Westen Pursley

Youth Ministries Director

ACTS 13:2-3

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is let my boys ride their quad-shaped power wheel.  I love just sitting back and watching people’s responses when my 12-month-old boy goes riding by seemingly on his own. What really gets them going (and me) is when that same boy goes back by them but in reverse, perfectly controlled and balanced. They always point in amazement, call their friends over, and look around for the baby’s parents. At this point I’m usually tucked behind a tree, watching intently, and taking it all in. From their perspective, that ‘baby’ is doing the unthinkable. However, what they don’t know is that I’m actually the one controlling the power wheel with a remote. Every movement, in any direction, is 100% by my doing. Context is Everything!

Context is the information we know surrounding a certain event, topic, or idea in order to improve our understanding. As we come to the second half of Acts, we are given a first-hand account of what Paul experienced as he took the Gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles. For example, if I just said that Paul started sharing the Gospel to Gentiles and they believed, while true, we would miss so much significance due to lack of context. But Scripture doesn’t state it so plainly, and with good reason.

I counted six times where Paul was either attacked or aggressively confronted. Multiple times he was thrown into prison, with the final imprisonment ending in his death. In Acts 13:9, Saul even began to go by his Roman name, you guessed it – Paul, in order to more effectively reach a Gentile audience. He and his companions visited over 15 different major cities, proclaiming the Gospel in each one. Interesting side note as you read, notice the different tactics he uses to share the Gospel in each of those cities. What I find most interesting is that it is here, in the second half of Acts, that we get the context for most of the other New Testament letters written by Paul.

Acts 13-14 describe Paul’s near-death stoning during a visit to the region of Galatia (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe), to which the book of Galatians was written. In Acts 16-18, Paul met Timothy (1&2 Timothy), was imprisoned in Philippi (Philippians), escaped a mob in Thessalonica (1&2 Thessalonians), and evaded accusations in Corinth (1&2 Corinthians). Lastly in Acts 19-21, Paul escaped a riot and confronted Ephesus (Ephesians). Without Acts, each of these individual letters would be missing their unique and crucial context. They would appear as my boys on the power wheel, doing the impossible. However, God is the one doing everything.

As you consider context, Acts is the only book in the Bible where the ending is still being written. Notice the abrupt ending that leaves us wondering, “What?! That’s it? What happened to Paul?” God was intentional with where Acts leaves off because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still being spread amongst all the nations, even to us today.

I mentioned the hardships faced in those cities above, but the reality is that God was in fact growing His Church. Unbelievers were converted, churches were established, and sinners were saved. It was because of God’s grace through Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles that we have the Gospel in the Antelope Valley. I stand on the shoulders of faithful men and women who braved opposition to stand and proclaim Christ. The question I have for you and me, is “who will stand on our shoulders as the Gospel continues to spread?” You see, Context is Everything!