Freedom

Freedom
Words of Faith 6-22-16
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2016
Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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Acts 18
[12] While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. [13] "This man," they charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law."
[14] Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, "If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. [15] But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law--settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things." [16] So he had them ejected from the court. [17] Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.

Paul had probably been preaching in Corinth for eight or nine months before this episode of trouble broke out. He had received a reassuring promise from God. The promise was not that Paul would have no trouble. It was that he not be attacked and harmed.
The religious leaders brought Paul before the Governor of the region that we call Greece. Judgments took place before a raised platform called the "bema" in the middle of the market. The charge against Paul was that of preaching an illegal religion.
Roman law was quite controlled in such matters. If Jewish leaders could gain a ruling that Paul's teaching about Jesus was an illegal cult, future preaching missions would have been exceedingly difficult.
Gallio, the proconsul or governor handed Paul a great legal victory with his ruling. He ruled that Judaism and Christianity were fundamentally the same religion and both were legal. He ruled that the dispute was a disagreement within Judaism. At this point in history, an outsider viewed Judaism and Christianity as different parts of the same religion. Christianity was clearly a form of Judaism which believed the Messiah of God had come in the person of Jesus.
This decision for legal status was profound because it gave the Christian movement legal standing in the future as a legal religion. Such a ruling had not been forthcoming at any point in Paul's journeys until this time. An example of how fragile religious freedom was in that day is seen in the fact that the crowd turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him publicly.
In America, we often take religious freedom for granted. We assume the legal status of our faith will always be there. The truth is that many of our religious freedoms have been eroded in recent years through various court rulings. At times it seems that the one religion without "legal standing" is Christianity! Every other religion from humanism to Wicca is protected, but Christianity is banned in schools and workplaces. We stand in danger of losing the same right that Paul sought 2000 years ago.
I recall that after the 9/11 attack, there was a grassroots defiance to the restrictions placed on religious expression. In my community, there were several schools with "God Bless America" on their marquee boards. This was unthinkable prior to this. Sadly, such support for faith has faded and once again Christianity is treated with disdain in many schools.
So what is the devotional thought for today? We often remember to give thanks for our religious freedom on July 4th. This scripture reminds us that religious freedom is fragile. We must not take it for granted. Every day is a good day to give thanks to God for the freedom He has graciously given us.

Lord, I confess, it has been easy to take freedom for granted. I give thanks to You for the blessing of freedom. I pray for many around the world who cannot choose to attend worship or prayer. I give thanks for freedom that is such a blessing. Help me to be a good steward of that blessing. 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.