Many passages in the New Testament of the Bible quote parts of the Old Testament, which was written hundreds of years before. In some versions of the Bible, footnotes — added by the translators — refer us to the original text.
One verse, however, cites the source from the text. It is in the book of Acts, where Peter directly references what the prophet Joel said. Here’s what happened:
Jesus tells the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to them to help and guide them. The Holy Spirit shows up and things get crazy: there’s the sound of a strong wind, the appearance of flames of fire, and the disciples start preaching in other languages.
The people freak out and blame it on too much wine.
Peter sets things straight by showing that this was foretold by the prophet Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”
Joel says it would happen, Peter and his buddies experience it, and things are forever changed: the Holy Spirit is given to all. Yes, all. That means them and it means us — you and me; all. As a result crazy things can happen for us, too!
[Acts 2:1-13, Acts 2:16-18, Joel 2:28-29]
In the book of Hosea, God calls the young man, Hosea, to be his prophet — telling him to marry a prostitute, (see “Hosea Shows Us God’s Unconditional Love“). This is one of God’s most scandalous directives.
What is intriguing is that God does not indicate which prostitute. The choice is left to Hosea! While he could have opted for the first one he saw, picked one at random, or altruistically selected the one who was most needy or deserving of being rescued, I suspect he did none of those. Remember, Hosea is a guy; he most likely chose the most attractive, most alluring prostitute! If that is correct, the story becomes even more shocking.
But God does give us choices. When God tells us to do something, either through the Bible or the Holy Spirit, it is usually in bold strokes; he gives the big picture, such as feed the poor, care for the sick, or take care of orphans and widows. The details are left to us. We determine how we comply. We can factor in our personality, our resources, our preferences, and, yes, even our passions in determining how we do what God tells us.
Paul is the most prolific writer in the New Testament. Who is second? That would be Dr. Luke.
Luke wrote an account of Jesus’ life (called “The Gospel According to Luke,” or simply “Luke”) and also chronicled the activities of the early church (called “The Acts of the Apostles” or just “Acts”). These two accounts encompass over 25% of the New Testament and give us valuable historical information about Jesus and his followers, providing a powerful and compelling two-book combination.
Luke was a doctor and the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. As such, his words are that of an outsider and may more readily connect with those on the “outside.” Luke wrote with simple, yet compelling language. As a trained professional, Luke was a keen observer and provides many details and facts that are not included in the other three historical accounts of Jesus.
The book of Acts looks at Jesus’ followers’ and their efforts to continue on without him. They wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to send to them for guidance, direction, and counsel. Many people look to Acts for a model for how the church should function. Noteworthy in Acts is the frequent mention Holy Spirit. With about 100 references, Acts provides a close and personal insight into the function and mystery of the Holy Spirit.
Both our monthly Bible reading plan and the New Testament reading plan kick off the year with the books of Luke and Acts. Regardless of your Bible reading intentions for the year, I hope you are off to a good start — and if not, why not start today?
The phrase “trustworthy saying” occurs five times in the Bible. It likely refers to phrases that were commonly used and accepted by the early church. Paul’s inclusion of these phrases in his letters affirms them as reliable truth. Here are the five “trustworthy sayings” that Paul recorded:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.
Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.
If we die with him, we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.
If we deny him, he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.
When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
[from 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 3:8]
Four times, Joseph received instructions from God:
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to go ahead and marry Mary. [Matthew 1:20]
Later, an angel spoke to Joseph in a dream, warning him of the threat on Jesus’ life and instructing him to flee to Egypt. [Matthew 2:13-14]
A third time, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him it was safe to return from Egypt. [Matthew 2:19-20]
Lastly, Joseph received additional instruction in a dream to go to Galilee and not Judea. [Matthew 2:22]
Each of the times God spoke to Joseph, he obeyed without question or delay:
1) He married Mary, as instructed,
2) he got up and left for Egypt in the middle of the night,
3) he later returned to Israel, and
4) he settled in Galilee.
God can speak to us in various ways: by a dream, vision, or even angels, through the Bible or others, or the Holy Spirit. However we may hear from God, there is but one acceptable response: to obey without question or delay, just as Joseph did.