housing progress November 18 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Acts 13, 14

The Providential Plans of God

Blue prints are made, a construction company is hired, and general contractors supervise the construction as buildings take shape. The footings and foundation are poured, plumbing and wiring are set up, support structures, walls, roofs and windows are constructed or installed, heating and air conditioning are installed, and then all the finish work is completed. We marvel as we watch the progress of the construction, and we anticipate the final product.

Did you know God has a providential plan for our salvation? What does this mean? The providential plan of God simply means that God, the architect, directs a succession of events leading to his intended goal. God's intended goal is to glorify himself by directing the salvation and sanctification of all believers of every age in history. Today we will look at the providential plan of God, particularly regarding missions.

In Old Testament times how was a person converted? The answer is that salvation is and always has been by faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, ”And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is [He exists] and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him, ” (NIV). Before the laws of Moses were given, in the Patriarchal Period, a person of faith showed his faith by how he lived according to the moral standard of his father or grandfather, who served in a priestly capacity in his home. God had not yet given a concrete standard for righteousness. During the time of Moses and afterwards, an Israelite’s faith was demonstrated by his obedience to the moral laws, ceremonial laws, dietary laws, and the sacrificial system given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai (Romans 10:5). How would a non-Israelite be saved? Again, he was saved by faith. His faith in God was shown by becoming a Jew (Gen. 17:10-14). He would identify with them; he would become circumcised, observe Sabbaths and the rest of the moral laws, ceremonial laws, and sacrifices as the Israelites. In Acts 13 the Apostle Paul traced the history of Israel from Moses to Jesus Christ. He later explained to the people in Galatia the change from the Old Testament to the New Testament: “… the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3:24-26, NIV).

In New Testament times salvation was also by faith – faith in God’s Son Jesus. Jesus established a new covenant (testament) when he shed his blood and died on the cross for our salvation. If we believe Jesus died for us in our place, that he was buried, and that he arose from the dead for our justification; it is by this faith we are saved (more...). Salvation is complete in Christ.

The book of Acts traces the providential movement of the gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles. In Acts 1:1- 6:7 it was proclaimed to Jerusalem and Jewish people. In Acts 6:8- 9:31 the witness of the gospel moved to Jews in Judea and Samaria. This move was prompted by the death of Stephen and the persecution of the church. In Acts 9:32- 12:24 the witness of the gospel moved to the Gentiles (non-Jews), and particularly to certain individuals like Cornelius in Caesarea and Greeks in Antioch.

God changed the attitude of the Apostle Peter and the Jerusalem church towards Gentiles through a vision given to him. In the vision he saw a sheet of unclean animals lowered from heaven, and Peter was told to arise and eat. These unclean animals represented Gentiles. The interpretation was that Peter was to witness to the Gentiles (who were considered by the Jews to be unclean dogs) without hesitation. When he did, they believed, and the Holy Spirit was given to them as it was given to the Jews. Then they were baptized. Although the attitude of the church towards the Gentiles was changing, the mission of the church needed to progress beyond what was primarily a gospel for the Jews.

God’s providential plan given to his disciples was to reach everybody, not only Jews (Matthew 28:19-20). In Acts 13:1-4 it is recorded that God brought the gospel to the Gentiles by choosing Barnabus and Saul (whose name was changed to Paul) and commissioning them as missionaries to reach them. During their first missionary journeys they went into what is called today the country of Turkey, preaching the gospel first to Jews in their synagogues and then to Gentiles. After they preached to them, whenever possible, they spent much time discipling them. Sometimes they experienced great opposition. Before they returned home, Saul (Paul) and Barnabus appointed elders (pastors) over each congregation and checked on their progress.

When Paul and Barnabus returned briefly to give the first missionary report to the churches (Acts 14:27-28), they reported all the things that God had done with them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Through the ages of time God providentially directed the means of salvation towards Christ, the provider of our salvation. This salvation is complete and available to all. Without the gospel being preached by missionaries and other witnesses of the gospel, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, or by reading the gospel, none of us would be saved. Each generation must be given the gospel. Though different methods may be employed based on the culture of the people to whom we witness, the message stays the same: salvation is by God’s grace through faith in his Son. Have we recognized the leading of God in our lives? Could we give a report to someone else, perhaps someone younger in the faith, to encourage him or her? God wants us to pass our faith onto the next generation so that they may see his faithfulness and salvation. He also wants us to follow the example of Paul and Barnabus and disciple new converts to Christ.

Lessons to live by:

  • If we believe Jesus died for us in our place, that he was buried, and that he arose from the dead for our justification; it is by this faith we are saved (more...).
  • Appreciate God’s providential plan of salvation in your life and share it with the next generation so that they may believe and be encouraged.
  • Each generation must be given the gospel. Methods may change but the gospel message stays the same.
  • Disciple those who are younger in the faith and set up solid leadership in the churches.

Today’s Bible memory verses: Galatians 3:24-26: “Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NIV).

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