Before the main topic, I thought a comment about Bible reading would be interesting. The number of adults in the USA who read the Bible daily dropped from 14 percent to 9 percent between 2019 and 2020. Research reveals that being involved in church activities encourages scripture reading. While many churches were closed during part of the pandemic, the reading of scripture decreased. (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/state-of-bible-reading-coronavirus-barna-abs.html)
With the opening of churches, we can hope that scripture reading will increase. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
I have included two Biblical passages that provide food for spiritual thought. The events in both passages occurred in an earlier time, yet the messages are relevant today.
The first passage from Acts 8:26-39 involves the disciple, Philip, and his ministry: “An angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ On his way, he met an Ethiopian eunuch, who was in charge of the treasury of the Ethiopian queen. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah. The spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near.’ Philip ran to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’
“He invited Philip to come and sit with him. This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: ‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent; he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. For his life was taken from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Philip began with the passage and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’ Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”
The eunuch was marginalized by race and circumstances because eunuchs were not allowed or honored in Israel. The spirit from God told Philip to help the man understand the passage. Philip’s action proclaimed God’s love for all people. Jesus’ great commandment to take the message to all people was fulfilled. God knows no stranger.
All who believe are welcomed into the church of Christ. We have been encouraged by Jesus to avoid discrimination. Helping people understand the Bible strengthens one’s faith and encourages those seeking answers. Peter said, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34)
The second passage, John 15:1-8, provides important message: “I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so it will be more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done. This is to my father’s glory, that you bear fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Today, we think of the churches and members as branches. Each must be faithful, supportive and productive. Each must avoid rot from within.
May the gentle peace of Christ be with you always.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” — Romans 15:4
Earl Crow’s column is published Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal. Email him at email@example.com.