

Within the church in Jerusalem, the Hellenistic Jews began to feel slighted… complaining that their widows were being excluded from the church’s regular food distributions.  The apostles, already stretched to capacity with their teaching responsibilities, appointed 7 men – Nicolas was one of them – to make sure ALL the church’s widows were cared for.

Most consider these to be the first “deacons”, but – while it seems they did the work of deacons – they are never referred to as “deacons”.

Judging by their Greek names, it seems all 7 were of Hellenistic background.  You can see why this might have been important.

Such selections would have won the trust of the Hellenistic Jews within the church.  But, Nicolas is given a descriptor… a “God-fearer“… a “proselyte” (convert from another ideology/faith)… a Gentile convert to Judaism, then Christianity.

Nicolas has the distinction of being the first Gentile Christian named in the New Testament.

He helped the church overcome one of its first practical hurdles.

His presence in the church, and his appointment to such an important role, was a signal that the gospel could not restricted to nationality or ethnicity.

Later, Nicolas’ home city of Antioch would become the frontline in the effort to spread the gospel among the Gentiles.

LifeAPP:

In what ways do people of your church differ from one another?

How/ why do differences cause friction?

What can you do to eliminate friction between people… even believers?

You can read the story of Nicolas in Acts 6:1-7.

GAMALIEL, Jewish Rabbi & Saul’s (Paul’s) Teacher

Rabbi Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel (famous teacher of Jewish law), was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the early 1st-century.

In Jewish Tradition

In the Talmud, Gamaliel is described as the president of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.  Gamaliel holds a reputation in the Mishnah for being one of the greatest teachers in all of Judaism.

In Christian Tradition

The book of Acts introduces Gamaliel as a Pharisee and a celebrated doctor of the Mosaic Law in Acts 5:34-40.

-  The Anger of the Sadducees  (Acts 5:17,18)

-  The Angel of the Lord  (Acts 5:19-21)

-  The Astonishment of the Jailers  (Acts 5:22-26)

-  The Accusation by the Sanhedrin  (Acts 5:27,28)

-  The Answer by the Apostles  (Acts 5:29-32)

-  The Advice by Gamaliel  (Acts 5:33-42)

*  The Counsel  (v.33-37)

a)  His Identity  (v.33,34)  He was a highly-respected Pharisee.

b)  His Illustrations  (v.35-37)  He gave the example of 2 unsuccessful spiritual revolts in past days: Theudas (who pretended to be great, and had 400 followers; after he was killed, his followers scattered), and Judas of Galilee (who was killed, and his followers scattered).

*  The Conclusion  (v.38,39)  Gamaliel’s advice to “wait and see” was accepted after his concluding argument.

*  The Consensus  (v.40)

*  The Commitment  (v.41,42)

The book of Acts later goes on to describe Paul, recounting that – although “born in Tarsus” – he was brought up in Jerusalem “at the feet of Gamaliel, (and) taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers“; see Acts 22:3.

-  Gamaliel’s training gave Paul a solid religious foundation… teaching everything short of Jesus as the Messiah.

-  Gamaliel’s training gave Paul a solid Old Testament foundation.

-  Gamaliel’s training gave Paul an understanding of the Law… and how it’s deficiencies pointed to the need for Christ.

Imagine the influence Gamaliel had on Paul… on our New Testament… and on our doctrine!

Gamaliel may have been present at the trials of Jesus… though he is never mentioned by name.  He certainly would have been aware… and would have known who Jesus was and how His life ended.

Some traditions hold that Gamaliel openly professed Jesus after the biblical account of him ends.

Some traditions hold that Gamaliel secretly professed Jesus after the biblical account of him ends.

The Bible is silent concerning whether or not he ever professed Jesus as the Messiah.

LifeAPP:

God finds His advocates… even allies… in unusual places.  He works His will in amazing ways, and sometimes uses even those who might be antagonistic toward Him in ways that work for His purpose.

Our God is a BIG God!

You can read the biblical account of Gamaliel’s story in Acts 5:34-40; 22:3.

BARNABAS/Joseph, Encouraging Co-Worker with Paul

His Hellenistic Jewish parents called him Joseph.

31AD

Joseph was a Levite, a native of Cyrpus, where he owned land. He sold his land, giving the proceeds to the church in Jerusalem; Acts 4:36,37. The apostles gave him the name Barnabas… “Son of Encouragement”.

LifeAPP:

If people in your church gave you a nickname, what would it be?

34AD

When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas took him to the apostles and introduced him to them; Acts 9:27. It is supposed they had been fellow students in the school of Rabbi Gamaliel.

LifeAPP:

Barnabas stood up for – and with – Paul, when others were not so sure about him. Imagine what might have happened – or not happened – concerning the mission activity of the early church had Barnabas not given this support and encouragement.

Who could you stand with today? You might never know the difference it would make…

40AD

The prosperity of the church at Antioch led the apostles and the church at Jerusalem to send Barnabas to check it out. He found the work so extensive and weighty, he went to Tarsus in search of Paul, “an admirable colleague”, to assist him. Paul returned with him to Antioch and labored with him for a whole year there; Acts 11:25,26.

LifeAPP:

A good mentor helps build a good disciple.

44AD

Barnabas & Paul were sent back to Jerusalem from Antioch, with the contributions Antioch had collected for the poorer members of the Jerusalem church.

46AD

Shortly after they retuned, bringing John Mark (Barnabas’ cousin) with them, they were appointed as missionaries to Asia Minor, and, on this “first missionary journey of Paul”, they visited Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Pamphylia, Pisidia, & Lycaonia; Acts 13:14.

48AD

Paul began to grow more popular than Barnabas; he begin to be more known for his Roman name (Paul) than his Jewish name (Saul), and, instead of “Barnabas & Saul” we now read of “Paul & Barnabas”; Acts 13:9,16; 14:8,9,19,20.

LifeAPP:

What humility… to be willing to take a backseat, to step out of the stoplight, to play second fiddle. But, Paul would never have been who he was without Barnabas!

49AD

Returning from this first missionary journey, Paul & Barnabas were again sent up to Jerusalem to consult with the church there regarding the relation of Gentiles to the church (the Jerusalem Council); Acts 15:2; Gal. 2:1.

According to Gal. 2:9,10, Barnabas was included with Paul in the agreement, on the one hand, and James, Peter & John, on the other, that the 2 former should, in the future, preach to the pagans, not forgetting the poor at Jerusalem. This matter having been settled, they returned again to Antioch, bringing the agreement of the council that Gentiles were to be admitted into the church.

50AD

After Paul & Barnabas had returned to Antioch from the Jerusalem Council, and after spending some time there (Acts 15:35), Paul asked Barnabas to go with him on a second missionary journey; Acts 15:36. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along again, but Paul did not… because John Mark had left them on their first missionary journey; Acts 15:37,38. The dispute ended with Paul & Barnabas splitting up, taking separate routes of ministry. Paul took Silas as his companion, and journeyed through Syria & Cilicia; while Barnabas took John Mark to visit Cyprus; Acts 15:36-41.

55AD

Barnabas is not mentioned again by Luke in the book of Acts. But, in Gal. 2:13, a little more is learned of him; he followed Peter’s example of not eating with the Gentiles… and, in 1Cor. 9:6, that he continued his work as a missionary.

It is believed his argument – and relationship – with Paul was resolved.

LifeAPP:

Imagine failing at the source of your greatest strength…. Even the most faithful aren’t perfect… and they admit it!

61AD

Church tradition describes the martyrdom of many believers… including Barnabas. Evidently, certain Jews went to Syria & Salamis, where Barnabas was then preaching the gospel. They grew exasperated at his success. They confronted him in the synagogue, drug him out, and, after a series of inhumane tortures, they stoned him to death.

His kinsman, John Mark, who was witness to this death, privately interred his body.

You can read the story of Barnabas throughout the early church accounts, but he is mentioned specifically in Acts 4:36,37; 9:27; 11:25,26; 13:14,16; 14:8,9,19,20; 15:2; Galatians 2:1,9,10; Acts 15:36-41; Galatians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 9:6.

MATTHIAS, Disciple Chosen to Replace Judas

Matthias was the disciple chosen by the remaining 11 apostles to replace Judas Iscariot as an apostle, following Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and suicide. His calling as an apostle is unique in that his appointment was not made personally by Jesus, who had already ascended to Heaven, and, it was made before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the early church.

- The First Church Business Meeting? (Acts 1:16-26)

I. Regarding the Defection of Judas (v.16-20)

II. Regarding the Election of Matthias (v.21-26)

* The Conditions (v.21,22)

* The Candidates (v.23)

In the days following the Ascension of Jesus, the gathered disciples, who numbered about 120, nominated 2 men to replace Judas: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) & Matthias.

* The Counsel (v.24,25)

They prayed, then they cast lots.

* The Choice (v.26)

The lots fell on Matthias; so he was added to the apostles. The apostles used God-given wisdom to narrow the choices to 2 good men, then handed the final decision over to God.

No further information about Matthias is given in the New Testament.

- According to Nicephorus, Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Aethopia (modern-day Georgia [the country, not the state]), and was stoned to death there.

- The Synopsis of Dorotheus says this: “Matthias preached the gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbor of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun.”

- An extant Coptic Acts of Andrew and Matthias, places his activity similarly in “the city of the cannibals” in Aethiopia.

- Another tradition maintains Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded.

- According to Hippolytus of Rome, Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem… ca. 80AD.

So, from what little we know of Matthias, we learn these truths:

1) He had been a faithful, long-term follower of Jesus.

2) Being chosen to serve does not guarantee a position of prominence.

3) Whoever we are – and whatever we accomplish – is all due to the grace of God and for the glory of God.

LifeAPP:

Are you being faithful today in following Christ?

Are you willing to serve in anonymity and do things others might never know about? If you are rewarded with more, it will be because you have been faithful with less.

You can read the story of Matthias in Acts 1:21-26.

LUKE, Gospel Writer & Paul’s Traveling Companion

Surprisingly, little is known about the man who wrote a quarter of the New Testament.  What is known is that Luke brought his own unique set of skills to bear – including his expertise as a doctor and his sharp eye for detail – in writing an account of the life of Jesus and the early church.

Luke the Evangelist is 1 of the 4 Evangelists – the 4 authors of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, John).  Luke was a native of the Hellenistic city of Antioch in Syria.  He authored both the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles, which originally formed a single literary work, referred to as Luke-Acts.

The composition of the writings, as well as the range of vocabulary used, indicate that the author was an educated man.  It seems Luke was a Gentile.  If this were true, it would make Luke the only writer of the New Testament who can clearly be identified as not being Jewish.

Luke was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry.  At the beginning of his Gospel, he described himself as a researcher who “carefully investigated everything” (Luke 1:3).

Luke was friends with the apostle Paul.  Beginning with Paul’s 2nd missionary journey, the 2 men became traveling companions… indicated off and on by the pronoun “we”.  As such, Luke witnessed firsthand many of the incidents recorded in the book of Acts.  He may have suffered imprisonment and persecution alongside Paul.  He was there with Paul when a ship bound for Crete broke apart, nearly drowning everyone on board.  Some believe he put his medical training to use quite often, such as when Paul was bitten by a snake on the island of Malta.  In fact, it was probably an occasion of providing medical treatment in which Luke met Paul.

Luke was part doctor, part historian, part adventurer – but most of all, he was a dedicated, articulate, compelling advocate for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

LifeAPP:

Luke approached his writing of his Gospel with the same care that he approached his practice of medicine.

He served God with excellence in every part of his life.  Do you?

Consider the man who spends hours preparing a report for work, but only 30 minutes preparing his Sunday school lesson.  Consider the woman who wouldn’t dream of skipping her weekly “hair appointment”, but is “just too tired” or “too busy” to get to church many Sundays.  What kind of priorities are these?

If we are going to serve God – whether through writing as Luke did, leading a small group, teaching a class, volunteering to keep the church building clean, or working in the nursery – we need to serve with excellence.

*  God is worthy of the best we have to offer.

Luke became a disciple of Paul and later followed Paul until his (Paul’s) martyrdom.  Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit he died at the age of 84 years.

You can read Luke’s style reflected in the Gospel that bears his name; his story reflected in the book of Acts; but, in particular, in Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1; 16-28; Colossians 4:14; 2Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24.