Not Being Offensive – Acts 16:1-3

by Pastor John Fredericksen

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There is an abundance of anti-Christian attacks online that ridicule those who worship the Savior. Christians are justified to be offended by such disrespectfulness. However, believers also need to be sensitive about being unnecessarily offensive to lost souls, because we want to reach them for Christ. An example of callousness in this area was Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. He led his congregation to picket the funerals of fallen soldiers while holding signs that read, “Thank God for IEDs,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Shortly after Timothy joined Paul in ministry, “Paul…took and circumcised him because of the Jews…for they all knew that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3). This seems confusing, particularly since, in the previous chapter, Paul fought legalistic Jews who sought to impose circumcision on his converts. We are indebted to C.R. Stam who shares helpful insights in his commentary on the book of Acts. Paul’s actions were not a compromise of sound doctrine. The previous debate was whether Gentiles could be saved apart from being circumcised, but that was not the issue here. Paul circumcised Timothy because the Jews, with whom they wanted to share the Gospel of the Grace of God, knew that Timothy’s mother was a Jew and his father was a Gentile. These Jews could rightly assume that Timothy was not circumcised. Peter explained to Cornelius that, “…it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation…” (Acts 10:28). Jews in this day considered uncircumcised Jews to be outcasts for refusing the everlasting covenant of circumcision given to all Israel (Genesis 17:13). They also considered uncircumcised Gentiles to be offensive pagans. To remove this offensiveness and make it easier to reach lost Jews, Timothy voluntarily submitted to being circumcised by Paul. Their mindset was, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews…” (I Corinthians 9:19-20).

We see, in this example, a proper willingness to remove what could be an offense to lost souls that would hinder reaching them with the gospel. We also see that lost souls are valuable enough for us to go to great lengths and self-sacrifice that we might reach them for Christ. May we arm ourselves with this mindset and become active in effectively sharing the gospel.

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Start each day with short, devotional articles taken from the book Daily Transformation by Pastor John Fredericksen. As Pastor Fredericksen writes in the introduction:

"We welcome you, as you journey with us..., to not only learn information, but to benefit from examples of faith and failure, and seek to apply God’s Word to every day life. Together, let’s transition from only studying theories of doctrine, to applying God’s truths in a practical way every day. May God use these studies to help you find daily transformation."