Category Archives: Characters in the Bible

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Life of Silas?

 

Silas was a leader in the early church, a fellow missionary with Paul, and a “faithful brother” (1 Peter 5:12). He was a Hellenistic Jew who, it seems, was also a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). He is also referred to as “Silvanus” in Paul’s Epistles (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 1:1).

When we first meet Silas in Scripture, he is a leader and teacher in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:22, 32). After the Jerusalem Council, Silas was chosen to help communicate the council’s decision to Antioch, along with the apostle Paul. Soon afterwards, Paul set out on his second missionary journey, and he chose Silas to accompany him (Acts 15:40–41).

On this journey, Paul and Silas traveled to Greece. In Philippi, the missionaries were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. But “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). God then miraculously released them, and the jailer, having witnessed their faith, asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (verses 30–31). The jailer was saved that night, and he and his family were all baptized. The next day, the city officials learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, and they were immediately fearful; their mistreatment of Paul and Silas the day before had violated Roman law. The city leaders immediately released Paul and Silas from custody. The missionaries left town, but they left behind a body of believers—the first church in Europe.

The start of the Philippian church is a great reminder that, even in extremely difficult times, God can bring about great things. God will glorify His name, even through our trials and tribulations. Paul and Silas had this perspective, and that’s why they were able to sing at midnight.

The fact that the prisoners were “listening” to Paul and Silas singing hymns is not a detail to be skipped over lightly. As followers of Jesus Christ, we, too, have people watching how we react to life’s circumstances. If Paul and Silas had been griping or protesting or whining about the injustice of their situation, the jailer would have never been drawn to believe in the Lord Jesus. But they responded to their situation gracefully and with joy—their actions were completely foreign to how others expected them to react. Because they were “salt” and “light” (Matthew 5:13–14), others had their hearts opened to the gospel.

Later, Silas and Timothy ministered in Berea (Acts 17:14), and Silas spent extra time in Corinth, ministering after Paul left that city. Silas served with Peter as well; in fact, he is thought to have delivered the epistle of 1 Peter to its recipients (1 Peter 5:12).

Silas is a great example of someone who used his gifts to serve the Lord and others with all his heart. The apostles called him “faithful,” and he was known as one to “encourage and strengthen the brothers” (Acts 15:32). Multitudes in the early church were blessed by Silas, and Paul and Peter were heartened by his faithful companionship. Silas was “a brother … born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Life of Luke?

 

The men who were called to be part of the “inner circle” that surrounded Jesus were a very diverse group of men that hailed from every type of social background and occupation. These twelve men, other than the traitor, Judas, formed the foundation of what is today known as “the church.” One of the men who is not listed as an apostle but had a tremendous effect upon the documenting and spreading of the gospel was a physician named Luke. He was evidently devoted to science and research before he came to know the Savior. There is no evidence that Luke ever personally met the man, Jesus, just as Paul never had the privilege of meeting Him when He walked the earth in the flesh. Luke’s intellect shows through his writings, and his deep knowledge of things pertaining to the physical make-up of man is evident in his Gospel.

Luke was a companion of Paul, who called him “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Colossians 4:10–11, 14 indicate that Luke was not “of the circumcision,” which means that he was a Gentile. It appears that he hailed from Antioch, which may be the reason Antioch seems to be at the center of the book of Acts. This means that Luke is the only writer in the New Testament who is not an Israelite (Jewish). Not only did Luke write the Gospel that bears his name, but he also was privileged and inspired by God to write the book of Acts.

Luke’s writings focus on the preaching of the good news, which indicates his joy over the plan of salvation. He uses the term “good news” ten times in his Gospel and fifteen times in the book of Acts, while it is used only once in the other Gospels. Luke was given the privilege of explaining the process of salvation and how God controls the mind and the heart, in both his Gospel and in Acts. Luke 24:45 says, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” Acts 16:14 says, “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard [us]: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”

The date of Luke’s death is not known, but the fact that he did not mention the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or the persecution of believers under Nero that began in A.D. 64 or the martyrdom of James in A.D. 62 leads to the belief that he passed away sometime before these events. From the life of Luke it is clear that no matter what course we set for ourselves in life, when God has other plans, He changes our direction. Luke is an example of an open-minded man, which was unusual for an educated Gentile in his day, but he is a lesson for all who are so focused on their own personal agendas and positions that they are firmly glued in their comfort zone. Luke probably had social status in his community as a physician, but when confronted with truth, he not only recognized it, but he realized that nothing is more important than pursuing it, no matter what the consequences. Luke recognized that Jesus is truth, and his life was forever changed.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Woman at the Well?

 

The story of the nameless Samaritan woman at the well, recorded only in the Gospel of John, is a revealing one, full of many truths and powerful lessons for us today. The woman at the well follows on the heels of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (John 3:1–21). In John 4:4–42 we read about Jesus’ conversation with a lone Samaritan woman who had come to get water from a well (known as Jacob’s well) located about a half mile from the city of Sychar in Samaria.

This was an extraordinary woman not so much because she was a Samaritan, a race of people that the Jews utterly despised as having no claim on their God, but because she was an outcast and looked down upon by her own people. This is evidenced by the fact that she came alone to draw water from the community well when during biblical times drawing water and chatting at the well was the social highpoint of a woman’s day. However, this woman was ostracized and marked as immoral, an unmarried woman living openly with the fifth in a series of men.

In spite of the similarities in the two meetings between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, there are differences in the way Jesus unveiled grace to them. While Nicodemus needed to see himself as a sinner in order to understand grace, the Samaritan woman, who knew she was a sinner, needed to see herself as a person of worth and value. And this provides us with one of the most powerful lessons in all of Scripture.

This story teaches us that God finds us worthy of His love in spite of our bankrupt lives. God values us enough to actively seek us, to welcome us to intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship. As a result of Jesus’ conversation, only a person like the Samaritan woman, an outcast from her own people, could understand what this means. To be wanted, to be cared for when no one, not even herself, could see anything of value in her—this is grace indeed.

But there are many other valuable truths we glean from this story. We learn that:

1) Only through Jesus can we obtain and receive eternal life: “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ ” (John 4:13–14; cf. John 14:6).

2) Jesus’ ministering to those outcasts of the Jewish society (the Samaritans), reveals that all people are valuable to God and that Jesus desires that we demonstrate love to everyone … including even our enemies (John 4:7–9; Matthew 5:44).

3) Jesus is the Messiah (John 4:25–26; 1:41; Matthew 27:22; Luke 2:11).

4) Those who worship God, worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23–24; Psalm 145:18).

5) Our testimony about Jesus is the most powerful tool we have to lead others to believe in Jesus: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” ’ (John 4:39–42).

Additionally, we learn that Jesus’ dialogue with the woman at the well presents us with three absolute truths about salvation:

1) Salvation comes only to those who recognize their desperate need for the spiritual life they do not have. Living water can be obtained only by those who recognize that they are spiritually thirsty.

2) Salvation comes only to those who confess and repent of their sin and desire forgiveness. Before this immoral woman could embrace the Savior, she had to concede the full burden of her sins.

3) Salvation comes only to those who take hold of Jesus as their Messiah. For the absolute truth is that salvation is found in no one else (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Account of David and Goliath?

 

The story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) is a factual account from biblical history that demonstrates how the Lord intercedes for His people. David was a shepherd, the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. King Saul and his men were battling the Philistines, one of which was a 9-foot giant named Goliath. The men of Saul’s army were afraid of Goliath, and there was no one to stand up to him. But David, filled with faith and a passion for God’s name which was being blasphemed by Goliath, slew Goliath with a stone and a sling. Then he cut off Goliath’s head with the giant’s own sword. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled before the Israelites, who had a great victory over them.

An important point in this story is that Goliath was taunting the sovereign Lord of the universe. He was challenging God’s people to stand up to him and demonstrate that their God was more powerful than he was. Until David came into the Israelite camp, there was no one who was willing to step out in faith and face the giant. However, David’s faith was so strong that he was willing to believe that the Lord would go with him and enable him to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17:36–37). David’s faith was born out of his experience of God’s grace and mercy in his life up to that point. The Lord had delivered him out of dangerous situations in the past, proving His power and trustworthiness, and David relied on Him to deliver him from the Philistine.

From the story of David and Goliath, we can learn that the God we serve is capable of defeating any of the giants in our lives—fear, depression, financial issues, doubts of faith—if we know Him and His nature well enough to step out in faith. When we do not know what the future holds, we have to trust Him. But we can’t trust someone we don’t know, so knowing God through His Word will build our faith in Him.

As Christians who have trusted Christ as the only way to heaven (John 14:6), our battle with the giants in our lives will result in victory if we cling by faith to God and His power. The illustration of David and Goliath is only one of many examples of the supernatural power of our Lord. He cares deeply for His children and wants only our best. Sometimes that involves trials and battles, but these are ultimately for our good and His glory. James tells us to consider it pure joy when we encounter trials because they test our faith and develop patience and perseverance (James 1:2–4). When we are tested by these trials, we can stand up against any giant that comes to defeat us.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Characters in the Bible: Who Were Priscilla and Aquila?

 

The story of these two friends of the apostle Paul is told in Acts 18. Aquila, a Jewish Christian, and his wife, Priscilla, first met Paul in Corinth, became good friends of his, and shared in his work. Eventually the Corinthian church met in their home. These two remarkable people belong in the pantheon of Christian heroes, and their ministry is both an encouragement and an example for us.

When we first meet Aquila and Priscilla, we are told that they had come to Corinth from Italy as victims of Roman persecution, not for their Christian faith but because Aquila was a Jew. The Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome, and no doubt Jews deemed it unsafe to remain in any part of Italy. Aquila and Priscilla found their way to Corinth and settled there, pursuing their trade as tentmakers. When Paul, a tentmaker himself, came to Corinth, he went to see them, no doubt having heard of their faith in Christ. Paul lived and worked with them while founding the Corinthian church.

After a year and a half, Paul left for Ephesus and took Aquila and Priscilla with him. The couple stayed in Ephesus when Paul left, again establishing a church in their home (1 Corinthians 16:9). Then an eloquent preacher named Apollos came through Ephesus. Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures, but he only knew the baptism of John. This means Apollos knew Christ had come and fulfilled John’s prophecies, but he didn’t know the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or the mystery of the church containing both Jews and Gentiles. Priscilla and her husband took Apollos aside and explained these things to him (Acts 18:24–26). Both Aquila and Priscilla possessed an in-depth understanding of doctrine learned from Paul, and this husband and wife team was able to pass it on to another Christian and build him up in the faith.

These two remarkable people set an example for us of hospitality, seen in opening their home to Paul and using their house as a meeting place for churches wherever they went. We are also impressed by their passion for Christ and their hunger for knowledge of Him.

Another hallmark of the lives of Priscilla and Aquila is their desire to build others in the faith. Paul’s last reference to them is in his last letter. Paul was imprisoned in Rome and writing to Timothy one last time. Timothy was pastoring the church at Ephesus, and Aquila and Priscilla are there with him, still faithfully ministering (2 Timothy 4:19). To the end, Aquila and Priscilla were offering hospitality to other Christians, spreading the gospel they had learned from Paul, and rendering faithful service to the Master.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.