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All Things to All

All Things to All
Words of Faith 7-28-16
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2016
Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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Acts 22
[25] As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?"
[26] When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen."
[27] The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?"
"Yes, I am," he answered.
[28] Then the commander said, "I had to pay a big price for my citizenship."
"But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.
[29] Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
[30] The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.

We might say that Paul was playing his cards “close to the chest”. His Roman citizenship had gotten him out of more than a few jams before. It was often his “trump card” for tough spots. In some cases it was nearly a “get out of jail free” card! This time his citizenship saved him from a beating. Paul clearly played the game before him as shrewdly as any card shark.
Setting the “game” imagery aside, one might still be tempted to criticize Paul for all this. Why did he have to be so tricky? Didn’t he trust God? If Paul was really so surrendered to God, how could he be deceptive about who he was? If God was really with him, shouldn’t he not have worried about what would happen to him? Didn’t he have faith? How can a man of God be… well… so manipulative?
Before we judge Paul too quickly, we should realize that Paul was not simply avoiding painful consequence. He had endured many beatings along the journey. He had been shipwrecked, flogged, stoned and left for dead. If Paul’s goal was the avoidance of pain, he did a lousy job at it!
No, Paul was actually using his “citizen card” to win appeals to several higher authorities and then eventually go to Rome where he was put to death. Yes, Paul was manipulating, but not for any selfish reason. The Spirit was leading him to use everything that he was-- an orthodox Jew, a trained Pharisee, a citizen of Tarsus and a citizen of Rome-- to reach as many people as he possibly could.
Paul put it succinctly in his letter to the Corinthians-- “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor. 9:19-23).”
Jesus once said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).” Clearly that is not a license to deceive. We must be very careful about ethical decisions in which we feel our end justifies our means. We are always to be a light in the darkness and salt in an unsavory world. We must not lie but we should always be shrewd! Paul did not blunder about like lamb waiting to be slaughtered. He never lied but he did not always share everything he knew with the enemy. He used every ethical means to “manipulate” his way through the enemies of the faith to Rome, but always, always for the sharing of the Gospel.
Paul gives us reason to reflect upon the way we witness. Do we listen enough? Do we blurt all we know and alienate those we would reach? Do we carefully and prayerfully wait for the leading of the Spirit? Are we aware that the enemies of the faith are quite dedicated and relentless in their assault on the Gospel? As we surrender to the leading of the Spirit, are we “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”?

Lord, show me when to speak and when not to speak. Show me what to tell and what not to tell. Give me sensitivity to Your leading in even the subtle matters of faith and witness. Give me Your wisdom. In Jesus’ name.

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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2001, 2016
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com
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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.