“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias.” We have never heard of this Ananias before Acts 9:10 and we never hear of him again after Acts 9:19. From obscurity back to obscurity, a forgotten hero of the faith. This is like one of those little footnotes at the bottom of the page. We know lots of famous Christians. Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, John Piper. But who knows who lead them to a faith in Jesus Christ? They are just as important. Notice how God is directing and arranging everything. He is giving visions to prepare each one for the next step. There are many visions in Acts at critical junctions in God’s plan, changes in course, when God is up to something new, when something surprising is about to happen. Sometimes God gives double visions, one to each party. This double confirmation tells us something really big is about to happen, a major shift in the heavenlies, in God’s plan of salvation. Like when both Mary and Joseph both receive a vision. Like when both Peter and Cornelius receive a vision in Acts 10. God is the God of details, of antecedents, of connecting dots. Why are we ever anxious when we have such a great and powerful God who is paying attention to every detail of our lives?
It’s been raining a lot lately. We recently had some record rains. One time it was raining so hard it prompted Lucy to ask, “What if it rains so hard that it floods the whole earth?” Linus explained, “That will never happen. In Genesis 9 God promises never to flood the earth again and he gives the rainbow as a sign of His promise.” Lucy replies, “You have taken a huge burden off my mind.” Which leads Linus to conclude, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.” Sound theology. The Christian Reformed Church has a rich and deep theological history and heritage. That history and heritage is grounded in God’s Holy Word and explained in the Reformed Creeds and Confessions of our faith. It is my humble conviction that Reformed/Calvinistic theology gives us the clearest, most consistent and congruent understanding of all that God’s Word teaches. It is the soundest of all theologies and therefore holds out the most comfort for our hearts, minds and souls. The Heidelberg Catechism holds a unique place among all the creeds and confessions because it’s written in a much more personal and experiential style. It is written in the first person. It answers the question what has God done for me, rather than just who is God. The word catechism just means that it is written in question and answer style. The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism is one of the greatest questions in all of the catechisms ever written.
In this very short letter, we are given an up close and personal, intimate look inside the life of a little church in the first century. We are given a brief glimpse through the lives of three men in the church, three different personalities, three kinds of Christians that are in every church. We can learn and benefit from each of them.
We have before us one of the most famous conversions in the history of Christianity. It is so important it is told three times in the book of Acts. One scholar said after the death and resurrection of Jesus there is no other greater event in human history than the conversion to Christianity of Saul of Tarsus. Another called him the second founder of Christianity. Paul turned Christianity from a little Jewish sect into a world religion. Without Paul’s conversion we would have no NT like we have. We would be devoid of the depths of theology and doctrine revealed in Romans. Our understanding of justification by faith and salvation by grace would be anemic. Without Paul there would not be the conversions of Augustine, Luther or Wesley. In fact, our conversion is tied to Paul’s conversion.
III John is more like a postcard than a letter. A postcard epistle. It is the shortest book in the Bible with 219 words. The Spirit is not always long winded. Like I and II Timothy, Titus and Philemon, it is written to an individual, a man named Gaius.
An angel of the Lord had sent the deacon Philip out into the desert on the road from Jerusalem down to Gaza. He wasn’t told why. Now the Spirit of the Lord tells him to go up to a chariot on the road. Again he is not told why or who is in it. Luke tells us it as a very important and highly placed official from the court of the Ethiopian Queen Candace. He was her CFO, in charge of her vast treasury. His wealth is evident by the fact that he is riding in a chariot driven by servants and by the fact that he has in his possession a hand copied scroll of the book of Isaiah. Few people had such things, mainly only rabbis.