to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
October 31, 2019 – Thursday
Acts 16:4-5 NIV
4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.
5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
This occurred during Paul’s second missionary journey when he was traveling with Silas. The beginning of this chapter shows he began the journey in Derbe then west about 62 miles on an unpaved road (the Romans had many paved roads throughout what is now modern day Turkey) to Lystra. It was in Lystra where they met a disciple of Jesus named Timothy. Timothy’s 1 … mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
It is a bit odd that Paul circumcised Timothy because clearly circumcision had and has nothing to do with salvation. In fact in the prior chapter James spoke and delivered what became the Jerusalem position: 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” It is believed Paul recognized that by being circumcised Timothy’s usefulness in evangelising Jews would be greatly increased, he had no hesitation in suggesting that he be so. This would then give him full acceptability with both Jew and Gentile. Uncircumcised there would be a tendency for Jews to frown on his position even more than they would on a Gentile for they would see him as an apostate Jew. (Pett)
As noted above the Jerusalem position for Gentile believers did not include circumcision, but instead formal directions stating 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
It is clear Jewish requirements or customs were minimized as it was and is the teachings, instructions, and commands from Jesus that were to be followed instead. The result being churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. Matthew Henry puts it in the following way: The design of the decree being to set aside the ceremonial law, and its carnal ordinances, believers were confirmed in the Christian faith, because it set up a spiritual way of serving God, as suited to the nature both of God and man. Thus the church increased in numbers daily.
It is your faith in Jesus, the risen Christ who died for your sins on the cross that brings salvation. This free gift of grace first described by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3 is what saves and nothing else.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
What an incredible wonderful gift.
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)
* Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)