How do you respond to a rejection of your offer of service? What determines the offer has been rejected or you need another attempt at getting it accepted? The service could be delivering the gospel, training a subordinate business associate that presents himself or herself as untrainable, parental training of a child that has proved to be non malleable, or other examples. As these examples indicate, responding to rejection requires first a decision, maybe often a difficult decision, that one’s effort at performing the service has been rejected. The bible provides clear instruction on how to respond, having determined that rejection has occurred. It also provides guidance on what needs to be done before declaring a rejection. However, a decision to declare rejection will likely always be difficult, because accepting rejection is equivalent to accepting failure of an effort. We discuss examples of declaring and accepting rejection by the apostle Paul, Christ’s teaching on responding to rejection, and God’s guidance through Prophet Ezekiel on what one needs to do before declaring a rejection.
This bible study examines Paul’s communication strategy for the gospel. He tailored the message delivery for each audience while keeping the message consistent. The strategy is applicable in several areas of present-day human interaction. We examine several examples from Paul. He delivered a consistent message of the gospel in his ministry but tailored the messaging strategy for his audience. As he explained in his letter to the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 9:19–23], he identified with and blended into the audience as appropriate in order to tailor the messaging to reach as many as he could. He translated and arranged the message to a form that the audience was conditioned to receive while maintaining the content. We illustrate his tailored approach using four examples of his messaging during the First and Second Missionary Journeys.
The responsibilities of a head of household include spiritual commitment and prayer on behalf of the household. We can understand this based on interactions among Paul, Silas, the city jailer, and a lady Lydia; in Philippi during the Second Missionary Journey. Paul and Silas found themselves in jail, where an act of compassion by Paul touched the jailer spiritually and prepared him to receive the gospel. When he asked what he needed to do to be saved, Paul and Silas advised him to make a spiritual commitment to the Lord Jesus on behalf of himself and his household.
The concept of household spiritual commitment by the head goes back to God’s covenant with Abraham, reiterated to Jacob at Bethel, and renewed at Shechem by Joshua and representatives of all Israel. Furthermore, we learn about prayer by head of household, ministering by compassion, and other principles applicable to present-day human interactions and relationships.
The successful alliance of Paul and Barnabas broke up unexpectedly over a disagreement regarding John Mark rejoining the alliance. Paul held on to a position that John Mark could not be relied upon as a team member because he deserted the team in an earlier mission. In contrast, Barnabas was adamant on giving John Mark a second chance. They broke up over the “sharp disagreement” and continued with their mission as two separate teams [Acts 15:39–41].
However, their ministry (then two separate ministries) was not diminished: Paul teamed with Silas, Timothy, and others to spread the gospel through Macedonia and Greece. Barnabas successfully mentored Mark, who went on to write the second gospel. Later events showed they remained in good terms and showed interest in each other’s ministry as evidenced by Paul inviting Mark later to join his ministry. Also, Paul’s later interactions with Oneismus and Philemon indicate increased willingness to grant a “second chance” as he judged appropriate. Over all, we learn from Paul-Barnabas breakup that an alliance for the gospel or other human endeavor could experience problems including breakup but such problems need not result in diminished focus on the bigger picture.
This bible study examines an interaction between Paul and Timothy at the beginning of the Second Missionary Journey. To add Timothy to his team, Paul got him circumcised despite an existing ruling of the church that circumcision is not necessary for salvation and is not required of Gentile (or non-Jew) believers. He got Timothy circumcised to forestall potential challenges about circumcision during the mission and instead focus energy on preaching the gospel. By so doing he illustrates the principle of choosing to avoid certain battles in order to focus on the war. The bible study also illustrates the value of a healthy
parent-child relationship between churches, based on the Antioch church consulting with the parent church in Jerusalem to resolve an issue regarding circumcision of Gentile believers.
Paul and Barnabas teamed up to spread the gospel, shortly after Saul’s conversion to Christ. From their base church in Antioch, which they helped develop, they collaborated on the First Missionary Journey, through which they won numerous converts and established several churches in Europe and Asia and laid the foundation for growth of Christianity worldwide. However, their alliance ended abruptly as they tried to embark on a second missionary journey. In this bible study, we try to learn from their successful alliance and its abrupt termination.
God provides input to solving our various problems but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Furthermore, the human effort could be closely tied with and necessary to accepting and utilizing God’s input. Because the strategy and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to place ourselves in position to receive his intervention. That is, we work diligently because we have faith that he will intervene and we want to be ready to accept and utilize his intervention.
Peter’s miraculous escape from Herod’s prison [Acts 12] helps illustrate this aspect of our relationship with God. King Herod started a new wave of persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. After he killed James, John’s brother, and noticed Jews appeared pleased with the killing, he arrested Peter, intending to kill him also. To avoid having to kill someone during the Feast of Unleavened bread, he held Peter in prison under maximum security, intending to try him publicly and kill him after the festival. Members of the church prayed ceaselessly for Peter. They gathered at the house of Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, and prayed earnestly day and night for Peter. An angel appeared to Peter in prison on the night before his scheduled public trial. The angel freed him, guided him to about one street length out from the prison, and left him. Peter first visited with the church family at Mary’s house where they were praying for him. He told them how God brought him out of the prison. Then he left and went away so Herod and his men could not find him when they looked for him in the morning. We learn several lessons based on Peter’s experience.
This bible study focuses on the interaction between Peter and Cornelius, based on Acts 10 and 11. Their meeting marked the first time of taking the gospel to non-Jews (i.e., Gentiles). God prepared Cornelius for the meeting by sending an angel in human form through a vision to advise him to send for Peter. He prepared Peter also.
First, he told Peter through a vision that he should not reject any person that God has accepted. Second, the Holy Spirit told Peter to accept Cornelius’s invitation. During the meeting, witnessed by several friends and relatives of Cornelius and a few Jewish believers that accompanied Peter, the Holy Spirit came on all that heard Peter’s message, just like on the apostles at Pentecost.
Peter later returned to Jerusalem and faced criticism for interacting with uncircumcised men. He justified his actions in detail and explained that Jewish believers could not reject non-Jews that God accepted, because God had shown through his meeting with Cornelius that salvation through Christ is for all people—Jews and non-Jews alike. His explanations were satisfactory as the believers praised God for granting salvation to non-Jews.
In this bible study, we discuss the end and rebirth of the early church following the martyrdom of Stephen and persecution of the first Jerusalem church (Fellowship of Believers), based on Acts 6–9 and 11. We draw a lesson from the study about management of non-mission activities of an organization to support but not hinder performance of the core mission. An organization typically exists for its core mission but has to manage interactions among employees or members, between them and the organization, and between the organization and external entities such as government or other organizations. The interactions typically center on socio-economic issues relevant to the organization’s existence and, therefore, performance of its core mission.
Therefore, managing the internal and external socio-economic interactions is important to the organization but could impose excessive burden and divert focus from the core mission. This bible study provides an example of an organization (the first Jerusalem church) that confronted excessive burden from management of non-mission socio-economic affairs. The church ended suddenly because of the burden. Although the sudden end resulted in a positive outcome, having triggered a rapid and more widespread growth of Christianity, we emphasize factors that contributed to the end in order to learn lessons important to management of present-day entities.
After David left Saul’s service, Saul went after him to hunt him down and kill him, because he saw David as a threat to continuation of his kingdom. David, with a team of about 400 men, moved frequently to evade Saul. Twice he had good opportunity to kill Saul but did not kill him because of his great respect for Saul as God’s anointed king of Israel.