July 18, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals July 17-23 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston.  David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace who teaches at a public school.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY

Gospel Contextualization

Galatians 2:7-9

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

Last year, there was a huge debacle concerning Epi-pens. If you’re unfamiliar with the product, it’s a handheld device that is used to inject 0.3 milligrams of epinephrine into someone who is having a severe allergic reaction or going through anaphylactic shock. The reason Epi-pens were in the news was because of the outrageous jump in price. What used to be only $50 suddenly skyrocketed to $400 per Epi-pen.

Interestingly, the actual cost of one dose of epinephrine is roughly 10 cents! Why, then, were people shelling out $400 for an Epi-pen? Because they were paying for the “delivery system.” The delivery system is just as important as the substance being delivered. See, you can’t just swallow a spoon of epinephrine; it is only effective if it is injected into the body using the appropriate delivery system.

In a similar way, the gospel must also be accompanied by a thoughtful, appropriate, delivery system. In our passage today, we see the leaders of the early church acknowledging and affirming that ministering to the circumcised Jews and the uncircumcised Gentiles required different “delivery systems.” This is called contextualization. The gospel message has always remained the same, but the delivery method has necessarily changed across the various cultures, languages, traditions, and generations. Of course a delivery system without explicit gospel content is just like an Epi-pen without epinephrine: empty and useless. But the gospel message without proper, thoughtful contextualization can also often lead to misunderstandings.

This morning I want to invite you to consider your delivery system for the gospel. How can you effectively contextualize the gospel message for your campus/workplace/home? Ask the Holy Spirit for insight as to how you can better communicate the Good News to those around you.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, teach me how to be a deliverer of Good News to those You’ve placed around me. Today, open my eyes to opportunities to minister to my classmates/coworkers/ friends/family. Give me wisdom and boldness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 17


Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 17:22-25; 30-31: So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything… The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

Questions to Consider

  1. To whom is Paul preaching the gospel to?
  2. How does Paul contextualize the gospel to these people?
  3. How is this gospel presentation different from others we see in Scripture?

Notes

  1. Paul is in Athens, preaching to Greek Gentiles. He mentions that they are a very religious people.
  2. Paul uses the spirituality of the Athenians as an entry point for the gospel message. He notices that they even have an altar to “an unknown god.” Seeing their desire to worship deities, Paul begins his gospel presentation by establishing that there is but one true God, who is bigger than creation and uncontainable by temples. He concludes his message by calling the Athenians to repent and turn to the true God.
  3. This is the same gospel message, but a very different delivery system than the ones we see presented to the Jews. First, there is no mention of the Law or circumcision. In nearly every case where the gospel is preached to the Jews, it begins with Moses and the Law. But the Mosaic Law means little to nothing to the Athenians, and so Paul has no need to mention it. Also, interestingly, Paul doesn’t mention the name Jesus yet. He merely refers to Jesus by calling Him “a man whom [God] has appointed.” Perhaps this is because Jesus (Yeshua) is a Hebrew name, and mentioning a Hebrew name might have immediately lost much of his audience. Paul knows that without Christ there is no gospel, but at the same time, he refers to Jesus without mentioning His Hebrew name in order to contextualize to the Athenians.

Evening Reflection

This evening, spend some time praying for those around you who do not yet know Jesus. While thoughtful contextualization is something we must continue to work on, at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit must soften and turn hearts towards Him. Let’s ask the Spirit to move in our city.

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