May 31 — Acts 18 — Teaching Tentmakers. We are introduced to eight new people by name in this chapter, including the very interesting couple, Aquila and Priscilla (v. 1). We learn that they were Jews (v. 2) and tentmakers (v. 3) but are not told how they became believers. After Paul’s 18-month stay in Corinth, this couple went with him to Ephesus (v. 18) where he left them and continued on to his sending church at Antioch (in Syria) to end his Second Missionary Journey. It is interesting and very unusual in that time and culture that in the six times this couple is mentioned in Scripture, four times Priscilla’s name (or “Prisca”) is mentioned before her husband. This suggests that there was something very significant about her. They are mentioned again at the end of this chapter where they took Apollos aside to explain to him “the way of God more accurately” (v. 26). They were tentmakers, travelers, and teachers of doctrine, common people like you, whom God uses to strengthen the Church.
June 1 — Acts 19 — Behind the Scenes. Paul was certainly in the spotlight throughout this record of his missionary journeys but there were also others with him that went almost unnoticed. As he ended his second journey and began his third in the previous chapter, Luke mentioned nothing about any companions traveling with him. After returning to Ephesus and teaching in that synagogue for three months (v. 8), we learn that Timothy and Erastus may have been with him all this time (v. 22). When the near-riot happened in the Ephesus theater, we learned that Gaius and Aristarchus were also traveling companions of Paul (v. 29). In the next chapter, we will meet four more (20:4). These were men working behind the scenes to assist Paul in his ministry and to be trained for their own future ministries. Does your work or ministry feel little recognized? Are you helping someone who is more in the spotlight? We don’t have to get attention in order to faithfully and effectively serve the Lord. Anyway, we should see God as our primary audience, working with the intent of pleasing Him.
June 2 — Acts 20 — Marathon Man. Paul was a very unusual man, gifted with a great mind and showing phenomenal stamina. On a Sunday in Troas, he preached not only past midnight (vv. 7, 9) but “conversed with them … until daybreak” (v. 11). One would think that after that, he would sleep for a full day. No, he traveled the next day, probably 15 miles by foot halfway to his destination along the Roman road to Assos while most of his traveling companions went by ship (probably sleeping!) around the peninsula (v. 13). In his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders, he reviewed his diligent ministry with them: “from the first day” (v. 18) “teaching … in public and from house to house” (v. 20), he “did not cease night or day” (v. 31) to admonish them. On top of this, “by working hard” (v. 34) with his own hands, he not only supported himself but gave to “help the weak” (v. 35). Very few of us have that kind of energy and endurance but like him, we can learn to count our own lives as not being as precious to ourselves as finishing the course of life and ministry that God has given us (v. 24).
June 3 — Acts 21 — Falsely Accused. Paul was often misunderstood about his faith and his ministry. Even some of the Jewish Christians heard and apparently believed that Paul taught Jews “to forsake Moses” regarding circumcision and Jewish customs (v. 21). Other Jews from Asia, probably Ephesus, falsely said that he was “teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place,” meaning the temple (v. 28). The Roman tribune in charge of Paul’s arrest also had the false impression that he was the Egyptian leader of “the Assassins” (v. 38). Jesus was also falsely accused. We, too, are likely to have people misunderstand and criticize us falsely regarding our faith and ministry. Don’t be surprised and don’t be discouraged! Jesus said that we should consider it to be a blessing when that happens to us: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matt. 5;11).
June 4 — Acts 22 — Testimony. We believers also have a testimony of how we came to Christ. Our story is probably much less dramatic than Paul’s but we do have a testimony and we need to be sharing it. One lesson we can learn from today’s reading is that Paul was very respectful to those who listened to him, calling them “Brothers and fathers” (v. 1) and noting that they were “zealous for God” (v. 3). We should tell others what God did for us, avoiding pointing our finger of blame toward them. Let the Holy Spirit convict them! Another lesson is that Paul used only two verses (vv. 4-5) to dwell on the bad things he did before coming to Christ and 90% on Jesus. Interestingly, his Jewish audience listened quietly even when he identified Jesus as the Messiah, “the Righteous One” (v. 14), and talked about Christianity as being the “Way” (v. 4). Then their radical racial prejudice was triggered when he mentioned being sent “to the Gentiles” (v. 21). Although the vast majority reacted very negatively, I would guess that a few, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea in the Jewish Council, were arrested by his story and turned to Christ (John 19:38-39). It will be the same with us as we share about what God did to change our lives: some will listen and be changed.