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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Acts 3:1-10 - The Beauty of the Insignificant

Luke informs his readers that the incident of the healing of the lame man occurred at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. It received this title because of the beautiful appearance it had because of the various metals with which it was adorned. This gate was very large: it was about 75 feet tall and 60 feet wide, and twenty men were required in order to open and close it. No doubt, this gate was a very impressive one. Yet as we read the passage we can sense other reasons as to why we can call it the Beautiful Gate because there beautiful actions took place and beautiful attitudes were revealed. What are some of these beauties? We will think of one today and others tomorrow.

Luke here moves from describing the activities of the crowd at Pentecost and the effect the growing Jerusalem church had on the community to detailing the conversion of an individual and the effects his experience had on the onlookers who saw what had happened to him. In doing so, Luke is reminding us that our great God can use large movements or individuals in the furtherance of his kingdom.

Sometimes we wonder what would be the effect on a community if one of its important residents was converted. We think about politicians, sports stars, leading businessmen and imagine the effect their conversions would have. Of course, when such a person is converted, we rejoice and sometimes there is a powerful effect on those not yet converted. We could regard the conversion of the apostle Paul in this way. People must have discussed the change in his life.

Yet at other times, the Lord can work in the life of an insignificant individual and use them in a dramatic and effective way. One of the best known examples of this is the preacher who took the service when C. H. Spurgeon was converted. It took place in small Methodist meeting house on a very snowy day. The designated preacher for the day was unable to get there because of the weather, so one of the local leaders had to take the service. He began to preach from Isaiah but it was not long before he ran out of something to say. Spotting Spurgeon sitting in the balcony, he spoke directly to him and urged him to trust in Jesus Christ. Spurgeon did, but no one ever discovered the name of the person who led the service that day. Many thousands were blessed through the preaching of C. H. Spurgeon and even today God is using the sermons of Spurgeon to bring sinners into the kingdom of Christ

Something similar happened in the life of John Owen. He determined to attend a church in London where a famous preacher, Edmund Calamy, was advertised as taking the sermon. Owen was in a state of spiritual distress and was seeking for gospel relief. For some reason Calamy did not appear and his place was taken by an unknown preacher from the country. He preached from Matthew 8:26, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?’, and the sermon was used by God to bring assurance to John Owen. While the full effects of that sermon are only known in heaven, it is known that John Owen was converted that day. Again, no one knows the preacher’s name, even although Owen made great attempts to locate him. Yet we know that Owen became one of the greatest of British theologians.

Of course, we don’t have to go to church history to locate insignificant persons whom God used. In the Bible we read of David the shepherd boy, Amos the herdsman, and Peter the fisherman, each of who was insignificant in the world’s eyes when God commenced to use them. We see one such insignificant person in this incident. The cripple is that person. Luke does not even tell us the man’s name. In other words, his identity is not important. Yet he became the means by which God worked in the lives of the onlookers of his healing. This mind reminds us of the beauty of the insignificant.

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