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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

December 7, 2018

"Fake News" and Romans 8:28

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

Several language institutes declared "Fake News" to be the "word of the year" for 2017. But Fake News has been around a lot longer than just a couple of years. As a matter of fact, the Bible records more than one instance of "Fake News", even in the early experience of the church of God.

At the end of the apostle Paul's third missionary journey, he made plans to travel to Jerusalem in time to keep the Feast of Pentecost there (Acts 20:16). Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, he met with James and the elders and reported on the work God had done among the Gentiles (Acts 21:18-19).

James and the elders rejoiced over what God had done, but they also had concerns about what had been reported to them about Paul: "You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come" (Acts 21:20-22).

In Paul's letters and the book of Acts we find nothing that would substantiate this accusation against Paul. It was a rumor, or "Fake News", to use the 2017 "word of the year". But to dispel the rumor, the elders suggested that Paul participate in a devotional vow, showing that he was not teaching Jews to forsake the law. Paul agreed, but that led to more "Fake News" when the seven day period for the vow had ended:

"The Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place. For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple" (Acts 21:27-29).

Paul had done no such thing, but "Fake News" prevailed as Paul was subsequently arrested. He later had hearings before the Sanhedrin and two high-ranking Roman officials before appealing his case to Caesar, which was his right as Roman citizen.

In retrospect some might say that "Fake News" impaired Paul's ability to continue sharing the gospel. But on his way to Rome an angel toll him: "You must be brought before Caesar" (Acts 27:24). And Paul later realized that his imprisonment actually furthered the spread of the gospel:

"But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear" (Philippians 1:12-14).

The lesson for us? God tells us that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). And not even "Fake News" can prevent that from happening.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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