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Category Archives: Encouragement

Jesus and the Sabbath

Jesus and the Sabbath

We’re now starting chapter 6 of the Gospel of Luke. You may want to read Luke 6:1-11 before continuing with this post.

Because they followed the Covenant of Moses, Judaism had many traditions. Of these, the keeping of the Sabbath stirred up the most controversy in the ministry of Jesus.

The law of the Sabbath was very simple. Exodus 20:8-11 plainly states that the seventh day of the week was to be set apart to the Lord. No work was to be done by any person or animal on that day.

You may think that the Scripture was clear enough for anyone to follow. But…religion likes to make things complicated. So religion asks the question; exactly what is work?

So, over time, the religious leaders of Israel took it upon themselves to define what work was. They drew up a lengthy list of what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. It’s in these man-made Sabbath rules that we can see how foolish religion can get.

For instance: On the Sabbath, you could pick a chair up and carry it across the room. You could not drag the chair across your room, because by making a line in the dirt floor, you were “plowing”.

Normally, you were allowed to drink wine on the Sabbath…unless you had a toothache. Then you couldn’t, because the wine might hit your tooth, deaden the pain, and healing was forbidden on the Sabbath.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Luke 6:1-2

The Lord and His disciples were really in trouble here. They broke three rules. Not only did they pick some grain (reaping), they rubbed them (winnowing), and ate them (grinding). Of course the only law they were breaking was the traditions passed down by the Rabbi’s.

Jesus explained to the Pharisees the foolishness of their traditions.

Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Luke 6:2

It’s important to note that Jesus called himself the Son of Man in this instance. He was emphasizing His humanity. The Sabbath was created by God for the good of mankind.

Our human bodies would break down if we had to work seven days a week. It’s not healthy. So God instituted the concept of Sabbath for our good. It was never meant to be a burden.

I’m amazed at how often we fail to realize how our religious traditions cause people to get the wrong view of God. By our speech and actions, the world sometimes gets the idea that we serve a vindictive, angry, and judgmental God. I’m sure it grieves His heart.

On another Sabbath, Jesus was in a synagogue. He saw a man whose right hand was unusable. He called the man forward. Of course, the Pharisees were upset, wondering what Jesus would do.

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Luke 6:9

Good question! The Lord gets to the heart of what the Sabbath was all about. Sabbath should be rest and restoration for the whole person.

He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Luke 6:10-11

This is proof that sometimes religion can be so illogical. They just witnessed a miracle, clearly performed by God, Himself. That means God approves of healing on the Sabbath. Yet, instead of re-examining their beliefs, they want to do away with Christ.

We need to learn to show people the love of God and not the traditions of religion.

Question: How have you seen religious traditions hurt people?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2022 in Encouragement, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Looking to 2022

Looking to 2022

As we stand on the brink of a new year, we should take the time to meditate on where we’re headed. I want to take this post give you some thoughts to pray on.

For many years, I’ve had a tradition when it comes to the New Year. I’ve only posted about it a few times.

A long time ago, I noticed that since 1901, the Psalms have pretty much lined up with what was happening in world events. For at least 20 years, I’ve been using them to prepare me, and those under my ministry, for the year ahead.

I just noticed something that I find very interesting. With the global pandemic that started in 2019, a majority of Christians stopped attending church in-person. Coinciding with that, Psalm 120 on, are what’s known as the Psalms of ascent. That means they are Psalms calling God’s people to meet together. Hmmmm!

That makes 122 the Psalm of Ascent for 2022. That’s what I want to talk about in this post. It’s up to you whether or not you see it as a prep for the coming year.

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.

Psalm 122:1-2

This verse is a clear call for God’s people to physically meet together. There’s a joy in the Holy Spirit that only comes from the in-person fellowship.

As I listen to the news regularly, I’m struck by the fact that again and again, they’re discovering new strains of the Covid virus. I feel like that’s going to go on indefinitely. It’s time for God’s people to stop fearing what the world fears. Let’s get back to what we’ve been called to do.

Please understand that I realize some people have a compromised immune system. They do need to use wisdom in where they go. But, that’s not the condition of most believers.

Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.

Psalm 122:3-4

I believe that Jerusalem is symbol of the church. The word, city, in this verse literally means a place that’s guarded and protected. So, this verse tells us that when we’re closely joined together, we’re in the place of protection.

It also reminds us that our meeting together is commanded by God. That’s even found in the New Testament. Hebrews 10:25 actually makes it sound like the closer we get to the Lord’s return, the harder it will be to meet together.

There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.

Psalm 122:5

The word for throne, in this verse, means a covered place. When we meet together, we’re covered under the authority of Christ – the final King of the house of David.

The rest of the Psalm speaks of the blessings that are a part of our fellowship. Praise God for Zoom meetings when necessary, but there’s a special anointing when we come together physically.

In verses 6-9, we’re told that we receive peace, security, and prosperity in the place of meeting. It’s time to return to our calling. Make it a goal to return to in-person meetings this coming year.

I believe that you will be abundantly blessed if you do.

Question: What do you believe about meeting together?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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A Christmas Eve Post

A Christmas Eve Post

Since today is Christmas Eve, I want to take a post to give a brief meditation. I believe that we need to go into these holidays with the right mindset.

Over the past few weeks, people have been frantically preparing for the “holidays”. Buying, cooking, cleaning, traveling, and a whole host of other activities. It’s no wonder that during this time of year see the most cases of depression.

In this season, we need to focus on what’s the most important. We need to be reminded of the events that took place over 2000 years ago.

To start, I want to take you back to the early 1800’s in Austria. It’s Christmas Eve, in the village of Oberndorf. A young priest named Joseph Mohr had a big problem.

Christmas Eve services always include singing. But, because of some recent flooding in the area, the church organ was broken and unable to be used.

Joseph decided that he needed a song that could be sung without an organ. He had a poem that he’d written a year before. Now he shows it to a friend named Franz Gruber.

Franz is able to put the poem to music for guitars.

That night, it was introduced to the church, sung by a male duet accompanied by guitars. Everyone loved it and was touched by the music. But, the story doesn’t end there.

The church was finally able to get their organ fixed. An organ specialist, named Karl Mauracher repaired the instrument. In the process, Joseph played the new song for him.

Needless to say, Karl loved it. As he went around repairing organs, he would share it with his customers. At one point it was heard by the Strasser family. They were traveling glove-makers, and singers.

They started singing it at fairs and it caught on with all who heard it. It has become one of the most beloved carols in the church. We know it as Silent Night. That just goes to show you that God doesn’t need Facebook, I-tunes, or YouTube for His things to go viral.

It was the same with the birth of Christ. Joseph and Mary had to travel many miles from home to arrive at the town of Bethlehem.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7

Our Lord was born in a place with no luxuries. The King of the universe was brought into the world with no pomp or splendor.

Yet, His message of salvation, forgiveness and hope, has spread around the world.

As you go through this Christmas season, keep the true meaning of the holiday before you. Christ should be the center of all that we do.

Have a very blessed Christmas!

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2021 in Encouragement, Music, The Gospel

 

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Messiah is Coming!

Messiah is Coming!

Continuing through the Gospel of Luke, today’s post will talk about Luke 1:61-75. You may want to read this passage before going forward in this article.

We’ve seen the angel, Gabriel, bringing a message to Zechariah and Mary. Zechariah was to be the father of John the Baptist, while Mary was to give birth to Jesus Christ. After nine months of waiting, Elizabeth was about to give birth to John.

When the child arrived, everyone wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But, both Elizabeth and Zechariah were adamant that his name was John. They were determined to walk in obedience to God’s Word to them.

You may remember that Zechariah was told by the angel that he would not be able to talk until the child was born. On the day that the baby was named, he was able to talk again. He immediately started praising God and began to prophesy.

He beautifully proclaimed what was about to take place in Israel. He foretold the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus. In today’s post we’ll look at what he said about Christ. It will give us incite into what they were expecting.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.”

Luke 1:68

The first thing he talks about is the fact that God is showing up. It has been many years since the Old Testament was closed. There’s been no prophetic ministry since Ezra and Nehemiah’s time. Now God is doing a new thing in Israel.

This verse literally says that God has come and is now doing redemption. He has started the process of paying the price to loose His people from their slavery to sin and death.

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago)…”

Luke 1:69-70

The culmination of Old Testament prophecy was about to come to pass. The picture of a horn was a symbol of strength to these ancient people. So, this talks of the power of God’s salvation.

This word, salvation, is a huge word. It not only means to be saved from sin, but from everything that would hurt us. This includes sickness, poverty, depression, confusion, and a whole host of other things that hinder God’s will for us.

…salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us — to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham:”

Luke 1:71-73

This salvation not only includes the things that come against us. It also protects us from people and spiritual forces of evil that would try to stop us from carrying out God’s plan.

At this point in Israel’s history it may have looked like God’s covenant had failed. The nation had been conquered by the Roman Empire. There was no supernatural ministry. It was a dark time in their lives.

But now, a light was about to break through into their darkness. God was raising up the answer to centuries of prayer and intercession. The Messiah was on His way!

…to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Luke 1:74-75

This is probably the most important part of the prophecy. It reveals the purpose of all that God is doing. There’s a reason He’s redeeming, saving, and protecting us. The Lord’s desire is to have a people who can now serve Him without any fear.

We can now walk in holiness and righteousness. We don’t have to fear death. We don’t have to fear God’s wrath. We can look forward to the glory that will be revealed in us.

I can’t imagine what those who heard this message were thinking. Maybe they heard things like this before. Hopefully, faith was being raised up in their hearts. They were given the hope they needed to await the ministry of the Messiah.

Question: How does this apply to us as we await the return of the Messiah?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2021 in Encouragement, Faith, Return of Christ, The Gospel

 

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Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

Tomorrow, in the United States, we will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. This was originally established to give thanks to God, for His blessing on our nation. So, I want to take a post to get our minds into that frame of reference.

I was reading in the Old Testament about thanksgiving. It was interesting to see that, in the Law of Moses, God instituted a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It’s found in Leviticus 7:11-15, but I’ll only quote one verse here.

The meat of his fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; he must leave none of it till morning.

Leviticus 7:15

In the Old Testament there are different classifications of sacrifices. One of these is known as the fellowship offerings. They were the freewill offerings. They weren’t required. They were only offered if the worshiper wanted to.

Of these fellowship offerings, this is the “Todah” sacrifice. It’s an offering of thanksgiving by raising the hands.

In this offering, an animal was killed and the blood was drained and sprinkled upon the altar. Then, only the fat around the organs was burned on the altar.

The rest was cooked and eaten by the priest and worshiper. The priest and his family would get the breast and the right leg. The worshipers would get the rest. Along with this, the offering included four kinds of bread that they ate along with the sacrifice.

I found this to be very interesting. In the Old Testament, the Thanksgiving offering was a meal. They celebrated Thanksgiving just like us.

Did you know that a meal can be worship?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Think about it. At one point Peter was rebuked for refusing to eat with Gentiles. In the New Testament we’re also instructed not to eat with hypocrites. That’s because a meal involves fellowship.

Do you see the Thanksgiving meal as worship? Make a point to mention it this year.

“This meal is an act of our worship to God.”

Why is this important? It turns out that in the Old Testament, the root of the word, fellowship, is the word, shalom. In that case, Thanksgiving is the celebration of God’s gift of shalom.

Even though shalom is usually translated as peace, there’s a lot more to it. It’s one of those huge words in Scripture. Shalom actually speaks of fullness of life, wholeness, prosperity, safety, and peace with God.

Isn’t that what Jesus came to accomplish in us?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

The reason Jesus came was so that we could enter the covenant. The result of this is shalom – fullness of life.

The thanksgiving meal should celebrate what God has done for you. If you remember, you may want to pray with your hands raised this year.

Celebrate the good things God has done, and is doing in your life.

Question: What are you thankful for right now?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2021 in Encouragement, Faith, Fellowship, Worship

 

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Our Glorious God

Our Glorious God

In my last post, I started talking about the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. This occurred when they both became pregnant after hearing a message from God. Elizabeth was carrying John the Baptist, while Mary was pregnant with Jesus.

We saw that when they met together, God showed up. He overshadowed their time together. Elizabeth was given a revelation of who Mary would give birth to – the Messiah. Now Mary is overcome by the presence of the Lord and she begins to prophesy.

This is found in Luke 1:46-56. You may want to read this passage before continuing with this post.

She begins with a revelation of who she is, and the magnitude of what God is doing in her.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-49

It’s important to see her attitude here. She understands that it’s all about God, and has nothing to do with how good she is. She sees God as her Lord and Savior. Her blessing is from Him alone.

We need to learn this lesson. There’s nothing we can do to work for, or earn the Lord’s blessing. It’s all a part of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. All we can do is accept the blessing of His salvation.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.”

Luke 1:50-51

God alone is merciful and mighty. It’s important for us to understand what that means. We get a skewed understanding of mercy sometimes.

In our modern generation we use the word, mercy, incorrectly. We think it means to give someone a second chance after they’ve wronged us. We sweep their sin under the carpet. That’s not the Biblical idea.

Notice that God extends mercy to those who fear Him. That’s because God’s mercy is His reward to those who are obedient to His covenant. It’s the added benefit you get for being part of the family.

To fear God means that you humble yourself before Him. These verses reinforce the fact that pride hinders our relationship with the Lord. It’s all about our attitudes.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Luke 1:52-53

Ruling, humble, hungry, and rich are all attitudes. They’re choices we have to make. Am I in charge of my life (ruler) or is God in charge (humble)? Do I see my need for the Lord’s help (hungry) or do I think I can make it without His help (rich)? How we answer these questions determine the amount of grace we receive.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

Luke 1:54-55

I especially love this last part. This blessing is forever on the descendants of Abraham. That includes me.

Remember, from the book of Romans, that as Gentile believers we’ve been grafted into the family of Abraham. Genetically, I have no part of this heritage, yet because of Christ I can claim the full rights of a son of Abraham. And, you can too if you’ve bowed your knee to Jesus Christ.

This whole exchange was just the first few minutes of Mary and Elizabeth getting together. I can only imagine what the next few months were like. The mutual encouragement must have been incredible. This is what life in the family of God should be like for all of us.

Question: How is your knowledge of God increased by your meeting with other believers?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Meeting Together

Meeting Together

We’re continuing our study through the Gospel of Luke. I think it’s interesting that it comes as we’re entering into the holiday season. I didn’t plan it that way, but it worked out great.

Today’s post will deal with Luke 1:39-45. You may want to read that passage before continuing with this article.

Soon after the angel met with her, Mary journeyed to Elizabeth and Zechariah’s house. They were her relatives.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:41

Mary probably felt the need to get away from her village and the questions that would certainly come up about her pregnancy. Elizabeth and Zechariah provided her with a safe place.

When Mary arrived at their home, it’s obvious that God showed up as well.

In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:42-43

In the spirit, she recognized the mother of Messiah, even though she had no way of knowing it in the natural. But, it was in this moment that she asked a question. “WHY?” We miss this sometimes.

In our fellowship, the “why” is important. That’s a question we rarely ask. Why do we meet together?

We have a few stock answers: Because Jesus told us to. Because that’s what the early church did.

These are true, but not the right answers. There’s an epidemic of believers who stay away from church these days. The pandemic has become an excuse for many to forsake in-person meetings.

I think that in many cases we get the wrong idea of what church meetings are for. “Because we learn the Bible. Because we need ministry. Because we like each other. Because we agree with everything. Because the church meets my needs.” All of these reasons set you up to stay home.

Look at what happened when Mary arrived at the house. This is how Elizabeth described it.

As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

Luke 1:44

Why did she say this?

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:41

Think about the excuses we use. Could the Holy Spirit fill Elizabeth without Mary being present? Yes.

Could John have leapt for joy in the womb without Mary? Yes.

Would those things have happened without their meeting? No.

That’s what we have to learn. God does unique things in our fellowship. There’s a special move of God that He reserves only for those times that we are together. That’s probably because there’s a greater focus on what God is doing when we meet in-person.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Luke 1:45

Mary was blessed because she believed. This verse literally says that there will be a performance of what was told her. We have to see that the private and the public work together.

Mary was told something by the angel in private. Now she gets public encouragement. That’s because we’re encouraged in our fellowship.

Zechariah was told something in private. He shared it with his wife. Now she’s in her sixth month of seeing the “performance.” Elizabeth is in the perfect position to encourage Mary to continue trusting God.

We have to learn that the private can never replace the public. Just like the public can never replace the private.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

God has a work for us to do. We may hear His call to us in private, but we need the public to spur us on. It gives us the boldness we need, to do what God has called us to.

Don’t let the times we live in rob you of the blessings that can only come from our in-person fellowship.

Question: How often do you meet in-person with other believers?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Luke’s Gospel – Christ Our Example

Luke’s Gospel – Christ Our Example

In my last post, I finished our study in the book of Romans. Those who have followed this blog for a while know that my goal is to go through the New Testament in the order it was reveal to the church. That means the next book, based upon my studies, is the Gospel of Luke.

To review, it seems to me that the Holy Spirit had a plan in how He inspired the New Testament to be written. He started with the foundational books of James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark. The next group dealt with what I personally need to know to serve Christ. These books are 2 Thessalonians,1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Luke.

After that, we’ll go on to the books that deal with our corporate walk with Christ. But for now, we will start with Luke’s Gospel. Here’s how he introduces his message.

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4

In this post, I simply want to introduce you to Luke. Who was he, and why did he write this Gospel? Luke was the physician who traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys. He was probably a Gentile who was saved at Antioch about 15 years after Pentecost.

After his salvation, Luke became a friend and associate of Paul. He was highly educated and as a Greek speaking Gentile, he had a high literary ability.

When we read through the Gospel of Luke, it’s obvious that he’s writing to the Gentiles of his day. He rarely references the Old Testament and explains Jewish customs. God was able to use him because as a companion of Paul, his ministry was to the Gentile people.

What we find is that each of the four Gospels has their own purpose and theme. So far, we’ve only looked at Mark, which was basically a short outline of the Life of Christ. Now, Luke comes along and is writing in the style of the Greek culture.

This means that he uses a lot of descriptive language as well as prayers and sermons. His goal was to have a specific order to his book for people who liked to think about what they read.

We also need to realize that when he says that he’s writing an orderly account, that does not mean chronologically. It means that he’s writing with a definite plan. Many times Luke quotes a sermon Jesus gives and then gives us some examples from His life that illustrates what He just taught.

From the above verse, it’s clear that he’s writing to someone who already had a basic knowledge of Christ. He now wants to give that person a more grounded knowledge of who Jesus is.

What does that mean to us? As we go through this Gospel we’ll be looking to Jesus as our example of how to live for God. We know that He was fully God and fully man.

To live in this world, the Lord chose to lay aside the power He had as God. Then, He lived as we have to live. He served God with His humanity, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide Him the same way that we have to.

That’s what we’ll be concentrating on as I move forward with these posts. Yes, Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but He’s also the Son of Man. I can look to Him as the greatest example of the victorious life.

Hopefully you’ll come along with me on this journey. It’s a lengthy book, but the rewards of studying it will be great.

Question: What are you expecting to receive from the Gospel of Luke?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2021 in Encouragement, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Paul’s Conclusions

Paul’s Conclusions

In my last post, I started going through the greetings at the end of the book of Romans. I talked about some issues with women in leadership. There’s another that I’ll hit quickly today.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Romans 16:3-5a

You may remember these people if you’ve read through the book of Acts. Priscilla and Aquila were a Jewish couple, who Paul met in Corinth. (Acts 18) They were tent-makers, like Paul, so he stayed with them and joined their business.

They began to minister with Paul, and moved to Ephesus where they planted a church in their home. Now they’ve moved to Rome where they again have a house-church.

In the book of Acts, Luke refers to the woman as Priscilla. That’s the informal, friendly name used for the name, Priska. In this verse in Romans, Paul uses her more formal name, Priska, even though the translators chose to use Priscilla so we’d know who was being talked about.

Why is that important?

The fact that Paul listed her first, along with her husband is significant. On top of that, he used her formal name out of respect. That tells me that she was the senior pastor of their home-church. Like I said in my last post, God can call whoever He desires to do His work.

Then, in verses 5b through 16, Paul sends his greetings to a number of people in the church. That tells me a lot about who the apostle was. He was a man who loved people.

Of those listed in this group, half of them were either women or slaves. In that society, they were treated like property or pets. Yet Paul saw them all as important, and he appreciated them.

We need to learn this lesson. We need to let others know that they’re loved. I recently heard a speaker give us this principal: “People love people who love people.”

We like to be around others who we think can uplift us. We need to learn to appreciate people who can do nothing for us. The church, more than any other group, should be a place where everyone gets love and affirmation.

That’s why Paul gives his next instruction.

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

Romans 16:17-19

Our human nature wants to constantly feed itself. We look for others who will stroke our egos. We need to constantly guard against this.

Part of winning this mind battle, is to keep away from those who obviously are after their own agendas. We need to choose our friends wisely. Attitudes have a way of rubbing off on those around them.

After sending greetings from his companions, Paul makes a closing statement.

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him – to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Romans 16:25-27

This is the summation for everything he’s written in this letter. I think it’s appropriate that he calls this letter his Gospel. It does contain everything we need to know to establish our lives in Christ Jesus.

Question: How has the book of Romans affected your life?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Commending Phoebe

Commending Phoebe

In going through the book of Romans, we’re now in the final chapter. Here, Paul gives his greetings to various people he knows in the church.

Don’t ignore these verses. They still contain truth and insight that will benefit us.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

Romans 16:1-2

The first person he talks about is a woman named Phoebe. I need to take some time to talk about her. The English translations don’t do her justice.

I understand that there are churches and denominations who believe that women have no place in leadership. I don’t want to offend any of these people, but truth is truth.

Suffice it to say that there are a few places in Scripture where the translators try to blur the more controversial verses. They want believers to be happy, reading them in church.

Some are happy because the translation doesn’t offend their traditions. Others are happy simply because they don’t know what the verse is actually saying. This is one of those places in Scripture.

One of my pet peeves with translators is their treatment of women in the Scripture. Let me explain with this section. It has a number of examples.

First, the word, servant, is the word, diakonon in the Greek. In reality, it literally means a household servant – so what’s the problem?

Actually, the problem is this…when it refers to a man (1 Timothy 4:6, Colossians 1:7; 4:7) it’s translated as minister or deacon. Yet, when use for Phoebe, they chose the word, servant.

While the words servant, minister, and deacon all have the same original meaning; in our modern terminology, they imply much different functions. We get the idea that women servants are somehow less important than men servants.

In this section, Paul is commending her to the church. That tells me that they are just meeting her for the first time. Phoebe must have been one of the group of travelers who brought this letter to the church in Rome. He asks the church to receive her worthily.

He instructs the church to give her any help she needs. That Greek passage literally reads, stand with her, be at hand, ready to assist her in her work. But what is that work? Here’s where it really gets interesting.

The NIV says that she has been a great help to many people including me. The Greek word that Paul uses for her is a prostatis. This is the only place that word is used in Bible. It’s a word that’s full of meaning.

It’s definition is a woman set over others. According to Thayer’s Lexicon, it describes a female guardian, protectress, or patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources.

This word basically means that she is the head of a mission’s organization. Phoebe runs an organization that raises money for missions. More than that, according to Paul’s own words, he is one of those missionaries that she supports. That’s why Paul asks them to help her any way they can.

It’s sad that many translations water down these verses that show women in a place of authority. God will use whoever is available to further His kingdom.

I have a problem with people who try to erect a glass ceiling in God’s church. Any person, no matter who they are or where they came from, can rise as far as God calls them in His kingdom.

Question: What is God’s calling on your life?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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