God’s Holy Light shines from above. His radiant beams to reach the hearts of men. (and women.) Dispelling doubts that dwell within. Casting out all Error from our minds. Far behind, far behind. Yes, the obstacles will vanish far behind. The clouds of darkness will depart. The dawn of Light will brighten up your mind. Your thoughts to still. Your heart to bind. Crowning all your thoughts with Truth Divine, Truth Divine. Yes, the Lord will crown your thoughts with Truth Divine.
(Think of the story of Elijah and the whirlwind when you read this.) I went up into the light of truth as if into a chariot (of fire into Heaven.) And the Truth took me: and it carried me across the land of pits and gulleys; and from the rocks and waves of the troubled sea it preserved me. It became for me a haven of rest and salvation: and set me on the way, even in the arms of His immortal life. And because He (Jesus Christ) went with me I did not fear. He suffered me not to wander, nor to go astray, because He is the Truth. I ran no risk to my soul, because I traveled (walked) with Him. I did not make an error in anything because I (lived and) obeyed the Truth. For Error flees away from it, and meets it not: but the Truth proceeds in His path. Whatever I (did not see or) know, He made clear to me. All of the poisons of Error, and the plagues of Death (the pitfalls of Life) which they (of this world) think to be sweetness. And I (became aware) saw the Destroyer, by the destruction of the soul. And I saw when (and how) the Bride (the Lamb’s wife) is corrupted when she becomes adorned with filth: and how the false Bridegroom corrupts and is corrupted. And I asked the Truth ‘Who are these?’ and He said to me, ‘This is the Deceiver and the Liar. They are all one and the same in this false Beloved and in his Bride. They lead astray and corrupt the whole world away from Purity. They invite many to this world’s banquet, and give them to drink of the wine of their intoxication, and remove their wisdom and knowledge. And so they make them without intelligence (foolish and sensuous). They (those who follow the Deceiver) then leave them; (the weak-willed sinners); and then these go about like madmen (enticing) corrupting others like them: seeing that they too are like them, without heart, nor do they seek for it!’ Therefore, I was made wise so as not to fall into the hands of the Deceiver; (nor into the way of those who follow him) and I congratulated myself because His Truth (that of Jesus Christ) went with me. By this was I established, lived, and was redeemed. And my sure foundation was secured and laid by the hand of the Lord: because He established me. For He set the root of me His tree. He watered me, pruned me, and hath blessed me. And so, my fruits are forever His. I have struck deep in the ground. I have sprung up and spread out, and was full and enlarged. And the Lord alone was glorified by His planting and in His husbandry: (gardening) even by His care and by the blessing from His lips. I am the beautiful planting of His right hand. The result of His planting, and His own idea. Hallelujah! Amen.
The important letter from the church council at Jerusalem is circulated, via Judas and Silas.
The inclusion of sexual immorality (v. 29) amongst the four things the recipients will do well to avoid is unusual. Surely the other matters—eating food offered to idols, blood, and the meat of strangled animals—are matters of liberty, which can be avoided for the sake of fellowship with Jewish believers, to whom these would be matters of sensitivity. Sexual immorality however, is not a matter of liberty. Why is it listed here?
All four are activities associated with pagan temples. Therefore, they are no longer appropriate behaviour for believers. Here, the general word used for sexual immorality (Greek, porneia) is best understood to refer to ritual temple prostitution. Therefore, the message is that Gentiles are to turn from idolatry and all pagan temple activities, including prostitution.
Two ironic events follow, in a chapter that does so much to ensure unity amongst believers.
Firstly, verses 36 to 41 tell of the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark’s leaving the first missionary journey (see Acts 13:13). This is a sad event, and yet it leads to good, with two missionary teams being formed to advance the work of the gospel.
Secondly, in 16:1–5 we read of Paul’s ironic request for the uncircumcised Timothy to be circumcised, so that the Jews will listen to his preaching. Paul resists circumcision when it is imposed as a necessity for salvation. However, when there is no such demand and it serves to facilitate the gospel’s acceptance, Paul has Timothy circumcised. After all, it is a neutral surgical act.
John Newton, the eighteenth-century pastor and hymn writer, said of Paul, he “was a reed in non-essentials – an iron pillar in essentials.”*
The next time you think of “timid Timothy,” remember his ready submission in this matter at about the age of 20.
What do these verses teach us about Paul, Barnabas and Timothy and their priorities? Why is 16:5 such an appropriate conclusion to this section?
*John Newton quoted in John Stott, Acts: Seeing the Spirit at Work (Nottingham: IVP, 2008), pp. 67.