Encouragement in fellowship

Acts 28:11-16

After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

“…When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Paul thanked God and was encouraged.  It is of vital benefit to each of us when we are encouraged by fellow believers.  The Lord has protected Paul all along the way and now provides the fellowship that builds us up.  It is good to remember that we come together in fellowship not just for our own personal spiritual blessing, but also to be an encouragement to those who lead and prepare as well as encouraging those who come to worship.  Our coming together feeds us all.  Not only do we receive from the Lord, we also receive from each other as he ministers to us through each of us.  We are created social beings.  We have a need for common fellowship, worshipping the Lord together.  It is good to be an encourager, the benefits fall on both the one receiving and the one giving.  Thank God for one another.

Shrewd… and harmless…

Acts 16:1-5

Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.  So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

They had just settled the issue of circumcision, but…  At first glance it appears as if the apostles and Paul included, are giving decisions then not abiding by them.  A closer look reveals the true reason for the circumcising was not to provide salvation, nor proof of salvation.  It was to  confirm the Jewish heritage of Timothy enabling him to minister to a group of people  they would be visiting.  Paul and Timothy were about to embark on a journey to further spread Christ’s message and to minister to the believers dispersed by the persecution.  It is good to remember that this message came first to the Jew, and then to all others through the Jew.  Jesus said, “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”  Matthew 10:16.  We are told that Paul and his team were blessed and continued to see growth in the numbers of believers daily.  When we become believers we receive a charge also to encourage one another, strengthening one another in His word, teaching and studying together.  “…encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:25